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Lawmakers File Family Law Bills Ahead of Legislative Session

By Legal Correspondent Robert Napper

Lawmakers are filing bills at a fast and furious pace to be addressed as the Florida legislative session kicks off March 5, including two key proposed bills concerning family law.

Florida House and Senate members will be considering bills that if passed would have ramifications on court cases involving children, as well as establish new rules for determining guardianship and jurisdictional issues.

HB 677, known as the “Florida Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act”, sponsored by Rep. Wyman Duggan, R-Jacksonville, could bring sweeping changes including allowing the courts to consider foreign countries be treated the same as states jurisdictionally. The proposed bill is currently in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee and its sister bill, SB 1168, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, has also been filed. If passed, the bill would take effect July 1. Here is a look at some other aspects of the bill:

  • Authorizes Florida courts to communicate with courts of other states and to request courts of another state to conduct certain activities.
  • Provides factors for courts to consider when determining significant connection with other states.
  • Provides that courts have special jurisdiction to undertake certain activities.
  • Provides when a court has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction over proceedings and when courts can decline jurisdiction.
  • Provides rules for when a petition for appointment of a guardian is filed in this state and another state.
  • Provides for transfer of guardianship.
  • Provides procedures for accepting transfer of guardianship into Florida.

Ayo & Iken’s attorneys work on cases every day that affect children and a new bill filed in both the House and Senate proposes beefing up rules concerning court proceedings involving children.

HB 421, sponsored by Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, and its sister bill, SB 262, sponsored by Sen. Bill Albritton, R-Punta Gorda, would establish parameters for providing contact information for guardian ad litems, mandate judges “advise parents in plain language of certain responsibilities” in dependency case plans, and requires parents to “take action to comply with case plans” within specified time periods.

The proposed bill was recently ruled favorable by the House Children, Families, and Seniors Subcommittee and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously in a 6-0 vote. If it passes, it would take effect Oct. 1. Other aspects of the bill include:

  • Requires guardian ad litem or attorney ad litem contact information be placed on court orders.
  • Requires parents be updated on contact information of involved case workers.
  • Provides motions by court count toward time allowed in proceedings.
  • Provides notice requirements be in plain language.
  • Requires all parties be served copies of case plans and family functioning assessments.
  • Requires motion to change placement of child be made before child achieves permanency placement.
  • Requires Florida Department of Children and Families Services to provide certain information to parents before signing case plans.
  • Provides that a parent’s actions or inactions can breach case plans.
  • Provides timeframe for entering written order of disposition terminating parental rights.

In addition to these bills, there is also keen interest as to whether there will be an alimony reform bill filed for consideration this session. This month the Florida Family Law Reform Political Action Committee held a conference in the Orlando area and discussed the search for a sponsor of a proposed bill seeking significant changes to alimony laws, including doing away with permanent alimony. We will keep you posted on all things family law related this legislative session.


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