Where To Find Family Court Records In Florida?
The Clerk of Circuit Court maintains Florida’s family court records. Yearly, family court filings represent over 30 percent of all Circuit Court records.
The family court system in Florida is responsible for the resolution of family-related issues such as the dissolution of marriage, annulment, the emancipation of a minor, child support, paternity, and all other similar domestic cases. It is set up to handle all of these cases equitably, assuring that the parties involved receive a fair judgment in good time and at an affordable fee. In Florida, the family court system is primarily controlled by the opinions of the Supreme Court; this has been the case since 1991.
Under the family court system, only one judge is assigned to handle cases that involve one family except if it is practically impossible.
The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.
What Is Family Law In Florida?
According to the Florida statutes on domestic relations, the family law in Florida guides all domestic relations and family matters such as marriages, surrogacy, adoption, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. The act defines the obligations and rights of the parties to each other and the children (if any).
A family law handbook is made available by the court clerk to the public, in the form of a videotape or other electronic media. It is handed out upon application for a marriage license. It covers the following areas;
- Permanent relocation restrictions
- Prenuptial agreements
- Property rights and agreed fair division of premarital property and nonmarital property
- parenting plan and shared parental responsibility for children
- Child support for minors in consonance with the prescribed child support guidelines schedule
- Child abuse and neglect
- Domestic violence
- The court process for divorce with or without legal service
The book also contains the education course requirements for divorcing parents with children and highlights of women’s rights, as stated in the Battered Women’s Bill of Rights. Readers will also find available community resources for separating or divorcing persons and their children.
What Are Family Court Cases And Records In Florida?
Most family court cases in Florida have to do with issues that arise in marriages, domestic relations, and other family matters. According to the Rules of Judicial Administration, Rule 2.545, family court cases in Florida include the following:
- Annulment: This involves a case where a marriage is declared null as a result of fraudulent activities, lack of consummation, underage spouse, and the illegitimacy of the marriage.
- Dissolution of marriage: Here, a couple that has been married for a while decides to dissolve the marriage. Florida is a no-fault divorce state that allows couples to get a divorce due to irreconcilable differences.
- Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA): In this case, the court decides the amount of the child support responsibility and the method of payment.
- Support not related to the dissolution of marriage: This is an arrangement where one spouse is required to provide financial support to the other spouse, whether married, divorced, or separated.
- Emancipation of a minor: Here, a child that is up to sixteen years old or more seeks to petition the court through a parent, legal guardian, to be granted legal emancipation.
- Child support: In a child support case, the court decides the amount of money each parent will have to spend on the upkeep of the child based on the “Income Shares Model” in Florida.
- Child custody: This involves the court determining which of the parents will get to keep the children and whether it will be sole custody or joint custody.
- Juvenile delinquency: A crime committed by a minor
- Juvenile dependency: A case where a minor goes to a court to seek help because a parent or legal guardian has hurt or neglected the child
- CINS / FINS: The provision of Families in Need of Services (FINS) and Children In Need of Services (CINS).
- Truancy: This is a case where a parent has been absent from parental duties for three months or more.
- Termination of parental rights: This involves the court terminating the parental rights of a parent on any of the grounds stated under the Florida Statute 39.806.
- Paternity: This is a case where the court establishes the paternity of a child, especially in a situation where the parents are not married.
- Adoption: This involves a case where an eligible adult adopts a child from Florida foster care adoption agencies or Florida adoption photo listing sites:
- Name change
- Declaratory judgment actions related to premarital, marital, or post-marital arrangements
Other family court cases include modifications and enforcement of orders, civil domestic, dating violence, repeat violence, stalking, and sexual violence injunctions.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Are Family Court Cases Public Records In Florida?
Family court cases are open and can be accessed by eligible members of the public, following the Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420. However, certain confidential information such as juvenile records, birth certificates, social security numbers, children, and family services records are sealed from public view. The following persons can obtain family court records:
- Parties to the case
- The Florida department of children and family
- Court personnel, Clerk’s office personnel, and judges
- Law enforcement officers
Generally, the public may access divorce case files, which include transcripts, case dockets, motions filed by both parties. However, certified copies of divorce and custody case records are only accessible to authorized persons.
How Do I Find Family Court Records In Florida?
Florida family court records are collated, maintained, and disseminated by the Circuit Courts in Florida. Therefore, interested persons may visit the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court, where the case was heard to request copies of a family dispute. Use this directory found on the Florida Court website to determine the location and contact information of any court in the state.
Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.
How Do I Find Family Court Records Online?
The Supreme Court of Florida permits the provision of online access to non-confidential information on family court records. Courts in larger counties like Manatee, Sarasota, and Desoto offer electronic copies of their court records via an online database available on the court’s website. Hence, interested persons may access family court records via these databases. This is usually found under a court records search portal where queries may be filtered by name, case number, court date, etc.
What Is Florida Custody Law?
Child custody in Florida is defined under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The law guides the process of decision making in the court as regards the legal and physical custody of the children involved, during divorce proceedings, or court cases where unmarried parties seek to decide child custody.
The parent that is granted legal custody can make religious, medical, disciplinary, and educational decisions pertaining to the child. However, the parent that is granted physical custody can make decisions pertaining to where the child will live. The court, by the law, considers the best interest of the child when deciding child custody. Regardless of who gets to keep the child, Florida custody law still allows the other parent to visit once in a while.
The two types of child custody agreements in Florida are sole custody and joint custody, also known as shared parental responsibility. In sole custody, legal and physical custody is granted to only one parent. While in joint custody, both parents get to share the responsibility of taking care of the child and approve all decisions relating to the child. However, in joint custody, one parent is the primary custodian, but the other parent is allowed to visit the child.
Child custody, just like divorce records, is public in Florida. However, they may be sealed if the records contain certain confidential information, such as adoption details.
How To Find Family Court Lawyers In Florida?
Citizens may find credible family court attorneys via the lawyer directory on the Florida Bar website. Here, individuals can search the database with the name, city, or law firm and further filter the search by practice areas, among other options.
Residents may also use the "submit a request online" app on the website to ask for a referral of a local family attorney. To complete this request, the user is expected to answer the following questions;
- Where do you need a lawyer?
- What do you need help with?
Indigent citizens may also find contacts of legal aid societies and pro bono services on the Florida Bar website. Some of these societies and services provide low-cost or free legal assistance to help settle family disputes.