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FAQs

Choose the area of interest from the following topics to be taken to that section of questions:

 

 

If you have further questions, you may visit the Domestic Relations Case Management Unit, Room 288 of the main courthouse, or call (813) 272-5173.

 

Adoption

My spouse wants to adopt my child. How do we do that?

You may purchase the Stepparent Adoption packet in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access the Forms online.

Child Support

My spouse and I just got divorced. We agreed that there would not be any child support, so why did the judge order it?

Child support is a benefit for the child. It cannot be waived by the parents. The court must follow the law even if you do not want child support.  

 Child Support

I'm under 18, and I got my girlfriend pregnant. Now I've found out that her mother is planning to take my baby out of the state after it is born and put it up for adoption. I don't want that; I want my child. Can I file something to stop her from doing this?

You cannot, as a minor, file a lawsuit. You may have one of your parents or guardians file, on your behalf. It is strongly recommended that you and your parent or guardian seek the advice of an attorney.  

Child Support

I don't care for the way my daughter is taking care of her child. I want custody. She and her spouse got divorced in Hillsborough County. How can I get custody?

If either parent is not in agreement to giving you custody, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney to find out what your legal rights are before proceeding. If there is abuse, abandonment, or neglect involving the child, the Department of Children & Families should be contacted.  

Child Support

I have a custody order from another state. My spouse took our child to Florida without my permission. How can I get my out-of-state order enforced?

You must petition the court to recognize your out-of-state order and open a case with Hillsborough County. You will need to file a certified copy of your out-of-state order. There are no standard forms available to do that. You may pick up a blank petition from the Domestic Relations Case Management Unit, Room 208 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access the Forms online.  

Child Support

I cannot pay my child support payments, because the payments are too high/I am disabled/I'm out of work/the child is deceased/the child is living with me. What can I do?

Your first step is to attempt mediation to see if both parties can reach an agreement on the amount of support. Mediation is a required step. If mediation is unsuccessful, you must file a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Child Support specifically asking the court what it is you want and why. The petition and current financial affidavits must be personally served on the other party. A Modification of Child Support packet can be purchased in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or can be accessed online.  

Child Support

My Ex is not paying the court-ordered support. If I can only talk to the judge to explain, I know that the judge will throw him/her in jail.

You may not speak to the Judge or General Magistrate unless you have filed a written motion and properly scheduled a hearing with notice to all parties. Your first step is to try to resolve your issues in mediation. If that is not successful then you may purchase a Motion for Contempt/Enforcement packet in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access online.  

Child Support

I want to get child support for my child. My boyfriend won't give me any money. What can I do?

You may contact the Department of Revenue (DOR) (Child Support Enforcement) office and ask them about contracting with them to get support. If you do not contract with DOR, you may purchase a Paternity packet in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access here, and petition the court to establish paternity and order child support.

Child Support

I just got a letter saying that I am delinquent on my child support and they are going to enter a judgment against me and/or suspend my license. What can I do?

As it states in your letter, you must pay the delinquent amount, file a notarized written agreement signed by both parties, or file a motion or a petition to contest the delinquency if you do not agree that there is one. Forms and instructions can be accessed here.  

Child Support

I want to increase the amount of child support I am getting from my Ex. My child support order was done a long time ago. How do I do that?

Your first step is to attempt mediation to see if both parties can come to an agreement on raising the amount of child support. Mediation is required in all post-judgment cases. If you cannot come to an agreement, or the other party does not attend, then you can purchase a Petition to Modify Child Support packet and have the other party served. You may purchase the packet in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access here.  

Custody

My Ex has legal custody of my child, but the child is living with me. I want to get custody. How do I do that?

If both parties are in agreement, a new custody agreement can be written up in Mediation. If both parties are not in agreement, you must still attempt mediation as your first step. If that does not work, you may obtain a Modification of Custody Packet from the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access the form and Self-Help Instructions here.

Custody

My daughter left for the military and left her child in my custody. I need a court order to enroll her in school. How do I do that?

You may obtain forms entitled Temporary Custody. This procedure may be used when both parents are in agreement with the custody arrangement. However, if both parents are not in agreement, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney before you proceed with a case.  

Custody

My child's father keeps threatening to take my baby away. I want permanent custody. What do I need to do?

If you are married, both parents have equal custody rights to the children, unless and until there is some court action to the contrary. If you and the father of the child were never married, and there is no court order establishing paternity, either party can file a Petition to Establish Paternity and address the issue of custody in that petition. A Paternity packet may be purchased in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access the form here. It is recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney to see exactly what your legal rights and remedies are.  

Custody

My boyfriend took my child and will not give him/her back to me. I called the Sheriff, but they said there is nothing they can do, because I don't have a custody order. What can I do?

If you want to file for custody of the child, you can Petition the court to Establish Paternity and ask for custody. A Paternity packet is available in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access the form here. You should seek the advice of an attorney to find out what your immediate rights and remedies are.  

Custody

I tried to pick my child up from visiting his/her grandparents, and they won't give him/her back. What can I do?

You should talk to an attorney to see what steps you need to do in order to get the child returned to you.  

Custody

My spouse just picked my children up for visitation and left the state without my permission. He kidnapped them! I want my kids back. I'm afraid I'm never going to be able to see them again! What do I do? The police won't help me, and I can't afford an attorney.

If you think your child has been kidnapped, you should contact the Office of the State Attorney or local police. If you know where your child has been taken, you will probably have to go to court there and show your Florida judgment giving you custody of your child. You may want to look at what Florida Family Law forms are available to see if any of them will help you to accomplish your goal, however, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney.  

Divorce

I filed a petition for divorce and there was no answer. What do I do now so that I can get a hearing? Someone told me something about a Default Motion and a Nonmilitary Affidavit. What are those forms?

If the petition was served on your spouse and he/she did not file a written response within twenty (20) days of the date of service, you may file a Motion for Default, and Default. You will also have to complete a Nonmilitary Affidavit if your spouse is NOT in the military. Once the Default is entered, you may proceed with your case. The law requires that your spouse receive notice of any final hearings in the dissolution action. As with all available Family Law Supreme Court Forms, you should always read the instructions on the front of the form to ensure it applies to your case.  

Divorce

How do I get a divorce (Dissolution of Marriage)?

If you and your spouse do not have any minor children born during the marriage, agree to everything, and both parties will sign the petition and appear at the hearing, you can purchase a packet or download the forms for a Simplified Dissolution. However, if one party does not want to appear at the hearing, a Simplified Dissolution should not be filed. There are other packets available, and you should pick the packet that best suits your needs. All packets can be purchased in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or accessed here.

If you have minor children, think your divorce might be contested, or cannot find your spouse, it may be in your best interest to seek the advice of a lawyer. If you proceed without a lawyer, you may purchase the packet for Dissolution of Marriage with Minor Children. There are several mandatory forms that must be filed in cases with children, such as a Financial Affidavit, Child Support Guidelines, and Uniform Child Custody Affidavit. You must also attend a mandatory four-hour course entitled Children, Parents, and Divorce. Click here for more information on this course.

Divorce

The Clerk requires that I file a Nonmilitary Affidavit before they will enter a Default in my case. My problem is, my spouse is in the military, so I can't truthfully file one. Does this mean that I can't get a Default?

It probably means that you can't get a Default issued by the Clerk. You can request a Motion for Default to be heard by the Judge in your case. However, this is complicated by Federal Law, and you should have a lawyer assist you.  

Emergency Motions

I have an emergency motion – what do I do?

Click here to view instructions.

Financial Affidavits

My spouse and I are filing for divorce. We don't have any children or property. Why do we have to do Financial Affidavits?

Financial Affidavits are required in all Dissolution of Marriage cases. See rule 12.285 Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure, pg. FLR 7-11.

Forms

What is a Final Judgment?

The Final Judgment is what the judge signs granting your divorce. The Final Judgment should reflect what has been asked for in your petition.  

Forms

These forms are confusing. I don't understand some of the words. Can you help me fill them out?

Procedural information is available on what forms you are required to fill out, but not on how to fill them out. If you need assistance, you may want to visit the Legal Information Center in Room 203 of the Edgecomb Courthouse. If you do not understand any forms or procedures in your case, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney.

Forms

What is a petition?

A petition is the pleading that begins a lawsuit, or reopens a closed lawsuit. You must use a petition to begin a lawsuit against someone, or to modify a previous court order.

Forms

What should my motion say?

You should try your best to tell the judge what it is you want the court to do, and why you think the court should do it. Your motion should not just focus on what you personally think is right, but should be supported by evidence and applicable law. It is always advisable to seek legal advice before filing your motion.

General Magistrate

What is a General Magistrate and what do they do?

A General Magistrate acts in the capacity of a judge. The General Magistrate hears post judgment cases and makes recommendations to the judge. Those recommendations are received by both parties in the form of 'REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE GENERAL MAGISTRATE.'

Injunction

My spouse has been physically abusive toward me and I am afraid. What can I do?

Contact the Clerk of the Circuit Court at 276-8100 ext. 4356, or go to Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse and request assistance in filing a Domestic Violence complaint. For more information from the Clerk's website, click here.

Injunction

I want to dismiss the Domestic Violence Injunction against my spouse because he/she has promised never to do it again.

Your personal appearance is required at the return hearing. If you and/or the respondent do not appear, the Temporary Injunction may be continued in force, extended, or dismissed, and/or additional orders may be granted, including the imposition of court costs.

Injunction

I just got served with this Injunction that says I have to be at a hearing this Thursday. I can't take time off of work. What will happen if I don't go? Should I file a written response?

You should read the Injunction carefully, because it tells you what will happen if you do not go. You may file a written response, but there is no guarantee that it will have any effect on the outcome of the hearing. If you and/or the petitioner do not appear, the Temporary Injunction may be continued in force, extended, or dismissed, and/or additional orders may be granted, including the imposition of court costs.

 Mediation

I know my spouse will not attempt mediation, so there is no sense in trying. I just want to set a court date to get custody of my child. What do I need to do?

Mediation is a required step in all cases where the parties are not in agreement. You must attempt to bring the other party in your case to mediation before a General Master or Judge will hear your case.

Mediation

 

 

 

What is mediation?

Mediation is a program that assists parties in resolving their own disputes. Mediations are conducted by a neutral third party called a mediator, who acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It is an informal and nonadversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement.

Name Change

I want to change my child's name. Do I need the father/mother's permission?

Yes, both parties must be notified of the action. If one party will not sign a consent form, then they will have to be served with the petition. They will have 20 days to respond after they have been served. Click here for necessary forms to file.  

Name Change

Why do I need to get the father's permission to change my child's name? He has never been a part of the child's life. I don't even know where he is.

If you know who the father is, he has to be notified of the action. If you do not know where he is, you must notify him by doing constructive service (publication).  

 Paternity

I just got served with paternity papers. What do I need to do?

As it states in your summons, you should file your response with the court within 20 days after you have been served with the papers. There are forms available in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or you may access here. If you do not understand or are confused about any of the papers you have been served with or how to file your response, it is strongly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney.  

 Paternity

My girlfriend is pregnant and she said she is leaving the State. What can I do?

You should consult with an attorney to find out what your legal rights are, since the child has not been born yet. There are no standard Family Law forms available to assist you.  

Scheduling

The last time I was in court, the judge said that if my ex does not comply with the order, I should let him know. I would like to make an appointment to talk to the judge.

The judge cannot talk to any one party without the benefit of a hearing with all parties being notified. In order to talk to a judge, you must file something with the court about what it is you want the court to do. Your first step would be to attempt mediation to see if both parties can reach an agreement. Mediation is a required step. If mediation is not successful, then you can file something with the court. You may want to take a look at the available Florida Family Law forms to see if any of them will help you to accomplish your goal. You may access these forms here.  

Scheduling

How do I schedule a court hearing?

Most judges and general magistrates’ offices use e-mail, but some prefer telephone calls. Check the Judges or general magistrates’ individual web page to view their preferences. Also, you must coordinate the date and time with the other party jor his/her attorney.

Service of Pleadings

I cannot find my spouse to be served with the petition for Dissolution of Marriage. What can I do?

You may explore a method called Constructive Service when your spouse cannot be located to be personally served with the Dissolution Petition. You can do this by posting or publication. You should carefully read the instructions on each form to ensure that they apply to your situation. Constructive Service is a very technical area of law; legal advice is strongly recommended. Failure to correctly follow the law may leave you with an invalid divorce.

Visitation

When we got divorced, the court only put in the paperwork 'liberal access' on the issue of visitation. What does that mean? He/She shows up whenever they want to and expects to be able to take the kids. It's causing a problem. How can I change this?

Your first step is to attempt mediation to see if both parties can come to an agreement about a visitation schedule. Mediation is a required step. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, then you may purchase a packet for a Supplemental Petition to Modify Custody/Visitation and have the other party served with the papers. The packet and Self-Help Instructions can be accessed here.  

 Visitation

My girlfriend won't let me visit with my child. I'm willing to pay child support, but I want to be able to see my child. What can I do?

You may file a Petition to Establish Paternity and for Related Relief. You can ask the court to establish that you are the biological father of the child and ask for visitation. You may purchase a packet in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access here. You may also contact the Department of Revenue, who will help you to establish paternity for a nominal fee.  

 Visitation

The Hearing Officer ordered me to pay child support, yet I do not have visitation rights with my child. What can I do?

The Hearing Officer only has the authority to address the issues of support. If you want to address any other issues with the court, you must file a petition asking the court for what you want. There are Family Law Supreme Court forms available in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or you may access them here. You may want to see if any of those forms will help you to accomplish your goal.  

Visitation

My grandchild's parents will not let me see him/her. What can I do? Don't grandparents have any rights?

The Florida Supreme Court recently made a ruling regarding grandparents' rights. You should seek the advice of an attorney about that ruling and how it has affected those rights before filing anything with the court.  

Visitation

My girlfriend won't let me visit with my child. I'm willing to pay child support, but I want to be able to see my child. What can I do?

You may file a Petition to Establish Paternity and for Related Relief. You can ask the court to establish that you are the biological father of the child and ask for visitation. You may purchase a packet in the Clerk's Office, Room 101 of the Edgecomb Courthouse, or access here. You may also contact the Department of Revenue, who will help you with your case for a nominal fee.