You are here: Judicial Directory > Thomas N. Palermo > Procedures/Preferences


The policies and procedures outlined below are meant to aid parties and counsel. The term “parties” includes people who are representing themselves because they do not have an attorney. The legal term description for such self-represented people is pro se. All of the policies and procedures outlined below apply to represented and unrepresented people.


If you are pro se, that is, representing yourself because

you do not have an attorney, please CLICK HERE.


I.   Communication with the Court


The preferred form of communication for setting and cancelling hearings is by email at Such emails must copy all parties. No ex parte  communications are permitted.


The subject line of the email should contain:

  • the case name, case number, and relevant document number(s).


The body of the email should contain:


  • the document number from the docket and corresponding title of each pleading to be set; and
  • the length time needed for the hearing and whether both sides agree that the amount of time requested is sufficient.


Incomplete requests tend to generate multiple emails—and occasionally multiple phone calls—all of which delays the process.


Generally, emails should only be used for scheduling issues.


The Court cannot answer legal questions. Contacting the Judicial Assistant is the same as contacting the Court. The Judicial Assistant may not answer legal questions.


With the exception of emergency and expedited hearing requests, requests for hearing time are handled on a first come, first served basis. Response times may vary. The Court receives a substantial number of requests every day. If you have not received a response after 4 business days, you may contact chambers at (813) 307-3432 to check the status of the request. Please reserve such calls for pressing requests.


II.   Email in Relation to Service


Per Florida Rules of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.516(b)(1)(C), “[i]f a party not represented by an attorney does not designate an e-mail address for service in a proceeding, service on and by that party must be by the means provided in subdivision (b)(2).” Rule (b)(2) provides for service by regular mail, hand delivery, fax, and other means. Self-represented people (pro se litigants) may designate an email address by filing an email address on Form 12.915, “Designation of Current Address and E-mail Address.” Providing an email address on any other document does NOT allow documents to be delivered to self-represented parties for the purpose of counting as service. Regular mail (or other service such as hand delivery) must be used regardless of whether the document was sent via email. If a self-represented person does not designate an email address on a Form 12.915, documents may still be emailed to the litigant but must also be served by other means as defined in section (b)(2). Email alone is not sufficient. Counsel should act accordingly.

All parties should—if at all possible—use email and, if necessary, file an appropriate Form 12.915.


III.   Virtual Court: Appearances by Zoom


If the Court authorizes an appearance by Zoom, the Court’s Zoom link is and the Zoom Meeting ID is 370-437-2256. A password is not required.


The Zoom App is available for free for IOS and Android devices, and it may also be accessed via desktop computer. You do not need an account or pay a fee to use this service. Please visit the Zoom Help Center at to familiarize yourself with the service.


Each Zoom participant:


  • must dress in a manner appropriate for court. Parties may not appear unclothed. Counsel should appear in professional attire and, if necessary, use a professional background.
  • must have an appropriate location and background. A bed is not an appropriate location from which to appear in court. Virtual backgrounds are acceptable so long as they are professional.
  • must use his or her best efforts not to appear from a public location during the hearing.
  • must use a network to connect, that is, not from a cellular phone on a cell network unless it has sufficient bandwidth to permit smooth and clear audio and video. Connection difficulties will be charged against the unprepared party and may lead to hearings be converted to in-person only.
  • must not participate from an automobile. An automobile is not an appropriate location from which to participate in a court proceeding.
  • must use the mute setting when not speaking.
  • must try to avoid background noise or other interference.
  • must use his or her full, legal name as the caption in the Zoom window. This will help the Court identify the speaker and who is actually present at the hearing. In Zoom, the name to be displayed should be changed before joining the hearing (in Zoom parlance, the meeting). If a you join a hearing without updating your name, you must (1) click on the “Participants” button at the top of the Zoom window and then (2) click over the current log-in name you are using in the “Participants” list on the right side of the Zoom window and then (3) click on “Rename” to change the log-in name to your actual name.
  • must disclose if anyone else is present with him or her.
  • must not have any children of the parties present during the hearing or be where the children can hear or see the hearing.
  • must have paper copies of both parties’ exhibits easily accessible. Electronic versions of the exhibits are acceptable for a non-party witness if the witness is skilled with the use of electronic documents and has all exhibits available on a separate screen. It is the responsibility of counsel to ensure the easy availability of such exhibits to their clients and any witnesses they intent to call.


The Court suggests that the parties have their cameras in a fixed position, preferably on a flat surface, and not be holding the device through which they are connecting.


Counsel has a responsibility to advise their clients of the requirements for a virtual court appearance. If parties are not able to effectively appear in virtual court, please advise the Court so that an in-person hearing may be arranged. Virtual court is court and should be treated as such. For the parties, it is often one of the most important events in their lives and should be accorded the respect that demands.


Zoom hearings are generally reserved for issues that can be heard in less than 2 hours and are non-evidentiary. Some hearings may be presumed to be by Zoom, specifically uncontested final hearings and initial Case Management Conferences. The more complex the matter the less likely it will be heard by Zoom. The Court will not set hearings by Zoom for parties who have demonstrated an inability to properly use Zoom or comply with the basic good Zoom and Court etiquette.


IV.   Identification of Documents in the Court File


It is the preference of the Court that all filings in the court file be referred to by their document number, if available. For example, “the petition (Doc. 3).”


If no document number is available, the parties should include the date of filing, e.g., “the petition (June 14, 2014).”


If you do not know how to find the docket, it can be viewed on the Clerk’s HOVER system: Log in as a Registered User or search as an Anonymous user. Search by party name or case number. When you have found the case, click on the Magnifying Glass icon and then on “Events/Documents” to view the docket.


V.   Hybrid Hearings


Occasionally, the Court will permit hybrid hearings, that is, some people appearing in-person and some people appearing by Zoom. This is generally disfavored. The agreement of the parties to permit someone to appear by Zoom is not dispositive of the issue. If the Court permits a hybrid hearing, all present in the courtroom need to have the appropriate equipment to be able to see any individuals appearing on Zoom and to be seen by them. An inadequate plan to address the ability of the in-court participants’ or out-of-court participants’ ability to hear and see each other will lead to a denial of the request for a hybrid hearing. Technical issues on the day of a hybrid hearing are not themselves ground for a continuance. Please plan accordingly.


VI.   Scheduling Hearings


Unless the Court orders a specific hearing date and time sua sponte, the parties are required to coordinate with each other in the setting of court dates. See Administrative Order S-2020-054 at 17, ¶19. The requesting party should—as outlined above—contact chambers to request a hearing. The Court will offer at least two potential dates. The parties should attempt to agree upon them. If neither works for both parties, the Court may offer additional dates. If the parties cannot agree on a hearing date after a second offer, the Court may select a date unilaterally. Further, once second set of dates and times have been offered, any party (or attorney) rejecting those dates and times shall plainly and specifically specify the basis for the rejection of each additional date and time proposed for hearing that motion. The goal is to eliminate any sense of gamesmanship—real or perceived—in the setting of hearings and to ensure that the parties get prompt and fair access to the Court.


Clients and pro se litigants are generally expected to make themselves available for hearings during regular business hours, and scheduling a hearing to accommodate the clients’ or pro se litigants’ schedules is the exception rather than the rule. Often individuals are employed during hearing hours and are nonetheless expected to make arrangements to be available, although unusual circumstances such as previously-scheduled significant events may be accommodated. An attorney rejecting dates and times proposed for a hearing shall specify whether it is the attorney or their client who is unavailable for each of the proposed dates, and if, the client, the basis for the unavailability.


Bad faith conduct in the setting of the hearings may result in sanctions. Motions alleging bad faith conduct in the setting of hearing(s) and seeking the court’s intervention in scheduling must contain details of the alleged bad faith conduct. Such motions shall be forwarded to chambers by email after filing and may be either handled without a hearing (in the event the procedure for such handling is followed and the court deems such handling appropriate), or set for hearing on short notice. The correct contact information for the opposing party or counsel must be included in the motion, if at all possible, including email addresses and phone numbers, if known. If the movant does not have contact information for the opposing party, please state so in the motion.


The parties and any involved attorneys shall cooperate in providing their availability for hearings even if they do not agree that the amount of time requested for the hearing is sufficient, do not agree that the matter is ripe for hearing, or have other legal or procedural objections to the hearing. If the responding party fails to respond by providing their availability to emails attempting to set a hearing within two full business days (48 hours, non-court holiday Monday through Friday) without good cause, the requesting party may select the hearing date and time unilaterally and, if unilateral, should indicate that it was unilateral based on non-responsiveness on the notice of hearing.


With respect to the amount of time requested for a hearing, the parties should remember that both sides should be allocated equal time with some time reserved for the Court to rule. For example, a 30-minute hearing might be broken down as 13 minutes per side with 4 minutes for the ruling. Please request sufficient time.


VII.   Motions


A motion must include — in a single document not longer than twenty-five pages inclusive of all parts — a concise statement of the precise relief requested, a statement of the basis for the request, and the legal authority (e.g., statute, Family Law Rule of Procedure, case law) supporting the request. Pleadings filed without appropriate legal authority may be stricken or denied as facially insufficient.


It is not necessary to attach the full version of filings already in the court file. For example, it is not necessary to attach the final judgment to a motion. Instead, the parties should cite to the filing as necessary and pinpoint precisely the reference being made in the filing. For example, “the Final Judgment (Doc. 72 at 12, ¶8(a)), requiring that ‘the parents confer regarding school selection.’”


If the interested parties agree to the relief sought in a motion, the title must include “unopposed” or “stipulated,” as appropriate.


The Court prefers the parties to identify the document number of relevant items within the case file in the motion. E.g., Doc. #. If no document number is available, the party should identify the date the pleading was filed.


Parties shall confer in good faith prior to filing a motion. See, e.g., Fam.L.R.P. 13.380(b)(“ The motion must include a certification that the movant, in good faith, has conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make the discovery in an effort to secure the information or material without court action.”). Many issues in domestic relations may be resolved by communications, cooperation, and compromise. For the parties, this is often more efficient, legally and financially. If the parties have conferred and could not agree, the Court prefers the movant disclose that the parties could not agree in the motion. If the parties have not conferred, the Court prefers the movant disclose that as well.


Not all motions require a hearing. Ruling on the paper is an efficient way to manage the docket, save the parties needless expense, and eliminate the frustration of coordinating calendars. If the law does not require the Court to hold hearing before ruling, the movant should say so in the motion. When the movant believes the motion does not require a hearing and believes the Court should rule on the paper, the movant must forward a copy of the motion to chambers by email. The subject line must be “REQUEST FOR RULING WITHOUT A HEARING.” The Court’s judicial assistant will forward the motion to the Court. The Court may (1) rule on the motion, (2) order the opposing party to file a response to the motion (and include in the response whether the law requires a hearing), (3) ask the parties to set a hearing, or (4) request a proposed order from either party.


VIII.   Motions to Continue


Professionalism is expected when both requesting a hearing continuance and when agreeing to or declining a request for continuance. A continuance shall not be used to gain a perceived tactical advantage and, conversely, all counsel and litigants are reminded that parties and counsel are doing their best and, at times, a continuance is unavoidable.


With respect to motions to continue, unless it is as an oral motion made at the hearing, all motions to continue must be signed by the party requesting the continuance and the attorney, unless good cause is shown for the failure to sign. See Administrative Order S-2020-054 at 12, ¶13(E). The movant must also describe the reason for the request to continue the hearing. Motions to continue are required for all hearings set by an order or any hearings set by notice that were set for 2 hours or longer. See Administrative Order S-2020-054 at 12, ¶15.


IX.   Proffers


The Court will permit the parties to proceed by proffer so long as (1) both parties agree and (2) credibility is not an issue.


X.   Notices of Hearing


All notices of hearing must contain the document number (Doc. #) and corresponding title of each motion set for a hearing. The notice of hearing must be filed no later than 48 hours from the time of scheduling, otherwise the time slot will likely be given to another case.


If the hearing will be conducted virtually, the following Zoom information must be included in the Notice of Hearing: Zoom Meeting ID is 370-437-2256.


Please email a copy of the notice of hearing to


In the event of a cancellation, please notify the chambers via email and file a Notice of Cancellation. Notices of Cancellation do not apply to hearings set by an order of the Court or hearings set for longer than 2 hours (see AO S-2020-054 at 12, ¶ 15). Those may only be cancelled by filing a motion or an agreement resolving all issues that were noticed for hearing. Please note that emails to chambers are appreciated for scheduling purposes, but are not a substitute for motions.


XI.   Emergency Motions


Emergency motions are treated as emergencies and are reviewed by the Court forthwith. The designation of something as an emergency accords the pleading extraordinary treatment. No party or attorney should file a motion as an emergency without first studying Smith v. Crider, 932 So.2d 393 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). The moniker “emergency” should be reserved for true ones. The unwarranted designation of a motion as an emergency may result in a sanction.


Upon filing an emergency motion, the Clerk of Court promptly provides a copy of the emergency motion directly to the Judge and Judicial Assistant. The Court then promptly reviews the motion, often by taking a recess during hearings to review the motion or in between hearings, which necessarily delays the start of the next hearing.


If a party or counsel files an emergency motion, the Court expects that they will be immediately available for an emergency hearing including at night or on weekends and in-person. A prayer for emergency relief signals to the Court that the parties will treat the issue as an emergency that requires their and the Court’s immediate attention.


If a party or counsel files an emergency motion, the correct contact information for the opposing party must be included, if at all possible. This includes email addresses and potentially phone numbers. This includes motions filed ex parte. If the movant does not have any contact information for the opposing party, please state that in the motion.


Constitutionally, parties are entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard. Thus, as a general rule, ex parte motions are strongly disfavored and should only be filed in rare and appropriate circumstances, e.g., where disclosure of the motion will cause immediate and irreparable harm.


All counsel and parties should note that any already scheduled hearing may be bumped to address a true emergency. This is particularly true in circumstances involving children because the safety and well-being of children is of paramount concern to the Court.


XII.   Pick-Up Orders


A child pick-up order is generally a form of extraordinary relief. Such orders are effectively warrants. Law enforcement may execute them, using the necessary force to compel compliance with the order. Children subject to such orders may be seized by law enforcement potentially through employment of the full panoply of available tools, e.g., potentially including the use of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT). The execution of such orders can be traumatic for the child and potentially dangerous for all involved, particularly if the situation escalates. Thus, the Court grants such requests only in accord with the statutes, rules, and binding legal authority. Parties should calibrate such requests with due care for the best interests of the child in question. Non-ex parte and non-emergency enforcement and contempt motions are generally preferred when there is no genuine fear for the child’s health, well-being, and safety.


XIII.   Expedited Motions


Some motions will not qualify for emergency relief but may still be time sensitive. Such motions should be identified as requiring expedited relief. The parties should include in the pleading how quickly a ruling need be made and an explanation of and for the urgency. A copy of each such motion should be emailed to chambers to the attention of the Judicial Assistant so that it might be brought to the attention of the Court at the first available opportunity. As a matter of general practice, the Court attempts to review all expedited motions the same day that they are filed and gives such motions priority in scheduling.


If a party or counsel files an expedited motion, the Court expects that they will be available for an expedited hearing, including at night or on weekends and in-person. A prayer for expedited relief signals to the Court that the parties will treat the issue as one that requires their and the Court’s prompt attention.


If a party or counsel files an expedited motion, the correct contact information for the opposing party must be included, if at all possible. This includes email addresses and potentially phone numbers. This includes motions filed ex parte. If the movant does not have any contact information for the opposing party, please state that in the motion.


Abuse of the moniker “expedited” may subject the movant to sanctions.


XIV.   Initial Case Management Conference (CMC)


The first case management conference will not be canceled or rescheduled absent either (1) good cause shown by written motion or (2) an agreement to reschedule. Either should be submitted with a proposed order canceling or rescheduling the CMC. All parties and counsel shall appear at the first case management conference. This may be in-person or by Zoom, as set forth in the notice or order setting the CMC.


CMC dockets are generally done in blocks of cases and by Zoom. When counsel and the parties are admitted to the virtual courtroom, they should mute their devices and stop their videos until their case is called. This helps the Court pay attention to the case that was called and shows respect for the counsel and parties involved in that case. It is good etiquette and required.


For all dissolution of marriage cases, counsel or the Court shall take the initial jurisdictional testimony. The parties must be prepared to show that the Court has jurisdiction or the case will be dismissed. Florida requires at least one party have residency of at least six months prior to the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage. Testimony under oath of the party is generally insufficient to prove residency. Residency may be proved by Florida driver’s license, voter I.D., an Affidavit of Corroborating Witness; or testimony of a witness. Fla.Stat. § 61.052(2). The parties may file a copy of an appropriately redacted Florida driver’s license with an issuance date that is at least six months prior to the filing of the petition. It should be filed at least 72 hours in advance of the initial CMC. If an alternate means of proof will be used (e.g., voter registration or affidavit), it, too, should be filed at least 72 hours in advance of the hearing. Filings made less than 24 hours will generally not be entered into the court file in time for the hearing and do not give the Court enough time to review the filing before the hearing.


All domestic relations cases are referred to mediation. See AO 2021-048.


All post-judgment matters—whether referred to the general magistrate or objected to—shall be removed from the first case management docket, and parties and counsel shall schedule case management conferences as appropriate.


To schedule post-judgment matters, please review AO 2023-002 and follow the procedures in paragraph 5.


XV.   Open Docket


This docket is reserved for extremely brief proceedings, generally limited to no more than 5 minutes. This docket may include but is not limited to uncontested motions, uncontested final hearings, motions to compel discovery, motions for protective orders, motions to withdraw, and motions to continue. To the extent dueling presentations are necessary, the parties are limited to 2 minutes per side.


XVI.   Temporary Relief


Temporary relief falls under Administrative Order S-2020-054.


The moving party must schedule and both parties cooperate in scheduling and attending mediation prior to the temporary hearing. The movant’s failure to mediate will cause any hearing to be canceled by the Court. If the non-moving party is the party not cooperating with mediation, that matter will be addressed by the Court at the temporary hearing and sanctions may be entered.


At least 72 hours prior to the temporary relief hearing, the moving party will file an original and serve a copy on all parties a Temporary Relief Memorandum. A proposed Parenting Plan is required if the case involves minor children. If the moving party fails to file the Memorandum or, if required, Parenting Plan, the hearing will automatically be cancelled by the Court’s Judicial Assistant. The non-moving party’s failure to file the Memorandum or, if required, Parenting Plan, may be deemed as an acceptance by and stipulation to the non-moving party of the movant’s filing. It may also result in sanctions.


Domestic relations temporary relief hearings are generally limited to 1 hour, absent extraordinary circumstances and prior approval of the Court. The Court expects an expedited and focused presentation at such hearings.


XVII.   Proposed Orders


Proposed orders that are agreed upon by the parties can be submitted to the Court for signature through the ePortal as a “PDF” formatted document. It is the responsibility of counsel to provide copy of electronically signed Order to any pro se parties. If the pro se litigant has included an email address on Form 12.915, “Designation of Current Address and E-mail Address” filed with in the case, it may be provided electronically. If not, it is the responsibility of counsel to provide a copy of the Order by regular U.S. mail.


If there was a hearing, the cover letter should include the date of the hearing.


If the proposed order is a proposed final judgment, the cover letter should also include the date the initial jurisdictional testimony was taken and, if possible, the document number for the initial jurisdictional testimony order.


Proposed orders that are not agreed upon by the parties or competing Orders should be submitted to the Judicial Assistant by email and attached as a “WORD” formatted document, which will be forwarded to the Judge upon receipt of both proposed competing Orders.


Proposed orders must be submitted to the opposing party by email to the email address on the service notice or as otherwise designated by the party. If the opposing party does not respond within five business days, the proposed order shall be deemed an agreed upon proposed order. The cover letter submitted with the proposed order should note that the other side failed to respond within five business days.


Incoming Withholding Orders may be uploaded to the ePortal. If a party is pro se and does not have an email address designated on Form 12.915, “Designation of Current Address and E-mail Address” filed with in the case, the attorney will be responsible for mailing a paper copy of the order to the pro se party.


As a matter of preference for this Court, the style of the pleading should be:







IN RE: the [Matter or Marriage] of:


[party],                                                                 Case No.:    [#]


                                                                             Division:     I







The signature block should be as follows:


ORDERED on the date set forth in the electronic signature block.


                                                          Thomas N. Palermo

                                                          Circuit Judge


XVIII.   Adoptions


Adoptions may be attended in-person or by Zoom. The Court prefers in-person adoptions but only as a matter of personal preference and not as a requirement.


XIX.   Contested Final Hearings


All contested final hearings must be set by order. See Fam.L.R.P. 12.440. As a general rule, this division does not employ pretrial conferences, unless requested by the parties or otherwise deemed necessary by the Court. The Court will enter an order that outlines the requirements for the final hearing.


A final hearing set because of the default of the other party is a contested hearing for the purpose of this provision. Such final hearings must also be set by an order.


Unless otherwise specified in the order setting final hearing, the Court requires parties to file a trial memorandum, true exhibit list, and true witness list at least 3 business days before the start of the final hearing.


XX.   Continuances of Contested Final Hearings


Continuances of contested final hearings—set by an order of the Court—are disfavored absent good cause. To continue a final hearing, parties must file a verified motion to continue, providing a courtesy copy of the motion to chambers. The motion must include the reason for the continuance. The parties are required to confer prior to filing such a motion. The movant must certify that (1) they conferred with the other party or explain precisely why the movant could not confer and, after conferring, (2) the position of the other party on the motion.


XXI.   Post-Judgment Matters


All post-judgment matters (excluding Title IV-D child support issues) are referred to the general magistrate (see AO S-2022-13) and to mediation (see AO S-2023-002).


A motion for referral to the general magistrate or an objection must be filed at the same time any post-judgment motion or petition is filed. This allows the motion to be routed as quickly as possible to the correct judicial officer.


Unless otherwise approved by the Court, please do not schedule post-judgment matters on published dates in the Judicial Automated Workflow System (JAWS). To schedule post-judgment matters, please review AO S-2023-002 and follow procedures in paragraph 5. The Court must cancel improperly scheduled hearing.


XXII.   Exhibits


Two business days before an evidentiary or final hearing, the parties shall upload the exhibits into the electronic evidence queue.


The exception to this requirement is certain exhibits that cannot be filed through the queue, such as physical exhibits or video recordings. Those exhibits should be brought to Court, appropriately marked, with a copy for opposing counsel, e.g., a thumb drive containing a video recording, or a substitute exhibit, e.g., a photograph of a physical object.


If the party is not able to electronically upload the exhibits, e.g, a pro se litigant, exhibits shall be provided in the same manner as a described for physical exhibits.


All exhibits should be appropriately tagged. The tag should include the name of the case, case number, to whom the exhibit belongs, and the exhibit number. Composite exhibits, e.g., a series of photographs, may be designated with sequential letters, e.g., 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, etc. For electronically submitted exhibits, the tag should be either on the first page of the exhibit PDF or be there first page of the exhibit PDF.


Exhibits longer than 1 page should have marked on each page a number, e.g., Bates numbers such as “P1-0001”, or with a letter, e.g., composite exhibits such as “P1A.”


Electronic exhibits should be uploaded through the e-portal in a manner similar to that used to upload proposed orders. Please note that, on occasion, the parties have accidentally uploaded the proposed exhibits to the wrong division. Please do not upload exhibits to Civil Division I. The exhibits should be uploaded to the queue for Domestic Relations Division I.


If the parties are unable to use the evidence queue, the parties shall deliver a hard copy of the exhibits in a binder to chambers two business days before the start of the trial. The binders should include tabs and the front of each exhibit should be appropriately tagged as described above.


Unless otherwise specified in an order, the parties or counsel shall meet and mark exhibits by no later than the Tuesday the week before the hearing date. At the meeting, the parties shall attempt to agree to the admissibility of as many exhibits as possible. All stipulated exhibits shall be so marked on the exhibit list. At the beginning of the final hearing, the parties shall notify the Court of the stipulated exhibits so that they may be admitted before the first witness is called to the stand to testify.


At any hearing in which the parties anticipate exhibits will be used, the Court requires the filing of an exhibit list. The exhibit list shall be a true exhibit list. The list must sequentially list and briefly describe each exhibit. The purpose is to assist all parties and the Court keep track of exhibits and to maintain a clean record in each case.