Thank God I was there and was able to find the correct room right on time. The divorce was a divorce by publication and the hearing took less than 2 minutes. Since my client does not have a Florida driver's license I had prepared an Affidavit of Witness, which I had filed with the clerk earlier today and had a stamped copy ready for the judge.
After accepting my client's lunch invitation (King's Chinese Buffet in Sunrise, the best!), I got a call from a previous divorce client who reopened the case because his ex-wife does not let him see their child. Since he did it through the Miami Dade Self Help Program I had no idea what was going on. He told me he has been waiting for a hearing since June 2012 and does not know what to do. So I head over to the Miami Dade courthouse and got a copy of some documents that a respondent filed AFTER the 20 calendar days when she served the summons. She also failed to provide a copy of the response to the petitioner. A big no no in civil proceedings. I also got a copy of the petition he filed and a request for default. Guess what, no request for hearing was filed. This is why no court hearing has been scheduled!
So here are a few reminders to those seeking to take family law legal matters in their own hands (also known as pro-se filers):
1 - If you file your divorce in the State of Florida, you will need to demonstrate to a judge that either you or your spouse had lived in the State of Florida within the last 6 months. You do this with a Florida driver's license or an Affidavit of Witness. The Division of Motor Vehicles are changing the date of issue of driver's license to a current date. Look at your driver's license and make sure the date of issue is more than 6 months.
2 - When filing for default - A request for hearing must also be filed with 2 self stamped self addressed envelopes. There should be 3 papers: Motion for Default, Default, and a Request for Hearing (also known as the Notice of Hearing)
3 - When you are served court papers with a summons - You have 20 CALENDAR days (weekends are included) to respond. If you do not respond within this time-frame the other party can file a default and it's pretty much game over. The answer must be prepared with the correct caption format and a certificate of service section where you state that a copy has been provided to the other party as required by law.
4 - By law you are supposed to give copies of any documents you file with the court to the other party. You need to also have a certificate of service signed and filed with the courthouse to this effect.
5 - When you arrive at the court for your final hearing make sure that your name is listed on the roster and that you have checked in with the deputy. This way any errors can be fixed right away and you will get your long awaited divorce decree that day.
Now, to check my voicemail...