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New procedural rules for family court don’t address arbitration, P.1

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court published an opinion that established new rules and procedures for family law matters. Among other changes that were made was a new stand-alone set of rules known as the Family Law Rules of Procedure.

Previously, family law matters were governed by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, but the new set of rules is simplified to make it easier for litigants to navigate family court, particularly when they choose to represent themselves. Going with representation is generally not advised, of course, but some choose to do so, thinking they will be able to save money that way. 

One interesting aspect of the new procedural rules is that they removed civil arbitration rules that previously could be used to settle certain family law disputes, and they do not address the issue of arbitration of family law matters in any alternative way.

Under current state law, arbitration is not allowed for disputes over child custody, child support or visitation. State policy is that judges need to handle these cases to ensure the outcome is in the best interests of children. The best interests of the child is the determining factor in any child custody case, and judges are required by state law to take into account all relevant factors when making a decision regarding parenting time arrangements. Because the concern with ensuring the safety, health and well-being of children is so strong, reserving such decisions to the courts is seen as a priority.

Arbitration and mediation can be an effective way to resolve disputes in family law matters, particularly when it comes to division of assets and debts. Not everybody agrees that arbitration should be off-limits for disputes involving children, and there has been a push in some circles to expand the availability of arbitration in such matters. We’ll say more about using arbitration and mediation in the context of family law matters in our next post. 

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