Courts in Florida, like every State, are unique. Every State has authority to pass laws within their State. This includes Family law and Probate matters.
The Florida Court system includes trial courts and appellate courts.
Trial judges are divided into two sub-sections: County Courts and Circuit Courts.
County judges handle misdemeanor cases, small claims, and claims that are less than $15,000.00.
Circuit judges have authority to handle all other matters, which include family law and probate claims. The circuit judges also handle appeals from county court judges, which is where a higher court reviews the action of a lower court.
When a divorce is filed, it’s handled by a circuit judge.
Circuit judges handle all aspects of a family law case at the trial level. This includes the final hearing. And it includes handling any modifications after the Final Judgment is entered. Modifications include changes in the child support or parenting time. The circuit judge is also the judge who has authority to handle other family law cases, such are temporary custody by extended family cases, and adoptions.
Circuit courts also handle probate and trust matters.
Probate and trust disputes are also handled by circuit judges. The custodian of a will must deposit the will with the Clerk or Court within ten days of finding out the person has passed away. Afterwards, a beneficiary or interested party may file a summary or formal probate. This is used to administer the will, and divide assets according to the will.
If a party disagrees with the circuit court’s ruling, there is a higher set of courts whose role is to review the decisions of circuit judges. These are called the appellate judges, and they often work as a panel of three judges on each case. Florida is divided into five districts, with each district reviewing the decisions of circuit courts generally nearby. There is also a Florida Supreme Court, which reviews the decisions of the appellate judges in certain cases, and is the final say on the validity of State statutes and the State constitution.
Understanding the Florida court system and the legal process is important, as it helps to see how the different parts of our judicial process interact.
In a subsequent blog, I will write more about the administrative law process, and the role of magistrates in family law cases.