2023 Florida Statutes< Back to Statute Search
Title V JUDICIAL BRANCH
Chapter 39 PROCEEDINGS RELATING TO CHILDREN
SECTION 502Notice, process, and service.
39.502 Notice, process, and service.—
(1) Unless parental rights have been terminated, all parents must be notified of all proceedings or hearings involving the child. Notice in cases involving shelter hearings and hearings resulting from medical emergencies must be provided in the manner most likely to result in actual notice to the parents. A party may consent to service or notice by e-mail by providing a primary e-mail address to the clerk of the court. In all other dependency proceedings, notice must be provided in accordance with subsections (4)-(9), except when a relative requests notification pursuant to s. 39.301(14)(b), in which case notice shall be provided pursuant to subsection (19).
(2) Personal appearance of any person in a hearing before the court obviates the necessity of serving process on that person.
(3) Upon the filing of a petition containing allegations of facts which, if true, would establish that the child is a dependent child, and upon the request of the petitioner, the clerk or deputy clerk shall issue a summons.
(4) The summons must require the person on whom it is served to appear for a hearing at a time and place specified, not less than 72 hours after service of the summons. If applicable, the summons must also include instructions for appearing at the hearing through audio or audio-video communication technology. A copy of the petition shall be attached to the summons.
(5) The summons must be directed to, and served upon, all parties other than the petitioner. A party may consent to service by e-mail by providing a primary e-mail address to the clerk of the court.
(6) It is the duty of the petitioner or moving party to notify all participants and parties known to the petitioner or moving party of all hearings subsequent to the initial hearing unless notice is contained in prior court orders and these orders were provided to the participant or party. Proof of notice or provision of orders may be provided by certified mail with a signed return receipt.
(7) Service of the summons and service of pleadings, papers, and notices subsequent to the summons on persons outside this state must be made pursuant to s. 61.509.
(8) It is not necessary to the validity of a proceeding covered by this part that the parents be present if their identity or residence is unknown after a diligent search has been made, but in this event the petitioner shall file an affidavit of diligent search prepared by the person who made the search and inquiry, and the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the child.
(9) When an affidavit of diligent search has been filed under subsection (8), the petitioner shall continue to search for and attempt to serve the person sought until excused from further search by the court. The petitioner shall report on the results of the search at each court hearing until the person is identified or located or further search is excused by the court.
(10) Service by publication shall not be required for dependency hearings and the failure to serve a party or give notice to a participant shall not affect the validity of an order of adjudication or disposition if the court finds that the petitioner has completed a diligent search for that party.
(11) Upon the application of a party or the petitioner, the clerk or deputy clerk shall issue, and the court on its own motion may issue, subpoenas requiring attendance and testimony of witnesses and production of records, documents, and other tangible objects at any hearing.
(12) All process and orders issued by the court shall be served or executed as other process and orders of the circuit court and, in addition, may be served or executed by authorized agents of the department or the guardian ad litem.
(13) Subpoenas may be served within the state by any person over 18 years of age who is not a party to the proceeding and, in addition, may be served by authorized agents of the department or the guardian ad litem.
(14) No fee shall be paid for service of any process or other papers by an agent of the department or the guardian ad litem. If any process, orders, or any other papers are served or executed by any sheriff, the sheriff’s fees shall be paid by the county.
(15) A party who is identified as a person who has a mental illness or a developmental disability must be informed by the court of the availability of advocacy services through the department, the Arc of Florida, or other appropriate mental health or developmental disability advocacy groups and encouraged to seek such services.
(16) If the party to whom an order is directed is present or represented at the final hearing, service of the order is not required.
(17) The parent or legal custodian of the child, the attorney for the department, the guardian ad litem, the foster or preadoptive parents, and all other parties and participants shall be given reasonable notice of all proceedings and hearings provided for under this part. All foster or preadoptive parents must be provided with at least 72 hours’ notice, verbally or in writing, of all proceedings or hearings relating to children in their care or children they are seeking to adopt to ensure the ability to provide input to the court.
(18) In all proceedings under this part, the court shall provide to the parent or legal custodian of the child, at the conclusion of any hearing, a written notice containing the date of the next scheduled hearing. The court shall also include the date of the next hearing in any order issued by the court. If the hearing is to be conducted through audio or audio-video communication technology, the instructions for appearance must also be included.
(19) In all proceedings and hearings under this chapter, the attorney for the department shall notify, orally or in writing, a relative requesting notification pursuant to s. 39.301(14)(b) of the date, time, and location of such proceedings and hearings and, if applicable, the instructions for appearance through audio or audio-video communication technology, and notify the relative that he or she has the right to attend all subsequent proceedings and hearings, to submit reports to the court, and to speak to the court regarding the child, if the relative so desires. The court has the discretion to release the attorney for the department from notifying a relative who requested notification pursuant to s. 39.301(14)(b) if the relative’s involvement is determined to be impeding the dependency process or detrimental to the child’s well-being.
History.—s. 20, ch. 78-414; s. 2, ch. 83-255; s. 6, ch. 92-170; s. 9, ch. 94-164; s. 4, ch. 97-276; s. 63, ch. 98-403; s. 26, ch. 99-193; s. 20, ch. 2000-139; s. 1, ch. 2002-65; s. 9, ch. 2008-245; s. 8, ch. 2009-43; s. 17, ch. 2012-178; s. 1, ch. 2013-162; s. 4, ch. 2023-302.
Note.—Former s. 39.405.