(a) General Magistrates. Judges of the circuit court may appoint as many general magistrates from among the members of The Florida Bar in the circuit as the judges find necessary, and the general magistrates will continue in office until removed by the court. The order making an appointment must be recorded. Every person appointed as a general magistrate must take the oath required of officers by the constitution and the oath must be recorded before the magistrate discharges any duties of that office.
(1) No matter shall be heard by a general magistrate without an appropriate order of referral and the consent to the referral of all parties. Consent, as defined in this rule, to a specific referral, once given, cannot be withdrawn without good cause shown before the hearing on the merits of the matter referred. Consent may be express or may be implied in accordance with the requirements of this rule.
(A) A written objection to the referral to a general magistrate must be filed within 10 days of the service of the order of referral.
(B) If the time set for the hearing is less than 10 days after service of the order of referral, the objection must be filed before commencement of the hearing.
(C) If the order of referral is served within the first 20 days after the service of the initial process, the time to file an objection is extended to the time within which to file a responsive pleading.
(D) Failure to file a written objection within the applicable time period is deemed to be consent to the order of referral.
(2) The order of referral must be in substantial conformity with Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.920(b), and must contain the following language in bold type:
A REFERRAL TO A GENERAL MAGISTRATE REQUIRES THE CONSENT OF ALL PARTIES. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO HAVE THIS MATTER HEARD BEFORE A JUDGE. IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THIS MATTER HEARD BEFORE THE GENERAL MAGISTRATE, YOU MUST FILE A WRITTEN OBJECTION TO THE REFERRAL WITHIN 10 DAYS OF THE TIME OF SERVICE OF THIS ORDER. IF THE TIME SET FOR THE HEARING IS LESS THAN 10 DAYS AFTER THE SERVICE OF THIS ORDER, THE OBJECTION MUST BE FILED BEFORE COMMENCEMENT OF THE HEARING. IF THIS ORDER IS SERVED WITHIN THE FIRST 20 DAYS AFTER SERVICE OF PROCESS, THE TIME TO FILE AN OBJECTION IS EXTENDED TO THE TIME WITHIN WHICH A RESPONSIVE PLEADING IS DUE. FAILURE TO FILE A WRITTEN OBJECTION WITHIN THE APPLICABLE TIME PERIOD IS DEEMED TO BE A CONSENT TO THE REFERRAL.
REVIEW OF THE RECOMMENDED ORDER MADE BY THE GENERAL MAGISTRATE MUST BE BY A MOTION TO VACATE AS PROVIDED IN RULE 12.490(e), FLORIDA FAMILY LAW RULES OF PROCEDURE. A RECORD, WHICH INCLUDES A TRANSCRIPT OF PROCEEDINGS, IS REQUIRED TO SUPPORT THE MOTION TO VACATE, UNLESS WAIVED BY ORDER OF THE COURT PRIOR TO ANY HEARING ON THE MOTION TO VACATE.
(3) The order of referral must state with specificity the matter or matters being referred and the name of the specific general magistrate to whom the matter is referred. The order of referral must also state whether electronic recording or a court reporter is provided by the court, or whether a court reporter, if desired, must be provided by the litigants.
(4) When a referral is made to a general magistrate, any party or the general magistrate may set the action for hearing.
(c) General Powers and Duties. Every general magistrate must perform all of the duties that pertain to the office according to the practice in chancery and rules of court and under the direction of the court except those duties related to injunctions for protection against domestic, repeat, dating, and sexual violence, and stalking. A general magistrate is empowered to administer oaths and conduct hearings, which may include the taking of evidence. All grounds for disqualification of a judge apply to general magistrates.
(1) The general magistrate must assign a time and place for proceedings as soon as reasonably possible after the referral is made and give notice to each of the parties either directly or by directing counsel to file and serve a notice of hearing. If any party fails to appear, the general magistrate may proceed ex parte or may adjourn the proceeding to a future day, giving notice to the absent party of the adjournment. The general magistrate must proceed with reasonable diligence in every referral and with the least delay practicable. Any party may apply to the court for an order to the general magistrate to speed the proceedings and to make the recommended order and to certify to the court the reason for any delay.
(2) The general magistrate must take testimony and establish a record which may be by electronic means as provided by Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.535(h)(4) or by a court reporter. The parties may not waive this requirement.
(3) The general magistrate has the authority to examine under oath the parties and all witnesses upon all matters contained in the referral, to require production of all books, documents, writings, vouchers, and other documents applicable to it, and to examine on oath orally all witnesses produced by the parties. The general magistrate may take all actions concerning evidence that can be taken by the circuit court and in the same manner. The general magistrate has the same powers as a circuit judge to utilize communications equipment as defined and regulated by Florida Rule of General Practice and Judicial Administration 2.530.
(4) The notice or order setting the cause for hearing must be in substantial conformity with Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Forms 12.920 (b) and (c) and must contain the following language in bold type:
SHOULD YOU WISH TO SEEK REVIEW OF THE RECOMMENDED ORDER MADE BY THE GENERAL MAGISTRATE, YOU MUST FILE A MOTION TO VACATE IN ACCORDANCE WITH RULE 12.490(e), FLORIDA FAMILY LAW RULES OF PROCEDURE. YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE THE COURT WITH A RECORD SUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT YOUR MOTION TO VACATE OR YOUR MOTION WILL BE DENIED. A RECORD ORDINARILY INCLUDES A WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT OF ALL RELEVANT PROCEEDINGS UNLESS WAIVED BY ORDER OF THE COURT PRIOR TO ANY HEARING ON THE MOTION TO VACATE. THE PERSON SEEKING REVIEW MUST HAVE THE TRANSCRIPT PREPARED FOR THE COURT’S REVIEW.
(5) The notice or order setting a matter for hearing must state whether electronic recording or a court reporter is provided by the court. If the court provides electronic recording, the notice must also state that any party may provide a court reporter at that party’s expense.
(e) Entry of Order and Relief from Order.
(1) The general magistrate must submit a recommended order to the court that includes findings of fact and conclusions of law.
(2) If a court reporter was present, the recommended order must contain the name, telephone number, and e-mail address of the court reporter.
(3) Upon receipt of a recommended order, the court must review the recommended order and must enter the order promptly unless the court finds that the recommended order is facially or legally deficient, in which case, it must identify the deficiency by written order and remand to the general magistrate to address and, if necessary, conduct further proceedings without the necessity of a new order of referral to general magistrate. Any party affected by the recommended order may move to vacate the recommended order by filing a motion to vacate within 10 days from the date of entry. Any party may file a cross-motion to vacate within 5 days of service of a motion to vacate, provided, however, that the filing of a cross-motion to vacate shall not delay the hearing on the motion to vacate unless good cause is shown.
(4) A motion to vacate the order must be heard within 30 days from the date the motion is filed, unless the time frame is extended by court order. Thereafter, the judge must enter an order rendering a ruling no later than 30 days after the hearing on the motion to vacate.
(5) The party seeking review shall seek to schedule a hearing date at the same time that the motion to vacate is filed with the court. Failure to seek a hearing date in conformity herewith may result in a denial of the motion to vacate.
(6) A timely filed motion to vacate stays the enforcement of the recommended order rendered by the court until after the court has conducted a hearing on the motion to vacate and renders an order granting or denying the motion to vacate.
(f) Record. For the purpose of the hearing on a motion to vacate, a record, substantially in conformity with this rule, must be provided to the court by the party seeking review for the court’s review.
(1) The record must consist of the court file, all depositions and documentary and other evidence presented at hearing, including the transcript of the relevant proceedings before the general magistrate. However, the transcript may be waived by order of the court prior to any hearing on the motion to vacate.
(2) Unless waived by order of the court prior to any hearing on the motion to vacate, the transcript of all relevant proceedings, if any, must be delivered to the judge and provided to all other parties not less than 48 hours before the hearing. If less than a full transcript of the proceedings taken before the general magistrate is furnished by the moving party, that party must promptly file a notice setting forth the portions of the transcript that have been ordered. The responding parties must be permitted to designate any additional portions of the transcript necessary to the adjudication of the issues raised in the motion to vacate or motion to vacate.
(3) The cost of the original and all copies of the transcript of the proceedings is borne initially by the party seeking review, subject to appropriate assessment of suit monies. Should any portion of the transcript be required as a result of a designation filed by the responding party, the party making the designation bears the initial cost of the additional transcript.