Rule 12.491. Child Support Enforcement

(a)     Limited Application. This rule shall be effective only when specifically invoked by administrative order of the chief justice for use in a particular county or circuit.

(b)     Scope. This rule shall apply to proceedings for

(1)     the establishment, enforcement, or modification of child support, or

(2)     the enforcement of any support order for the parent or other person entitled to receive child support in conjunction with an ongoing child support or child support arrearage order,

when a party seeking support is receiving services pursuant to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 651 et seq.) and to non-Title IV-D proceedings upon administrative order of the chief justice.

(c)     Support Enforcement Hearing Officers. The chief judge of each judicial circuit shall appoint such number of support enforcement hearing officers for the circuit or any county within the circuit as are necessary to expeditiously perform the duties prescribed by this rule. A hearing officer shall be a member of The Florida Bar unless waived by the chief justice and shall serve at the pleasure of the chief judge and a majority of the circuit judges in the circuit.

(d)     Referral. Upon the filing of a cause of action or other proceeding for the establishment, enforcement, or modification of support to which this rule applies, the court or clerk of the circuit court shall refer such proceedings to a support enforcement hearing officer, pursuant to procedures to be established by administrative order of the chief judge.

(e)     General Powers and Duties. The support enforcement hearing officer shall be empowered to issue process, administer oaths, require the production of documents, and conduct hearings for the purpose of taking evidence. A support enforcement hearing officer does not have the authority to hear contested paternity cases. Upon the receipt of a support proceeding, the support enforcement hearing officer shall:

(1)     assign a time and place for an appropriate hearing and give notice to each of the parties as may be required by law;

(2)     take testimony and establish a record, which record may be by electronic means as provided by Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.535(h);

(3)     accept voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and support liability and stipulated agreements setting the amount of support to be paid; and

(4)     evaluate the evidence and promptly make a recommended order to the court. Such order shall set forth findings of fact.

(f)     Entry of Order and Relief from Order. Upon receipt of a recommended order, the court shall review the recommended order and shall enter an order promptly unless good cause appears to amend the order, conduct further proceedings, or refer the matter back to the hearing officer to conduct further proceedings. Any party affected by the order may move to vacate the 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. A motion to vacate the order shall be heard within 10 days after the movant applies for hearing on the motion.

(g)     Modification of Order. Any party affected by the order may move to modify the order at any time.

(h)     Record. For the purpose of hearing on a motion to vacate, a record, substantially in conformity with this rule, shall be provided to the court by the party seeking review.

(1)     The record shall consist of the court file, including the transcript of the proceedings before the hearing officer, if filed, and all depositions and evidence presented to the hearing officer.

(2)     The transcript of all relevant proceedings shall be delivered to the judge and provided to opposing counsel not less than 48 hours before the hearing on the motion to vacate. If less than a full transcript of the proceedings taken before the hearing officer is ordered prepared by the moving party, that party shall promptly file a notice setting forth the portions of the transcript that have been ordered. The responding party shall be permitted to designate any additional portions of the transcript necessary to the adjudication of the issues raised in the motion to vacate or cross-motion to vacate.

(3)     The cost of the original and all copies of the transcript of the proceedings shall be 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 shall bear the initial cost of the additional transcript.

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