By: David M. Garten, Esq.
ARTICLE: 2017 Amendment To §744.331 (Effective July 1, 2017)
Section 744.331, F.S. details the procedures for determining the ward’s incapacity in guardianship proceedings. During the 2017 legislative session, there were substantial changes made to both the procedure for filing, service, and admissibility of the examining committee members’ reports and the date of the adjudicatory hearing. Those changes read:
(3) EXAMINING COMMITTEE.—
(e) Each member of the examining committee shall examine the person. Each examining committee member must determine the alleged incapacitated person’s ability to exercise those rights specified in s. 744.3215. In addition to the examination, each examining committee member must have access to, and may consider, previous examinations of the person, including, but not limited to, habilitation plans, school records, and psychological and psychosocial reports voluntarily offered for use by the alleged incapacitated person. Each member of the examining committee must file his or her report with the clerk of the courtsubmit a report within 15 days after appointment.
(h) Within 3 days after receipt of each examining committee member’s report, the clerk shall serve the report on the petitioner and the attorney for the alleged incapacitated person by electronic mail delivery or United States mail, and, upon service, shall file a certificate of service in the incapacity proceeding. The petitioner and the attorney for the alleged incapacitated person must be served with all reports at least 10 days before the hearing on the petition, unless the reports are not complete, in which case the petitioner and attorney for the alleged incapacitated person may waive the 10 day requirement and consent to the consideration of the report by the court at the adjudicatory hearing. If such service is not timely effectuated, the petitioner or the alleged incapacitated person may move for a continuance of the hearingA copy of each committee member’s report must be served on the petitioner and on the attorney for the alleged incapacitated person within 3 days after the report is filed and at least 5 days before the hearing on the petition.
(i) The petitioner and the alleged incapacitated person may object to the introduction into evidence of all or any portion of the examining committee members’ reports by filing and serving a written objection on the other party no later than 5 days before the adjudicatory hearing. The objection must state the basis upon which the challenge to admissibility is made. If an objection is timely filed and served, the court shall apply the rules of evidence in determining the reports’ admissibility. For good cause shown, the court may extend the time to file and serve the written objection.
(5) ADJUDICATORY HEARING.— (a) Upon appointment of the examining committee, the court shall set the date upon which the petition will be heard. The date for the adjudicatory hearing must be conducted at least 10 days, which time period may be waived, but no more than 30 days, after the filing of the last filed report of the examining committee membersset no more than 14 days after the filing of the reports of the examining committee members, unless good cause is shown. The adjudicatory hearing must be conducted at the time and place specified in the notice of hearing and in a manner consistent with due process.