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Differing Burdens of Proof


Question:

Where there are multiple related cases, and there are different burdens of proof among the cases, or there is evidence admissible in one case, but not in another; should the judge consider not hearing all the cases to avoid the appearance of being unduly influenced by the conflicting evidence or lower burden of proof in one of the cases?

Answer:

  • The circuit court certainly has jurisdiction to hear related cases. 

The circuit court has jurisdiction over all matters concerning the custody and welfare of children.  All circuit court judges have the same jurisdiction within their respective circuits.  A judge in the probate division or the juvenile division or the civil division or the criminal division has the authority and jurisdiction to hear cases involving child custody and dependency.  The internal operation of the court system and the assignment of judges to various divisions does not limit a particular judge’s jurisdiction. In re Peterson, 364 So. 2d 98, 99 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978).

  • Cases have assumed that it is appropriate to handle overlapping matters.  For example, in T.J. v. Dep’t of Children & Families, 860 So. 2d 517, 518 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), the court observed that the burden of proof in a paternity case did not change because the paternity issue arose in a Chapter 39 proceeding. 

 

  • In handling multiple cases, however, the judge must be careful to announce the correct standard of proof upon which the judge’s rulings are being made.

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