Tampa Military Divorce Mediator

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

In Florida, can a Military Officer Swear in a Witness who is Appearing by Phone?

Florida is home to several significant military bases, and the state has a large military population.  As a result, Florida sees a large number of military divorces, family law cases, and other proceedings.  In civil and family law matters, servicemembers are frequently deployed overseas and are not available to testify in person at court hearings.  An experienced military divorce lawyer can help if you have questions about your right or obligation to participate in court proceedings.

In a military divorce or other family case, a servicemember may need to proceed in court, even though he or she is deployed or stationed overseas.  Although the servicemember may be able to seek a continuance of the hearing based on his or her unavailability or a stay of the proceedings under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the servicemember may be the party seeking to advance the case, such as a family law enforcement proceeding, contempt action, or child support modification case.  So, it may be in the servicemember's interest to ask for permission to appear by phone or Skype and have the hearing go forward.

Telephonic appearances in Florida courts are governed by Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.451Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.451, Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.530, and Sections 92.50 and 92.51 of the Florida Evidence Code.

Rules 1.451 and 12.451 require that a notary or "other person authorized to administer the oath" swear in every witness who is not appearing in person.  Most people just have a notary physically present with the witness to administer the oath prior to the witness testifying.

For military servicemembers on deployment, however, finding a qualified notary may be a nearly impossible task.  There are no locally authorized notaries, for example, in the mountains of Afghanistan.  Under Section 92.51, Florida Statutes, military officers (O1 and higher) are expressly authorized to administer oaths to service members and their spouses under certain circumstances.

If your military divorce attorney knows this law, you will be better able to control when and how hearings proceed in your case.