What is the difference between a general magistrate and a judge?

Legal Lotus-Miami Family and Trial Lawyers

A general magistrate is an attorney appointed by a judge to take testimony and recommend decisions on certain matters connected to court action. However, magistrates issue a written report and recommendation for the court to consider when issuing a ruling. A judge must accept and adopt a general magistrate’s recommendations before it can be considered a court order.

The primary purposes of having magistrates hear cases are to reduce the costs of litigation and to speed up cases. General magistrates are appointed to help manage large caseloads a judge may have. Either party may request that their case be heard by a general magistrate by filing a Motion for Referral to General Magistrate.

Many times, the Court may refer cases to a general magistrate without a motion from either party. Litigants may object to a referral. Most heavy litigated family law cases will be referred to a general magistrate to speed up the process.

What to expect at a hearing before the General Magistrate:

In Florida, all hearings before the general magistrate are recorded (audio). You can expect the hearing to go just like a trial would. Each side will present their case. After considering the evidence and testimony of witnesses, the general magistrate will issue a written report and recommendation for the judge for approval. The parties will then have ten (10) days thereafter to file “exceptions” to the recommended order. See Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.490(f).


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