Frequently Asked Questions About Hearings

person writing the words frequently asked questions

Where do I file a request for a hearing?

  • Generally, instructions for filing a request for hearing are provided along with any written notice of a Department decision that you receive.  In that case, file your request for hearing with the Department office listed in those instructions.   
  • SPECIAL NOTE:  For hearings involving regarding eligibility for an amount or type of Financial Assistance, Medical Assistance, Social Services, or Food Stamp Program Benefits, a request for a fair hearing must be filed with the Office of Appeal Hearings, located within the Department’s Office of Inspector General, at the following address:

Department of Children and Families
Office of Appeal Hearings, Building 5, Room 255
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0700

The following is a link to the website of the Office of Appeal Hearings:

http://www.myflfamilies.com/about-us/office-inspector-general/investigation-reports/appeal-hearings

  • The above link provides additional information about the fair hearings process. 

What should a request for hearing contain?

  • The instructions for filing a request for a hearing, provided along with any written notice of Department decision, normally include instructions on what to include with a request for hearing.  In that case, follow those instructions. 

Can I call the Clerk’s Office for help with my request for hearing?

  • This Office is not authorized to advise or assist any person in preparing or completing a request for a hearing. 

What happens if my request for a hearing is received after the deadline?

  • A request for a hearing is subject to dismissal if it is received after the deadline by the Department office listed in the instructions. 
  • If your request for hearing is received after the deadline, this Office will normally issue an Order of Dismissal that notes the late filing and provides you a specified number of days in which to refile your request with an explanation of why is should be accepted in spite of its late receipt. 

What happens if my request for hearing does not include all of the information required by the instructions?

  • This Office will attempt to determine if there is enough information in the request to decide if it is timely, disputes the facts relied on by the Department and contains enough information to meet the intent of the instructions.
  • If it is determined that the request is timely and contains enough information to meet the intent of the instructions, then it will be referred to DOAH for a formal hearing or to a Department hearing officer for an informal hearing.
  • If it is determined that the request may be untimely or does not contain enough information to meet the intent of the instructions, the Department will issue an order through this Office requiring you to correct the deficiency or explain why your request for hearing should be granted in spite of the deficiency. 

Will I always get a hearing if I request one?

  • Not always.  You must be “substantially affected” by a Department decision and your request for hearing must be timely received and include the required information.  Normally, when one or more of these requirements are not met, the Department will issue an order requiring you to correct the deficiency or explain why your request for hearing should be granted in spite of the deficiency. 

What is a formal hearing?

  • A formal hearing is a hearing held before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned by the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).  At the hearing (which may be in person or via videoconference), the parties will present sworn oral testimony, written evidence and legal argument.  A formal hearing is held when the person requesting the hearing disputes the facts that the Department has relied on in making its decision.  When that happens, the Department will refer the request to DOAH.  The ALJ will issue a recommended order, which includes findings of fact and conclusions of law, as well as a recommendation for a final decision.  The Department then considers the recommended order and issues a final order.  Either party can file exceptions to the recommended order, which will be considered by the Department in issuing its final order.  In issuing its final order, the Department is restricted in how it can change findings of fact in the recommended order but has more leeway in changing conclusions of law in the recommended order. 

What do I do if I disagree with a recommended order?

  • A party that disagrees with a recommended order must file exceptions to the recommended order with the Agency Clerk within 15 days of the date of the recommended order.  No additional time is provided for mail.    
  • The exceptions must identify the disputed portion of the recommended order by page number or paragraph, must identify the legal basis for the exception, and must include any appropriate and specific citations to the record. A copy of the exceptions must be provided to the other parties.
  • Please note that the party filing the exceptions to any findings of fact in the recommended order has the responsibility for filing a transcript of the final hearing with the Agency Clerk.  The Department has the responsibility for recording the final hearing (either by directly recording the hearing or by having a court reporter attend) but may not have filed a transcript with the Division of Administrative Hearings.  In that case, you will need to have a transcript prepared by a court reporter (either from the Department’s own recording or the record of the court reporter what attended the hearing) and file the transcript with the Agency Clerk.  A copy of the transcript must be provided to the other parties.  

Can I respond if the other party has filed exceptions?

  • Yes. You may file responses to the exception with the Agency Clerk within 10 days of the date the other party’s exceptions were filed with the Agency Clerk. No additional time is provided for mail. A copy of the responses must be provided to the other parties.

What is an informal hearing?

  • An informal hearing is a hearing held before a hearing officer assigned by the Department.  At the hearing (which may be in person or via telephone), the parties will present oral statements and written documents to the hearing officer.  An informal hearing is held when the person requesting the hearing does not dispute the facts that the Department has relied on in making its decision or chooses to request an informal hearing.  The hearing officer will issue a recommendation, which includes findings of fact and conclusions of law, as well as a recommendation for a final decision.  The Department then considers the recommendation and issues a final order.  Either party can file exceptions to the recommendation, which will be considered by the Department in issuing its final order.  In issuing its final order, the Department is not restricted in how it can change findings of fact or conclusions of law in the recommendation. 

What do I do if I disagree with a recommendation?

  • Follow the same process for exceptions to a recommended order.

What do I do if I disagree with the Department’s final order?

  • You will need to file an appeal with a district court of appeal.  A final order issued by the Department will include basic information on where and how to file such an appeal. 

What do I do if I want a hearing but the Department has not provided me with instructions?

  • In the rare occasion where a Department notice of decision does not include instructions, you can use these instructions

What do I do if the Department dismisses or denies my request for hearing?

  • A Department order that dismisses or denies a request for hearing will normally provide information on your next steps.  Typically, unless you are given an opportunity to refile your request, you will have to file an appeal with a district court of appeal.