How to Compute Deadlines for Serving or Filing Court Documents in a Florida Civil Lawsuit
In this article, we’ll break down:
- How to compute time for servicing documents in “days”
- How to compute time for servicing document in “hours”
- Legal holidays impacting the computation of time
- The impact of electronic filing on the computation of time
- Florida case examples involving the computation of time
Like nearly all Florida court processes, the filing and servicing of court documents are bound by time.
The procedure for computing the time a party has to file or serve papers in civil litigation is standard across all proceedings in Florida. Computing time correctly, however, isn’t always clear. And getting it wrong can have adverse consequences on your case.
In this article, we’ll explain how to compute time when serving or filing your court documents in a Florida civil lawsuit.
There Are Two Methods for Computing Time in Florida Courts
Time is computed using one of two methods. The first is measured in days or longer periods of time. The second is measured in hours.
When using days or longer units of measure to compute time, the first day of the filing or service period is excluded from the calculation. So, day one of your computed time actually begins with the start of the second day.
The last day of the time period is included. The exception is if the last day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday.
Every day is counted unless the period is less than seven days, in which case Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are not included. When this occurs, the last day of the period is shifted forward to the next business day.
What’s fairly easy about computing time by days is that the precise time of day that the period begins is irrelevant. There is no need to calculate small increments of time; the court is simply concerned with whole days. Be aware, however, that the time of day a document is filed can be important on the last day of the filing period.
Read the Fine Print Carefully When Computing Time by Days
While computing time in days is generally straightforward, there is some nuance. If the rule or statute states that the period runs forward with the time period, ending at a set number of days after an event, the last day is the day following. Or, if the day following falls on a weekend or holiday, it shifts forward by one day.
If the rule or statute states that the time runs backward and the party is required to take an action a set number of days before an event, the final day of the time period falls on the day prior to the event. And if the day prior to the event falls on a weekend or holiday, the time shifts up by one day.
If a rule or statute states that time must be computed in hours, the clock starts ticking immediately. Hour one begins at the time of the event and each hour that follows is counted, including hours that occur over weekends and legal holidays.
The exception is if the final hour of the period falls on a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday. In those cases, time continues to run until the same hour of the next day that doesn’t fall on a weekend or holiday.
Florida statute 110.117 lists the following days as legal holidays.
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Veterans’ Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Friday after Thanksgiving
- Christmas Day
When a legal holiday falls on Saturday, the preceding Friday is observed as a holiday. When a holiday falls on a Sunday, the following Monday is observed. If the clerk’s office is closed on the last day of the time period, that day is treated as a legal holiday and follows these same guidelines.
The filing process became much easier once electronic filing was fully adopted. Documents can now be filed after the clerk of court’s office is closed until midnight of the final day. If you’re filing the old fashion way, though, your paper filing will need to be to the clerk’s office by the end of business on the final day.
The court gives parties an additional five days to serve a document when the period is based upon the date a previous document was served by regular mail. This time period applies only after the date of service – not the filing date or the date a court order was signed. Electronically served documents are not granted this additional time since they’re transmitted instantaneously.
Florida Case of a Lawsuit Being Dismissed Due to An Appeal That was Untimely Filed
In January 2018, Torrey Dewayne Walker filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida. The case was filed in Polk County Courts in Polk, Florida. In June 2018, the case was dismissed, with the court noting that computation of time is governed by the Florida Rule of Judicial Administration. That rule, according to the court, “provides that the automatic five-day extension applies only when some act is required to be done after service of a document by mail, not when the act is required to be done after rendition or filing of an order, even if the rendered order is mailed to the parties … Accordingly the ‘five day extension’ does not apply to appellant’s notice of appeal which had to be filed within 30 days after the rendition of the order being appealed or the first day after that which is not a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday.”
Florida Case of a General Master’s Report Being Vacated Due to its Filing Before the End of the Ten-Day Period
In Palmer v. Palmer, a general master’s report in a post-judgment child support and alimony proceeding was issued on September 28, 1989. The court later approved the report on October 10, 1989.
In Florida, the master must file his report and serve a copy on each former spouse. Then, if either party wants to serve an exception to the report, they must do so within ten days from the time it is served to them.
Florida’s Rule 1.090(a) states that the first day of a designated period is excluded and that day one begins on the following day. It goes on to say that the last day is computed and counted unless it falls on a weekend or legal holiday. Additionally, the rule says that if the last day falls on a weekend or holiday, the final day will be the following day.
Here, the earliest the report could have been served was September 28, causing the 10-day time to begin on September 29. This put the tenth day on Sunday, October 8. The end date would have fallen on the following Monday, October 9, except that this date was also the Columbus Day holiday. Therefore, the ten-day period ended on Tuesday, October 10.
Based on Rule 1.090(a), the appellate court found that the lower court erred in approving the general master’s report on October 10 before the end of the ten-day period. As such, the order of approval was vacated.
Do You Have a Question?
As a Board-Certified Civil Trial Expert for over 38 years, Alan Sackrin is an expert in the rules of court, including how to properly compute the time to file or service papers in a civil lawsuit. He offers a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions. When you’re ready to speak with a civil trial lawyer about your case, call Alan at 945-458-8655.