Florida Senate - 2021 CS for SB 368 By the Committee on Judiciary; and Senator Baxley 590-02870-21 2021368c1 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to an elder-focused dispute resolution 3 process; creating s. 44.407, F.S.; providing 4 legislative findings; defining terms; authorizing the 5 courts to appoint an eldercaring coordinator and refer 6 certain parties and elders to eldercaring 7 coordination; prohibiting the courts from referring 8 certain parties to eldercaring coordination without 9 the consent of the elder and other parties to the 10 action; specifying the duration of eldercaring 11 coordinator appointments; requiring the courts to 12 conduct intermittent review hearings regarding the 13 conclusion or extension of such appointments; 14 providing qualifications and disqualifications for 15 eldercaring coordinators; requiring the applicant to 16 meet certain qualifications for background screening, 17 unless otherwise exempt; requiring prospective 18 eldercaring coordinators to submit fingerprints for 19 purposes of criminal history background screening; 20 providing for the payment and cost of fingerprint 21 processing; providing for the removal and suspension 22 of authority of certain eldercaring coordinators; 23 requiring that notice of hearing on removal of a 24 coordinator be timely served; authorizing the courts 25 to award certain fees and costs under certain 26 circumstances; requiring the court to appoint 27 successor eldercaring coordinators under certain 28 circumstances; authorizing the courts to make certain 29 determinations based on the fees and costs of 30 eldercaring coordination; providing that certain 31 communications between the parties, participants, and 32 eldercaring coordinators are confidential; providing 33 exceptions to confidentiality; providing requirements 34 for emergency reporting to courts under certain 35 circumstances; providing immunity from liability for 36 eldercaring coordinators under specified 37 circumstances; requiring the Florida Supreme Court to 38 establish certain minimum standards and procedures for 39 eldercaring coordinators; providing an effective date. 40 41 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 42 43 Section 1. Section 44.407, Florida Statutes, is created to 44 read: 45 44.407 Elder-focused dispute resolution process.— 46 (1) LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS.—The Legislature finds that: 47 (a) Denying an elder a voice in decisions regarding himself 48 or herself may negatively affect the elder’s health and well 49 being, as well as deprive the elder of his or her legal rights. 50 Even if an elder is losing capacity to make major decisions for 51 himself or herself, the elder is still entitled to the dignity 52 of having his or her voice heard. 53 (b) As an alternative to proceedings in court, it is in the 54 best interest of an elder, their family members, and legally 55 recognized decisionmakers to have access to a nonadversarial 56 process to resolve disputes relating to an elder which focuses 57 on the elder’s wants, needs, and best interests. Such a process 58 will protect and preserve the elder’s exercisable rights. 59 (c) By recognizing that every elder, including those whose 60 capacity is being questioned, has unique needs, interests, and 61 differing abilities, the Legislature intends for this section to 62 promote the public welfare by establishing a unique dispute 63 resolution option to complement and enhance, not replace, other 64 services, such as the provision of legal information or legal 65 representation; financial advice; individual or family therapy; 66 medical, psychological, or psychiatric evaluation; or mediation, 67 specifically for issues related to the care and needs of elders. 68 The Legislature intends that this section be liberally construed 69 to accomplish these goals. 70 (2) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term: 71 (a) “Action” means a proceeding in which a party sought or 72 seeks a judgment or an order from the court to: 73 1. Determine if someone is or is not incapacitated pursuant 74 to s. 744.331. 75 2. Appoint or remove a guardian. 76 3. Undertake an investigation pursuant to s. 415.104. 77 4. Audit an annual guardianship report. 78 5. Review a proxy’s decision pursuant to s. 765.105. 79 6. Appoint a guardian advocate pursuant to s. 393.12. 80 7. Enter an injunction for the protection of an elder under 81 s. 825.1035. 82 8. Follow up on a complaint made to the Office of Public 83 and Professional Guardians pursuant to s. 744.2004. 84 9. Address advice received by the court from the clerk of 85 the court pursuant to s. 744.368(5). 86 10. At the discretion of the presiding judge, address other 87 matters pending before the court which involve the care or 88 safety of an elder or the security of an elder’s property. 89 (b) “Elder” means a person 60 years of age or older who is 90 alleged to be suffering from the infirmities of aging as 91 manifested by a physical, a mental, or an emotional dysfunction 92 to the extent that the elder’s ability to provide adequately for 93 the protection or care of his or her own person or property is 94 impaired. 95 (c) “Eldercaring coordination” means an elder-focused 96 dispute resolution process during which an eldercaring 97 coordinator assists an elder, legally authorized decisionmakers, 98 and others who participate by court order or by invitation of 99 the eldercaring coordinator, in resolving disputes regarding the 100 care and safety of an elder by: 101 1. Facilitating more effective communication and 102 negotiation and the development of problem-solving skills. 103 2. Providing education about eldercare resources. 104 3. Facilitating the creation, modification, or 105 implementation of an eldercaring plan and reassessing it as 106 necessary to reach a resolution of ongoing disputes concerning 107 the care and safety of the elder. 108 4. Making recommendations for the resolution of disputes 109 concerning the care and safety of the elder. 110 5. With the prior approval of the parties to an action or 111 of the court, making limited decisions within the scope of the 112 court’s order of referral. 113 (d) “Eldercaring coordination communication” means an oral 114 or a written statement or nonverbal conduct intended to make an 115 assertion by or to an eldercaring coordinator or individuals 116 involved in eldercaring coordination made during an eldercaring 117 coordination activity, or before the activity if made in 118 furtherance of eldercaring coordination. The term does not 119 include statements made during eldercaring coordination which 120 involve the commission of a crime, the intent to commit a crime, 121 or ongoing abuse, exploitation, or neglect of a child or 122 vulnerable adult. 123 (e) “Eldercaring coordinator” means an impartial third 124 person who is appointed by the court or designated by the 125 parties and who meets the requirements of subsection (5). The 126 role of the eldercaring coordinator is to assist parties through 127 eldercaring coordination in a manner that respects the elder’s 128 need for autonomy and safety. 129 (f) “Eldercaring plan” means a continually reassessed plan 130 for the items, tasks, or responsibilities needed to provide for 131 the care and safety of an elder which is modified throughout 132 eldercaring coordination to meet the changing needs of the elder 133 and which takes into consideration the preferences and wishes of 134 the elder. The plan is not a legally enforceable document, but 135 is meant for use by the parties and participants. 136 (g) “Good cause” means a finding that the eldercaring 137 coordinator: 138 1. Is not fulfilling the duties and obligations of the 139 position; 140 2. Has failed to comply with any order of the court, unless 141 the order has been superseded on appeal; 142 3. Has conflicting or adverse interests that affect his or 143 her impartiality; 144 4. Has engaged in circumstances that compromise the 145 integrity of eldercaring coordination; or 146 5. Has had a disqualifying event occur. 147 148 The term does not include a party’s disagreement with the 149 eldercaring coordinator’s methods or procedures. 150 (h) “Legally authorized decisionmaker” means an individual 151 designated, either by the elder or by the court, pursuant to 152 chapter 709, chapter 744, chapter 747, or chapter 765 who has 153 the authority to make specific decisions on behalf of the elder 154 who is the subject of an action. 155 (i) “Participant” means an individual who joins eldercaring 156 coordination by invitation of or with the consent of the 157 eldercaring coordinator but who has not filed a pleading in the 158 action from which the case was referred to eldercaring 159 coordination. 160 (j) “Party” includes the elder who is the subject of an 161 action and any other individual over whom the court has 162 jurisdiction. 163 (3) REFERRAL.— 164 (a) Upon agreement of the parties to the action, the 165 court’s own motion, or the motion of a party to the action, the 166 court may appoint an eldercaring coordinator and refer the 167 parties to eldercaring coordination to assist in the resolution 168 of disputes concerning the care and safety of the elder who is 169 the subject of an action. 170 (b) The court may not refer a party who has a history of 171 domestic violence or exploitation of an elderly person to 172 eldercaring coordination unless the elder and other parties in 173 the action consent to such referral. 174 1. The court shall offer each party an opportunity to 175 consult with an attorney or a domestic violence advocate before 176 accepting consent to such referral. The court shall determine 177 whether each party has given his or her consent freely and 178 voluntarily. 179 2. The court shall consider whether a party has committed 180 an act of exploitation as defined in s. 415.102(8) or s. 181 825.103(1) or domestic violence as defined in s. 741.28 against 182 another party or any member of another party’s family; engaged 183 in a pattern of behaviors that exert power and control over 184 another party and that may compromise another party’s ability to 185 negotiate a fair result; or engaged in behavior that leads 186 another party to have reasonable cause to believe that he or she 187 is in imminent danger of becoming a victim of domestic violence. 188 The court shall consider and evaluate all relevant factors, 189 including, but not limited to, the factors specified in s. 190 741.30(6)(b). 191 3. If a party has a history of domestic violence or 192 exploitation of an elderly person, the court must order 193 safeguards to protect the safety of the participants and the 194 elder and the elder’s property, including, but not limited to, 195 adherence to all provisions of an injunction for protection or 196 conditions of bail, probation, or a sentence arising from 197 criminal proceedings. 198 (4) COURT APPOINTMENT.—A court appointment of an 199 eldercaring coordinator is for a term of up to 2 years and the 200 court shall conduct review hearings intermittently to determine 201 whether the term should be concluded or extended. Appointments 202 conclude upon expiration of the term or upon discharge by the 203 court, whichever occurs earlier. 204 (5) QUALIFICATIONS FOR ELDERCARING COORDINATORS.— 205 (a) The court shall appoint qualified eldercaring 206 coordinators who meet the requirements of each of the following: 207 1. Meet one of the following professional requirements: 208 a. Be licensed as a mental health professional under 209 chapter 491 and hold at least a master’s degree in the 210 professional field of practice; 211 b. Be licensed as a psychologist under chapter 490; 212 c. Be licensed as a physician under chapter 458 or chapter 213 459; 214 d. Be licensed as a nurse under chapter 464 and hold at 215 least a master’s degree; 216 e. Be certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a family 217 mediator and hold at least a master’s degree; 218 f. Be a member in good standing of The Florida Bar; or 219 g. Be a professional guardian as defined in s. 744.102(17) 220 and hold at least a master’s degree. 221 2. Complete all of the following: 222 a. Three years of post-licensure or post-certification 223 practice; 224 b. A family mediation training program certified by the 225 Florida Supreme Court; 226 c. An elder mediation training program that meets standards 227 approved and adopted by the Florida Supreme Court. If the 228 Florida Supreme Court has not yet adopted such standards, the 229 standards for elder mediation training approved and adopted by 230 the Association for Conflict Resolution apply; and 231 d. Eldercaring coordinator training. The training must 232 total at least 28 hours and must include eldercaring 233 coordination; elder, guardianship, and incapacity law and 234 procedures and less restrictive alternatives to guardianship as 235 it pertains to eldercaring coordination; at least 4 hours on the 236 implications of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and other 237 safety issues in eldercaring coordination; the elder’s role 238 within eldercaring coordination; family dynamics related to 239 eldercaring coordination; eldercaring coordination skills and 240 techniques; multicultural competence and its use in eldercaring 241 coordination; at least 2 hours of ethical considerations 242 pertaining to eldercaring coordination; use of technology within 243 eldercaring coordination; and court-specific eldercaring 244 coordination procedures. 245 3. Successfully pass a level 2 background screening as set 246 forth in s. 435.04(2) and (3) or be exempt from disqualification 247 under s. 435.07. The prospective eldercaring coordinator must 248 submit a full set of fingerprints to the court or to a vendor, 249 entity, or agency authorized by s. 943.053(13). The court, 250 vendor, entity, or agency shall forward the fingerprints to the 251 Department of Law Enforcement for state processing and the 252 Department of Law Enforcement shall forward the fingerprints to 253 the Federal Bureau of Investigation for national processing. The 254 prospective eldercaring coordinator shall pay the fees for state 255 and federal fingerprint processing. The state cost for 256 fingerprint processing shall be as provided in s. 943.053(3)(e) 257 for records provided to persons or entities other than those 258 specified as exceptions therein. 259 4. Have not been a respondent in a final order granting an 260 injunction for protection against domestic, dating, sexual, or 261 repeat violence or stalking or exploitation of an elder or a 262 disabled person. 263 5. Meet any additional qualifications the court may require 264 to address issues specific to the parties. 265 (b) A qualified eldercaring coordinator must be in good 266 standing or in clear and active status with all professional 267 licensing authorities or certification boards. 268 (6) DISQUALIFICATIONS AND REMOVAL OF ELDERCARING 269 COORDINATORS.— 270 (a) An eldercaring coordinator must resign and immediately 271 report to the court if he or she no longer meets the minimum 272 qualifications or if any of the disqualifying circumstances 273 occurs. 274 (b) The court shall remove an eldercaring coordinator upon 275 the eldercaring coordinator’s resignation or disqualification or 276 a finding of good cause shown based on the court’s own motion or 277 a party’s motion. 278 (c) Upon the court’s own motion or upon a party’s motion, 279 the court may suspend the authority of an eldercaring 280 coordinator pending a hearing on the motion for removal. Notice 281 of hearing on removal must be timely served on the eldercaring 282 coordinator and all parties. 283 (d) If a motion was made in bad faith, a court may, in 284 addition to any other remedy authorized by law, award reasonable 285 attorney fees and costs to a party or an eldercaring coordinator 286 who successfully challenges a motion for removal. 287 (7) SUCCESSOR ELDERCARING COORDINATOR.—If an eldercaring 288 coordinator resigns, is removed, or is suspended from an 289 appointment, the court shall appoint a successor qualified 290 eldercaring coordinator who is agreed to by all parties or, if 291 the parties do not reach agreement on a successor, another 292 qualified eldercaring coordinator to serve for the remainder of 293 the original term. 294 (8) FEES AND COSTS.—The court may not order the parties to 295 eldercaring coordination without their consent unless the court 296 determines that the parties have the financial ability to pay 297 the eldercaring coordination fees and costs. The court shall 298 determine the allocation among the parties of fees and costs for 299 eldercaring coordination and may make an unequal allocation 300 based on the financial circumstances of each party, including 301 the elder. 302 (a) A party who is asserting that he or she is unable to 303 pay the eldercaring coordination fees and costs must complete a 304 financial affidavit form approved by the presiding court. The 305 court shall consider the party’s financial circumstances, 306 including income; assets; liabilities; financial obligations; 307 and resources, including, but not limited to, whether the party 308 can receive or is receiving trust benefits, whether the party is 309 represented by and paying a lawyer, and whether paying the fees 310 and costs of eldercaring coordination would create a substantial 311 hardship. 312 (b) If a court finds that a party is indigent based upon 313 the criteria prescribed in s. 57.082, the court may not order 314 the party to eldercaring coordination unless funds are available 315 to pay the indigent party’s allocated portion of the eldercaring 316 coordination fees and costs, which may include funds provided 317 for that purpose by one or more nonindigent parties who consent 318 to paying such fees and costs, or unless insurance coverage or 319 reduced or pro bono services are available to pay all or a 320 portion of such fees and costs. If financial assistance, such as 321 health insurance or eldercaring coordination grants, is 322 available, such assistance must be taken into consideration by 323 the court in determining the financial abilities of the parties. 324 (9) CONFIDENTIALITY.— 325 (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, all 326 communications made by, between, or among any parties, 327 participants, or eldercaring coordinator during eldercaring 328 coordination shall be kept confidential. 329 (b) The eldercaring coordinator, participants, and each 330 party designated in the order appointing the eldercaring 331 coordinator may not testify or otherwise offer evidence about 332 communications made by, between, or among the parties, 333 participants, and the eldercaring coordinator during eldercaring 334 coordination, unless one of the following applies: 335 1. Such communications are necessary to identify, 336 authenticate, confirm, or deny a written and signed agreement 337 entered into by the parties during eldercaring coordination. 338 2. Such communications are necessary to identify an issue 339 for resolution by the court without otherwise disclosing 340 communications made by any party or the eldercaring coordinator. 341 3. Such communications are limited to the subject of a 342 party’s compliance with the order of referral to eldercaring 343 coordination, orders for psychological evaluation, court orders 344 or health care provider recommendations for counseling, or court 345 orders for substance abuse testing or treatment. 346 4. The communications are necessary to determine the 347 qualifications of an eldercaring coordinator or to determine the 348 immunity and liability of an eldercaring coordinator who has 349 acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner 350 exhibiting wanton and willful disregard for the rights, safety, 351 or property of the parties pursuant to subsection (11). 352 5. The parties agree that the communications be disclosed. 353 6. The communications are necessary to protect any person 354 from future acts that would constitute domestic violence under 355 chapter 741; child abuse, neglect, or abandonment under chapter 356 39; or abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly or disabled 357 adult under chapter 415 or chapter 825, or are necessary in an 358 investigation conducted under s. 744.2004 or a review conducted 359 under s. 744.368(5). 360 7. The communications are offered to report, prove, or 361 disprove professional misconduct alleged to have occurred during 362 eldercaring coordination, solely for the internal use of the 363 body conducting the investigation of such misconduct. 364 8. The communications are offered to report, prove, or 365 disprove professional malpractice alleged to have occurred 366 during eldercaring coordination, solely for the professional 367 malpractice proceeding. 368 9. The communications were willfully used to plan a crime, 369 commit or attempt to commit a crime, conceal ongoing criminal 370 activity, or threaten violence. 371 (c) Notwithstanding paragraphs (a) and (b), confidentiality 372 or privilege does not attach to a signed written agreement 373 reached during eldercaring coordination, unless the parties 374 agree otherwise, or to any eldercaring coordination 375 communication: 376 1. For which the confidentiality or privilege against 377 disclosure has been waived by all parties; 378 2. That is willfully used to plan a crime, commit or 379 attempt to commit a crime, conceal ongoing criminal activity, or 380 threaten violence; or 381 3. That requires a mandatory report pursuant to chapter 39 382 or chapter 415 solely for the purpose of making the mandatory 383 report to the entity requiring the report. 384 (10) EMERGENCY REPORTING TO THE COURT.— 385 (a) An eldercaring coordinator must immediately inform the 386 court by affidavit or verified report, without notice to the 387 parties, if: 388 1. The eldercaring coordinator has or will be making a 389 report pursuant to chapter 39 or chapter 415; or 390 2. A party, including someone acting on a party’s behalf, 391 is threatening or is believed to be planning to commit the 392 offense of kidnapping upon an elder as defined in s. 787.01, or 393 wrongfully removes or is removing the elder from the 394 jurisdiction of the court without prior court approval or 395 compliance with the requirements of s. 744.1098. If the 396 eldercaring coordinator suspects that a party or family member 397 has relocated an elder within this state to protect the elder 398 from a domestic violence situation, the eldercaring coordinator 399 may not disclose the location of the elder unless required by 400 court order. 401 (b) An eldercaring coordinator shall immediately inform the 402 court by affidavit or verified report and serve a copy of such 403 affidavit or report on each party upon learning that a party is 404 the subject of a final order or injunction of protection against 405 domestic violence or exploitation of an elderly person or has 406 been arrested for an act of domestic violence or exploitation of 407 an elderly person. 408 (11) IMMUNITY AND LIMITATION ON LIABILITY.— 409 (a) A person who is appointed or employed to assist the 410 body designated to perform duties relating to disciplinary 411 proceedings involving eldercaring coordinators has absolute 412 immunity from liability arising from the performance of his or 413 her duties while acting within the scope of his or her appointed 414 functions or duties of employment. 415 (b) An eldercaring coordinator who is appointed by the 416 court is not liable for civil damages for any act or omission 417 within the scope of his or her duties under an order of referral 418 unless such person acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose 419 or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard for the 420 rights, safety, or property of the parties. 421 (12) MINIMUM STANDARDS AND PROCEDURES.—The Florida Supreme 422 Court shall establish minimum standards and procedures for the 423 qualification, ethical conduct, discipline, and training and 424 education of eldercaring coordinators who serve under this 425 section. The Florida Supreme Court may appoint or employ such 426 personnel as are necessary to assist the court in exercising its 427 powers and performing its duties under this section. 428 Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2021.