Below are summaries of recent decisions from Florida's appellate courts on Florida divorce and family law issues. Clicking on the case name allows you to view the appellate opinion described in the analysis below. These summaries are courtesy of Bruce Law Firm, P.A., a law firm limited to representation of clients in the mediation, litigation and appeals of Florida marital and family law matters. The firm also created and maintains the family law focused appellate resources website DivorceCourtAppeals.com.
Case: Ardis v. Ardis
Court: First District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: T. Michael Jones.
Attorneys: Nancy A. Daniels, Glenna Joyce Reeves, Pamela Jo Bondi, Michael McDermott.
Issues: Protection Against Domestic Violence.
Holding: A judgment of contempt is presumed correct on appeal and will not be
disturbed unless there is insufficient evidence in the record to support it. Indirect criminal contempt may be found for violation of a court order, but only if the order clearly and definitely advises the person of its command and direction. In this case, all of the malfeasance alleged in the Former Wife’s petition post-dated the entry in of a Dissolution of Marriage (DOM) Order. Here, the continued compliance by the Former Husband with the courteous conduct provision in the domestic violence order, after the court entered the DOM order, renders the appeals court unable affirm the criminal contempt judgment and sentence entered against the Former Husband based upon a wilful violation of that order. The appeals court reversed and remanded.
Case: Heard v. Perales
Court: Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: F. Shields McManus.
Attorneys: E. Christopher DeSantis, Michael Rebuck.
Issues: Child Support, Imputation.
Holding: In imputing income, the trial court engages in a two-step process. Firstly, the trial court must conclude that the termination of income was voluntary. Secondly, the trial court must determine whether the subsequent unemployment is the result of the Former Spouse’s pursuit of his or her own interests or through less than diligent and bona fide efforts to find employment paying income at a level equal to or better than that formerly received. The trial court must make factual findings as to both steps. The trial court must set also forth factual findings as to the probable and potential earnings level, source of imputed and actual income, and adjustments to income. The party claiming income should be imputed to the other party, on purported grounds of unemployment or underemployment, bears the burden of showing both that the other party is employable and that there is employment available to him or her.
In this case, the trial court properly engaged on the first step, as is it determined, on proper evidence, that the Former Wife lost her employment because of her particular conduct. Such finding was sufficient to support a conclusion that she was voluntarily unemployed. However, the trial court erred regarding the second step as it made no findings regarding the Former Wife’s diligence in seeking new employment. Nor did the evidence support a finding that her subsequent unemployment resulted from less than diligent and bona fide efforts to find employment as the Former Husband did not introduce evidence as to these issues. Given the lack of necessary findings and evidence, the appeals court reversed and remanded for a redetermination of child support.
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The Bruce Law Firm, P.A. is limited to the resolution of marital and family la w matters in Florida’s trial and appellate courts. The firm handles divorce litigation in South Florida and accepts referrals for appellate representation in all of Florida’s appellate courts. The firm pays referral fees in accordance with Florida Bar Rules for appellate matters, which are handled primarily on a fixed fee basis with a limited money back promise if the brief is not filed within 45 days of the firm receiving the transcript and record on appeal.