Weekly Law Update on Florida Divorce & Child Custody Cases

Weekly summaries of decisions made by Florida Court of Appeals on actual divorce, child custody, child support and alimony cases.  

Florida Divorce & Family Law Update Week Ending August 23, 2015

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:              Weaver v. Weaver
Court:            Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Amy L. Smith.
Attorneys:     Paul M. Herman, Jr., Jeffrey M. Kirsch.
Issues:            Equitable Distribution.

Holding:         Florida Statutes (2013) provide that when determining equitable distribution a trial court shall consider the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income, or the improvement of (or the incurring of liabilities to) both the marital assets and the non-marital assets of the parties.  Florida Statutes (2013) also provide that the division of marital assets shall be equal unless there is a reason for unequal distribution. In this case, the trial court erred in awarding the Former Wife an interest in the marital home, which the Former Husband acquired prior to marriage, when there was no evidence that she had invested money in the home. Nor was there evidence to show an increase or enhancement of the value of the home during the marriage. The evidence most favorable to the Former Wife showed that she and the Former Husband pooled their incomes and paid the mortgage and other household expenses from their pooled funds. She had sold her own home prior to the marriage and spent the proceeds on their wedding, honeymoon, a boat, and a motor home. The trial court also failed to make the required factual determinations to equitably distribute the proceeds from out of state properties they owned. The appeals court reversed for further proceedings as to the real property.

Case:              W.L. v. D.C.F.
Court:            Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Edward H. Merrigan, Jr..
Attorneys:   Antony P. Ryan, Melanie L. Casper, Paulina Forrest, Pamela Jo Bondi, Carolyn Schwarz, Patricia Murphy Propheter.
Issues:            Termination.

Holding:         Florida Statutes (2013) require trial courts ordering termination of parental rights to enter written orders which contain findings of fact and conclusions of law. In order to terminate on the grounds that a child’s life, safety, or health would be threatened by continued interaction with a parent, irrespective of the services being provided in support of the parent, a trial court must find that any provision of services would be futile or that the child would be threatened with harm nonetheless. In this case, the trial court erred in failing to recite which of the petitioned grounds it relied on in entering the final judgment; it failed to make the necessary factual findings; and it omitted key conclusions of law. The appeals court vacated the termination order and remanded.

Case:              Blevins v. Blevins

Court:            Fifth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Scott C. Dupont
Attorneys:      Brian P. North, Mary Esther, Philip J. Bonamo.
Issues:            Time-sharing.

Holding:         A final divorce decree providing for the custody of a child can be materially modified only if there are facts concerning the welfare of the child that the court did not know at the time the decree was entered, or if there has been a substantial change in circumstances shown to have arisen since the decree. The petitioning parent bears an extraordinary burden to prove a substantial change in circumstances. Substantial, competent evidence of a substantial change of circumstances is required for modification. The parents’ inability to communicate does not satisfy the substantial change requirement for modification. In this case, the trial court erred in modifying because the location of the parties’ respective residences was known at the time of the final judgment. The parties’ evidence established an inability to communicate but this fails to satisfy the substantial change requirement for modification. The appeals court reversed the modification order and remanded with instructions to reinstate the equal time-sharing schedule set forth in the final judgment of dissolution

Case:              Felipe v. Rincon
Court:            Fifth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   C. Jeffery Arnold.
Attorneys:     Alejandro L. Marriaga, Gisela Then Laurent.
Issues:            Procedure, Paternity, Custody, Time-sharing.

Holding:         Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure require sufficient notice to parties of final hearings. In this case, the trial court erred when it entered default judgment against the Mother despite her not being properly served with the motion and receiving insufficient notice. The trial court relied on its own certificate of service noting the wrong address for the Mother despite her having filed an updated address several weeks prior. The record does not reflect that Mother received proper service of the counter-petition, the motion for default, the order granting default, or notice of the final hearing. The appeals court reversed the default final judgment and remanded for the trial court to vacate the judicial default.

About DivorceCourtAppeals.com and Bruce Law Firm, P.A.

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.