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: Jackson v. Jackson
Court: Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Kimberly Carlton Bonner.
Attorneys: Jaime L. Wallace.
Issues: Attorney’s Fees.
Holding: An order for summary judgment which includes the words “go hence without day” is final. Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure currently require a notice of appeal of a final summary judgment on a claim for breach of contract to be filed within 30 days of rendition of the order to be reviewed. Florida statute provides for an award of reasonable attorney’s fees when the court finds that the losing party knew, or should have known, that a claim or defense, when initially presented to the court or any time prior to trial:
a. Was not supported by material facts necessary to establish the claim or defense; or
b. Would not be supported by the application of then-existing law to those material facts.
In making an order for fees, a trial court must make findings on both a party’s entitlement to recover attorney's fees under the relevant statute, based upon substantial, competent evidence and facts to justify the award. A record on appeal will typically contain a transcript of the hearing from the court below. While it is the appellant's burden to provide an adequate record, even when this burden is not met, a fee award without adequate findings to justify the amount is reversible. In this case, the notice of appeal of a final summary judgment was not filed in a timely fashion pursuant to the Rules and was not reviewable. The trial court erred in making its order for fees as it contained no factual findings to support its making and was therefore deficient. The appeals court reversed and remanded.
Case: Terry v. Terry
Court: Third District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Amy L. Smith.
Attorneys: Jeffrey Begens, Benjamin T. Hodas, Michelle North Berg.
Issues: Equitable Distribution.
Holding: A trial court shall equitably divide assets properly subject to such an award, after considering any conduct by the parties that will affect the asset value (such as dissipation). So too will consideration be given to agreements between the parties which stipulate assets are not to be so divided. In this case, the trial court erred in: (1) equitably dividing and awarding the Former Husband’s pension despite the parties having dissipated it during the action’s pendency; (2) equitably dividing the parties’ furniture despite the parties’ having previously stipulated that such property would not be subject to equitable distribution; and (3) failing to equitably value or divide another pension asset belonging to the former husband when it was open and proper to do so.The appeals court remanded for revision to the equitable distribution.
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.