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: Matteson v. Matteson
Court: First District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Robert M. Foster.
Attorneys: John F. Kattman, Valarie Linnen, Lee J. Pickett.
Issues: Equitable Distribution.
Holding: Specific findings are required for equitable distribution awards, and are required in the record on appeal in order to facilitate meaningful appellate review. If a final judgment provides that certain attachments address an equitable distribution award, such attachments are to be included in the record on appeal. In this case, the final judgment provided for certain attachments as to the award but same were not included in the record on appeal. The appeals court reversed and remanded to the trial court with instructions to make specific findings on equitable distribution.
Case: In the interest of M.P., a child.
Court: Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Joseph G. Foster
Attorneys: C. Carolina Maluje, Anna E. Galeano Guzman, Stephanie C. Zimmerman, Bradenton, Dwight O. Slater.
Issues: Dependency, Jurisdiction.
Holding: A trial court may lack jurisdiction to conduct an adjudicatory hearing if the child / children for which relief is being requested attain the age of majority prior to the hearing. In this case, the trial court did not err in denying a private petition for dependency based on the ground, among others, that the child who was being cared for by a relative did not qualify as dependent by virtue of age.
Case: D.C.F. v. N.M.
Court: Third District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Martin Zilber.
Attorneys: Karla Perkins, Kevin Coyle Colbert, Donna Pike.
Issues: Attorney’s Fees.
Holding: An appeals court has jurisdiction to review a contempt order against the Department in relation to improper filing of a case plan in advance of a reunification hearing. A finding of contempt must be made pursuant to relevant procedural rules, and after allowing the parties, including the party against which the finding of contempt is being sought, an opportunity to be heard. In this case, the trial court erred in making a finding of contempt against the Department without providing a reasonable opportunity to respond. The appeals court reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate an order imposing a related fine.
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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.