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 and Family Law Update for Week Ending July 24, 2016

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:              Bachman v. McLinn
Court:            Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   John S. Carlin.
Attorneys:     Matthew S. Toll, Stephen N. McGuire, II, Renee Binns.
Issues:            Child Support.

Holding:      A trial court can only modify support payments prospectively (from the date a petition for modification is filed). In the case, the trial court erred in granting the Former Husband retroactive credit for child care costs to a date prior to his petition for this relief.  The appeal court reversed the relevant portion of the order.

Case:              Back v. Back
Court:            Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Catherine M. Catlin.
Attorneys:     Arnold D. Levine, Robert H. Mackenzie, Allison M. Perry.
Issues:            Equitable Distribution.

Holding:      Under Florida Statutes (2012), a trial court may not impute income to a parent whose unemployment is involuntary. Imputing income to an unemployed parent for the purposes of child support is a two-step process. Firstly, the court must determine whether the parent's unemployment is voluntary. If so, the court then determines what level of income to impute. When there is no evidence that a parent is voluntarily unemployed, imputing income is error. In this case, the trial court erred in imputing income to the Husband for the purpose of calculating child support in the absence of evidence in the record that he was voluntarily unemployed. The appeals court reversed and remanded.

Case:              S.R. v. D.C.F.
Court:            Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Hope T. Bristol.
Attorneys:     Brett P. Rogers, Pamela Jo Bondi, Carolyn Schwarz.
Issues:           Guardianship, Termination.

Holding:        Under Florida Statutes, when a trial court places a minor child in a permanent guardianship, it must, among other things: 1. List the circumstances or reasons why the child’s parents are not fit to care for the child and why reunification is not possible by referring to specific findings of fact in its order adjudicating the child dependent or by making separate findings of fact. 2. Specify the frequency and nature of visitation or contact between the child and parents. In this case, the trial court erred when it limited the Father to supervised visitation in the absence of the required statutory findings in the written order. Specifically, the trial court made no specific findings in its written order that reunification would endanger the children’s physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing. Instead, the order generally concluded that, “there is a continual need for out-of-home placement to ensure the children’s health, safety and wellbeing,” and that reunification “would be contrary to the welfare and not in the best interest of the children.” Such generic language was insufficient to satisfy the requirements of the statute. The order further fails to specify the frequency of the Father’s supervised visitation with the children. The appeals court reversed and remanded.

Case:              Fortunoff v. Morris
Court:            Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   David E. French.
Attorneys:     Peter Ticktin, Kendrick Almaguer, Christine M. Deis, Peter L. Gladstone,  Heather L. Apicella.
Issues:            Alimony.

Holding:       Trial courts have broad discretion in awarding temporary relief. A high degree of deference is afforded such decisions, except under the most compelling of circumstances. In making an award of temporary alimony, a trial court must consider the needs of the spouse requesting the alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony, based on competent, substantial evidence.  In this case, the trial court erred in its award of temporary alimony in the absence of competent, substantial evidence. The appeals court reversed and remanded.

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.