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: Lathrop v. Lathrop n/k/a Posey
Court: Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: John A. Schaefer.
Attorneys: Dorothy F. Easley, Allison M. Perry.
Holding: In the absence of special circumstances, a Former Spouse cannot be required to maintain life insurance for the purpose of securing an alimony obligation. A final judgment of dissolution must set forth sufficient findings of special circumstances to support a requirement for life insurance. In this case, the trial court erred in requiring the Former Husband to maintain a life insurance policy to secure the payment of permanent alimony in the absence of any special circumstances to justify the life insurance requirement. The appeals court reversed.
Case: Thomas-Nance v. Nance
Court: Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Martha J. Cook.
Attorneys: Deborah Marks.
Holding: To deprive a party of the majority of the assets of the marriage for the rest of his or her life is an abuse of discretion. The sentimental interest of one party in marital property cannot take priority over financial fairness to the other. In this case, the trial court erred when it ordered that the Former Husband to pay the Former Wife her interest in the marital home at a monthly rate which would require her to wait more than 20 years to receive her share of the marital assets. The payment plan was patently unreasonable. The appeals court revered and remanded.
Case: B.J. v. D.C.F.
Court: Third District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Maria Sampedro-Iglesia.
Attorneys: Eugene F. Zenobi, Kevin Coyle Colbert, Karla Perkins, Laura J. Lee (Sandford).
Holding: An appellate court reviews an adjudication of dependency for an abuse of discretion, and will uphold the determination if the trial court applied the correct law and its ruling is supported by competent, substantial evidence. The parent's harmful behavior must be a present threat to the child, based on competent, substantial evidence that the child was either abandoned, abused, or neglected, or that the risk of abandonment, abuse or neglect is imminent. In this case, the trial court erred in ordering dependency in the absence of competent substantial evidence of imminent prospective abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The appeals court reversed and remanded.
Case: Vaught v. Vaught
Court: Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Lisa S. Small.
Attorneys: Andrew David Stine, Manuel Farach.
Issues: Domestic Violence Injunction.
Holding: A party defending against a claim is entitled to due process, including the right to proper and adequate notice of the allegations which form the basis for the relief sought. Under Florida Statutes (2014) a Respondent to a petition for a domestic violence injunction shall be personally served with a copy of the petition. In this case, the trial court erred in ordering a domestic violence injunction when certain new allegations were raised for the first time in a supplemental affidavit and not at the hearing. The trial court further erred in denying the Respondent’s motion for continuance where the notice of the final hearing on the new and supplemental allegations was provided only a few business days before the hearing. The appeals court reversed the final judgment of injunction.
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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.