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 Update for Week Ending September 4, 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:             Sweeney v. Sweeney
Court:            Second District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   G. Keith Cary.
Attorneys:     Luis E. Insignares, Rana Holz.
Issues:           Equitable Distribution.

Holding:       In this case, the trial court erred in awarding an excessive credit to the Former Wife for tax payments she made on real estate commissions that were divided in equitable distribution.  Specifically, the trial court erred in crediting her for taxes she paid on the marital commissions when it had already allowed her to deduct a cash amount for the same marital taxes. The appeals court reversed and remanded.

Case:             D.C.F. v. M.N. and O.C.S.
Court:            Third District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Martin Zilber.
Attorneys:     Karla Perkins, Eugene F. Zenobi, Kevin Coyle Colbert.
Issues:           Dependency.

Holding:      Determinations regarding the transfer of a case to another jurisdiction based on the “inconvenient forum” provisions of the UCCJEA are a matter of the trial court’s discretion. Once the DCF commenced the dependency proceedings in the children’s home state, the trial court had continuing jurisdiction under the statute. That jurisdiction carries with it the duty to ensure that the best interests of the children are advanced; a duty that exists during dependency proceedings, and continues through adoption proceedings. This duty exists to carry out the legislature’s goal that all dependency proceedings are to seek to achieve permanency for the children. A Florida trial court does have the ability to transfer a case when it determines that another forum is more convenient.  In this case, the trial court erred in ordering termination of the DCF’s supervision over two minor children and closing the file. Specifically, the record established that the trial court acquired, and had continuing, jurisdiction over the case and children because Florida was the children’s home state under the UCCJEA. (The older child had lived in Florida for 6 consecutive months, and the infant child been born there). As the DCF commenced proceedings in Florida, the home state, the trial court had continuing jurisdiction under the statute. Its dismissal without the children having reached permanency was improper. While the trial court concluded that the children were in Puerto Rico and the parents could not be located in Florida a “transfer” of the case to Puerto Rico was warranted. The trial court was required to comply with certain statutory factors and make the necessary statutory findings, which it failed to do. The appeals court reversed and remanded.

Case:             Medina v. Haddad
Court:            Third District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Marcia B. Caballero.
Attorneys:     Theodore H. Uno, Lauren M. Alperstein, Stephanie Matalo.
Issues:           Timesharing.

Holding:       In this case, the trial court erred when it failed to comply with Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and Family Law Rules when ordering a child undergo a compulsory psychological evaluation. Specifically, although the trial court attempted to characterize what was effectively a psychological evaluation as a “therapeutic consultation,” the Mother was required to comply with Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and Family Law Rules and prove that the child’s mental condition was “in controversy” in the litigation; and “good cause” existed for the compulsory psychological evaluation. As the Mother was not able to establish either, the appeals court quashed the trial court’s order.

Case:             Schufelt v. Schufelt
Court:            Fifth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge:   Edward J. Richardson.
Attorneys:     Elizabeth Siano Harris.
Issues:           Equitable Distribution.

Holding:      Generally, when a party submits a proposed final judgment, it is error for a trial court to enter the judgment without providing the other party an opportunity to review the proposed judgment and make objections. Such issues raise questions of fairness and are subject to appellate review. An appellant bears the onus of demonstrating reversible error.  An alleged defect must be brought to the trial court's attention by the timely filing of a motion for rehearing which raises issue or arguments regarding the alleged unequal distribution. In this case, the Appellant (Former Husband) was required to demonstrate reversible error but failed as there was no sufficient record of the hearing on point. As such, he could not show that the trial court's oral findings at the hearing was not supported by competent substantial evidence. Further, while the trial court's findings of fact in the final judgment were inadequate to support the unequal distribution of this marital asset, the Former Husband’s motion was not filed on time. Even if it were, he raised no issue or argument in the motion regarding the trial court's unequal distribution of the marital home. He failed to preserve the key issue for appellate review. The appeals court affirmed.

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.