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: Guevara v. Guevara et al
Court: Third District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Maria E. Dennis.
Attorneys: Jay M. Levy, Ira B. Price, Mark E. Pollack.
Issues: Procedure, Final Order.
Holding: Leave of court to amend a pleading shall be given freely when justice so requires. In this case, trial court erred when it abused its discretion in dismissing the Former Wife’s petition to set aside a Final Judgment (approving and ratifying the parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement, “MSA”) with prejudice to her claim that she did not receive moneys in exchange for her interest in the sale of certain real estate, as was provided for in the MSA. The appeals court reversed that portion of the trial court order and, on remand, the Former Wife was permitted to amend the portion of her claim as to the moneys to which she is entitled under the MSA.
Case: Castelli v. Castelli
Court: Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Laura M. Watson.
Attorneys: John H. Pelzer, Robert J. Moraitis, Peter M. Raimondi
Issues: Contempt, Matrimonial Property.
Holding: A right of first refusal is a right to elect to take specified property at the same price and on the same terms and conditions as those contained in a good faith offer by a third person if the owner manifests a willingness to accept the offer. When the holder of a right of first refusal attempts to exercise his right but adds or deletes terms and/or conditions that render the offer different than that submitted by the third party prospective purchaser, the right of first refusal has not been properly exercised. However, a right of first refusal ripens into an option and is governed by the law of options when the owner of the property in question manifests a willingness to accept a good faith offer for the purchase of the property. In that case, a party need not recite the terms of the third party contract he is agreeing to match when he exercises his right of first refusal; rather it is simply enough to announce an intent to match them. In this case, the trial court erred in rejecting the Former Husband’s attempt to exercise a right of first refusal with respect to the purchase of the former matrimonial home when, the right of first refusal had transformed into an option contract to which the Former Husband had agreed in principle (both before and after he invoked his “right of first refusal”). The trial court also erred in finding him in contempt for not executing a third party offer on the property. In this situation, the right of first refusal effectively transformed into an option contract when the Former Wife agreed in principle to accept the third party purchaser’s offer, both before and after the Former Husband had invoked his “right of first refusal.” The Former Husband had emailed indicating he would match the terms of another offer. This was sufficient to trigger the exercise of his right. The appeals court reversed and remanded to the trial court to strike the Former Husband’s contempt order, insofar as he was seeking to invoke and exercise his right of first refusal in the circumstances, and enforce the exercise of his right of first refusal.
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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.