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: Schneider v. Schneider
Court: First District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Dan Wilensky.
Attorneys: Lynn W. Martin.
Issues: Contempt, Attorney’s Fees.
Holding: A finding of contempt for unpaid debt is proper only if the debt is alimony or child support. It is an abuse of discretion to hold a person in contempt for failure to comply with a property-settlement provision of a final judgment of dissolution of marriage. In this case, the trial court erred in finding the Former Husband in contempt regarding an order to pay child support and a property settlement payment from his military retirement pay each month. Specifically, he paid the Former Wife the amount due for child support several days after it was due. She considered the money as payment for the property settlement, and the remainder as child support. The trial court ratified her opinion and found the Former Husband in contempt for refusal to make a property settlement payment on time. The appeals court could not rule on whether error occurred regarding the award of fees due to lack of preservation or transcripts of the relevant proceedings. The appeals court reversed as to contempt but affirmed as to the award of fees.
Case: M.D. v. D.C.F.
Court: Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Kenneth L. Gillespie.
Attorneys: Katherine L. Corrigan, Pamela Jo Bondi, Carolyn Schwarz, KelleySchaeffer.
Holding: A trial court’s decision to terminate parental rights must be based upon clear and convincing evidence supporting statutorily enumerated grounds. appellate review is limited to whether the judgment was supported by competent substantial evidence. In this case, the trial court did not err as its decision to terminate was based on competent, substantial evidence regarding statutory requirements. The trial judge found that the Father knew how to communicate with the Child in an effort to maintain a relationship, but he did not, and found the Father’s testimony not to be credible. The Father’s appeal required the appeals court reweigh the evidence, which it could not. The appeals court affirmed.
Case: Caputo v. Caputo
Court: Fourth District Court of Appeal.
Trial Judge: Jeffrey Dana Gillen.
Attorneys: Jay A. Schwartz, Colleen E. Huott.
Holding: Contempt cannot lie where the order or judgment does not specifically address the matter complained of. An order finding entitlement to attorneys’ fees is a non-final, non-appealable order. It is acceptable to have a determination made at a subsequent hearing. In this case, the trial court did not err in dismissing the Former Wife’s attempt to hold the Former Husband in contempt for enrolling their child in daycare near his place of employment, and awarding him attorney’s fees. Contempt could not be ordered because the final judgment of dissolution did not expressly address daycare. Nor did the trial court err when it ordered the Former Husband was entitled to attorney’s fees as they were to be determined at a subsequent hearing. The appeals court affirmed.
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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.