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It is not uncommon for family court hearings to be conducted in front of a magistrate judge in Florida. If parties do not agree with the recommendations set forth in the magistrate’s report they can file exceptions, but in many cases, the magistrate’s recommendations will be adopted regardless. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case involving the enforcement of a martial settlement agreement, in which an appellate court affirmed an order denying a husband and wife’s exceptions to the report of a magistrate. If you wish to end your marriage or need assistance with another family law matter, it is advisable to seek the counsel of a Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural History

The wife filed a petition to dissolve the marriage in 2012. They entered into a marital settlement agreement which was filed with the court and their divorce was finalized later that year. In 2017, the wife filed a motion to enforce provisions of the agreement pertaining to health insurance and life insurance. The trial court referred the matter to a magistrate, who conducted two hearings and then issued a report setting forth recommendations. The husband and wife both filed exceptions to the report but the trial court entered an order denying them. The husband and wife both appealed.

Magistrate Authority in Divorce Cases

On appeal, the husband argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the agreement because the divorce judgment did not expressly incorporate the agreement or order the parties to comply with same. The appellate court rejected this argument noting that the agreement provided that it could be enforced by the court and that courts inherently retain jurisdiction to enforce their orders. The husband further argued that the wife’s action was actually in the nature of a modification and should have been conducted via a supplemental petition. The appellate court rejected this argument as well. Continue reading ›

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The Florida courts typically strive to protect the parent-child relationship, and will generally attempt to keep the relationship intact. The courts’ main directive in any custody case is determining an outcome that is in the best interest of the child involved, however, and if it requires terminating parental rights, it will. Recently, a Florida court addressed the issue of when the termination of parental rights is appropriate, in a matter in which the father argued that the court could have employed less restrictive means to protect the child’s interests. If your parental rights are in jeopardy, it is essential that you confer with a Miami child custody attorney as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the trial court held a hearing to determine whether to terminate the father’s parental rights. The court noted that the child was born addicted to amphetamines and had lived with his maternal grandparents since birth. The father was incarcerated and had been since before the child was born and did not know the mother was pregnant prior to the child’s birth. Additionally, he repeatedly questioned whether he was the child’s biological father and suggested that, upon his release in 2025 or 2026, he could do a DNA test to establish if was the child’s father. The court found it in the child’s best interest to terminate the father’s rights. The father appealed.

The Least Restrictive Means Requirement in Termination of Parental Rights Cases

On appeal, the father argued that his due process rights were violated and that the termination of parental rights was not the least restrictive means to protect the child. The appellate court disagreed. Continue reading ›

The spread of COVID-19 altered the landscape of family law hearings. Specifically, many hearings are held remotely, and the parties use platforms like Zoom to participate. While remote hearings provide a safe and convenient means for courts to resolve issues, technological problems can inadvertently impair people’s rights. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida case in which a father was disconnected during a remote hearing, and his parental rights were terminated. If you have questions regarding your duties and privileges as a parent, it is in your best interest to speak to a Miami child custody attorney.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the trial court scheduled a hearing to address the issue of whether the father’s parental rights should be terminated.  At the time of the hearing, the father was incarcerated. Although he initially refused to appear, he ultimately did by telephone. Before the hearing began, the court placed the father and his attorney in a separate virtual room so that they could communicate confidentially.

Allegedly, the attorney directed the father to stay online and advised him that he would be brought back into the virtual courtroom. The father reportedly expressed that he wished to proceed via video rather than telephone. He was disconnected before the hearing began, however, and never rejoined via telephone or video. It is disputed whether his absence was voluntary or the result of technical issues. Notwithstanding, the trial court proceeded with the hearing over the objection of the father’s attorney. In light of the father’s absence, the Department of Children and Families moved for a default judgment. The court denied the motion and conducted the hearing but ultimately terminated the father’s parental rights regardless. The father appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in conducting the hearing after he was connected. Continue reading ›

Florida law imposes an obligation on all parents to provide financial support for their children. As such, when parents share custody of a child, the courts will frequently order one parent to pay the other parent child support. Generally, child support is based on the income of each parent. If a court determines that a parent voluntarily reduced their earnings, however, the court can impute income to them. Recently, a Florida court issued a ruling discussing imputed income and child support in a case in which the mother appealed the calculation of her support obligation. If you need assistance with a child support issue, it is advisable to meet with a Miami child support attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother and father have two minor children. The father filed a petition to establish paternity and obtain custody rights and child support. The mother filed a counter-petition, seeking sole parental responsibility, the majority of timesharing, and child support. Following a trial, the court found that the mother, a self-employed lawyer that typically earned between $14,000 to $20,000 per year, was willingly underemployed.

Allegedly, the vocational expert that testified in the matter stated that the mother could find employment as an attorney, paralegal, or a community association manager if she chose to obtain a license in that field. Based on that testimony, the trial court imputed an income to the mother of $76,000 annually, in part due to the finding that she had a CAM license. The mother appealed on numerous grounds. The appellate court affirmed on all issues except the imputation of income to the mother and the court’s failure to make findings as to net income when calculating child support. Continue reading ›

Typically, divorce actions and equitable distribution claims only involve two people. In some cases, though, other parties will have an interest in assets that may be subject to equitable distribution and therefore may intervene in dissolution proceedings. Recently, a Florida court evaluated a third party’s right to challenge a ruling issued in a divorce case, in a matter in which the husband’s mother sought to disqualify the wife’s forensic accountant. If you have questions regarding how your assets may be divided in a divorce, it is smart to speak to a Miami divorce attorney.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the wife filed a petition for dissolution in 2019. Two years prior to filing for divorce, the husband’s mother was involved in commercial litigation relating to entities that she owned. As part of that action, she hired a forensic accountant. The matter was ultimately resolved via a confidential settlement agreement. Subsequently, the wife retained the same forensic accountant to opine as an expert in the dissolution proceedings. The husband’s mother then filed a motion asking the court to disqualify the accountant and a motion to stay the divorce proceedings while the motion to disqualify was pending. The court denied the husband’s mother’s motion to stay, after which she filed a petition for certiorari review.

Third-Party Rights in Divorce Proceedings

On appeal, the appellate court denied the husband’s mother’s petition. In doing so, it noted that in order to be entitled to certiorari relief, a party must demonstrate that a trial court’s order departed from the essential requirements of the law in a manner that will lead to irreparable harm. The appellate court explained that a departure from the critical requirements of the law means that a violation of a clearly established legal principle has occurred, resulting in the miscarriage of justice. Continue reading ›

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Under Florida law, all parents have an obligation to financially support their minor children. Thus, in many cases in which parents share custody of a child, the courts will find it appropriate to order one parent to pay the other child support. Child support obligations are calculated, in part, based on the parent’s respective income. While income can include financial contributions from outside sources, the courts can only impute income to a party if there is competent evidence that it is appropriate. This was demonstrated in a recent ruling in which the court reversed a trial court’s order granting a modification of a child support obligation on the grounds that the trial determination of a mother’s income was not supported by competent evidence. If you need assistance with a child support issue, it is prudent to contact a Miami child support lawyer as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the mother and the father ended their marriage in 2015. At that time, they entered into a marital settlement agreement that included a determination of child support obligations. In 2017, the mother sought a modification of child support on the grounds that it was warranted due to the father’s recent salary increase, which constituted a substantial change in circumstances. In 2019, the father sought a modification of time-sharing.

Reportedly, the court resolved both motions in 2020 and issued a judgment stating, in pertinent part, that the mother could afford to be a stay-at-home parent because her fiancé covered a substantial amount of her living expenses. The judgment further stated that the fiancé’s payments must be included in the mother’s income for the purposes of calculating child support. The mother challenged the judgment, arguing that the trial court’s determination with regard to her income was improper. Continue reading ›

The Florida courts generally aim to preserve the relationship between parents and their children. A court’s primary interest in any action involving a child, however, is what is in the child’s best interest. As such, if a court determines that terminating a parent’s rights will benefit a child, that decision will typically be upheld on appeal. Recently, a Florida appellate court discussed the standard of review appellate courts employ when assessing whether a trial court properly terminated a parent’s rights in a case in which it ultimately upheld the trial court’s decision. If you have questions regarding custody of your child, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Miami child custody lawyer regarding your options.

Procedural History of the Case

The grounds for the action to terminate the mother’s parental rights were not provided. It is reported, however, that proceedings were instituted to terminate the mother’s parental rights with regard to her three minor children. Multiple evidentiary hearings were held, during which the mother produced medical records and witness testimony in support of her assertion that her rights should be preserved. The trial court did not find the mother’s arguments to be persuasive and issued a final judgment terminating her parental rights. The mother appealed.

Appellate Review of Decisions Terminating Parental Rights

On appeal, the court focused on the standard of review employed when evaluating whether a trial court properly terminated a party’s parental rights. Specifically, the appellate court noted that its function was not to re-evaluate evidence presented at trial and substitute its judgment for that of the trial court. Continue reading ›

There is typically some delay between the time a couple decides to end their marriage and the date ultimately determined to be the effective date of the end of the marriage. While the difference may seem insignificant, it is essential for determining issues like property division and spousal support. Recently, a Florida court discussed the distinction between the two dates in a case in which the wife argued that the court relied on the wrong date when determining equitable distribution.  If you are contemplating seeking a divorce, it is advisable to confer with a seasoned Miami divorce lawyer to assess your rights.

The Divorce Action

It is reported that the couple married in 1996 and separated in 2008. They did not enter into a formal separation agreement, but both began relationships with other people. In 2018, the husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The wife filed a counter-petition in which she sought alimony. The court held a trial on the issue of alimony and equitable distribution, during which it determined the effective date of the end of the marriage to be 2008. As such, it denied the wife’s request for alimony. The wife filed a motion for rehearing, arguing that the court erred in determining the effective termination date to be 2008 rather than 2018.

Determining the Effective Date for the Termination of Marriage

The appellate court agreed with the wife’s argument that the trial court improperly calculated the effective date for the termination of the marriage. It found the error to be harmless, however and therefore affirmed the trial court’s rulings with regard to property division and alimony. Continue reading ›

Many parties have children outside of the context of marriage, and while in some cases paternity is not at issue, in others, legal action is necessary to define a child’s parentage. Once a man has been legally established as the father of a child, pursuant to Florida law, it is difficult to disestablish paternity. While the law allows fathers to reverse course on paternity in some cases, the same is not necessarily true for mothers, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you have questions regarding paternity and your parental rights, you should contact a trusted Miami paternity lawyer to evaluate your options.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the parties conceived the child in question in April 2014. They subsequently entered into a stipulation confirming the father’s paternity, and a court ratified it via order in 2016. Later that year, the mother filed a petition to relocate to Colorado with the child. The trial court denied the motion, and the child remained in Florida with the father and had visitation with the mother in the summer.

Reportedly, in 2017, the mother stated that she remembered an encounter with another man around the time the child was conceived. A DNA test determined the second man to be the child’s father within 99.99% certainty. The mother then moved to disestablish the father’s paternity pursuant to Florida Statute 742.18 and other provisions. The trial court granted summary judgment in her favor, and the father appealed. Continue reading ›

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While people do not typically think of divorce actions and a person’s health as being related, a party’s health can play a prevalent role in dissolution proceedings. For example, if one spouse alleges they cannot work due to a chronic condition or that the opposing party caused them to suffer mental or emotional distress, their health may be at issue, and in such instances, their medical records may come into play. If a party does not place their health at issue, though, their health information is privileged under Florida law. Recently, a Florida court discussed the disclosure of a party’s medical records in divorce cases in a matter in which it ultimately ruled the wife’s health information was privileged. If you aim to end your marriage, it is important to talk to a skillful Miami divorce attorney about what information you may have to produce to establish your claims.

History of the Case

The underlying facts of the case were not provided in the court’s opinion. It is alleged, however, that the parties were involved in a dissolution proceeding. Subsequently, the wife sought a writ of certiorari quashing the order issued by the trial court to the extent it compelled her to produce her mental health records and personnel records without requiring that they first undergo an in-camera review before they were turned over to the husband’s expert. Further, the wife asserted that the trial court failed to issue a finding that she waived her privilege to the records.

Discoverability of Health Records in Divorce Cases

The court found that the records in question were privileged pursuant to case law and statute. Specifically, Florida law is clear that a person’s medical records are confidential. Additionally, Florida law cautions against permitting parties to discover entire personnel files, as it could lead to the disclosure of information that is not relevant but could cause irreversible harm. Continue reading ›

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