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In many divorce cases, one of the biggest issues is how marital property, including retirement income, should be divided. As such, many couples will develop marital settlement agreements defining their rights and obligations with regard to retirement. If the terms of such agreements are unclear, however, it could create challenges down the road, as demonstrated in a recent Florida divorce action in which the court discussed the construction of marital settlement agreements. If you need help protecting your interests in a divorce proceeding, it is advisable to confer with a Miami divorce attorney.

Factual Background and Procedural Setting

It is reported that in 2001, the husband petitioned for dissolution of marriage from the wife. They subsequently entered into a marital settlement agreement (MSA) to resolve their marital issues, which was incorporated into the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage in 2002. Twenty years later, the wife moved to reopen the dissolution and enforce a provision of the MSA regarding the distribution of retirement benefits.

Allegedly, the disputed provision, labeled “Personal Property,” outlined the distribution of the husband’s retirement benefits from his 457 plan with Pinellas County, Florida, and the Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension. The wife argued that she was entitled to half of all FRS benefits received by the husband, including those accrued after the dissolution, based on the language of the MSA. The husband, however, contended that the provision only entitled the wife to half of the marital portion of the FRS benefits, which included benefits accrued during the marriage. The trial court determined that the language of the MSA was clear but interpreted it to mean that the wife was entitled to half of what the husband had at the time of the agreement. The wife appealed. Continue reading ›

Parents who share custody of a child will often live in the same geographic area, which makes custody exchanges relatively easy. It is not uncommon, though, for one parent to wish to relocate to another city and to take their children with them. While a parent has the right to ask the court to allow them to relocate, such a request should not be granted unless the parent shows that relocation would be in the child’s best interest. As demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling, if a court allows for relocation absent such a showing, their order may be overturned. If you have questions about relocation in the context of custody, it is smart to speak with a Miami child custody attorney.

Case Setting

It is alleged that the mother and the father, who resided in Nassau County, Florida, had established paternity and a timesharing schedule, with the mother having majority timesharing. The mother recently married and her husband, a member of the U.S. Navy, received orders transferring him to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for approximately two years. The mother filed an expedited temporary petition for parental relocation, seeking to move to Cape Canaveral with the children. The father objected to the relocation.

It is reported that at the evidentiary hearing, the mother testified about her desire to be with her new husband and baby, but she offered no evidence supporting the relocation’s best interest for the children. The father, however, presented evidence of his active involvement with the children and the strong family support system in the area. The trial court orally granted the mother’s temporary motion without stating findings, and a written order followed, noting the mother’s good faith in filing the petition. The father appealed. Continue reading ›

Florida is an equitable distribution state. As such, if a couple decides to end their marriage via divorce, the court will distribute any marital property between them in a manner that it deems fair and just. Equitable distribution only applies to marital property, however; separate property remains the sole asset of the spouse that owns it. As such, a property characterization of property in a divorce action is essential for obtaining a just outcome. As illustrated in a recent Florida ruling delivered in a divorce case, if a court misclassifies property or issues a final judgment that does not comply with its oral statements at trial, such errors may qualify as grounds for pursuing an appeal. If you want to learn more about how a divorce may impact your property rights, it is wise to consult a Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Setting

It is alleged that the parties, who had been married for twelve years, led largely separate lives, residing in different cities and managing their finances independently before the husband filed a petition for dissolution. At trial, the court ruled that most assets and liabilities were nonmarital, attributing them to the respective parties based on their individual acquisition or handling during the marriage.

Reportedly, the court emphasized the parties’ separate financial activities and concluded that an equal distribution would lead to unjust enrichment. The written final judgment conflicted with the court’s oral pronouncement, though, designating all assets and liabilities as nonmarital, contrary to the court’s acknowledgment of marital ownership of certain vehicles. The wife then appealed. Continue reading ›

In Florida divorce actions, the courts will typically issue judgments of dissolution establishing the parties’ rights and obligations with regard to disputed issues like child custody, spousal and child support, and property division. If a court fails to adequately demonstrate the reasoning behind its decision or neglects to take into consideration key evidence, either party may be able to pursue an appeal. In a recent Florida opinion issued in a divorce action, the court explained the grounds for challenging a final judgment of dissolution. If you intend to end your marriage, it is smart to speak with a Miami divorce attorney regarding what measures you can take to protect your rights.

Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife divorced. During the final hearing, the trial court orally explained its findings on the record. The court subsequently issued a final judgment of dissolution, defining rights and obligations with regard to alimony, timesharing and custody rights, and relocation. The husband then appealed, arguing several points of error. Specifically, he challenged the adequacy of the record on appeal, particularly regarding affidavits related to financial situations, which he failed to include. Additionally, he disputed the start date for child support payments, as the trial court set it before the child’s residency with him ended.

Grounds for Challenging a Final Judgment of Dissolution

On appeal, the court largely affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that while the final dissolution judgment did not precisely adhere to the criteria outlined in the Florida Statutes, the trial court provided oral findings during the final hearing to justify its rulings on relocation, alimony, and timesharing. Further, the court found these findings were backed by ample evidence presented during the proceedings, indicating that the decisions were well-supported despite not aligning perfectly with statutory parameters. Continue reading ›

In many divorce actions, the most contentious issue is how property and assets should be divided. Pursuant to Florida law, the courts generally aim to divide marital property in a fair manner, which in some instances means that they may deem it appropriate to award one party a set-off for an asset or source of income. The courts can only do so if the party awarded the set-off requests it in a pleading, however, as it is considered an affirmative defense. If the courts grant a set-off absent the assertion of it in a pleading, it likely constitutes grounds for appealing the final judgment of divorce. This was demonstrated in a recent Florida divorce action in which the attorneys of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. represented the wife and successfully argued that the court improperly granted the husband a set-off. If you need assistance with a divorce issue, it is smart to meet with an assertive Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

Case Setting

It is reported that the husband and wife divorced. The wife, who was represented by Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A., subsequently appealed the final judgment of dissolution of marriage. The crux of the appeal was the trial court’s decision to award the husband a set-off for the rental value of the marital home. The wife contended that this set-off was improper because the husband had not raised the issue in any prior pleading or motion.

Grounds for Reversing a Final Judgment of Dissolution

On appeal, the court examined the procedural history and relevant legal principles. It pointed out that under Florida Family Law Rules, parties are required to affirmatively state any matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense in their pleadings or motions. Failure to do so results in the waiver of those defenses.

In this case, the husband had not raised the issue of the set-off in any pleading or motion but rather brought it up for the first time during pre-trial proceedings. The court cited precedent emphasizing that affirmative defenses like set-offs must be properly raised to be considered by the trial court, and failure to do so deprives the court of jurisdiction over the matter. Continue reading ›

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People who have children in non-marital relationships often believe they have the right to parent their children without court intervention. If the relationship falls apart, though, the father’s rights may be in jeopardy. If a man has acted as a child’s parent, however, the courts may legally deem him a child’s father, as illustrated in a recent Florida paternity ruling. If you want to take action to establish or protect your parental rights, it is advisable to contact a Miami paternity attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case and Procedural History

It is alleged that the father and the mother were in a relationship, and the father was named as the father on the child’s birth certificate. Despite the relationship ending, the father remained involved in the child’s life until the mother ceased visitation in 2020. Subsequently, the father filed a petition to establish paternity, a parenting plan, and a timesharing schedule. The mother requested DNA testing, which ultimately showed that the father was not the biological father.

Reportedly, citing section 742.12(4), which states that in a proceeding to establish paternity, if the test results show that the alleged father cannot be the biological father, the case shall be dismissed with prejudice, the mother moved to dismiss the father’s paternity action, leading the trial court to dismiss the petition. The father appealed the dismissal of his petition to establish paternity, arguing the trial court’s application of section 742.12(4) of the Florida Statutes was improper. Continue reading ›

Religion is an important part of many people’s lives. As such, it makes sense that they would want to impart their religious beliefs to their children. In Florida, people typically have the right to raise their children in the religion of their choosing unless the courts determine that doing so would not be in the child’s best interest. As shown in an opinion recently delivered by a Florida court in a custody case, judges must make unbiased decisions about parental rights with regard to religion. Otherwise, their rulings may be overturned. If you have concerns about protecting your right to parent your child, it is in your best interest to meet with a Miami child custody attorney.

History of the Case

It is reported that the father, who, as a Christian minister and youth pastor, opposed gender transition for his minor child based on moral and religious grounds. The child had been removed from the mother’s custody due to her substance abuse issues but was later reunited with her. However, after the child ran away from the mother due to abuse and excessive drinking, the child moved in with the father, who refused any gender transition treatment for the child.

It is alleged that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) sought to remove the child from both parents’ custody, alleging emotional abuse by the father for opposing gender transition. Despite no findings of abuse against the father, the trial judge removed the child from his custody, prompting the father to file a motion to return the child to his custody. However, the trial judge’s conduct during an in-camera interview with the child, including using female pseudonyms and suggesting counseling to change the father’s beliefs, raised concerns about bias against the father’s religious views. The father then filed a petition to disqualify the trial judge, arguing that the judge demonstrated bias that bias prevented him from receiving a fair hearing. Continue reading ›

When people with children decide to end their marriage, one of their foremost concerns is usually how the divorce will impact their children and their parental rights. As such, they will often take great care when creating a parenting plan. The courts will generally incorporate parenting plans into divorce decrees as long as they are in the best interest of the children involved. While the courts can strike parenting plans, they cannot do so without following the proper procedure, as shown in a recent Florida opinion issued in a divorce action. If you have questions about your rights with regard to divorce, it is wise to talk to a Miami divorce attorney.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the wife initiated an action seeking a dissolution of her marriage to the husband. The trial court issued a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, incorporating the parties’ Parenting Plan concerning their child’s time-sharing rights and obligations. Subsequently, the husband filed a supplemental petition, later amending it, alleging deficiencies in the Parenting Plan, particularly its lack of provisions for communication between him and the child.

It is alleged that the wife moved to dismiss the husband’s petition and then amended her motion. During a hearing on the wife’s amended motion to dismiss, the trial court not only denied the motion but also, without prior notice, struck the Parenting Plan entirely, citing its failure to meet statutory requirements regarding communication means between the husband and the child. The wife filed a petition seeking a writ of prohibition or certiorari to challenge the trial court’s order. Continue reading ›

In Florida, the best interest of the child standard dictates how custody cases are handled. In other words, regardless of whether the courts issue a parenting plan or the parties independently come to an agreement that the court then affirms, the plan must promote the child’s health and well-being. As such, to demonstrate a parenting plan should be modified a party will typically have to show a substantial change in circumstances. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, as explained in a recent Florida ruling issued in a custody action. If you want to learn more about what steps you can take to protect your parental rights, it is wise to confer with an assertive Miami custody attorney.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother and father entered into a parenting plan outlining a series of timesharing schedules that would progressively increase the father’s time with the minor child over three years. The plan included a provision stating that by March 1, 2019, the parties would revisit the timesharing schedule, with the option to modify it without filing a supplemental petition for modification if they could not agree, in which case the matter would be submitted to the court.

Allegedly, the father subsequently petitioned for the modification. The mother moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that there was no change in circumstances that warranted a modification. The court agreed and ruled in favor of the mother. The father appealed. Continue reading ›

Florida law permits the courts to award parties alimony in divorce actions. The duration of alimony granted depends on numerous factors. The amount granted, generally, depends on the need of the party seeking alimony and the ability of the person from whom alimony is sought to pay. As discussed in a recent Florida opinion, this requires an analysis of the parties’ net, not gross income.  If you have questions about how a divorce may impact you financially, including whether you may be eligible for alimony, it is smart to talk to a skilled Miami divorce attorney.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife were married and had one minor child. In 2019, the wife filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. In response, the husband filed a counterpetition. The parties entered into a partial mediated marital settlement agreement in February 2022. The agreement resolved most issues but did not dictate rights or obligations with regard to alimony, child support, or attorney’s fees. The trial court subsequently ratified the agreement.

It is alleged that the court later held a final hearing to address the remaining issues. Following the hearing, it entered an amended final judgment of dissolution in which it awarded the wife durational alimony for five years. The wife appealed. Continue reading ›