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Florida Court Refuses to Hear Family Law Case Best Litigated in New Jersey

Chase_County,_Nebraska_courthouse_courtroom_1.JPGA couple’s out-of-state divorce order was the starting point of multistate legal battles spanning more than a decade. The battle between the two former spouses highlights some of the challenges that occur when parties to a divorce move away from the state that originally handled their case. The 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a dismissal of a husband’s Florida legal action related to the divorce because the couple’s previous home state of New Jersey was actually the proper place to bring his claims.

The long-running contest began after a New Jersey court issued an order granting a divorce to a couple, and giving the wife awards for unpaid alimony and child support. The court also ordered that certain pieces of the husband’s property be placed into a trust and gave the wife the authority to sell those assets in the trust. If necessary, the wife had the power to satisfy the child support and alimony debts from the sale of the husband’s trust assets.

The husband later filed a claim against the wife, arguing that she mismanaged the assets in the trust and demanding that she account for her handling of the assets. However, the husband fled New Jersey before the court could resolve this issue.

In 1997, the wife went to court in Florida to obtain an order making the divorce judgment recognized and enforceable under Florida law. Five years later, the husband mounted an attack on the Florida order, renewing the accusation that the wife mismanaged the trust. The husband went on to move to Montana, and the wife got orders from the courts there that also recognized the previous rulings in her favor. The husband fought in Montana, as well, again arguing that the wife failed to carry out her trustee duties properly. Both the Florida and Montana courts dismissed the husband’s case, concluding that New Jersey was the proper place for the husband to make such a claim.

The husband appealed the Florida ruling, but to no avail. New Jersey was the appropriate place to resolve this legal battle. If denying the husband the opportunity to make his case in Florida would have completely prevented him from obtaining the justice he sought, the outcome might have been different. However, the New Jersey courts had already expressly stated that they would consider the husband’s trust mismanagement claims against the wife once he returned to that state.

Often, in cases like this one, the court will simply stay the subsequent action until the matter is litigated in the first state. In this situation, though, the appeals court determined that the trial court was correct to dismiss the case. The Florida action had dragged on for 12 years, and the husband had received multiple orders telling him to litigate the issue in New Jersey. In the interest of finality, the Florida case needed to be bought to an end, the court stated.

Defending your rights in a family law matter is often challenging, and it is especially so if you do not live in Florida. For advice and representation in Florida courts regarding your divorce, alimony, or child support case, contact the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have the skills and experience you need to make sure your Florida case is handled in the most effective manner possible. Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Jurisdiction Rules Prevent Father From Modifying Child Support in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 24, 2014
Deciding Where a Divorce and Child Custody Case Should (or Can) Be Litigated, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 3, 2014

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