What to Do When the Court Incorrectly Dismisses Your Florida Family Law Case

In any family law case, it is important to keep your case moving forward. Depending on the details of your case, a failure to take action within a specific period of time can have disastrous consequences. As a respondent, it can result in a default judgment against you in which the other side gets exactly what they want. As a petitioner, it could mean that your case gets dismissed on procedural grounds, regardless of the merit of your claim. However, sometimes, a court may conclude that you’ve not acted within the allotted time when, in fact, you have. What do you do then? It is in these and other times when it pays to have experienced Florida paternity counsel handling your case.

An example of this type of scenario, and a party’s successful handling of this challenge, was a paternity action filed by a man named José. While many people may think of paternity actions as cases brought by mothers seeking court orders declaring certain men to be legal fathers of their children (and, as a result, obligated by law to provide support for those children), there are actually several reasons why a man might choose to file a paternity case. For example, a man may know or believe that he is the biological father of a child whose mother is not his wife. In a case in which the mother and father aren’t married, the father may file a paternity case to obtain a court order that declares him the legal father, which triggers all of the parental rights established under Florida law.

Apparently, a period of inactivity occurred in José’s case because, on Jan. 25, 2017, the trial court or court clerk dismissed José’s lawsuit “for lack of prosecution.” The term “lack of prosecution,” in a civil lawsuit, means that the plaintiff took no action for a certain prolonged period, and, because of that inactivity, the court was entitled to throw out the case. Florida’s family law procedural rules state that, if a plaintiff in a family law case does nothing for 10 months, the court can serve notice that the case is at risk of dismissal. If another 60 days goes by after the notice with still no activity in the case, the case can be dismissed.

The problem in José’s case was that the court or court clerk made a mistake in calculating the required period of inactivity needed to qualify as “lack of prosecution.” Because of this error, the court reversed the dismissal order several months later, which revived José’s case. The mother, who was apparently happy with the order of dismissal, launched a challenge to the order reviving the case. Solimar’s argument was a technical one; she contended that, when the trial court dismissed the case, that ended the court’s jurisdiction over the dispute. Since the court no longer had jurisdiction, the rules did not allow the judge simply to order the dismissal order vacated. The court of appeals disagreed and stated that the trial judge did retain jurisdiction to rule on motions to reconsider like the one José filed that led to a reversal of the dismissal order.

Your family law case can potentially take many twists and turns, either factually or in terms of the law or court procedural rules. Make sure that you are prepared for whatever happens by having knowledgeable counsel on your side. The experienced South Florida paternity attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help, having represented people in divorce, paternity, and other family law cases for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

What Are Your Rights When You Have a Child With a Married Woman in Florida?, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 5, 2017

Paternity Cases, Florida Law, and What Happens When You Are Not the (Biological) Father, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 28, 2017


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