Court Upholds an Oral Pronouncement Over a Conflicting Order in a Florida Divorce Case

Courts presiding over Florida family law cases will often make oral pronouncements regarding their decisions on disputed issues during hearings and later reduce the terms of their pronouncement to writing. Issues can arise, however, when a written order issued by a court conflicts with its earlier oral pronouncement. In such cases, as explained in a recent Florida ruling issued in a divorce matter, the oral pronouncement will generally prevail. If you or your spouse intend to file a petition for dissolution, it is wise to meet with a Miami divorce attorney to determine what measures you can take to protect your interests.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife divorced in 2018. The year prior to their divorce, they filed a joint income tax return and received a refund in excess of $150,000. The refund, which was deposited into the wife’s attorney’s trust account, included a credit for overpayment carried over from the husband’s and wife’s previous joint return.

Allegedly, during an evidentiary hearing, the husband argued he was entitled to half of the credit for overpayment on the grounds that it was marital property subject to equitable distribution. The trial court agreed and orally granted the husband half of the overpayment. In the written order it issued on the matter, though, the trial court allocated all of the money in the wife’s attorney’s trust account to other parts of the entitlement award. The husband appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by issuing a written order that conflicted with its oral pronouncement.

Oral Pronouncements Versus Written Orders

The court agreed with the husband on appeal and reversed the trial court’s order. In doing so, the court explained that under Florida law, if a trial court’s written order conflicts with its previous oral pronouncement, the oral pronouncement usually prevails, and the written order must be reversed.

In the subject case, the court found that the trial court’s written order was clearly inconsistent with its oral pronouncement regarding the husband’s distribution from the trust account that represented his portion of the overpayment from a previous tax year. Specifically, the court orally stated that the husband was entitled to half of the overpayment, but in its written order, the court stated that nothing would be distributed to the husband because all of the funds in the account were to be distributed for other purposes. As the court entered the written order without an intervening evidentiary hearing, the court reversed the order and remanded the matter so that the trial court could enter a written order reflecting its oral pronouncement.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

The Florida courts will often make oral pronouncements in divorce matters, and if they do, such statements are usually binding and enforceable. If you want to end your marriage or were recently served with legal papers instituting a divorce action, it is in your best interest to talk to an attorney about your rights. The dedicated Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can assess the facts of your case and help you to pursue your desired outcome. Our office is in Aventura, and we regularly assist people with divorce cases in Miami. You can reach us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.

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