Dealing With Court Technological Problems that Impair Your Litigating Your Florida Family Law Case

Here in today’s modern electronic age, there are many things we have to navigate that people even just a generation ago did not. One of these things is computerized processes for filing court papers in your Florida family court case. Whereas everyone might have delivered a paper document to a human deputy at the court clerk’s office in the 1990s, today the rules of procedure allow filing electronic documents via an Internet website.

As we all well know, technology can be great… when it works. However, would you know what to do if your very important filing in your divorce case got rejected as late due to technology problems that were no fault of your own? It is reasonable to imagine you might not. To make sure your case or appeal gets the hearing it deserves, and that you are equipped to handle all the “bumps in the road,” no matter how unexpected, be sure you have an experienced South Florida family law attorney on your side.

L.B. was a man who found himself in that position. He was going through a divorce in St. Lucie County and, after the judge issued the final judgment, he and his attorney determined that it was in his best interest to appeal. The law gives you 30 days to file your appeal document known as a “Notice of Appeal.” L.B.’s notice, if he wanted to file one, was due on January 9, 2019. His lawyer attempted to file on that day. (There are several very legitimate reasons why it might be helpful, necessary or unavoidable to wait to file until near or on the last day.)

When the lawyer tried, though, the part of the website where one submits payments wasn’t working. Because L.B.’s lawyer couldn’t pay, the website didn’t accept the notice filing at all. The problem was a short-term one, but the lawyer was unable to file until the next day.

The critical question, then, became when the notice document was officially filed. If the correct date was January 9th (when the lawyer first attempted to submit the notice online,) then the notice was within the deadline and L.B. could proceed with pursuing his appeal. If it was the 10th, when the notice and the payment actually got through, then it was one day too late, and the rules would have barred L.B. from going forward with his appeal.

Is Lateness Decided by the Date of Document Submission or Payment Submission?

The appeals court’s ruling in L.B.’s case was a reminder of a long-standing rule. Several years ago, long before universal access to the Internet or “E-Filing Portals” were anywhere near a reality, the First District Court of Appeal made an important decision that answered the question about assessing the timeliness of a filing that was filed on one date and whose accompanying fee was submitted later. As that court explained, the requirements of the law say that you must file the document by the deadline; it does not say that you must deposit the fee by the deadline. So, if you filed your document on the last day allowed by the law, but paid your fee sometime later, your filing was still on time and the court could still act on it.

The same was true for L.B. Because the evidence was sufficient to show that a valid attempt to submit the notice was made on January 9th, he was not too late and was allowed to proceed.

Litigation, including family law litigation, can come with many hurdles, which may be entirely unsurprising or may be incredibly unexpected. To protect yourself and your family, you need someone who is deeply familiar with all of the laws and all of the rules of court procedure. The South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help. Our diligent attorneys have been providing clients with useful advice and skillful advocacy for many years in a full array of family law cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.