Florida Court Discusses Due Process Rights in Divorce Proceedings

While courts typically conducted family law hearings in person prior to 2020, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many proceedings have been held via video-teleconferencing. Regardless of whether hearings are conducted in person or over the internet, parties impacted by such hearings have certain rights, and if the court violates their rights, any rulings issued during the proceeding may be reversed. This was demonstrated recently in a Florida opinion issued in a divorce case in which the court ruled that the trial court infringed on the wife’s due process rights by ruling on matters in her absence. If you or your spouse wish to end your marriage, it is important to understand your rights and obligations, and you should talk to a Miami divorce attorney promptly.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife married in 2002 and had two minor children. They subsequently divorced, and in 2016, the trial court entered a final judgment dissolving their marriage. The trial court also appointed a parenting coordinator and guardian ad litem to help resolve other issues. The parties later filed multiple post-dissolution motions, seeking enforcement of the final judgment, contempt, and psychological evaluations.

Allegedly, the court scheduled a hearing for June 2021 to address certain financial issues. The court conducted the hearing over Zoom and, prior to commencing, confirmed it would only cover the issues previously indicated. The trial court stated it was going to order the wife to pay her share of the children’s tuition, after which she logged off. She logged back on ten minutes later, only to log off again when the court restated its intent. The court later ordered the wife to pay the husband the cost of the parenting coordinator’s fees in the wife’s absence. The wife appealed.

Due Process Rights in Divorce Proceedings

On appeal, the wife argued that her due process rights were violated because the issue of the parenting coordinator’s fees was not noticed for the hearing, while the husband asserted that the issue was tried by consent as the wife failed to object to it being heard. The court ultimately agreed with the wife’s reasoning and vacated the trial court order.

The court explained that it is well settled that orders adjudicating issues not noticed to the parties, set forth in the pleadings, or litigated below deny fundamental due process. Issues may be tried by consent, but only where a party raises the issue, and their opponent fails to object at the hearing. The failure to object to an unpled issue cannot be construed as consent, and unpled issues tried when a party does not appear are tried in absentia, not by consent.

Here, as the issue of the parenting coordinator fees was not noticed prior to the hearing, the court found that the trial court violated the wife’s due process rights by ruling on the issue. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Contact a Capable Miami Attorney

Parties involved in divorce proceedings have numerous rights, including the right to be notified before the court rules on any disputed issues, and if their rights are not upheld, they may be able to file an appeal. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is smart to contact an attorney to discuss what steps you can take to protect your interests. The capable Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are proficient at helping people navigate the complexities of divorce, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. We have an office in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in divorce cases in Miami. You can contact us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.