Florida Court Discusses Verbatim Adoption of Proposed Orders in Family Law Cases

Florida law permits parties to submit proposed orders in family law proceedings. The courts rarely adopt such orders as is, however, but instead will exercise their own judgment as to what constitutes an appropriate ruling. If a court does adopt a proposed order verbatim, it must demonstrate that it exercised independent judgment in doing so. Otherwise, the order may be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued in a Florida divorce action. If you intend to end your marriage, it is wise to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer about your options.

Procedural Background

It is reported that the parties divorced. After the trial court entered a final judgment, the mother moved for child support determination and retroactive support. The trial court requested the parties to submit proposed orders, and it ultimately adopted the father’s proposed order verbatim. The mother argues that the court’s adoption of the father’s order without independent decision-making constituted an error.

Verbatim Adoption of Proposed Orders in Family Law Cases

On appeal, the court noted that the lack of a transcript from the evidentiary hearing complicated its review. It stated, however, that both parties agreed that the trial court did not announce its ruling and requested proposed orders from them. The order entered by the court matched the father’s submission, including conflicting paragraphs. The court signed the order just one business day after receiving the father’s proposed order, leaving no apparent opportunity for the mother to raise objections before the court’s decision.

The court explained that Florida law frowns upon a trial judge adopting a proposed order without making any modifications or expressing findings on the record. Further, guidance from the Florida Supreme Court on adopting proposed judgments in marital dissolution proceedings emphasizes that the trial court should indicate its findings of fact and conclusions of law on the record before requesting proposed orders.

The court explained that a judgment should not automatically be reversed merely because a proposed order is adopted verbatim. Instead, the court will consider factors such as whether the signed order aligns with the court’s verbal rulings, the time elapsed since the hearing, any irregularities or conflicts in the order, and whether the court participated in the trial or edited the proposed judgment, in determining whether to vacate a judgment.

In the subject case, the court found that, given the circumstances, it appeared that the trial court did not independently consider the merits of the case and merely adopted the father’s submission. As a result, the court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Talk to a Trusted Miami Attorney

People involved in divorce actions have the right to fair and reasoned rulings from the court, and if they believe the court issued a judgment in error, they can seek recourse via an appeal. If you are interested in learning more about divorce, it is advisable to talk to an attorney. The trusted Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking a just outcome. You can contact us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.