Florida Court Explains Consequences of Filing a Family Law Action in the Wrong Court

When Florida family courts incorporate marital settlement agreements into final orders of dissolution, they will often retain jurisdiction over any issues that subsequently arise regarding the agreements. In such instances, if a party files an action in a different court, it will most likely be deemed improper. As explained in a recent Florida ruling, though, the improperly filed action should be transferred rather than dismissed. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is in your best interest to speak to a Miami divorce attorney about your options for seeking a just outcome.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the husband and wife divorced. In 2017, the court incorporated their marital settlement agreement, which outlined the distribution of their real property, into their dissolution of marriage. According to the agreement, the wife was to retain possession of certain property and was required to maintain it in good condition. The agreement also required an appraisal of the property and set conditions for refinancing or listing it for sale. If the wife failed to comply with these terms, the husband was entitled to legal and equitable relief, including the right to foreclose on the property. The agreement explicitly reserved jurisdiction to the family court for all future dissolution-related matters.

Reportedly, in July 2020, the husband filed a complaint against the wife in the civil division, alleging that she had not complied with the conditions set in the agreement regarding the subject property. The wife moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the family court had jurisdiction over the matter based on the agreement. The trial court dismissed the case without prejudice, giving the former husband an opportunity to amend his complaint. He refiled his complaint, which was again dismissed, despite the husband’s argument that the case should be transferred to family court. The husband appealed.

Remedies for Enforcement Actions Filed in the Wrong Court

On appeal, the court agreed with the husband and concluded that the trial court erred in dismissing the complaint instead of transferring it to the family court. The court noted that under Florida law, a court should not dismiss a case solely because it was filed in the wrong division but should transfer it to the appropriate division within the circuit. Further, the court emphasized that dismissal could have collateral consequences, such as the expiration of statutory filing periods and the potential responsibility for filing fees and attorney’s fees. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling and remanded the matter to the trial court with instructions to transfer the former husband’s complaint to the family court.

Meet with a Skilled Miami Attorney

Marital settlement agreements incorporated into courts’ final decrees in divorce actions are binding and enforceable, but a party seeking to compel compliance with such an agreement must file their petition in the proper court. If you have questions about your rights with regard to a divorce action, it is prudent to meet with an attorney. The skilled Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can evaluate the issues in your case and inform you of what measures you can take to protect your interests. We have an office in Aventura, and we regularly represent people in divorce actions in Miami. You can reach us via our online form or at 800-596-0579 to schedule a conference.