Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal Refuses to Disqualify Miami-Dade Circuit Judge from Heated Custody Dispute

This week, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal declined to disqualify Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis from a child custody case between two prominent area lawyers. After the two attorneys divorced in 2005, the former couple agreed to share custody of their two small children equally. Since that time, their relationship reportedly deteriorated so much so that the former wife, a law professor, asked Judge Espinosa Dennis to hold the former husband, a partner at a law firm, in contempt for allegedly violating provisions in their divorce agreement. According to the ex-wife, the ex-husband has continuously and repeatedly sent her abusive emails. The ex-wife also asked the judge to modify the former couple’s custody agreement.

Last November, the ex-husband filed a motion asking Judge Espinosa Dennis to recuse herself from the custody case after the law firm at which the ex-wife’s attorney is employed co-sponsored a fundraising event and donated $500 to Judge Espinosa Dennis’ re-election campaign. Judge Espinosa Dennis called the motion legally insufficient and denied his request. The former husband then appealed to Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal seeking her removal from the case. According to the ex-husband, it would be impossible for Judge Espinosa Dennis to treat him fairly due to the donations made to her campaign. Interestingly, the ex-husband’s own law firm also reportedly donated $500 to the judge’s re-election campaign last December.

The ex-wife’s appellate attorney argued that the ex-husband is simply unhappy with Judge Espinosa Dennis’ prior rulings against him. He also claims the former husband has continued the litigation in an attempt to drain his former wife’s financial resources. Because of this, the ex-wife asked the appellate court to award her approximately $100,000 in attorney’s fees. In a judgment which offered no legal reasoning except a citation to a 1991 Supreme Court of Florida case, a panel of Third District Court judges denied the ex-husband’s petition to remove Judge Espinosa Dennis from the case. Judges Richard J. Suarez, Judges Juan Ramirez Jr., and Vance E. Salter also provisionally approved the ex-wife’s request for legal fees.

Florida is a no-fault divorce state. If you have minor children, your final judgment of divorce will include a parenting plan and a custody arrangement, also called a time-sharing plan. Such a plan will outline which parent a child will spends holidays, overnights, and all other days with each week. If parents cannot agree on a time-sharing plan, one will be ordered by the court. The modification of a time-sharing plan can be difficult as a parent who is seeking modification must demonstrate changed circumstances justify the modification. If you are seeking to establish or modify your child’s time-sharing plan, a capable Broward County family law lawyer can assist you.

At Sandy T. Fox, P.A., our Miami-Dade child custody attorneys understand the stress and emotions associated with divorce. Because we focus exclusively on family law matters, our attorneys can assist you every step of the way. To schedule a confidential consultation, call Sandy T. Fox today at 800-596-0579. You may also contact the firm through our website.

More Blog Posts:

In Unique Case, Daytona Court Says Both Lesbian Moms Have Parental Rights, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 5, 2012
Baby-Boom Generation Increasingly Choosing Late Life Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, December 27, 2011
Additional Resources:

Court refuses to disqualify judge from Paul Calli-Sandra Mourer divorce hearing, by John Pacenti, Daily Business Review (Subscription required)

Judge won’t recuse herself from volatile custody battle, by John Pacenti, Daily Business Review (Subscription required)