How a Nearly Three-Year Delay Between a Final Hearing and a Final Judgment in Florida Allowed a Wife to Obtain a Reversal

In a perfect world, the result you get in the order of final judgment from your divorce case is wholly satisfactory to you. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t a perfect world, and the divorce judgment you get isn’t always ideal. When that happens, you may have certain options for getting it thrown out. One of these is if the judge waited too long after the final hearing to finally hand down the written order of judgment in your case. For all of the legal options available to you, consult a knowledgeable South Florida divorce attorney.

A recent example of a delay triggering a reversal was the divorce case of Elizabeth and Marc. This couple’s divorce litigation was initially a typical case. There was the petition for divorce, pre-trial steps, and then a final hearing. And then nothing…for more than two years. Two and a half years after the final hearing, the court entered a final judgment.

Not happy with that final judgment, the wife appealed. The appeals court agreed that the delay was a problem. That meant that the wife won her appeal and a reversal of the trial court’s order.

So when is a delay too long? The Florida court rules state that “a judge has a duty to rule upon a matter submitted to him or her ‘within a reasonable time.’” The rules also say that the “presumptively reasonable time period for the completion of a contested domestic relations case is 180 days from filing to final disposition.”

One specific way in which a delay can allow you to get your divorce judgment overturned is if the final judgment had inconsistencies within it that “suggested that the trial court may not have recalled the evidence presented at the hearing.” For example, if the judge says one thing during the final hearing, and then the final order appears to conflict with that oral statement, that inconsistency may trigger a reversal.

Another reason why a delay of this extended duration was “unreasonable and unacceptable” in this particular case was the emergence of changing circumstances of the spouses. Elizabeth suffered from a debilitating chronic health problem. Twice during the 33-month gap between the final hearing and the entry of the judgment, Elizabeth sought to reopen the case and present additional evidence about her failing health, which likely would have affected the court’s assessment of her earning abilities. The court did not take the new evidence, which meant that, according to the appeals court, the final judgment that the trial court did enter did not “accurately or fairly address the equities of the case or the needs and abilities of the parties.”

At every step throughout the legal process, you have certain options to attempt to achieve the outcome you need. To get the information and advice you need for your case, talk to the skilled South Florida divorce attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have been providing clients with the diligent representation they deserve for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

In Florida Family Law Cases, Timely Action Is Your Friend, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2018

Procedural Deadline Rules and How They Can Make or Break Your Florida Family Law Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 16, 2017


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