How Procedural Errors Like Document-Filing Mistakes Can Cost You Dearly in Your Florida Family Law Appellate Case

There is a tendency among some people to believe that certain types of cases are ones that don’t really require the aid of a skilled attorney. Family law matters can be one example. Parties may think that their cases are simple enough that they don’t need an attorney or they may think that they cannot afford legal representation. With all the ways that a case can “go wrong,” and all the severe consequences that can arise if your family law case does veer south, whether it is a divorce action, a parental responsibility case or some other area of family law, it is more viable to argue that you can’t afford not to have a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney on your side.

Here’s an example: K.E. and D.M. were former spouses who were in court because the husband had filed a request to modify timesharing, the couple’s parenting plan and the child support obligation. Generally, many of these issues often require multiple varieties of proof. As the parent seeking modification, you may be required to prove that substantial change of circumstances has occurred before the judge will even consider the modification you desire. If you clear that hurdle, you may need to show additionally forms of proof related to issues like the best interest of the child.

In this couple’s case, the judge ruled for the father and entered the modification he requested. The mother appealed but she again was unsuccessful. The Fifth District Court of Appeal’s opinion did not indicate whether or not one or both spouses had attorneys at the trial-court level, but, in the appeals court case, the mother proceeded without a lawyer while the father had legal representation.

This arguably was a very important fact. The mother’s appeal was unsuccessful, not because the judges decided that her arguments lacked merit, but because the court could even address the mother’s contention that the trial judge lacked sufficient evidence to grant the modification. Why did the appeals court refuse to even get that far? Because of something called “the record.” The rules that govern appeals cases say that, as the party pursuing an appeal, you have to give the appeals court a complete record of the events that took place in the trial court. That means giving the appeals court “all documents filed in the lower tribunal, all exhibits that are not physical evidence, and any transcript(s) of proceedings filed in the lower tribunal,” minuses certain notices, summonses, discovery-related documents and so forth.

This mother never gave the appeals court a copy of the transcript of the modification hearing that took place in the trial court. Without that transcript, the mother didn’t have a complete record and that generally means that the appeals court can’t consider your arguments. (There is an exception for errors the judge makes that are “apparent on the face” of the ruling, but that didn’t apply to K.E.’s case.)

While K.E.’s unsuccessful result was in an appeals court, similar problems can arise in the trial court if you proceed without legal representation. Even something that might seem as straightforward as an uncontested divorce can become problematic if completed without legal assistance. Your filings may make procedural errors (like being incomplete) or contain procedural defects that could make the court reject them and, in the process, delay the granting of your divorce. Worse, improperly drafted documents could lead to the judge entering an order that decrees an outcome that was different than the one you thought you were agreeing to. There can be many procedural or technical traps awaiting the unaware self-represented litigant.

Whether it involves child issues, property issues or both, your family law case’s outcome is obviously very important you. Do what is necessary to protect yourself and your family by retaining skilled legal representation. The experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help. Our attorneys provide clients with the effective representation they need to get positive results. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

What It Takes to Obtain a Modification of Timesharing in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 21, 2018

Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Secures a Win for a South Florida Father Who Was Deprived of His Constitutional Rights in a Timesharing Modification Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 22, 2018