How to Combat an Ex Who Is Seeking to ‘Weaponize’ the Legal System in Florida Against You

In a 1980s film, the movie’s protagonist (played by Tom Cruise) opines that “everything ends badly… otherwise it wouldn’t end.” While that isn’t always true with marriages, an unfortunately large number do end in bitterness and acrimony. If you find yourself in the aftermath of a bitter divorce, you may find yourself defending against a large number of legal actions launched by your ex who is trying to game the legal system. If that happens to you, it is well worth your while to retain the services of a skilled Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney. Your ex may be using (or abusing) the legal system, and your skilled attorney can help you use the system’s rules to overcome this onslaught through proper defense strategies, legal filing techniques and arguments.

J.J. was a Tampa Bay area man facing this type of situation in his case. He and his ex-wife, B.J., had a son together. The couple’s divorce and all other family law –related cases were litigated in Pasco County, just to the northwest of Tampa. In late December 2018, a judge in Pasco County rejected the mother’s request for an injunction against domestic violence on behalf of the couple’s child. In rejecting that petition, the judge declared the mother was not a credible witness and “was using the litigation as a weapon against her ex-husband.”

Just three days later, the mother was back in court… only this time she was in Tampa (Hillsborough County.) Once again, she sought an injunction against domestic violence on behalf of the couple’s child. The father fought back procedurally, asking the court in Hillsborough County to transfer the case to Pasco County.

One very important thing to understand about cases like domestic violence injunctions is what the law says about where you can file. The Florida Statutes say that the requesting party can file where he/she currently or temporarily resides, where the other party resides, or where the alleged domestic violence occurred. In this couple’s circumstance, both ex-spouses lived in Hillsborough County.

When a court is called upon to decide whether or not to change the venue of a case, it should look at the convenience of the parties, the convenience of all the witnesses and the “interest of justice.” The convenience of the witnesses is the most important factor.

In this couple’s case, the Hillsborough judge transferred the case to Pasco County in the “interest of justice” because all previous litigation had occurred in Pasco County and the “nucleus” of the case was in the courts there. The appeals court upheld that order. That court noted that trial judges may transfer cases to a different venue if that is necessary to uphold the interest of justice.

The ‘interest of justice’ and the law’s disapproval of ‘forum shopping’

One area where this “interest of justice” may arise is if one party is “forum shopping,” which means taking an argument from court to court until finding a receptive audience. Forum shopping is improper, and judges are allowed to take action to prevent parties from benefiting from their forum-shopping efforts. In this case, the ex-wife filed her Hillsborough petition a mere three days after a Pasco judge had ruled on a similar petition “that she had weaponized the litigation against her ex-husband.”

The law frowns upon gamesmanship in pursuit of an upper hand. The law prefers outcomes based on justice, not which party can strategically outflank the other or win a war of litigation attrition. For these reasons, the interest of justice allowed this judge to make this transfer.

Regrettably, some parties in family litigation cases are motivated more by raw emotion than by reason, logic or common sense. That does not mean, however, that their legal actions are any less potentially dangerous to you and your family. Always take them seriously and always get the legal representation you need for success. Count on the experienced South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. to protect you and your family from allegations of domestic violence and other “weaponized” litigation by an embittered ex-spouse or partner. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.