In this blog, and likely in other sources, you’ve read pieces emphasizing the importance of not “going it alone” in your family law case, but instead obtaining a skilled South Florida family law attorney to represent you in your action. That’s advice is effective for many reasons. One is that, while you may think that your case will simply come down the resolution of factual disputes, almost any type of case (whether it’s family law or something else) can be greatly helped by a legal professional with in-depth knowledge of the procedural rules in effect in Florida.
As a real-life example of this, here’s the case of D.S. and A.S. The Seminole County couple was in court over a child support dispute. The mother, A.S., wanted the father, D.S., to pay more child support (in terms of duration). She filed a “petition for modification of child support.” The trial court in Seminole County referred the case to a general magistrate.
There might be several strategic or tactical reasons why you might prefer that your case not be heard by a magistrate. This father found himself in that position and timely filed a written objection to the referral to the magistrate. Despite the promptly lodged written objection, the case still went forward before the magistrate and the mother was successful, with the magistrate extending the father’s child support obligation for an additional one year.
Again, the father followed the procedural rules. He filed written “exceptions” with the trial court. One of those exceptions was that he had submitted a proper objection to the referral to the magistrate and that it was wrong for the magistrate to have heard the case. Again, the court ruled against the father.
The father took his case to the Fifth District Court of Appeal and, this time, he was successful. The father’s legal team understood, and argued successfully, that Florida’s rules of court procedure were very clear about situations like this. The constitutional guarantee of due process means that a payor spouse is entitled to a evidentiary hearing in any contested case of modification of child support. What’s more, the rules of procedure say that this type of case can only be heard by a magistrate if the trial judge enters an appropriate order and both parties consent to the magistrate’s hearing the case. Consent can be implied if you don’t act, but this father filed a proper written objection and did so within the 10-day period the rule allows.
If your ex-spouse brings you into court seeking to increase your child support obligation and you want that case decided by a judge and not a magistrate, you can make that happen. It is vital to make sure you do this in the right way, though. All of these things involve understanding all of the details of the rules and knowing what to do, and when to do it, to preserve or advance your rights.
Whether yours is a property dispute, a child support dispute, a timesharing dispute or some other issue, the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have what it takes to help. Our attorneys have been providing 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:
Court Decides that a Mother Could Seek a Child Support Order in Florida Even Though the Child’s Home was in Ireland, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Sept. 7, 2018
Court’s Refusal to Allow Mother to Present Her Case-in-Chief Violated Her Due Process Rights, Florida Appeals Court Says, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 19, 2018