Mother and Child Reunion Put on Hold After Court Decides to Hear More Evidence Regarding Best Interest of Child

Child custody court cases involve many elements. One vital aspect is determining what is in the best interest of the child, an issue that many parents might feel capable addressing on their own. However, family law cases are still civil litigation matters, in many cases complete with multiple procedural layers. In one recent case, a trial court’s decision to grant a grandmother’s custody-related motion survived because, according to the 5th District Court of Appeal, the motion complied with the rules of procedure, so the trial court was within proper bounds to hear it and rule on it.

The case involved the custody of a son born to a Florida woman. In 1999, she granted legal temporary custody of the infant boy to the child’s grandmother. More than a decade later, in 2010, the mother was drug-free, remarried, and caring for her younger children with her husband. The mother asked the court to grant her substantial visitation with the child. The grandmother asked that the court require supervision for the visits, and the court agreed.

The visits went poorly and, after four occasions, the grandmother stopped bringing the child to visit his mother. The relationship between the two women was also deteriorating and, by November 2010, the mother was back in court asking the judge to revoke the grandmother’s temporary custody. The parties litigated for more than two years before the trial court ordered the grandmother’s custody revoked and the child returned to his mother immediately, with no transition period and with the grandmother receiving no visitation.

Twelve days later, the grandmother asked the court to conduct a rehearing or reconsideration of its decision and, after conducting subsequent interviews of the child and his guardian ad litem, the judge granted that motion, concluding that it failed to consider all the evidence regarding the best interest of the child in returning him to his mother without any transition period.

The mother appealed, arguing that the grandmother made her request for rehearing or reconsideration too late, given that Florida’s rules governing these types of motions set a limit of 10 days after the issuance of the court’s order for filing. The appeals court disagreed. The rule imposing a 10-day deadline for filing pertained only to motions for rehearing. Regardless of how the grandmother described her motion, the content of her request amounted to a motion for reconsideration because the order she was contesting was a non-final one. The law gives trial courts an unlimited time-frame for addressing motions for reconsideration, as long as the judge had not also issued a final order. Since the court had not delivered a final order in the case, she was free to rule on, and grant, the grandmother’s motion for reconsideration.

Additionally, the order the mother was contesting was not appealable anyway. The order was non-final and, to be an appealable non-final order, the order would have had to have determined the custody of the child. In this case, the order only stated that court would receive more evidence before making its final ruling, and it did not decide who would receive custody of the boy.

This ruling offers some helpful insight into the multiple procedural layers that can be involved in a family law case. While a family member might feel equipped to argue about the best interests of a child before a judge, success or failure can also be influenced by one’s knowledge (or lack thereof) regarding court rules and the rules of procedure. That’s why any dispute worth taking to court is worth seeking a qualified, capable legal professional to represent you. For helpful advice and powerful representation for your family, consult the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A.. Our attorneys can help your family as you undertake to navigate the court system.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Failure to Foster Relationship with Child’s Father Not Grounds for Mandating Psych Evaluation of Mother, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 19, 2014
Trial Court Overstepped in Awarding Mother 100% Timesharing of Couple’s Child, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 28, 2014