If you watch enough TV courtroom drama shows, you’ve likely seen it at some point. One of the lawyers will attempt to introduce some piece of evidence, and the other attorney will exclaim, “Objection! Hearsay!” While hearsay objections may be more commonly associated with criminal cases, they also take place in civil matters as well, including family law disputes. In a case recently before the Fourth District Court of Appeal, the hearsay rule and its exceptions were the key issue in deciding whether the wife had proper evidence to support her argument for imputing income to the husband. Since the appeals court decided that the wife’s evidence wasn’t admissible, that meant that the trial court order had to be reversed.
In an alimony case, the law gives trial judges a certain amount of discretion in how they structure an obligor spouse’s alimony payments. Even with this discretion, there are limits. For example, an alimony award should not automatically increase at some future date unless there are specific extenuating circumstances that warrant structuring the alimony obligation in that way. In the case of one Broward County couple, the husband’s alimony obligation, which automatically increased by 140% upon the couple’s child’s graduation from high school, was reversed by the Fourth District Court of Appeal because the trial court in the case listed no extenuating circumstances in its order.
Family law cases, like many varieties of litigation, can sometimes take unexpected turns. One such example was a case recently decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In this case, a mother in a child support case lost her job after the final hearing but before the trial court issued its judgment. The appeals court upheld the trial court’s refusal to grant a motion to reopen the case, since granting that type of motion would prejudice the father too much and essentially require starting the case over from the beginning.
The litigants in this case were a couple from Brevard County. They were in court to establish a parenting plan and child support. The parenting plan called for the father to have the children 2/3 of the time and the mother to receive 1/3 of the time. Based upon the timesharing, the parents’ incomes, and all of the other relevant factors, the trial court determined that the wife owed child support. In assessing the wife’s child support obligation, the court followed the child support guidelines based upon the mother’s income from her job.
Child support cases, especially when you are facing contempt and possible jail time, are serious matters. There are many ways the courts can find you capable of making your child support payments, but there are other resources the law does not require you to deplete just to meet your support obligation. In one recent case from the Florida Panhandle, a father won a reversal of his contempt finding and jail sentence because, according to the First District Court of Appeal’s ruling, everything the trial court used to find that the man had willfully declined to pay his child support was either too small, had no evidence to support it, or was an asset the father was not legally obligated to liquidate just to pay his child support. The appeals court’s ruling is a useful reminder of the several ways that a parent who owes support can defend himself in a contempt case.
When you think about alimony, you probably think about a court order that obliges one ex-spouse to pay the other ex-spouse a sum of money every month for a certain period of time (or permanently). The law also, however, allows the courts to hand out lump-sum awards of alimony. As with other alimony awards, the law has specific rules regarding when that type of alimony is appropriate. In one recent Second District Court of Appeal case, a lump-sum alimony award was overturned because the trial judge didn’t make the findings necessary to show that the award complied with the law.
In any divorce case involving minor children, there are many issues that must be considered. One of these is the matter of making decisions regarding the children’s welfare. Ideally, the parents will work cooperatively after they’ve divorced to do what is necessary to advance the best interests of the children. In the real world, things can often be more complicated. Nevertheless, the law demands that divorcing parents strive to work together and share parental decision-making responsibilities in most cases. In a recent case decided by the Second District Court of Appeal, a trial judge’s order giving the mother “ultimate” authority was thrown out because the case didn’t meet the standard for awarding something other than true shared responsibility.
Sometimes, the intervention of a divorce can create some serious wrinkles in the estate plans two spouses created while they were married. Other times, the couple’s estate plans can sometimes create wrinkles in an equitable distribution plan. In the case of one southwest Florida couple, that is exactly what happened. When they divorced, one of the pieces of property that the Collier County trial court distributed was a home in California. The Second District Court of Appeal threw out that distribution because, prior to the divorce, the couple had transferred the home into an irrevocable trust, so it was outside the reach of their divorce’s equitable distribution.
When you are dealing with a child custody or timesharing case that crosses state lines, the case can become complicated. You must deal with all of the requirements of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. That law says that custody and timesharing cases generally must be heard by a court in the child’s “home state.” However, if you live in Florida, and your child’s home state is somewhere else, there are certain situations in which you may still be able to bring your case here. In a recent Fifth District Court of Appeal case, the appeals court upheld a Florida trial court’s decision to modify timesharing, based upon the presence of “emergency” circumstances.
When you are going through a divorce, especially one without a minor child of the marriage, one of the most important issues to resolve may be equitable distribution. While equitable distribution may be fairly straightforward in cases in which every asset is clearly marital or non-marital, many divorces and equitable distributions are more complex. In one recent case decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, the court was called upon to address a case in which the couple’s home was the wife’s non-marital property, but the property had appreciated in part due to improvements made using marital funds. In this case, the trial court’s decision to credit 50% of the marital portion of the appreciation to the husband was improper when the court also gave the home 100% to the wife.
When you enter into divorce litigation, there are certain things you know at the outset. One of these is that the law presumes that your spouse and you should split all marital assets 50-50. This presumption is not ironclad, however, since fairness and the law dictate that a 50-50 split is not the proper outcome in all cases. In order to receive an uneven distribution in your case, the law requires your trial judge to make certain findings. In one recent case from the Tampa Bay area, the trial court’s failure to make the obligatory findings led the Second District Court of Appeal to throw out a distribution awarding the wife more than 50% of certain assets.