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Florida law permits parties to submit proposed orders in family law proceedings. The courts rarely adopt such orders as is, however, but instead will exercise their own judgment as to what constitutes an appropriate ruling. If a court does adopt a proposed order verbatim, it must demonstrate that it exercised independent judgment in doing so. Otherwise, the order may be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued in a Florida divorce action. If you intend to end your marriage, it is wise to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer about your options.

Procedural Background

It is reported that the parties divorced. After the trial court entered a final judgment, the mother moved for child support determination and retroactive support. The trial court requested the parties to submit proposed orders, and it ultimately adopted the father’s proposed order verbatim. The mother argues that the court’s adoption of the father’s order without independent decision-making constituted an error.

Verbatim Adoption of Proposed Orders in Family Law Cases

On appeal, the court noted that the lack of a transcript from the evidentiary hearing complicated its review. It stated, however, that both parties agreed that the trial court did not announce its ruling and requested proposed orders from them. The order entered by the court matched the father’s submission, including conflicting paragraphs. The court signed the order just one business day after receiving the father’s proposed order, leaving no apparent opportunity for the mother to raise objections before the court’s decision. Continue reading ›

Under Florida law, parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. In the context of custody cases, this obligation is often the impetus for imposing a child support obligation. The courts determine what constitutes an appropriate amount of child support by analyzing numerous factors, including each parent’s income. If a parent is willfully underemployed, however, the courts may impute income to them. In a recent Florida case in which the court ultimately reversed the trial court ruling, the court discussed the grounds for imputing income to a parent. If you have questions about your rights with regard to child support, it is in your best interest to speak to a Miami child support lawyer at your earliest convenience.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the mother and the father divorced in 2014. During their divorce, they agreed to a marital settlement and parenting plan; pursuant to the plan, the mother had the majority of timesharing with the couple’s two children and home-schooled them. In 2019, the husband filed a petition to modify the timesharing and child support, seeking equal timesharing and claiming that the mother was voluntarily underemployed. He argued that modifying the timesharing would allow her to work more hours and increase her income.

Allegedly, following a hearing, a magistrate recommended modifying the timesharing to be more equal, ending the home-schooling arrangement, and imputing additional income to the mother. The mother filed exceptions to the recommendation, and the trial court largely adopted the report but granted her exception regarding the imputation of income and remanded the issue for further consideration. Following subsequent hearings, the magistrate again recommended imputing additional income to the mother, claiming she voluntarily cut her work hours in half and had not shown effort in finding alternative employment. The trial court adopted the report and recommendation. The mother then appealed. Continue reading ›

Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that any property deemed a marital asset will be divided equitably among the parties in a divorce action, while any separate property will remain separate. As such, it is critical that the courts properly characterize all property the parties own to ensure a fair distribution. If a court errs when determining the nature of an asset, the parties may be able to appeal the final judgment of dissolution, as illustrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is wise to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband filed a divorce petition in 2015. During the divorce trial, the main points of contention were the classification of financial accounts owned by the wife and real properties owned by the husband. The trial court issued a final judgment of dissolution of marriage in 2016, ruling that certain financial accounts were partially marital assets and that the classification of the properties was marital. The court did not provide a rationale for its decision.

Allegedly, in March 2022, a hearing was held to determine the non-marital portion of the wife’s financial accounts. The wife stipulated that four accounts were entirely marital, but the parties disagreed on the classification of the fifth account, which was an IRA. After the hearing, the trial court determined that the entire IRA was the wife’s nonmarital asset based on her testimony, the testimony of a certified public accountant, and submitted financial records. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›

In Florida divorce actions, the courts may order one party to pay the other alimony. Generally, the courts will not grant alimony unless the evidence demonstrates both that the party seeking support lacks the financial resources to provide for their basic needs and that the party from whom support is sought has the ability to pay. As such, if either party’s financial situation changes, it may necessitate a modification of the alimony award. In a recent Florida ruling issued in a divorce action, the court explained what constitutes adequate grounds for granting a modification request. If you wish to end your marriage, you should confer with a Miami divorce lawyer about how your decision could impact you financially.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

It is reported that the parties divorced in 2016. Pursuant to the final judgment of divorce, the husband had an obligation to pay durational alimony to the wife. In 2018, the husband sought a modification of the alimony award based on a change in his income, and the court granted his request. His income fluctuated at that time, though, and the evidence suggested different amounts.

Allegedly, in 2020, the husband lost his job and obtained another position with a lower salary. He then filed a second petition for alimony modification, claiming a substantial change in circumstances due to the reduction in his income. The wife argued that his income was lower than he reported and that the reduction was not substantial enough to warrant a modification. The court denied the husband’s petition, and he appealed. Continue reading ›

In Florida divorce actions, the parties will often engage in discovery to gain a better understanding of their separate and marital assets. Such discovery generally must be completed before the parties enter into a marital settlement agreement. There are exceptions to the general rule, however, such as when one party alleges the other fraudulently withheld information regarding their property interests. In a recent Florida ruling, the court discussed when allegations of fraud constitute grounds for permitting post-marital settlement agreement discovery. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is smart to speak to a Miami divorce lawyer about what actions you can take to protect your interests.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the parties, who were in the process of divorcing, entered into a marital settlement agreement (MSA) that addressed alimony, child support, property distribution, and bank accounts, stating that each party would retain 100% interest in the accounts titled under their respective names. The agreement also acknowledged that the parties had legal representation and the opportunity for discovery and waived the right to engage in additional discovery. The parties represented that they had sufficient knowledge of each other’s financial circumstances before executing the MSA.

Allegedly, the court incorporated the MSA into the final dissolution judgment. The wife subsequently moved to set aside the MSA, alleging that the former husband had fraudulently withheld information by opening two undisclosed bank accounts shortly before the MSA was finalized and filed notices of intent to subpoena the two non-party banks involved. The husband objected to the subpoenas, which were overruled. He then appealed. Continue reading ›

When issuing custody orders, the Florida courts’ paramount concern is what is in the best interest of the child. Circumstances can change, however, and an order that was once appropriate may no longer serve a child’s interests. While the courts can modify child custody orders, absent an emergency, they cannot do so without providing notice to both parents, as discussed in a recent ruling issued in a Florida custody case. If you want to know what measures you can take to protect your parental rights, you should speak to a Miami child custody lawyer as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother had a child in 2013. The father’s paternity was subsequently established via a paternity suit. The court issued a parenting plan specifying that the child would primarily live with her mother but would also spend significant time with her father. The court ordered the father to pay child support as well. In 2021, the mother requested the appointment of a parenting coordinator to help resolve disagreements between the parents regarding the child. The father agreed to the appointment. If the coordinator couldn’t resolve the issues, they had the authority to ask the court for a status hearing.

Allegedly, during one of these status conferences, the parenting coordinator requested direction from the court regarding the father’s ability to speak to the child over the telephone. The court then issued an order that placed the child in the temporary custody of the father, prohibited the mother from contacting the child, and modified the timesharing rights and communication requirements established in the final judgment of paternity. The mother was not provided prior notice of these changes. As such, she argued that the court violated her due process rights. She moved for reconsideration, but her motion was denied without a hearing. She then appealed. Continue reading ›

In Florida, the courts may terminate parental rights if they believe a child faces a risk of harm if they remain in the parent’s custody. In some instances, however, the courts may find cause to terminate a parent’s rights even if a child is a newborn, as demonstrated recently in a Florida opinion. If you are at risk of losing your parental rights, it is smart to talk to a Miami child custody lawyer about your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that the mother and the father, who already had two older children, had a third child. However, both older children were placed in out-of-home care due to an ongoing dependency case. The parents had a significant history with the relevant department concerning the well-being of their children. Specifically, the oldest child, when she was six months old, was removed from the parents’ care due to injuries, including a spiral arm fracture, bruising, and soft tissue damage. The parents denied causing these injuries, offering an explanation that medical professionals found implausible. As a result, the oldest child was deemed dependent. The parents’ second child was sheltered shortly after birth, and the parents agreed to the second child’s dependency status.

Allegedly, since being placed in out-of-home care, both older children have remained separated from their parents, as the parents have not fulfilled the necessary conditions for reunification. They are only allowed supervised visitation with their children. The dependency cases for the older children are still ongoing. When the third child was born, the department removed the child from the parents’ care and initiated proceedings to place the child in out-of-home care as well. However, the trial court denied the shelter petition for the third child, stating that although the parents had a history of involvement with the department, there was no imminent harm identified for the third child. The department appealed. Continue reading ›

In Florida, when a couple with minor children divorces, the courts must not only determine the parents’ rights with regard to child support and visitation, but also which parent can make important decisions about how the child will be raised. As explained in a recent Florida ruling, the law dictates that absent evidence that doing so would harm the child in question, the courts must grant equal parental responsibility rights. If you are dealing with a custody dispute, it is wise to talk to a Miami child custody lawyer about what action you can take to safeguard your interests as soon as possible.

Legal Background

It is alleged that in August 2019, the wife initiated legal proceedings to dissolve her marriage. At the time, the couple had two minor children; one is still a minor, while the other has reached the age of majority. In May 2021, the trial court issued a final judgment officially ending the marriage, deferring the resolution of various other matters associated with the dissolution. Subsequently, in 2021, the wife modified her initial petition to request exclusive parental responsibility for the minor child. A consent partial judgment was later reached by both parties and officially sanctioned by the trial court in March 2022. This judgment granted joint parental responsibility.

It is reported that the unresolved issues, primarily involving child support and visitation arrangements, were then brought before the court for trial. The trial court directed both parties to adhere to the previously agreed-upon consent partial judgment and granted joint parental responsibility for the minor child, affirming the shared responsibility aspect of the consent partial judgment. The court also incorporated a comprehensive parenting plan that stipulated shared parental responsibility but granted the wife ultimate decision-making authority concerning the child’s education, academics, and non-emergency healthcare in the event of disagreement between the parties. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›

In any Florida family law case involving a minor child, the court is obligated to rule in the child’s best interest. Thus, if a party fails to demonstrate how or why their requested relief will benefit the child in question, their request will likely be denied. This was illustrated recently in a Florida ruling in which the court reversed a trial court order denying parents’ unopposed request to change the first name of their minor daughter. If you need assistance with a family law matter involving a minor child, you should seek advice from a Miami family law attorney about your options for pursuing your desired outcome.

Factual Backdrop of the Case

It is alleged that the parents of a seventeen-year-old child filed an unopposed petition to change their child’s first name. The trial court denied their motion after which they filed a motion for rehearing. The trial court denied their motion as well, after which they appealed.

Grounds for Granting a Name Change Request

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court’s initial order in which it denied the parents’ petition to change the child’s first name but reversed the second order denying the parents’ motion for rehearing. First, the court explained that it reviews trial court decisions in such matters for abuse of discretion. Continue reading ›

When Florida family courts incorporate marital settlement agreements into final orders of dissolution, they will often retain jurisdiction over any issues that subsequently arise regarding the agreements. In such instances, if a party files an action in a different court, it will most likely be deemed improper. As explained in a recent Florida ruling, though, the improperly filed action should be transferred rather than dismissed. If you intend to seek a divorce, it is in your best interest to speak to a Miami divorce attorney about your options for seeking a just outcome.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the husband and wife divorced. In 2017, the court incorporated their marital settlement agreement, which outlined the distribution of their real property, into their dissolution of marriage. According to the agreement, the wife was to retain possession of certain property and was required to maintain it in good condition. The agreement also required an appraisal of the property and set conditions for refinancing or listing it for sale. If the wife failed to comply with these terms, the husband was entitled to legal and equitable relief, including the right to foreclose on the property. The agreement explicitly reserved jurisdiction to the family court for all future dissolution-related matters.

Reportedly, in July 2020, the husband filed a complaint against the wife in the civil division, alleging that she had not complied with the conditions set in the agreement regarding the subject property. The wife moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the family court had jurisdiction over the matter based on the agreement. The trial court dismissed the case without prejudice, giving the former husband an opportunity to amend his complaint. He refiled his complaint, which was again dismissed, despite the husband’s argument that the case should be transferred to family court. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›