Procedural Deadline Rules and How They Can Make or Break Your Florida Family Law Case

A well-worn catch-phrase opines that “timing is everything.” In the law, timing isn’t necessarily everything, but sometimes it can be the only thing that matters. Failing to follow precisely the rules of procedure and the time limits they impose upon you can have dire consequences. A South Florida case involving a couple of Ecuadorean citizens, who lived most of their married life in that country, provides a prime example of this concept.

The husband and wife in this case married in Miami in 1991 while here on a business trip. After the end of their trip, the newlyweds returned to their home in Ecuador, where they were citizens. They continued to live as a married couple in that country for more than two decades. In 2013, however, the husband left the marital home.

In the summer of 2014, the wife flew to Miami and filed a “Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage,” which is permitted by Section 61.09 of the Florida Statutes. That statute says that, if a person who has the ability to contribute to the maintenance of their spouse fails to do so, the spouse not receiving support can file an action for alimony without having to file for a divorce. In this case, however, the wife eventually amended to pursue both alimony and a divorce.

The husband asked the court to dismiss the case on the basis of forum non conveniens. That’s a Latin phrase that means, basically, that another court in another jurisdiction is in a better position to adjudicate the case. In this case, the husband contended that the case would be better litigated in the Ecuadorean courts than in Florida.

The wife contested the husband’s forum argument on a procedural basis. She argued that, regardless of the merits of the husband’s forum non conveniens arguments, the court should reject the husband’s dismissal request because he waited too long to file it. Specifically, Florida law says that, once you’ve been served in the underlying case, you only have 60 days to make motions like a motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens. In this case, the husband was personally served on Aug. 13, 2014. He first raised his forum argument on July 20, 2015. That would place his forum argument more than nine months after the deadline expired.

The trial court sided with the wife, and, after an appeal by the husband, so did the appeals court. The husband tried unsuccessfully to argue that the 60-day deadline period shouldn’t apply to his case. In ruling against the husband, the appeals court pointed to a ruling it made in 2004, in which the court stated that “a motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens shall be served no later than 60 days after service of process” and that the “Rule provides no exception.”

In your family law case, you need to have facts favorable to your case and law that is favorable to your case. But those aren’t everything. You also have to make sure that you are complying with all of the procedural rules so that your case isn’t tripped up by an unmet procedural requirement. For diligent and reliable representation, talk to the experienced South Florida alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A., who have spent many years representing clients as they pursue the outcomes they need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Lump-Sum Alimony in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 5, 2017

Appropriate Alimony Awards and the Length of Your Marriage, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 10, 2014