When going through a divorce, some people desire to resolve the case as quickly as possible. Sometimes, though, it may be necessary, in order to obtain a truly fair and just outcome, to ask the court to put off ruling in your case. One recent case from southwestern Florida highlights a set of circumstances in which a wife needed additional time to obtain evidence about her husband’s business, and the denial of her continuance request created an injustice for her that required the Second District Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling.
The case, as some divorce matters are, was lengthy and contentious. Both the husband and the wife “engaged in dilatory tactics,” according to the court. With these delaying tactics and multiple changes of counsel, the case took six years to reach a final judgment. Even that wasn’t completely final, since the court had bifurcated the case and reserved for a later ruling issues related to equitable distribution and alimony, among other things.
The court ordered a forensic accounting to facilitate a ruling on equitable distribution and alimony. This part of the case also dragged on for years, and, in the summer of 2014, less than two months away from the final hearing, the wife asked for a continuance of the case. The crux of her argument was that the husband still had not, as ordered by the court, turned over his business records to be included in the forensic accounting. These records, according to the accountant retained by the wife, were essential. Nevertheless, the trial court denied the wife’s continuance request.
The wife later appealed the denial of her continuance request, and she won. While the law gives a trial court considerable discretion in granting or denying continuances, reversals can occur in situations when “the denial of a motion for continuance creates an injustice for the” party who sought it.
While expressing sympathy for the “trial court’s difficult task” of managing this litigation, the circumstances of this denied continuance demonstrated exactly the sort of injustice that required reversal. The wife sought continuance because a complete forensic accounting (including the husband’s business) had never been performed. The failure to complete this accounting was in no way due to the wife’s conduct; it was solely the result of the husband’s conduct, according to the court. The damage to the wife’s case was clear. Without this accounting evidence, the wife had no proof of the husband’s ability to pay alimony. In the absence of this proof, the court awarded the wife $0 in alimony, even though the marriage was a long-term one that had lasted 27 years.
Your case for a continuance is even stronger if you can persuade the court that the continuance will not harm the other side. In this case, the appeals court concluded that, “other than a delay and the possible expenditure of attorney fees, there is no real prejudice to the Former Husband,” which further enhanced the wife’s argument that she should have received the continuance she requested.
There are lots of “moving pieces” to manage in a divorce case. In addition to handling all of the different types of evidence needed to support each part of your case, there is also the management of the procedural side of your case. The South Florida equitable distribution attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have spent many years handling divorce cases of all sizes and durations. Our attorneys have the skill and knowledge needed to manage each aspect of your case and help you pursue your desired outcome. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Transferring Homes into Trusts and the Impact on Your Florida Divorce and Equitable Distribution, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 20, 2016
Equitable Distribution in Florida and a Non-Marital Asset Maintained or Improved Using Marital Assets, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 7, 2016