Stephens’ Squibs – August 2016

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Agreements:

Richardson v. Knight, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1735 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Generally, an agreement announced in open court is an enforceable agreement.  However, Judge must obtain clear and unequivocal assent to agreement by sworn testimony.

Alimony:

Dickson v. Dickson, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1807 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Trial court erred as a matter of law by awarding Wife bridge-the-gap as opposed to permanent alimony in a 19 year marriage because the Wife was 42 years old.  There is a rebuttable presumption in favor of permanent alimony in a long term marriage.  Neither age or a spouse’s ability to earn some income alone rebuts that presumption.  A spouse’s age is not a valid basis to deny permanent alimony absent evidence that the spouse’s youth would allow her to earn income sufficient to support a life style consistent with that enjoyed during the marriage.

Jordan v. Jordan, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1792 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Trial court erred by awarding permanent alimony but failing to make requisite finding no other form of alimony would be fair or reasonable.  Reversed and remanded for this finding “which the trial court will no doubt make”.

Appeals:

Ketcher v. Ketcher, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1929 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).  Trial court exceeded mandate when it changed alimony from permanent to durational when mandate instructed court or reconsideration of amount only.

Attorneys’ Fees:

Palmer v. Palmer, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1825 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).  Trial Court reversed for denying fees incurred after Wife rejected a reasonable settlement offer.  Rosen does not provide as a general rule that rejections to offers to settle are sole reason for limiting fees in family actions.

Enforcement:

Rieder v. Rieder, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1899 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2016).  Trial court erred granting injunctive relief that was not requested in motion for contempt.

Equitable Distribution:

Buckalew v. Bucakalew, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1750 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Trial court erred adopting general magistrate’s report that did not include values for assets and liabilities in property distribution.

Injunctions:

Austin v. Echemendia, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1912 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Act of stalking does constitute act of violence under repeat violence injunction.

DCF v. J.D., 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1822 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016).  Trial court erred dismissing injunction against sexual violence filed by DOR because trial court mistakenly thought court had no jurisdiction because no dependency had been filed.

Hall v. Lopez, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1763 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).  Trial court erred when it concluded 57.105 fees were prohibited in an injunction case by 784.066.  Conflicts with Ratigan, 947 So.2d 607 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2007), Cisners, 831 So.2d 256 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2002) and Dudley, 936 So.2d 297 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007).  Conflict certified.

Insurance:

Palmer v. Palmer, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1869 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016).  Error to require support be protected by life insurance without evidence of special circumstances.

Procedure:

Beckford v. Drogan, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1835 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).  Trial court properly concluded Father could file paternity action in county where he resides but erred in not considering whether it would be more convenient where Wife and child lives.

Manubens v. Manubens, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1933 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016).  Trial court erred granting psychological evaluation without finding mental health in controversy and whether there was good cause for examination.  Order of examination was also too broad.

Jackson v. Jackson, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1777 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016).  Final judgment reversed and remanded when court reporter committee suicide after 3 days of final hearing, stenographic equipment could not be recovered and record could not be otherwise reconstructed.  Lack of records was not due to appellant’s lack of diligence in obtaining  court reporter or promptly requesting a transcription.

Wilkinson v. Wilkinson, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1766 (Fla. 5th DCA 2016).  Trial court abused discretion when it adopted wife’s proposed judgment word for word which contained mathematical errors and conflicted with oral findings as trial court did not exercise its independent judgment.

Support:

Loza v. Marin, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1877 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2016).  Party seeking to extend child support past child’s majority must file before child reaches majority.

Gross v. Zimmerman, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1836 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016). Burden to proof prove support deviation is on person requesting deviation.

Duggan v. DOR ex rel Huff, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1812 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).  Error to base retroactive support on current income as opposed to actual income during retroactive period.

DOR v. Llamas & Duque, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1810 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).  Trial court affirmed for not setting child support when Father was about to go to jail.  Conflicts with McCall v. Martin, 34 So.3d 121 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010).  Conflict certified.

DOR v. Nunez, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1809 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016). Low income is not a sufficient basis for deviating from the statutory guideline amount because a party’s earnings are already taken into consideration when calculating the guideline child support obligation of the party.

Adkins v. Sotolongo, 41 Fla.L.Weekly D1780 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2016).  Trial court cannot divert a portion of wife’s child support for payment of guardian ad litem fees.

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Eddie Stephens is a partner in Ward Damon located in West Palm Beach, FL. Mr. Stephens was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1997 and is Board Certified in Family and Marital Law.  After starting his career as an attorney for the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, Stephens has developed a successful family law practice focused on highly disputed divorces. Through hundreds of hearings and dozens of trials, Stephens has honed his practice by making straightforward arguments that bring opposing sides closer together in order to find a successful resolution.

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