Stephens’ Squibs – March 2020

Edited by Caryn A. Stevens, Esquire

Agreements:

Romaine v. Romaine, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D558 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020).  Hand written notes on a settlement agreement that change essential terms, constituted a counter offer that must be accepted by original party.

Law v. Law, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D503 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred interpreting a “hold harmless” provision as a “prevailing party fee” provision.  The term “hold harmless” means to fully compensate the indemnitee for all losses and expenses.  A duty to indemnify is enforceable regardless of whether the indemnitee prevails or not.

Appeals:

Eaton v. Eaton, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D674 (Fla. 1st DCA 2020).  Rehearing required when judge’s ruling is different than oral pronouncement to preserve appeal.  Distinguished from Fox, which eliminates necessity to file rehearing when Court fails to make a required statutory finding.

Sitaram v. Alley, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D660 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020).  Order on enforcement does not revive 30-day appeal period on underlying order.

A.J.S. v. E.D.E., 45 Fla.L.Weekly D567 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Award of entitlement to attorney’s fees, but not amount of fees, is not final order subject to appeal.

Attorney’s Fees:

Christensen v. Christensen, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D520 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred denying Wife’s claim for attorney’s fees without explanation, when prenuptial agreement provided that prevailing party gets fees, and Wife was prevailing party in this matter.

Zhou v. Chen and Liu, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D509 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Order sanctioning attorney $1,856 for missing a trial due to a conflict reversed, when no express finding of bad faith was made.

Bentrim v. Bentrim, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D485 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Order denying fees remanded for findings of fact sufficient to permit appellate review.

Enforcement:

Wolf v. Wolf, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D622 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Modification of timesharing is prohibited as a sanction for a parent found in contempt of custody order.  To be held in contempt, order must be “clear and precise” and person’s conduct must be in clear violation of the order.

Biss v. Biss, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D567 (Fla. 5th  DCA 2020).  Trial court reversed for sanctioning party for claiming child as dependent on taxes, by allowing wife to claim all children as dependents for next four years.  If compensation is intended, the sanction imposed must be based on evidence of the injured party’s actual loss.

Equitable Distribution:

Marconi v. Erturk, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D639 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Trial court erred in refusing to fashion an equitable distribution scheme, even though it had sufficient evidence to do so.

Diaz v. Diaz, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D600 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred in allowing unequal distribution.  Concept of special equity has been abolished.

Sager v. Sager, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D539 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Trial court affirmed for allowing unequal distribution, but remanded for failing to value marital residence and percentage to be apportioned.

Nathey v. Nathey, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D420 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred classifying a residence which husband bought and financed before the marriage, as a marital asset.

Income:

Brown v. Norwood, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D471 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020).  Trial court erred by imputing husband’s gross receipts as his income.  While husband was not credible on one issue, court cannot disregard other legitimate business expenses that would otherwise be a proper deduction.

Injunctions:

Stanlick v. Stanlick, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D581 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred allowing petitioner to testify about allegations not contained within the petition for injunction.

Boucher v. Warren, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D491 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Denial of injunction reversed and remanded when only evidence presented was uncontroverted, there was no findings on petitioner’s lack of credibility, and evidence supported the entry of injunction.

Hobbs v. Hobbs, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D452 (Fla. 1st DCA 2020).  Order denying motion to dissolve injunction reversed, because injunction entered 20 years ago continues to serve no valid purpose.  Strong dissent.

Afanasiev v. Alvarez, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D442 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020). Trial court reversed for granting exclusive use & possession and a “stay away” order in family case, when only matter noticed for hearing was on domestic violence injunction.

Life Insurance:

Sager v. Sager, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D539 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Order requiring life insurance reversed when no findings as to cost or availability.

Modification:

Judy v. Judy, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D501 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Wife who was unemployed at time settlement agreement was signed, and was awarded agreed-upon durational alimony,  such could not be modified later by imputing income to the wife as that would not be a change in circumstance.

Parenting:

Booth n/k/a Williams v. Hicks, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D615 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred granting relief not requested in pleading, awarding all timesharing to Father because Mother missed final hearing, and denying mother’s motion for rehearing, which prevented her from presenting evidence on best interest of child.

Socol v. Socol, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D482 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Utilizing the best interest of the child standard does not obviate the necessity of a specific finding that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child before awarding sole parental responsibility to a parent.

Procedure:

Edkin v. Edkin., 45 Fla.L.Weekly D661 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020).  Trial court erred awarding rotating timesharing of minor child, when relief was not sought in pleadings.

Ramirez v. Ramirez., 45 Fla.L.Weekly D640 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Trial court erred awarding sole parental responsibility when it was not requested in the pleadings.

Pernetti v. Pernetti, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D446 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Trial court’s order incarcerating wife for weekend for indirect contempt, reversed when incarceration based on husband’s unverified motion and wife was not afforded a hearing to respond.

Rufin v. Borga, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D424 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Award of $3,900 as a sanction against attorney for bad faith conduct, reversed when matter was not noticed and therefore sanctioned attorney was deprived opportunity to be heard.


Eddie Stephens is a partner at Ward Damon and leads the Family and Marital Law department.  He is a Board Certified Family Law attorney who specializes in high-conflict divorces. Most important to Stephens is litigating in a manner that minimizes the impact of divorce on children.

Caryn A. Stevens is a Partner at the law firm of Ward Damon in West Palm Beach, where she focuses her practice exclusively in the areas of marital and family law. Prior to practicing law,   Caryn spent over 12 years working in the mental health and counseling fields, as a mental health counselor in private practice, as a counselor for the Department of Children & Families, and later as an Elementary School Guidance Counselor. Caryn is a graduate of Florida State University, where she earned her Bachelors degree in Psychology, and her Masters and Specialist Degrees in Counseling & Human Services. Caryn received her Juris Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University, and received pro bono honors for her volunteer legal work. In her prior work as a mental health counselor, Caryn has had the unique opportunity to assist thousands of children, families and couples through difficult life circumstances, which allow her to bring a unique and compassionate perspective to the clients she represents currently. Caryn is a current member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section, where she serves on the Children’s Issues Committee and the Domestic Violence Committee. Caryn also serves as the Treasurer of the Susan Greenberg Family Law Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches, and is a graduate of the Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2019. Caryn is a native South Floridian, and currently lives in Palm Beach County with her Husband, and their adorable Mini Aussie.

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