Family Law Case Updates – April 2020

Edited by Caryn A. Stevens, Esquire


Russell v. Russell, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D838 (Fla. 1st DCA 2020).  Where an error by the Court appears for the first time on the final order, a party must alert the court of the error to preserve for appeal.

Ruozzi v. Wulff, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D825 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Order adopting magistrate’s report that provides that a money judgment will enter is a non-final order not subject to appeal.

Attorney’s Fees:

McVety v. McVety, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D842 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred awarding $45,000 in accountant fees, when parties stipulated $28,000 was reasonable.

Johansson v. Johansson, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D780 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Order of attorney’s fees reversed when Court found party assessed with fees lacked ability to pay.  As a general rule, attorney’s fees may be awarded as a sanction on contempt proceedings without a finding of need or ability, but this is not the case in this matter.


Acosta v. In Re: Guardianship of Acosta, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D702 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).   Party cannot be sanctioned for violating a court directive or order which is not clear and definite how the party is to comply with the Court’s command.  It is also an “essential element of contempt” that there be an “intent to violate the relevant Court order.”


Perrault v. Engle, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D857 (Fla. 4th DCA 2020).  Injunction based on child hearsay reversed.  Detailed discussion of child hearsay exception (F.S. 90.803(23)).


Toler v. Pray, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D790 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Stalking injunction reversed and remanded when Respondent denied opportunity to cross-examine petitioner.  To satisfy due process requirements, parties must have reasonable opportunity to prove or disprove allegations in complaint.

Yehezkel v. Yehezkel, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D875 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Generally, multiple acts of violence stemming from a single violent incident do not qualify as “repeat violence” unless separated by time or distance.


Befanis v. Befanis, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D921 (Fla. 5th DCA 2020).  Order denying modification of alimony upon retirement reversed.  Contemplated does not mean “know about”.  Rather, contemplation means the parties considered the consequences of the agreement in their agreement.


Martinez-Noda v. Pascual, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D751 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Court reversed for refusing to conduct hearing to determine if party was entitled to credits for paying mortgage and taxes prior to partition.


Nishman v. Stein, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D907 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Parties cannot contractually waive temporary attorney’s fees in a paternity action.


Fagen v. Fagen, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D904 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Order requiring former husband to produce discovery in connection with former wife’s request for fees in her 12.540 motion, which had been pending for five years, was quashed.  Under these circumstances, discovery would be premature and Court should wait until underlying motion is resolved on its merits.

Singer v. Singer, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D901 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Trial court erred not allowing Wife to reopen evidence when she was imputed $20,000 in gift income from her Father and boyfriend, who both died right after the final hearing.

Laulerbach v. Laulerbach, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D848 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2020).  Client’s complete absence from State of Florida for 6 months prior to filing, even for health reasons, was dispositive on finding she did not meet residency requirements.

Robinson v. Christiansen, 45 Fla.L.Weekly D702 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2020).  Court affirmed for finding Wife did not meet Florida’s residency requirement and dismissing divorce.

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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