Family Law Case Updates – January 2022

Alimony:

Pringle v. Pringle, 333 So.3d 757 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2022). Trial court erred awarding durational alimony for term that exceeded length of marriage. Judge Jason E. Dimitris, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Appeals:

Fiala v. Fiala, 333 So.3d 215 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Trial court erred using date of separation instead of date of filing for alimony and equitable distribution determinations, but error was harmless when date did not impact decision. Judge Dale C. Cohen, affirmed.

Tolston v. Tolston, 338 So.3d 950 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2021). Appellant could not appeal order on a charging lien or requiring a psychological evaluation without a transcript of the proceedings. Judge Maria Elena Verde, affirmed.

Attorney’s Fees:

Haskell v. Haskell, 333 So.3d 310 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Court erred by significantly cutting hours of attorney’s fees without explanation. Judge Doneene D. Loar, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Schreiber v. Schreiber, 331 So.3d 874 (Fla. 5th DCA 2021). Trial court erred awarding fees where only evidence was expert witness testimony. There was no properly-authenticated fee affidavit nor testimony of any lawyers that did work on the case, nor any timesheets or billing records presented. Judge Mark S. Blechman, reversed.

Enforcement:

Kovic v. Kovic, 336 So.3d 22 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Trial court erred by holding party in contempt for something the final judgment did not expressly provide for. Judge Karen Miller, reversed in part, affirmed in part.

Equitable Distribution:

Goff v. Goff, 331 So.3d 312 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Trial court erred distributing home to husband without any requirement to refinance home within a reasonable time, and include a hold harmless provision in the event property could not be refinanced. Judge G. Keith Cary, reversed.

Bathke v. Costley, 332 So.3d 1076 (Fla. 5th DCA 2021). Trial court erred not considering tax consequences on valuation of business simply because sale of business was not imminent. Judge Tanya Davis Wilson, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Income:

Gillespie v. Holdsworth, 333 So.3d 278 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Trial court erred imputing income without evidence of prevailing earnings level in the community. Even if a parent leaves a job unwisely, ill-advisedly or motivated by frustration or spite, the voluntary nature of her continued unemployment must be shown with proof that she is not making diligent bona fide efforts to obtain employment. Judge Elizabeth V. Krier, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Sunderwirth v. Sunderwirth, 332 So.2d 1087 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Trial court erred imputing stay-at-home mother’s entire deficit as in-kind reimbursement from her fiancé, without any evidence of what fiancé was paying for. Judge Peter Ramsberger, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Injunctions:

Bak v. Bak, 332 So.3d 1122 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Trial court erred not dissolving 22-year old domestic violence injunction based on change of circumstances, when respondent previously sought to dissolve, but was denied because children still lived with petitioner at that time. Children moving out of petitioner’s home is a change of circumstances that should have been a sufficient basis to dissolve injunction against respondent. Judge Fabienne Fahnestock, reversed.

Ahern v. Leon, 332 So.3d 1028 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Respondent cautioning petitioner’s new girlfriend about petitioner was insufficient to support a stalking injunction. Judge Stefanie C. Moon, reversed.

Hasan v. Rivera, 332 So.3d 1023 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Final judgment of stalking injunction reversed when injunction was based on threats of litigation. Unpleasant, uncivil and distasteful communications do not rise to the level required to support a permanent injunction against stalking. Judge Michael G. Kaplan, reversed.

Bell v. Battaglia, 332 So.3d 1094 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Final judgment for injunction against dating violence based on text message sent from paramour to husband’s wife reversed. Text was sent to third-party, not petitioner, and a message alone is not sufficient to establish basis for an injunction. Appeal not moot even though injunction expired because of “collateral consequences.” Long opinion with dissent. Judge Scott Cupp, reversed.

Strober v. Harris, 332 So.3d 1979 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Trial court erred for dismissing a cyberstalking injunction against a Georgia resident for lack of personal jurisdiction. Tortious conduct committed out-of-state is considered to have occurred “within the state” for the purposes of applying the long-arm statute where it involves posting material online about a Florida resident, that is, in fact accessed in the state of Florida. Judge Doneene D. Loar, reversed.

Sutton v. Fowler, 332 So.3d 1001 (Fla. 4th DCA 2021). Trial court erred considering events that were not pled for in the petition, when granting final judgment of stalking petition. Judge James W. McCann, reversed.

Imputation:

Poveromo v. Poveromo, 333 So.3d 309 (Fla. 5th DCA 2022). Trial court erred failing to impute $40,000 income to teacher on erroneous belief that the court could not impute more income than that person ever earned. Judge Luis Fernando Calderon, reversed.

Parenting:

Harrell v. Cook, 333 So.3d 263 (Fla. 1st DCA 2022). Trial court erred by engaging in a prohibited prospective-based analysis, when it ordered a timesharing plan. Court cannot address timesharing on future events. Judge Thomas V. Dannheisser, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Paternity:

Castillo v. Rodriguez, 332 So.3d 1050 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2021). Matter reversed when mother has no basis to seek disestablishment of paternity for child. Judge Marcia Del Rey, reversed.

Procedure:

Rich v. Rich, 337 So.3d 138 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022). Trial court erred granting summary judgment declaring certain assets non-marital when there was a dispute of fact. Trial court erred in disregarding the “dumpster documents,” which were documents obtained from dumpster behind the husband’s forensic accountant’s office, when the authenticity was not challenged. Judge Susan St. John, affirmed in part, reversed in part.  

Merli v. Merli, 332 So.3d 1020 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022). Trial court affirmed for granting wife intestate rights and naming her personal representative when divorce was pending, and marital settlement agreement (MSA) had been signed, and this MSA did not address waiver of death rights.  Judge Mily Rodriguez Powell, affirmed.

Meruelo v. Meruelo, 337 So.3d 429 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2022). Petition for Certiorari review on third-party motion to stay proceeding until motion to disqualify forensic accountant heard. The court did not depart from essential requirements, as there is no law requiring a stay under these circumstances. Judge Ivonne Cuesta, reversed.

In Re: Amendments to Florida Family Laws Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(c), 346 So.3d 1037 (Fla. 2022). Tweaks to child support procedure form. 

Kalke v. Kalke, 332 So.3d 1068 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2021). Trial court affirmed for denying motion for continuance after party’s third attorney withdrew, with order granting withdrawal stated trial will proceed as set. Judge Cynthia Newtown, affirmed.

Smith v. Short, 332 So.2d 1064 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2021). Injunction issued as a result of former husband violating a non-disparagement clause concerning former wife’s business was overbroad when it precluded former husband from posting anything on social media, no matter what it concerns, and removing all previous social media posts, no matter what they concern. Injunction must be narrowly-tailored to balance the desire to protect the person seeking the injunction, with the need to safeguard the first amendment rights of the person whose activities are being restricted. Judge John S. Carlin, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Relocation:

Mignott v. Mignott, 337 So.3d 408 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2021). Trial court erred granting relocation based on fact father had plane tickets to travel the following morning with child. Trial court failed to consider all statutory factors required in Fla. Stat. §61.13001(7). Judge Bernard S. Shapiro, reversed.


Eddie Stephens (Author)

Eddie Stephens, a sixth generation Floridian, is a partner in Stephens & Stevens, PLLC. Eddie is a Board Certified Family Law Attorney who specializes in high-conflict matrimonial law. He has earned the AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating by MartindaleHubbell, a professional rating indicating the highest ethical standards and professional ability.

With 25 years of litigation experience, Eddie specializes in high-conflict, high-asset divorce cases. Eddie focuses on helping clients with domestic legal issues such as property division, business valuation, child support and spousal support, child custody and visitation, post-judgment modifications, child relocation, same sex marriages, and both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

As a divorced father of two children, Eddie knows first hand what’s at stake when counseling his clients. Eddie currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Center for Child Counseling, Inc. and Board of Governors of Leadership Palm Beach County.

Eddie is a past recipient of the Family Law Section Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award (2017), the Leadership Palm Beach County Leadership Excellence Award (2018) and most recently, the Families First of Palm Beach 2019 Harriet Goldstein Awardee (2019).

In addition to practicing family law, Eddie is an author, lecturer, and community leader who supports a number of local civic and charitable organizations. His hobbies include Jiu Jitsu, cooking, yoga, and spending time with his family. Eddie is happily married to Jacquie and has two children, Christopher and Matthew, and they all call Palm Beach, Florida home.

Caryn A. Stevens (Editor)

Caryn A. Stevens is a Partner at the law firm of Stephens & Stevens, PLLC 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 had the unique opportunity to assist thousands of children, families and couples through difficult life circumstances, which allows her to bring a unique and compassionate perspective to the clients she represents. Caryn is a passionate advocate for her clients, and a skilled litigator in the courtroom.

In 2021, Caryn was honored with the prestigious Alberto Romero Making a Difference Award from the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, recognizing her outstanding pro bono services and significant volunteer community activities that improve the lives of Florida’s children and families. Caryn is currently the President of the Susan Greenberg Family Law Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches, is a graduate of the Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2019, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Herizon (formerly The Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches). Caryn has also served as mentor with the Women of Tomorrow Program for the past four years, mentoring at-risk high school women to live up to their full potential.

Caryn is a native South Floridian, and currently lives in Palm Beach County with her Husband, David, and their adorable Mini Aussie, Emma. She is a passionate fan of the Florida State Seminoles, and in her spare time loves going to the theater and traveling the world.

Gina Szapucki (Associate Editor)

Gina Szapucki concentrates her practice exclusively in the areas of marital family law. Gina quickly realized she had a passion for helping families while clerking for a family law firm. Her passionate drive to assist and guide families, both efficiently and effectively, during challenging times continues to grow. Gina represents clients from all walks of life while zealously advocating for individual’s rights under Florida law. Gina is originally from New Jersey but has called Florida home for the last 15 years. She is a proud Chi Omega Alumni and in her spare time enjoys traveling, cycling, exploring new restaurants and cuisines, and spending time with family.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: