Family Law Case Updates – January 2023

Congratulations Caryn A. Stevens for being recognized as the 2023 HERIZON Rising Star Award Recipient

Attorney’s Fees:

Jessup v. Werner, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D55 (Fla. 1st DCA 2022). All paternity issues affirmed, except fees. Paternity is different then dissolution. If mother borrows money for her fees, that should be considered as financial resource of party when considering need. However, because amount of fees not adjudicated, it is not yet ripe for appellate review. Judge John T. Brown affirmed.

McArdle v. McArdle, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D118 (Fla. 4th DCA 2023). Trial court reversed for holding former husband solely to basis actually pled for fees in his motion. Even if party pleads incorrect basis for fees as was the case here—does not matter—as long as fees are plead for generally, party on notice. Judge Scott Kerner reversed.

Nunez v. Raona, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D49 (Fla. 5th DCA 2022).  Because the trial court order awarding attorney’s fees did not quantify the amount of the award, the appellate court lacks jurisdiction to review order.  Appeal dismissed.

Ramakrishnan v. Ramakrishnan, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D49 (Fla. 5th DCA 2022).  Order that awards entitlement to fees, but not amount of fees, not ripe for appellate review.  Appeal dismissed.


T.W. v. T.H.,48 Fla.L.Weekly D174 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2023). Former husband could not be held in contempt for failing to pay educational expense that was previously found to be an extracurricular expense. If an order is not clear and unambiguous regarding what a party may or may not do, or what party must do or must not do, then it cannot support finding it was intentionally violated. Judge Teri Kaklis Dees affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Equitable Distribution:

Sakow v. Blaylock, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D52 (Fla.1st DCA 2022). Trial court erred failing to grant former wife value of former husband’s retirement survivor benefits, after former husband violated numerous court orders requiring former husband to list former wife as survivor beneficiary. A trial court may fashion remedy, including lump sum payment of retirement & survivor benefits. Further, former wife’s expert’s use of social security life expectancy calculator did not render estimation of value of benefits speculative. Judge Dawn Caloca-Johnson reversed.

Cupo v. Cupo, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D13 (Fla. 4th DCA 2022).  Military pension earned during the marriage must be included in equitable distribution, even if Court is not presented value of plan in dollars. Court can still distribute pension based on percentage.  Judge Frank D. Ledee reversed.


Varchetti v. Varchetti, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D165 (Fla. 4th DCA 2023). Trial court erred failing to classify periodic payments awarded to former wife in Michigan divorce when determining income for child support modification, as uniform support order clearly classified these payments as alimony. Court also erred failing to impute former wife’s recent income earned as income in the calculations. Also, agreement said each party would pay their own future fees. Dissent on this issue.  Judge Janet Croom affirmed in part, reversed in part.


Fingers v. Fingers, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D183 (Fla. 5th DCA 2023). Threats from over one (1) year ago are too remote to establish imminent harm necessary for entry of domestic violence injunction, if there are no other allegations of current violence. Judge Sandra C. Upchurch reversed.


R.B. v. B.T., 48 Fla.L.Weekly D141 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2023). Trial court erred by denying father’s petition to modify support based on relying on unpled, unbiased and unargued “unclean hands” defense. Judge Wesley D. Tibbals reversed.


N.B. v. R.V., 48 Fla.L.Weekly D150 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2023). Trial court affirmed when providing for change in timesharing when child reaches kindergarten. Distinguishes Arthur, 54 So. 3d 454 (Fla. 2020), because here court applied child’s best interest at time of final hearing to an event that is reasonably and objectively certain to occur at an identifiable time in the future. Judge Kelly A. Ayers affirmed.


Childs v. Cruz-Childs, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D34 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2022).  Trial court properly ordered psychological evaluation when party’s mental condition was “in controversy,” and Court found “good cause,” but Court erred by failing to specify the time, place, manner, conditions, scope of evaluation, and person to whom it is made.  Open-ended orders that fail to provide specific directives regarding psychological evaluations depart from the essential requirements of law.  Judge Jared E. Smith affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Crane v. Harrison Crane, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D130 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2023). Trial court affirmed for granting psych evaluation after finding party’s mental health was at issue and good cause existed. Fact that social investigation was ordered days after motion was filed did not create irreparable harm necessary for writ of certiorari. Judge Christina Marie DiRaimondo affirmed.

Fendrich v. Murphy, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D164 (Fla. 4th DCA 2023). Trial court erred failing to accept parole evidence, when MSA required parties to divide child’s college expenses. A party seeking to introduce parole evidence must first establish a contract term is ambiguous, meaning the term is rationally susceptible to more than one construction. A latent ambiguity exists where contract’s language is understandable, but fails to specify party’s rights or duties. A court must hear parole evidence if latent ambiguity exists. Judge Renatha Frances reversed.

Lanigan v. Lanigan, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D167 (Fla. 4th DCA 2023). Trial court reversed for freezing proceeds. This is akin to injunctive relief and requires: (1) irreparable harm, (2) no adequate  remedy available, (3) substantial likelihood of success on merits and (4) injunction would serve public interest. Judge Michael Davis affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Periannan v. Kuppusamy, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D144 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2023). Trial court affirmed on all issues, but matter remanded back for court to include exhibit “C” to fix scrivener’s error of missing attachment. Judge Jennifer X. Gabbard affirmed.


Lojares v. Silva, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D105 (Fla. 1st DCA 2023). Unwed mother did not need to request relocation prior to paternity action being instituted. Judge Robert K. Groeb reversed.


Funderburk v. Ricenbaw, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D112  (Fla. 2nd DCA 2023). Trial court erred failing to modify support based on MSA that provided child support will never fall below $2,000 per child. Any change of circumstances in father’s ability to provide, or change in child’s need, would justify modification not withstanding provisions in MSA or final decree. Judge Denise A. Pomponio affirmed in past, reversed in part.

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