Justia Family Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Florida Supreme Court
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In this action filed by Samuel Levy seeking to compel his former wife, Einath Levy, to comply with the parties' property settlement and support agreement (PSA), the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District Court of Appeal affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Einath's request for prevailing-party attorney's fees pursuant to Fla. Stat. Ann. 57.105(7), holding that section 57.105(7) did not apply to the attorney's fee provision in this case.In 2011, the marriage of Samuel and Einath was dissolved. The judgment incorporated two agreements between the parties, including the PSA. Each agreement included an attorney's fee provision. Later, Samuel filed a motion to compel Einath to comply with the PSA and requested attorney's fees based on the fee provision in the PSA. Einath, in turn, requested attorney's fees for defending the motion. The magistrate concluded that Einath prevailed in defending against the motion but denied her request for fees under the PSA. The Third District reversed in part, concluding that section 57.105(7) required that Einath be awarded attorney's fees. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District, holding that section 57.105(7) did not apply to the attorney's fee provision in this case. View "Levy v. Levy" on Justia Law

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In this certified conflict case, the Supreme Court held that a final judgment that modifies a preexisting parenting plan does not need to give a parent "concrete steps" to restore lost time-sharing and return to the premodification status quo.The parties in this case, the unmarried parents of a minor child, entered into a paternity agreement and parenting plan that was incorporated in a final judgment. Father later filed a petition to modify the parties' original parenting plan. The court entered a final judgment modifying the parenting plan. Mother appealed, arguing that the lower court's order was legally flawed because it lacked "concrete steps" that Mother could work toward to regain her lost timesharing. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court approved the decision below, holding that Mother's arguments in favor of a concrete steps requirement failed. View "C.N. v. I.G.C." on Justia Law

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The biological father has standing to rebut the common law presumption that the mother’s husband is the legal father of a child born to an intact marriage - or the “presumption of legitimacy” - when he has “manifested a substantial and continuing concern” for the welfare of the child. **See Kendrick v. Everheart, 390 So. 2d 53, 61 (Fla. 1980).The biological father (Father) of a child filed a petition to establish paternity, child support, and timesharing. Mother moved to dismiss the action, arguing that it was barred by the common law presumption of legitimacy because she was married at the time of the child’s birth and remained married. The circuit court concluded that it was constrained by Fourth District precedent to dismiss the petition as a matter of law. The Fourth District reversed, concluding that the presumption of legitimacy should not be applied to bar this action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the the presumption of legitimacy does not create an absolute bar to an action by a biological father to establish parental rights when the child’s mother was married at the time of the child’s birth and both she and her husband object to the action. View "Simmonds v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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Where the right to contract has been removed under Fla. Stat. 744.3215(2)(a), the ward is not required to obtain court approval prior to exercising the right to marry, but court approval is necessary before such a marriage can be given legal effect. Under section 744.3215(2)(a), even when a guardianship court does not remove an incapacitated person’s right to marry, the right to marry becomes subject to court approval when his or her right to contract has been removed. At issue was whether court approval must be obtained before the incapacitated person marries. The Supreme Court answered the question certified to it by the Fourth District Court of Appeal by holding (1) any marriage entered into by a ward whose right to contract has been removed without court approval is invalid; but (2) section 744.3215(2)(a) does not prevent the ward or the intended spouse from seeking court approval after marrying in order to ratify the marriage. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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B.R.C.M., an unaccompanied minor from Guatemala, illegally entered the United States at age thirteen and was released to his godmother as a sponsor. Thereafter, a private petition was filed on behalf of B.R.C.M. alleging three grounds for adjudication of dependency under Fla. Stat. 39.01(15). The circuit court denied the petition after a hearing during which the court made no factual findings. The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the summary denial of the petition, concluding that B.R.C.M. was not entitled to the protections of Chapter 39 because he was not “truly” abandoned, abused, or neglected and because his petition was filed for the sole purpose of seeking an immigration status. The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Third District, holding that B.R.C.M.’s private petition for dependency warranted individualized consideration and adjudication rather than summary denial. Remanded. View "B.R.C.M. v. Florida Department of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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Before their marriage, the parties entered into a prenuptial agreement providing that, upon dissolution, each party would retain his or her premarital assets and any appreciation of those assets. Following a twenty-three-year marriage, Wife petitioned for dissolution of marriage. The property dispute in this case resulted from the trial court’s equitable distribution of two pieces of residential real property. In its amended final judgment the trial court concluded that these properties were marital assets. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s determination as to one property but concluded that the trial court erred in finding that Wife had an interest in the other property by virtue of an interspousal gift. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and quashed in part the Fourth District’s decision and reinstated the trial court’s amended final judgment, holding (1) the appropriate standard of review is competent, substantial evidence, and in this case, the Fourth District improperly reweighed the evidence under a preponderance of the evidence standard; and (2) the record contains competent, substantial evidence to support the trial court’s findings that both properties at issue were marital and therefore subject to equitable distribution. View "Hooker v. Hooker" on Justia Law

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Mother and Father were divorced in Colorado. After Father died, Mother and her two minor children moved to Florida. Grandparents subsequently initiated a proceeding in Colorado seeking visitation with the children. Mother filed a separate action in Florida to register the Colorado judgment dissolving her marriage and for a judicial determination that Grandparents had no legal right to timesharing with her children. Colorado then issued a judgment awarding Grandparents visitation with the children (the Colorado order). Thereafter, the Florida court entered a final order registering and domesticating the Colorado order. Mother appealed, arguing that the Colorado order was unenforceable as a matter of Florida law and public policy because it violated “childrearing autonomy.” The court of appeal concluded that the Colorado order was entitled to full faith and credit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Florida was required to enforce the Colorado order despite the fact that entry of a similar judgment by a Florida court under the circumstances presented here would be prohibited by the Florida Constitution. View "Ledoux-Nottingham v. Downs" on Justia Law

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Two and a half months before Child’s eighteenth birthday, a private petition for an adjudication of dependency under Fla. Stat. 39.01(15)(a) and (e) was filed on Child’s behalf. The trial court denied the petition, ruling that Child did not qualify as defendant under section 39.01. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed. Child appealed, arguing that the Fourth District failed to acknowledge section 39.01(15)(e) as a separate basis for a finding of child dependency. The Supreme Court dismissed the case, holding that the issue of whether Child was a dependent child under section 39.01(15)(e) was moot because Child reached majority age in 2015 and could not now be adjudicated a dependent child under Florida law. View "O.I.C.L. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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The Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Mother to her three children. Although Mother conceded that grounds for termination of parental rights had been met, she challenged whether termination was the least restrictive means of protecting the children from harm. The court terminated Mother’s parental rights, concluding that DCF had proven grounds for termination as well as that termination was in the manifest best interest of the children. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the least restrictive means prong enunciated in Padgett v. Dep’t of Heath & Rehab. Servs. does not require the trial court to consider a permanent guardianship, instead of adoption, after the grounds for termination have been established and it has been determined that reunification with the parent would be harmful to the child; and (2) to the extent C.D. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families could be read as prohibiting termination of parental rights if there is any emotional bond between the parent and child and there is another permanency option that would protect the child from harm, the Court disapproves the decision. View "S.M. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

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After Father and Mother were assigned case plans by the Department of Children & Families (DCF) regarding their two children, the children were reunified with Mother. The trial court then terminated supervision by DCF and issued an order limiting the ability of Father to seek future visitation to the discretion of the children. Father sought review, alleging that the trial court denied him due process by terminating DCF supervision without a motion and departed from the essential requirements of the law when it limited his future contact with his children to the sole discretion of the children. The Third District granted Father’s second claim and quashed the trial court’s order to the extent that it limited Father’s contact with the children to the children’s sole discretion. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether a post-dependency order that is subject to future modification for purposes of child welfare and parental visitation is reviewable as a final order by appeal, as an interlocutory order reviewable by appeal, or as a non-final order reviewable by certiorari. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision below, holding that a post-dependency order that is subject to future modification for purposes of child welfare and parental visitation is a non-final order reviewable by certiorari. View "M.M. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law