Articles Posted in Family Law

by
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

by
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

Posted in: Family Law

by
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

by
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

Posted in: Family Law

by
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

Posted in: Family Law

by
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

by
During a dissolution of marriage proceeding, Wife filed a motion for contempt for Husband’s failure to deliver one of the couple’s dogs into her custody. The trial court issued an order directing Husband to appear. Husband did not appear for the hearing on the motion for contempt. The trial court held Husband in civil contempt for failing to transfer the dog and ordered him to comply with the order. Husband still did not transfer the dog, and another motion for contempt was filed. Husband was not present at a subsequent hearing on the motion. The trial court held Respondent in civil contempt for failing to appear and also held him in criminal contempt. During the appeal of the criminal contempt order, the State recommended that the failure to appear in court be treated as indirect, rather than direct, criminal attempt. The Court of Appeal concluded that direct criminal contempt applied but reversed the conviction based on insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court approved the Court of Appeal’s decision to the extent that it reversed the conviction but held that direct criminal contempt did not apply to this case because when a failure to appear results in criminal contempt proceedings, a charge of indirect criminal contempt is applicable. View "State v. de la Portilla" on Justia Law

by
Before they married, Dianne and Harry Hahamovitch entered into a prenuptial agreement. The two remained married for twenty-two years. In 2008, the parties filed for dissolution of marriage. The trial court concluded that the prenuptial agreement was valid. The court of appeal upheld the conclusion and concluded that the language of the agreement was broad enough to waive Dianne’s right to any asset titled in Harry’s name that was acquired during the marriage or that appreciated in value due to marital income or efforts during the marriage. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal’s decision, holding that, where a prenuptial agreement provides that neither spouse will ever claim any interest in the other’s property, states that each spouse shall be the sole owner of property purchased or acquired in his or her name, and contains language purporting to waive and release all rights and claims that a spouse may be entitled to as a result of the marriage, those provisions serve to waive a spouse’s right to any share of assets titled in the other spouse’s name, even if those assets were acquired during the marriage or appreciated in value during the marriage due to the parties’ marital efforts. View "Hahamovitch v. Hahamovitch" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

by
After an adjudicatory hearing, the trial court entered judgment terminating Mother’s parental rights to her child. Mother appealed, alleging ten claims of ineffective assistance of counsel regarding her counsel’s performance in the termination of parental rights (TPR) proceedings. The district court of appeal applied the Washington v. Strickland standard to Mother’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims and affirmed the order terminating Mother’s parental rights. The district court subsequently certified two questions regarding the right to effective counsel in TPR proceedings and vindication of that right. In its opinion, the Supreme Court established the appropriate standard for determining whether counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance in termination of parental rights proceedings and directing the development of rules providing the procedure for vindicating a parent’s constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel in TPR proceedings. The Court then affirmed in this case, holding that Mother failed to present any basis for setting aside the order terminating her parental rights. View "J.B. v. Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was the evidentiary standard of proof that applies in an initial license application proceeding under Florida’s Administrative Procedure Act. In 2011, a family day care licensed under Fla. Stat. 402.313 submitted an initial application for a large family child care home license under Fla. Stat. 402.3131. An administrative law judge (ALJ) recommended that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) grant a provisional large family child care license. DCF rejected the ALJ’s recommendation and denied the day care’s application for a large family child care home license. In so doing, DCF rejected the ALJ’s conclusion of law that the clear and convincing evidence standard applied to the denial of the day care’s initial license application, instead concluding that it needed only to produce competent substantial evidence of its stated reasons for denying the application. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for DCF to enter a final order adopting the ALJ’s recommendation, concluding that the clear and convincing evidence standard applied. The Court quashed the Second District’s decision, holding that the preponderance of the evidence standard applied in this initial license application proceeding. View "Fla. Dep’t of Children & Families v. Davis Family Daycare Home" on Justia Law