Family Court Appeal

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

I was talking to my receptionist the other day and we got on the subject of appealing a family law case. During our discussion it came to my attention that while appealing the decision of a family court judge is an option it is not widely known that this is available. If you feel that the court gave you a ruling you did not deserve, you have the right to contest its decision. These appeals address mistakes or misapplications of law and are available in 4 circumstances:

1. If a General Magistrate heard your case, you can file a Notice of Exception to the Report and Recommendation of a General Magistrate. When you file this objection, your case will be scheduled for a hearing by a Circuit Court Judge. The objection must be filed in 10 days.

2. If your case was determined by a divorce court, you can file a “Motion for Rehearing.” The motion must be filed immediately after the decision and can be declined by the judge.

3. A standard appeal to the District Court of Appeals can be filed within 30 days of the original court order. In this sort of appeal you must show that the trial court judge did not properly follow divorce law but you are not allowed to admit any new evidence.

4. If more than 30 days has passed since the court order was handed down, your only option is a “Motion for Relief from Judgment.” This is a very difficult form of appeal to succeed at and often requires proof that fraud was perpetrated against the court by your former spouse. For example your former spouse lied about their assets.

In all these types of cases, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you didn’t like a judge’s decision. You must be able to show that some sort of wrongdoing or error occurred. It can be a legal mistake by the judge or concealment of facts or assets by your spouse. If newly discovered facts could alter a judgment, that could be grounds for an appeal also.

I hope this introduction to appeals of decision by family law courts in Florida is helpful. Appeals may also be used in child custody decisions as well as divorce decisions. I believe the appeals process is underused and is a very useful tool in making sure your family rights are protected.

Environmental Law Update

Monday, August 5th, 2013

On June 25, 2013, the United States Supreme Court reversed and remanded the decision of the Supreme Court of Florida, and sided with the late Coy Koontz who attempted to develop on three acres of a 15 acre parcel of property in Orange County, Florida.  This decision supports private property interests and limits just how far government can go in the regulation of private property.

The 5th Amendment protects landowners from government extortion.  Koontz was told by the St. Johns River Water Management District that he could build on his property only if he reduced the size of his development or agreed to pay to restore a designated wetland area on a parcel of agency property that was located seven miles from the Koontz property.

Koontz refused and sued the District where the Circuit Court awarded him $376,154 for a temporary taking of his property.  This decision was upheld in the 5th District Court of Appeals, but then two years later the Florida Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Circuit Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has now decided that a legal test to determine if such government action amounts to an unconstitutional taking must be applied even where the government denies a permit.  This differs from the previous legal test where a government action could be only be considered a taking where the government entity demanded money or aimed to take possession of the property.

What this means to property owners in Florida and beyond is that agencies will now be required to demonstrate a clear connection between the proposed impacts to a particular property and the compensation or mitigation that is being required.   Considering the amount of permits required of property owners throughout the state of Florida, there is no doubt that this ruling will impact millions of Floridians and alter the way that governmental agencies such as the water management districts and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approach permitting decisions.

So for now, supporters of stronger property rights and stricter limitations on governmental regulation may rejoice in this ruling.  However, because this case was remanded, it will go back to the Florida Supreme Court for a rehearing.