Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Family Law Procedure

Sometimes even after a Florida parenting plan is entered, problems can arise when the parties disagree as to the interpretation of certain provisions of the plan. Such was the case in Greene v. Greene, 1D17-2120 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) where the disagreement escalated to the point that the police were called multiple times. In some cases, the court can award attorneys’ fees to the offending party, but a certain standard must be met before doing so.

The parties had different interpretations regarding the spring break period in their parenting plan. Threatening text messages were exchanged and the police were called. Ultimately, the court sided with the father’s interpretation of the holiday time-sharing periods, and, finding the mother’s interpretation to be unreasonable, the court awarded attorney’s fees to the father under its inherent power to do so.

The mother appealed, and the appellate court reversed the attorney’s fee award. The court held, “the trial court must make express findings of bad faith conduct, ‘supported by detailed factual findings describing the specific acts of bad faith conduct that resulted in the unnecessary incurrence of attorneys' fees.’ Moakley , 826 So.2d at 227. The finding must also be based on a ‘high degree of specificity in the factual findings.’ Id. The reasons warranting an award of attorney's fees to an opposing party must be directly correlated to the amount of attorney's fees and costs imposed on said opposing party through the specific bad faith conduct. Id.”

Because the trial court found only that the mother’s interpretation of the parenting plan was incorrect and unreasonable, that she sent threatening text messages to the father and that she called the police, the appellate court held, “These findings lack the specificity required for an award of attorney's fees under the inequitable conduct doctrine. Further, the record does not support a finding of bad faith conduct required for such an award.”

If you are experiencing issues with enforcement of your parenting plan, contact a Miami child custody lawyer. A consultation can help you understand whether or not you have a right to file appropriate motions to address issues in your case.