Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Procedure

The case Seligsohn v. Seligsohn, 4D17-2411 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018) provides an example of a case in which many issues can explode from one final judgment. In this matter, the former wife appealed the following issues meriting discussion: (1) the court’s decision to force a sale of homesteaded property to satisfy debt owed to a guardian ad litem; (2) the court’s decision to award ultimate decision making authority to the former husband over the parties’ children; and (3) the court’s order for the wife to attend parenting courses.

In what appeared to be contentious litigation, a final judgment was entered which required the sale of the former wife’s homestead to satisfy debt owed to the guardian ad litem. In reversing this ruling, the appellate court held, “Here, the court's order of payment from proceeds functioned as an equitable lien on the couple's homestead property to secure repayment of the unsecured debt. The Florida Constitution does not allow the court to pierce the homestead protection in such a manner.” The appellate court cited the Florida Constitution’s mandate that “a homestead is only subject to forced sale for (1) the payment of taxes and assessments thereon; (2) obligations contracted for the purchase, improvement or repair thereof; or (3) obligations contracted for house, field or other labor performed on the realty.”

As to the issue of parental responsibility, the final judgment awarded shared responsibility, but gave the former husband ultimate decision making when the parties did not agree. In reversing this portion of the final judgment, the appellate court held, “ On remand, any award of ultimate decision-making authority must be limited to specific decisions and those decisions must be expressly listed in the final judgment.

Regarding the trial court’s mandate that the former wife attend parenting courses, the appellate court found the court’s instruction on this to be vague. The trial court ordered that the former wife attend weekly parenting courses “until further Court order. She shall demonstrate to the Court and in her parenting and verbally what has been taught to her, and that she understands what she has been taught and that she can put into practice what she has been taught." The appellate court reversed this ruling, holding “Because the court neither provided a duration for the compelled weekly classes nor identified a standard to judge the Former Wife's compliance, the order is vague and unenforceable.”

While the trial court may have found these rulings were necessary based on the alleged behavior of one or both of the parties, this case shows the checks and balances that are in place in the appellate system. If you need assistance in navigating your Florida family law case, contact a Miami family law attorney. A consultation is one of the best places to start.