Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Procedure

There are sometimes parties who are so uncooperative in a Florida family law case that the party can frustrate not just the other party in the case, but also the judge. Such was the case in Pattison v. Pattison, 210 So.3d 785 (Fla. 1st DCA 2017) where the former husband’s willful non-payment of alimony was noted as “dilatory and egregious”.  As illustrated in this case, this finding was not enough to deprive the former husband of his due process rights. 

Because the former husband apparently had a history of purposely refusing to pay court-ordered alimony to the former wife, the trial court entered an order sentencing him to jail, suspended upon him complying with the court’s order to pay his ongoing support obligation plus monthly installments toward his arrears. The order went on to state that if he failed to comply with the order, the former wife only had to file an affidavit of non-compliance and contact the case manager, whereupon without further hearing, a warrant for the former husband’s arrest would be issued and he would serve his suspended sentence.  

The former husband appealed this order, arguing the automatic finding of future contempt in the order violated his due process rights. The appellate court agreed, holding, “The trial court’s order deprived Former Husband of his due process right to defend against any future allegations of non-payment by showing either that he had made the payment, or that he is not at that time able to pay through no fault of his own.” In essence, as written, the trial court’s order operated as a means for the former wife to have the former husband incarcerated without giving the former husband a chance to present any evidence that would indicate incarceration would be unjust. 

The former husband did not appeal the trial court’s finding that he was behaving badly, but he wanted to ensure that future similar findings were made before he could be jailed. Protecting due process rights is fundamental to the just operation of Florida family courts. Having an experienced Miami family law attorney on your side is an important step in guarding your procedural rights.