A general rule followed in Florida family law cases is that you must put the other party on notice as to what relief you are seeking before that relief can be granted. Therefore, a Florida family court can only consider at trial those issues which were properly raised by the parties in their pleadings or those issues the parties agreed to try by consent.
In the case Foley v. Foley, 211 So.3d 370 (Fla. 5th DCA 2017), we see how the appellate court interprets consent to try an issue not raised in the pleadings. The father filed a petition to modify the timesharing schedule so that he would have primary timesharing. Concurrently, he filed a financial affidavit which stated “this case involves the establishment or modification of child support.” The mother filed a counter petition seeking modification of timesharing and also filed a financial affidavit containing the same statement as the father’s affidavit concerning child support.
The financial affidavits were admitted into evidence at trial along with proposed child support guidelines. However, the trial court subsequently ruled that it lacked the authority to modify child support where the matter was not plead or tried by consent and the parties did not submit financial affidavits.
The order was reversed on the bases that (1) the record was clear that the financial affidavits were submitted and (2) both parties were on notice that child support modification was at issue despite their pleadings; each party’s financial affidavit indicated a belief and understanding that modification of child support was at issue.
Statements, written or otherwise, matter and are scrutinized in Florida family law proceedings. Making sure your pleadings effectively and completely state the relief you want can prevent you from spending time and money litigating your case through an appeal. It all starts with a consultation with an experienced Miami family law attorney.