Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Procedure

What happens if a party voluntarily dismisses his or her Florida divorce case? As with most scenarios in life, timing is everything. In the case Rebolledo v. Cordero, 217 So.3d 147 (Fla. 3d DCA 2017) we review this question.  

In this case, the wife filed her petition for dissolution of marriage, and the husband filed a counter petition. Shortly thereafter the wife voluntarily dismissed her petition. When the wife failed to timely answer the husband’s counter petition, a default was entered against her.

Four months after the default was entered, the wife filed a motion to set aside the default and attached an answer and counterclaim to the husband’s counter petition. The day before the hearing on the wife’s motion to set aside the default, the husband voluntarily dismissed his counter petition. At the hearing, the husband argued his dismissal terminated the case and therefore the court did not have jurisdiction to decide the case. The court disagreed and an order was entered lifting the default. 

Subsequently the wife was granted temporary support which the husband failed to pay. The husband was then held in contempt and he appealed both the support order and the contempt order. Without addressing either order, the appellate court found the trial court incorrectly decided it had jurisdiction to continue making rulings in the case after the husband filed his voluntary dismissal. Even though the parties proceeded as if there were jurisdiction, the law is settled that parties cannot create jurisdiction where there is none.  

So the work and money invested in getting the temporary support order was for naught since the court had to dismiss the case. However the wife could refile a new case and seek similar relief. To avoid such situations it is important to consult with a Miami family law attorney to understand the consequences of certain actions taken in your case.