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

An important component of a Florida family law case is proper procedure. Failure to follow proper procedural steps could result in a party losing a valid argument or claim based on technicalities. For example, knowing where to file your case is an important first procedural step that needs to be followed to start your legal process. In the case Robinson v. Robinson, 248 So.3d 174 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018), an order dismissing a suit to set aside a mediated settlement agreement was appealed.

The former husband alleged the former wife illegally obtained private photos of the former husband and his mistress and used them as leverage to obtain a favorable settlement in their divorce. After some attempts to set aside the settlement agreement and final judgment, the former husband filed a civil complaint against the former wife 2.5 years later in a different county from the county in which the divorce decree was entered. The complaint sought to set aside the settlement due to fraud and coercion, and for civil theft regarding the photos.

The former wife filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue or to transfer the case to the county in which the divorce case was resolved and modification proceedings were ongoing. The former husband countered that venue was proper because both parties now resided in the new county and under prior case law, an independent action was required to be filed for fraud upon the court since it had been more than a year since the judgment was entered.

The trial court dismissed the former husband’s petition with prejudice, reasoning that because the same issues raised in the new case were also being litigated in the former county, those issues should be litigated in the original venue. The appellate court reversed, holding, “Based on our de novo review, we agree with the former husband that the trial court should not have dismissed the case with prejudice based on the venue motion filed by the former wife. Venue was proper in Duval County because both parties reside there [. . .] and transfer—not dismissal—is the proper remedy where the trial court determines that there is a more convenient forum, see § 47.122, Fla. Stat. Moreover, abatement—not dismissal—would have been the proper remedy if the trial court was correct in concluding that the issues raised in this case were the same as those being litigated in the earlier-filed Clay County case.”

Filing your case in the appropriate venue may save you attorneys’ fees and costs in the long-run. Discuss your case with a Miami family law attorney to determine the next best steps. A consultation is what you need to get started.