Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Support
Florida Rule of Family Law Procedure 12.540 allows a party to file a motion to set aside a judgment based on fraud, mistake or excusable neglect. In alleging fraud, a party must point to specific acts and show that the opposing party knowingly committed fraud. In the case Corrigan v. Vargas, 5D18-2158 (Fla. 5th DCA April 5, 2019), the appellate court reviewed a trial court’s decision to set aside a final judgment as to child support based on the father’s representation that fraud was committed in determining his income at mediation.
The father filed a petition for paternity seeking a formal time-sharing order. He also sought child support from the mother on the basis that he was a stay-at-home father. After his motion for temporary child support was denied, the parties attended mediation and entered a full settlement agreement. Attached to the settlement agreement were child support guidelines which were initialed by each party. The parties’ signatures on the parenting plan were notarized and their respective lawyers signed the agreement as well. The child support guidelines showed an income of over $3,000 per month for the father and accordingly his child support obligation was $1 per month based on the 50-50 schedule agreed-to by the parties.
After signing the agreement, Father filed a motion to set aside the same alleging his income was falsified so that neither party would have to pay child support. The appellate opinion cites “[The father’s] affidavit swore that during mediation, he and his lawyers told the mediator that he was unemployed and had no income, such that child support was necessary. The mediator ‘announced that he could resolve the child support issue, and left the room’ alone. The mediator returned with a parenting plan and a child support guidelines worksheet that reflected Father's monthly income at $3333. According to Father, the mediator explained that if he was willing to waive child support, Mother was willing to increase his timesharing. Father agreed because he wanted to obtain as much timesharing as possible. He signed the mediated parenting plan under oath. Father's lawyers swore to the same, providing that ‘[e]veryone signed the document with the fictious income amounts,’ despite knowing that Father had no income.”
The trial court entered an order vacating the child support provisions of the agreement and the mother appealed. Citing the fact that father and his attorneys alone were responsible for his falsified income, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s order, holding “It is clear that Father proceeded through this case with unclean hands. The doctrine of unclean hands is designed to prevent courts from granting a party relief from a result the party brought about through its own voluntary acts. [. . .] The court improperly granted Father relief from a result brought about by his own misdeeds. Father was aware of his financial situation when he agreed to the mediated parenting plan.”
If you need help with your Florida child support case, contact a Miami child support lawyer. At a consultation, Florida child support guidelines can be prepared that are specific to the facts of your case.