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

If a party does not agree with a trial court’s decision in his or her Florida family law case, he or she may have the right to appeal the decision. The party must ensure that he or she has followed the appropriate steps to preserve the right to appeal, and this is usually best done through an attorney. As the recent appellate case Browner v. Browner, 1D19-0556 (Fla. 1st DCA April 22, 2019) indicates, knowing something as basic as whether or not it is possible to appeal an order is crucial.

The former wife filed a notice of appeal on February 14, 2019, indicating she was appealing a final judgment of dissolution of marriage entered on January 2, 2019, and an order denying a motion for rehearing on timesharing entered on January 14, 2019. The appellate court, after noting that the order reserved jurisdiction to determine issues of child support and equitable distribution, ordered the former wife “to show cause why the appeal should not be dismissed as premature.”

The former wife argued the trial court did not reserve jurisdiction on other matters in the final judgment such as timesharing and parental responsibility, and as to these issues, the order constitutes a final order. The appellate court disagreed with the former wife, holding, “While the order may have resolved the issues addressed, ‘the reservation of jurisdiction over related claims necessarily renders the order nonfinal.’ And although portions of the order appear to be immediately reviewable under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130(a)(3)(C)(iii), the appeal is not timely as a nonfinal appeal. The appeal is therefore dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.”

Essentially, because the trial court reserved jurisdiction to determine certain issues in the divorce, the final judgment was not really “final” and therefore the appellate court had no jurisdiction to review it since as a non-final order, it was not timely appealed within 30 days. The rule of appellate procedure may appear to be a field full of landmines, so it is important to seek counsel right away in your case to avoid the loss of your rights to appeal. If you are considering appealing your case, it is best to consult with a Miami family law attorney as early as possible.