FAMILY LAW ISSUES (by MELVIN PEREZ). This article will provide information regarding the modification of alimony and child support obligations and the delay between the hearing and the entry of the order. The information below is an overview of the matters presented. Any prisoners intending to file such proceedings can use the information to start their research. Remember to always properly research any claim before submitting any legal pleading. RULE. Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.215(f), provides that "[e]very judge has a duty to rule upon and announce an order of judgment on every matter submitted to that judge within a reasonable time.". The purpose of this rule is "to allow the trier of fact to recall the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses as well as the dynamics of the trial." See, Falabella v. Wilkins,656 So.2d 256,257 ( Fla. 5th DCA 1995). FAMILY LAW CASES. In family law cases in particular, "trial courts have a responsibility to render their decisions under circumstances which give no doubt but that the matter was seriously and promptly considered," given the high deference appellate courts give trial courts decisions in such cases.Id. Although there is no "bright line rule" as to what constitutes a reasonable time for rendering a judgment, Donn v. Donn, 733 So.2d 581, 582 (Fla. 4thDCA 1999), Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.25(a)(1) c, provides that the period for completing a domestic relations case is 180 days. Excessive delay in the entry of an order warrants reversal when the delay is combined with "an indication that something is seriously amiss on the merits." See, Ascontec Consulting, Inc. v. Young, 714 So.2d 585, 587(Fla.3rd DCA 1998). Two key factors in determining whether such circumstances exist are whether there is a conflict or inconsistency between the judge's statements or findings at trial and the ultimate judgment rendered and whether there is "a factual finding in the judgment unsupported by the trial evidence." See, Donn 733 So.2d at 582 ( quoting Fla. Air Academy, Inc. v. McKinley, 688 So.2d 359, 360 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997)), see, e.g., McKenzie v McKenzie, 672 So.2d 48, 49 ( Fla. 1stDCA 1996)(reversing a final judgment of dissolution of marriage where "[I]nconsistencies in the final judgment suggest[ed] that the trial judge may not have recalled the evidence presented at the hearing," which occurred a year before the entry of the final judgment). In Donn v Donn, where alimony was at issue, the court considered the additional factor that "the trial judge failed to make pertinent findings of fact regarding the parties' ability to pay and financial need." 733 So.2d at 583. The Donn court concluded that "the excessive delay and inconsistencies, coupled with the failure to include specific findings regarding the award of alimony, warrant[ed] reversal and remand from another evidentiary hearing." Id. When determining the amount to be ordered based on a change of circumstances the trial court is to consider all of the relevant factors listed in section 61.08(2), Florida Statutes. See Wolfe v. Wolfe, 953 So.2d 632, 636 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007) and Overton v. Overton, 34 So.3d 759, 761 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). However, the primary criteria at issue under such circumstances are the payee spouse's need with regard to the standard of living established during the marriage and the payors spouse's ability to pay.See, Zeballos v. Zeballos, 951 So.2d 972, 974 (Fla. 4thDCA 2007). In applying these criteria, the court must consider all relevant economic factors, including the financial resources of each party, the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each and all sources of income available to either party. See, Vriensenga v.Vriesenga, 931 So.2d 213, 217-18 (Fla.1stDCA 2006)(quoting ss61.8(2)(d),(g),Fla.Stat. (2004). When awarding alimony, a court is to consider not only income, but also the extent and value of the parties' capital assets. See Howard v. Howard, 118 So.2d 90, 94 (Fla. 1st DCA 1960).
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