Florida Appellate Court Reverses Judgment in Contested Child Custody and Alimony Proceeding

In Saucier v. Nowak, the father of a child appealed a lower court’s ruling that the majority of timesharing in a custody agreement should be awarded to the child’s mother. In his appeal, the father asserted several grounds of error on the trial court’s part. First, the father stated that the trial court failed to establish a schedule for video conferencing in the final judgment, failed to ascribe the correct salary to the father when determining the award of child support, failed to clarify which parent had the right to make medical decisions on behalf of the child, and failed to assign the majority of the timesharing allotment to the father.

The mother also filed an appeal regarding the final order, stating that the lower court committed a reversible error when it awarded the father the right to engage in daily video conferences with the child and failed to determine whether the father owed back child support.

On appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s order when it awarded the father video conferencing time each day in the amount of 45 minutes. Although it was clear that the lower court wanted to award this right to the father, it failed to include a specific schedule for conducting the calls in its final order. The appellate court deemed this a discrepancy and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings to amend the final order.

Regarding the income issue, the lower court’s statements during hearings also conflicted with its final order. During the proceedings, the lower court stated that it would assign the father an income level higher than minimum wage, based on his statement that he could work in the medical field. In the final order, however, the court assigned him a minimum wage income level. Once again, the appellate court remanded the matter and ordered the court to amend the final judgment to reflect an above-minimum wage payment level for the father.

Finally, the appellate court noted that the lower court failed to mention the right to make medical decisions for the child in its final order. The court remanded this issue for further consideration and instructed the lower court to award the parties shared parental responsibility for the child’s medical care unless the lower court can state a basis for awarding an alternative arrangement.

If you are involved in a divorce, determining the custody of your children and the ancillary issues that come with the proceeding can be stressful and emotional. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our experienced family law attorneys have handled many divorce proceedings involving contested child custody proceedings and alimony payments. We proudly serve Southwest Florida residents, including members of the Naples, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral communities. We provide potential clients with free consultations to help them learn more about their legal rights and how we can assist them during this difficult time. Call us at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to schedule your appointment now.

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