Sunday, February 5, 2006

Case Development: Trial Court Jurisdiction to Dissolve Judgments Arising out of Divorce Actions

The Florida Court of Appealsaddressed issues of jurisdiction and laches in an action to enforce a judgment arising out of divorce.  The action by Husband was based on a money judgment he had obatined against wife in 1994 for $ 7810.66 for overpayment of support. In 2004, with the judgment having grown to $18,000 with interest, Husband re-recorded the judgment and began collection proceedings, including and action to garnish Wife's wages.  In response, Wife filed a motion to dissolve Husband's judgment based on laches.  The trial court granted the motion to dissolve the judgment.

The court of appeals reversed, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to dissolve the judgment.  While agreeing that divorce courts have continuing jurisdiction to modify child support, child custody, and alimony provisions, as to all other judgments, the trial court loses jurisdiction over the case except to enforce the judgment  or to dissolve the judgment under the narrow ground provided by Florida rules of civil procedure. Since laches is not such a grounds, the court had no jurisdiction to dissolve Husband's action.  Moreover, the court commented that even if the court had jurisdiction and even if laches were an affirmative ground for dissolving a judgment, Wife had not proven laches as she had shown no evidentiary or financial prejudice.  That husband had waited over ten years to enforce the judgment, at a time when wife was less able to afford to pay, was insufficient proof of laches.

Baker v. Baker, 2006 Fla. App. LEXIS 1267  (February 3, 2006)
Opinion available on the web (last visited February 4, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/02/case_developmen_2.html

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