Successful Appeal Of Ruling That Denied Parenting Rights
By Florida Family Law Appeals Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Appeal Reverses Decision to Deny Parental Rights
My firm recently succeeded in obtaining a reversal of a family law judge’s decision to essentially deny a father’s parental rights. Joseph Castleman hired AAA Family Law to appeal an egregious final judgment of a divorce issued by Circuit Court Judge Robert L. Pegg in Indian River County, Florida. Mr. Castleman sought a divorce from his wife of two years, Jeann Bicaldo. The couple have a daughter that is now three years old.
The Family Court Decision
When the divorce trial commenced in 2017, the wife faced a possible deportation to her native country of the Philippines. As an immigrant who obtained her green card through her marriage to Mr. Castleman, Mrs. Bicaldo would be forced to apply for a citizenship in order to remain legally in the United States. The prospect of her acquiring citizenship, however, was unclear at best.
Of course, the couple’s young daughter complicated what the judge had to decide. Judge Pegg granted shared parental responsibility and substantial (but still less than 50-50) time-sharing of custody to Mr. Castleman. While not the ideal parenting plan, my client was at least assured of maintaining a presence in his daughter’s life unless his wife was deported.
However, Judge Pegg ruled that, if Mrs. Bicaldo were ever to be deported during their daughter’s childhood, she could take their daughter to the Philippines without filing the petition for relocation mandated by Section 61.13001, Florida Statutes. To make matters worse, Judge Pegg did not even award my client any long-distance time-sharing or communication with his daughter if the deportation occurred. Given that the Philippines never became a party to the Hague Convention (an extradition treaty that facilitates the return of children to their home countries), his wife’s deportation would virtually guarantee that Mr. Castleman never see or hear from his daughter again.
Success in Reversal By The District Court of Appeals
Thankfully, my appeal lead the Fourth District Court of Appeals succeeded in reversing this horrible aspect of the final judgment. The appellate court ruled that Judge Pegg misconstrued Section 61.13001 of the Florida Statutes when he concluded that it did not apply to parents being involuntarily deported. Their opinion also deemed the trial court’s future-based projection of what would be in the daughter’s best-interests as impermissible. In short, the Fourth District Court of Appeal declared that the “deportation clause’ of the divorce judgment needed to be removed entirely.
The trial court must now conduct a new trial on that issue and rule in accordance with the higher court’s opinion. Happily, my client will now be able to obtain a more secure parenting plan (hopefully, majority time-sharing of custody) in the event that his ex-wife is deported. This real-life situation shows that, even in 2018, trial judges can overlook the parenting rights of fathers. Fortunately, the appellate process can rectify these errors.
Call for Initial Consultation
If you have any questions about appeals, parental rights or any other family laws issue, please call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule a consultation with me. At the consultation I will: (a) listen to the family law issues that you are confronted with, (b) ask you some questions about these issues and (c) propose to you a plan of legal action that will protect your family law rights. I will also quote you a fixed family lawyer retainer fee, not an hourly rate where the total charged is unpredictable.
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