Stay of Final Judgment While Appealing Family Law Cases
By Experienced Family Law Appeals Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2005
AAA Family Law Can Represent You In Family Law Appeals Anywhere In Florida
Stays Of Final Judgment While Appealing Family Law Cases Are Very Unlikely To Succeed In Florida.
It is extraordinarily difficult to prevent the execution of a family law final judgment (known as a “stay”) that is pending an appeal. To understand why, one must examine the Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.310, the law that governs the issuance of stays pending appellate review.
Rule 9.310 mandates the trial court’s issuance of a stay of a final judgment only under two circumstances: (1) when the state or a public entity files a notice of appeal and (2) when a litigant posts a bond that is equal to (a) the amount of the “money judgment” against that party, (b) plus interest for the period until the judgment is paid at twice the statutory interest rate.
The first criteria would not apply to most family law cases since they involve private litigants such as spouses and parents.
One might think that “money judgments” (for example: alimony, child support, and equitable distribution orders), which are prevalent in family law cases, might be subject to stays of execution. Actually, Florida law considers none of these examples to be “money judgments”. Appellate courts have repeatedly ruled that the enforcement of alimony and child support orders are imbued with the public interest of ensuring the support of family members, thus making them more important than mere debts.
And Equitable distribution orders, such as conveying title to a house or a car or dividing a retirement account, have been classified as acts that have to be performed, rather than money judgments. Therefore, neither alimony, child support or, equitable distribution orders can be automatically stayed by the posting of a bond.
If no part of a family law judgment can be automatically stayed, can the trial judge, in his or her discretion, choose to issue a stay? In theory, yes, but it is difficult to envision a scenario where this would happen.
Decisions involving time-sharing and parenting are based on present realities, not future projections. To allow a stay of a custody decision, merely because the losing parent filed a notice of appeal and a motion to stay, would defeat what was already determined to be in the child’s current best interests.
Although not considered as important as children, equitable distribution judgments are also subject to the divided assets’ current values. Assets may rise and fall in value while the appellate process unfolds. Just as importantly, many family law litigants cannot afford to post a bond that equals the value of the contested asset plus twice the statutory interest rate.
In short, stays of the execution of family law judgments are highly unlikely to succeed in Florida, as unlikely as snow flakes on that state.
How AAA Family Law Can Help You
If you have any questions at all about appealing your family law judgment, I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001, and schedule an initial consultation. At the consultation (a) I will listen to your explanation of your case and your reasons to consider appealing it (b) I will give you my lawyer's opinion regarding the likelihood of a successful appeal (sometimes subject to later modification after additional research) and (c) I will quote you an attorney retainer fee that will be a flat rate for the total of the serve, not an hourly rate whose to total you cannot predict.
Our retainer fees for family law appeals of final orders in Florida range between $3,600 and $6,000 depending on their level of complexity. For non-final orders they are between $2,400 and $4,800. See Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for more information.
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