Palm Beach County Divorce Lawyer

Palm Beach County Divorce Lawyer Christopher R. Bruce observed the following case from Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal:

Case:               Seigler v. Bell

Court:             Fifth District Court of Appeal.

Trial Judge:   Linda D. Schoonover.

Attorneys:      Christie L. Mitchell, Vicki Levy Eskin.

Issues:             Child Custody.

Holding:          If the trial court’s order, or any amended order on point, does not clearly adopt the general magistrate’s report as the final judgment, then the report is not a is not a final appealable judgment or order. The trial court must also consider whether a motion for rehearing or a motion for reconsideration is being sought. Nomenclature does not control, and motions for either “rehearing” or “reconsideration” aimed at final judgments shall be treated as motions for rehearing, while motions aimed at nonfinal orders are treated as motions for reconsideration.

n this case, the trial court reviewed the general magistrate’s report providing for temporary custody of the Mother’s child to the Grandmother, and the subsequent review of the matter on motion by the Mother for substantial visitation. While the trial court modified the general magistrate’s report, it did not adopt the report as a final judgment of the court. Several trial court decisions followed which awarded the Mother custody, altered and eventually eliminated the Grandmother’s visitation. These triggered the Grandmother’s application for a rehearing or reconsideration.

Since the trial court did not adopt the magistrate’s report as a final judgment, the motion for rehearing or reconsideration was a motion for reconsideration of an interlocutory order. Florida procedural rules regulating the time for filing a motion for rehearing do not apply to reconsideration of interlocutory orders. Since a trial court may sua sponte reconsider, amend or vacate interlocutory orders prior to final judgment, the Grandmother’s motion for reconsideration was timely and the trial court could properly order a rehearing or reconsideration. Moreover, the trial court order granting the rehearing or reconsideration did not determine the right to custody. It simply indicated procedural next steps, including that the parties could file evidence. As such, it was not an appealable nonfinal order. Its entry did not constitute a departure from the essential requirements of law, and neither party established its entry caused irreparable harm to justify relief by way of writ of certiorari. Therefore, the appellate court lacked jurisdiction to grant the writ of certiorari.

Christopher R. Bruce is a Divorce Lawyer with the law firm of Nugent Zborowski & Bruce. Mr. Bruce’s law practice is limited to the mediation, litigation and appeals of divorce and family law matters. His practice is throughout South Florida, including Palm Beach Gardens, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and other areas throughout Palm Beach County, Martin County and Broward County. To speak with Mr. Bruce, or another member of the firm, call (561) 844-1200.