Tuesday, October 04, 2005

“Respectfully, you can’t do that in a family case either, Judge.”

In Burkley v. Burkley, 2005 Fla. App. LEXIS 15479 [Fla. 5th DCA 2005], the former wife filed a supplemental petition for modification of child support and for breach of contract. The claim for breach of contract was based on a mediation agreement which was previously approved by the trial court: “This [Mediation Agreement] shall not be merged with or into the [Stipulated Order], but shall survive as a separate, enforceable contract on its own and shall be enforceable by either party as such.” The trial judge imputed income to the father, established a child support arrearage, and modified child support based on breach of contract. The Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed because virtually all of the ruling and judgment relied on the trial court’s interpretation of Chapter 61, Florida Statutes which the trial judge ignored and applied erroneously.

So, even though there is a mediation agreement pertaining to child support which did not offer support beyond that provided for in the statute, the court must regard the mediation agreement in the context of the statute’s explicit limitations on modifying support, imputing income, or awarding retroactive support. Do you think this may impact how mediation agreements are drafted as they pertain to child support?

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