Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Third District Court of Appeals Defines the Standard

The Third District Court of Appeals issued its opinion today in Castillo v. Castillo, rejecting the appeal on the grounds that the lower tribunal’s unstated ruling was within its discretion.  In so doing, however, the 3d DCA succinctly and clearly spelled out the nature of the abuse of discretion standard.  Please excuse the block cite, but its worthwhile, in my opinion:

The trial court has broad discretion to use various available remedies to do equity between the parties to a dissolution proceeding. See Misdraji v. Misdraji, 702 So. 2d 1292, 1294 (Fla. 3d DCA 1997) (“It is a well recognized principle that appellate courts should not substitute their judgment for that of the trial court by reevaluating the testimony, and that the trial court must be upheld unless an appellant clearly shows that the trial court has abused its discretion.”). The remedies which may be used to accomplish this purpose include lump sum alimony, permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, child support, special equity in property and
the award of exclusive possession of property. Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So. 2d 1197 (Fla. 1980). “Because these remedies are interrelated as part of an overall scheme, it is ‘extremely important that they also be reviewed by appellate courts as a whole, rather than independently.’” Guobaitis v. Sherrer, 18 So. 3d 28, 33 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009) (quoting Canakaris, 382 So. 2d at 1202). Where a decision is within the judicial discretion of the trial judge, as in determining the amount of alimony or child support, the standard for appellate review is abuse of discretion. Viewed as a matter of discretion, on appeal we can reverse only if no reasonable judge would have decided as this one did. See Canakaris, 382 So. 2d at 1203 (“If reasonable men could differ as to the propriety of the action taken by the trial court, then the action is not unreasonable and there can be no finding of an abuse of discretion. The discretionary ruling of the trial judge should be disturbed only when his decision fails to satisfy this test of reasonableness.”).

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