In a divorce proceeding, if a trial court bifurcates the proceeding to dissolve the marriage but retains jurisdiction to determine property issues, the subsequent death of a party does not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction to determine the issues reserved. In Passamondi v. Passamondi, the Florida Court of Appeal recently stated: “Claudia Passamondi (the Former Wife) challenges the trial court’s order dismissing her claims for the determination of property issues in a bifurcated dissolution of marriage proceeding.
The dismissal followed the death of Anthony Passamondi (the Former Husband). Because the trial court erred in determining that it lacked jurisdiction because of the death of the Former Husband, we reverse and remand for further proceedings…The Former Husband and the Former Wife were married in 1988. In January 2006, the Former Husband filed a petition seeking the dissolution of the parties’ marriage. The Former Wife answered the petition and counter-petitioned for dissolution of the marriage and for other relief. When the Former Husband filed his petition, he was suffering from a terminal illness. For this reason, he filed a motion requesting a bifurcation of the proceedings. The trial court granted the motion. On May 24, 2006, the trial court entered a final judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage. In the final judgment, the trial court specifically “reserve[d] jurisdiction over this cause and each of the parties to enter such further Orders, Judgments, and Decrees as may be necessary at any time in the future to resolve all equitable distribution issues and any other issues which have been pled.” The Former Husband died on July 26, 2006…In a written order, the trial court memorialized its ruling, in pertinent part, as follows: H. That by virtue of the death of the Former Husband and the opening of a Probate Estate for him, the Probate Court was vested with exclusive control over the Former Husband’s assets and the Probate Court had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the proper manner of distribution of the Former Husband’s assets after payment of all creditors of the Estate of which the Former Wife was one…If a trial court bifurcates a proceeding for dissolution of marriage by entering a judgment dissolving the marriage but retaining jurisdiction to determine property issues, the subsequent death of a party does not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction to determine the issues reserved. See Fernandez v. Fernandez, 648 So. 2d 712, 714 (Fla. 1995). In this case, the trial court had entered a final judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage and retaining jurisdiction to determine all other issues before the death of the Former Husband. Therefore, the trial court incorrectly concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to hear and to determine the Former Wife’s claims.”
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