Divorce in North Palm Beach, Florida

In a divorce proceeding, due process requires that the parties be given sufficient time to call witnesses and to be heard. In Julia v. Julia, the Florida Court of Appeal recently stated: “Due process requires that a party be given the opportunity to be heard and to testify and call witnesses on the party’s behalf… and the denial of this right is fundamental error.” Minakan v. Husted, 27 So. 3d 695,698 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) (quoting Pettry v. Pettry, 706 So. 2d 107,108 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998)). The opportunity to be heard must be “full and fair, not merely colorable or illusive.” Pelle v. Diners Club, 287 So. 2d 737,738 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974) Additionally, this Court has recognized that justice cannot be “administered arbitrarily with a stopwatch,” yet that is what happened in the instant case. See Woodham v. Roy, 471 So. 2d 132, 134 (Fla. 4th DCA 1985). Throughout the hearing, the trial court made it clear that it intended to complete the trial in one day without going much beyond 5:00p.m. Although this goal is not inherently violative of due process, summarily shortening proceedings can give rise to a due process violation when they fail to afford a party a full, fair, and meaningful opportunity to be heard, such as in this case where the Wife was severely restricted in time to examine witnesses, to call any of her own witnesses, or to make any argument as to the evidence presented… 

We note that neither party was given an opportunity to present closing arguments, although Appellant arguably did not preserve a challenge to this denial. In Pettry, the Fifth District stated that “due process [also] requires that a party be given the opportunity to present closing argument.” Pettry, 706 So. 2d at 108; see also Minakan, 27 So. 3 d at 699 (“Even if [a party’ s] evidence would not have impressed the court, a party has the right to present evidence and to argue the case at the conclusion of all the testimony.”). Although a closing argument can be waived (or, perhaps replaced with written closing arguments), Pettry indicates that the opportunity to present one must at least be available to comply with due process. Pettry, 706 So. 2d at 108.”

To speak with a divorce attorney in North Palm Beach, Florida, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 651-7273.

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