In a divorce case, captioned Brooks v. Brooks, the Father appealed the lower court’s ruling denying his motion for contempt and ordered him to file a petition to relocate. The Florida Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling and explained why. A time-sharing plan was entered by the Court when the parties were divorced in 2011. Under the time-sharing plan, the Mother and Father had shared parental responsibility over the children. The children lived with the Mother during the week and with the Father every other weekend. The time-sharing plan required that if either party traveled out of state with the children, that party must so inform the other party 30 days in advance and provide a travel itinerary. After the divorce, the Father moved from Sarasota to Hallandale Beach. The Mother took two out-of-state trips with the children and did not provide the Father with notice of one of the trips or a detailed itinerary. The Father moved to hold the Mother in contempt of court, and the Mother moved to hold the Father in contempt for moving to Hallandale Beach without filing a petition to relocate. After a hearing on both motions, the lower court denied both motions for contempt and ordered the Father to file a petition to relocate. The Father argued to the Florida Court of Appeal that it was improper for the trial court to deny his motion for contempt after he clearly established that the Mother violated the time-sharing plan.
The Florida Court of Appeal held that under Florida law there is nothing that requires a trial court to hold a person in contempt for violating a time-sharing order, and a trial court does not abuse its discretion simply by refusing to do so. The trial court decided not to hold the Mother in contempt, not for lack of a factual basis, but as a means of discouraging further vexatious litigation in this divorce case between the parties. Because the parties had already demonstrated an intent to engage in such litigious conduct, this decision was not arbitrary and thus did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Even without a valid reason to deny a contempt motion, there is no authority mandating that a court hold a person in contempt even based upon a party’s factually correct motion. Accordingly, the Florida Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court on this issue and reminded the parties that the court can exercise its contempt powers if and when it finds it is necessary to address any future violations of the parties’ marital settlement agreement.
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