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Patel v. Shah

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

March 29, 2017

Amruta Patel, Appellant,
v.
Nilay R. Shah, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 14-12235, Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat, Judge.

          Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., and Chris W. Altenbernd and Mariko Shitama Outman (Tampa), for appellant.

          Law Offices of Daniel J. Tibbitt, and Daniel Tibbit; Duncan Trial & Family Law, and Michael L. Duncan (Jacksonville), for appellee.

          Before SUAREZ, C.J., and LAGOA and SCALES, JJ.

          LAGOA, J.

         Amruta Patel (the "Wife") appeals from a final judgment of dissolution of marriage and an order denying her motion to vacate final judgment and for rehearing and reconsideration. Because the trial court erred in determining that the Wife did not file a counter-petition seeking any form of relief, we reverse.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This is the second time this matter has come before this Court. In Shah v. Shah, 178 So.3d 70 (Fla. 3d DCA 2015), this Court reversed the trial court's entry of final judgment after finding that the Wife's due process rights were violated when the trial court expanded the scope of the scheduled hearing into a final hearing without proper notice. Id. at 70-71. This Court declined to address any of the other issues raised on appeal and remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings.

         Following remand, the trial court held a final hearing on April 18, 2016. At the end of the hearing, the trial court concluded that the marriage was irretrievably broken and orally ruled:

There are no marital assets acquired, no marital assets to be divided, based on the sworn statement of your husband and your statement that you have no proof that any such asset has been acquired, therefore there is nothing to divide. As to the alimony that you keep bringing up, you bring it up over and over, you did not file a counter petition. There is no proof provided by you that your husband has this substantial living standard that you claim he has.

         On May 3, 2016, the trial court rendered a written final judgment consistent with its earlier oral ruling. In its written order, the trial court found that "[t]he only Petition framing the issues before th[e] Court was the Husband's Petition for Dissolution of Marriage as the Wife did not file any Counter-Petition." The trial court further found that there were no marital assets because the Wife "was never able to produce any proof or information regarding any marital assets" and "the Husband [had] testified that there were no assets that were acquired during the marriage." The trial court also denied the Wife's request for alimony because "the Wife did not file Counter-Petition seeking any form of relief, she only filed an Answer." This appeal ensued.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because the trial court's final judgment is primarily based upon its finding that the Wife's "Reply" did not constitute a counter-petition, we review the legal sufficiency of the Wife's pleading de novo. See Jarrard v. Jarrard, 157 So.3d 332, 337 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015) ("Whether the pleading is legally sufficient in its ...


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