FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND
DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED
appeal from the Circuit Court for Okaloosa County. Michael
P. North of Kenny Leigh & Associates, Fort Walton Beach,
Heather D. Ziruolo, pro se, Appellee.
appeal arises from a final order of dissolution of marriage
establishing parental responsibility, child support, and the
distribution of marital assets. We reverse because the trial
court did not make certain required findings.
parties in this case were married in 1999 and have two minor
children. Both parties filed petitions for divorce in 2014.
The trial court held a final hearing on their petitions in
2015 and: (1) ordered shared parental responsibility, but
granted Appellee ultimate decision-making authority with
respect to the minor children's healthcare needs,
school-related matters, and other activities; (2) awarded
Appellee approximately sixty percent of the martial assets on
the basis that Appellant earned more income; (3) ordered
Appellant to pay $1, 400 a month in child support; and (4)
awarded Appellee $2, 500 attorneys' fees.
Court reviews a trial court's decision regarding parental
responsibility under the abuse of discretion standard,
reviewing specifically whether competent, substantial
evidence supports the trial court's decision. Smith
v. Smith, 971 So.2d 191, 195 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007). Trial
courts must order shared parental responsibility in
dissolution cases unless it would be detrimental to the
child. § 61.13(2)(c)2., Fla. Stat. "This
relationship contemplates that the parties will mutually
confer on major decisions (e.g., medical, religious,
educational) affecting the child's welfare and will reach
agreement." Smith, 971 So.2d at 195. If it is
in a child's best interest, the court may award ultimate
decision-making authority to just one parent. See
§ 61.13(3)(a)-(t), Fla. Stat. (listing non-exclusive
statutory factors to be evaluated in determining the best
interests of the child); see also Fazzaro v.
Fazzaro, 110 So.3d 49, 51-52 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013). Here,
the trial court assigned one parent to be the ultimate
decision maker with respect to the children's healthcare
needs, school related matters, and other activities, but
provided no justification for preferring that parent. Because
the order provided no basis for assigning Appellee as the
ultimate decision maker, the order must be reversed.
of Marital Assets
review a trial court's ruling on equitable distribution
of marital assets under the abuse of discretion standard.
Stough v. Stough, 18 So.3d 601 (Fla. 1st DCA 2009).
In a dissolution of marriage proceeding, the distribution of
assets and liabilities must be equal unless an unequal
distribution is warranted under the statutory factors listed
in § 61.075(1)(a)-(j), Florida Statutes. See Watson
v. Watson, 124 So.3d 340, 342 (Fla. 1st DCA 2013).
Before a trial court may unequally distribute marital assets
and liabilities, it must consider the relevant statutory
factors. Id. at 342-43. The trial court did not
equally distribute the assets in this case, but required
Appellant to take sole possession of a certain loan
obligation because he had a higher income. The court did not
evaluate the statutory factors. Thus we reverse and remand so
that the trial court may consider and make required findings
before making an unequal distribution in Appellee's
favor. Wagner v. Wagner, 61 So.3d 1141, 1143 (Fla.
1st DCA 2011).
review a trial court's award of child support under the
abuse of discretion standard. Parker v. Parker, 141
So.3d 1291 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014). A trial court determines the
amount of child support a party owes by utilizing the
guidelines set forth in § 61.30, Florida Statutes.
Because the trial court failed to apply these child support
guidelines, we reverse and remand for further findings as to
the proper amount of support. Hauser v. Hauser, 778
So.2d 309, 310 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000); Elias v. Elias,
168 So.3d 301, 302 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015).