final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
of Certiorari to the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County
Lower Tribunal No. 07-18012, George A. Sarduy, Judge.
Christa Adkins, in proper person.
Abramowitz and Associates, and Evan L. Abramowitz, for
respondent Michael Sotolongo.
Phillips Lanier, PLLC, and Emily Joyce Phillips, as former
Guardian ad Litem.
ROTHENBERG, C.J., and LOGUE and LUCK, JJ.
began as a child custody dispute between Christa Adkins, the
mother, and Michael Sotolongo, the father, has now developed
into a dispute relating to the reasonableness of the fees
charged by the court-appointed guardian ad litem ("the
guardian") and the guardian's attorney and as to
what extent Ms. Adkins should be responsible for those fees.
Ms. Adkins, who was ultimately granted full custody of the
minor child, contends that the fees demanded are
unreasonable, and the record appears at least partially to
support that belief as the guardian has "corrected"
some of her billings during the litigation over her fees.
matter currently before this Court is Ms. Adkins'
certiorari petition, wherein she contends that the trial
court departed from the essential requirements of law,
resulting in irreparable harm that cannot be remedied on
direct appeal, by ordering Ms. Adkins, who has been declared
to be indigent, to advance the guardian's fees and the
guardian's attorney's fees prior to the taking of the
guardian's deposition. Ms. Adkins wishes to depose the
guardian to address the basis for the fees demanded by the
guardian in connection with the guardian's services
during the child custody dispute. Because the guardian's
fees have not yet been paid, the guardian sought, and was
granted, an order by the trial court requiring Ms. Adkins to
pay for the fees associated with the taking of the
guardian's deposition as a prerequisite to actually
taking the deposition. In other words, Ms. Adkins must pay to
conclude that the trial court's order both departs from
the essential requirements of law and is in violation of a
prior opinion issued by this Court. See Adkins
v. Sotolongo, 197 So.3d 1233 (Fla. 3d DCA 2016). In
Adkins, the trial court's order regarding the
payment of the guardian's fees was the subject of the
appeal. In reversing the order, this Court noted:
"[T]here [were] no findings in the order or record on
appeal supporting the [guardian's] requested fees, what
those services were or their claimed value . . . [and]
nothing in the order on appeal or the record before us to
indicate the trial court made any determination of the
Mother's or Father's current ability to pay the
court-appointed guardian fees."
Adkins, 197 So.3d at 1234-35 (citation and footnote
omitted). The opinion further states: "We do not dispute
that the court-appointed guardian is entitled to payment but
require that on remand the trial court determine both the
party or parties responsible for payment of the
guardian's fees and costs and the proper amount
due." Id. at 1235.
remand, Ms. Adkins sought discovery, including the
guardian's deposition, specifically related to the issue
on remand-the evidence of the services performed by the
guardian and the reasonableness of her requested fees. The
guardian objected to spending any more of her time without
being paid. While the guardian's frustration with not
having been paid for her services is understandable, to
require Ms. Adkins to pre-pay for the taking of her
deposition was error in this case.
we note that Ms. Adkins has indigency status. Second, the
trial court has not yet determined which of the parties are
responsible for the payment of the guardian's fees.
Third, the trial court has not yet made a determination as to
Ms. Adkins' ability to pay for either the fees owed or
the costs associated with the discovery deposition of the
guardian. It was therefore error to require Ms. ...