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Kane v. Sanders

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

November 1, 2017

Sharon Atara Kane, Appellant,
Lawrence R. Sanders, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeals from non-final orders from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 10-11645 George A. Sarduy, Judge.

          Law Office of Kenneth B. Schurr, P.A. and Kenneth B. Schurr; Buchbinder & Elegant, P.A., and Harris J. Buchbinder, for appellant.

          Weiss & Kahn, P.A., and Owen Ellison Kahn, for appellee.

          Before ROTHENBERG, C.J., and SALTER and LINDSEY, JJ.

          SALTER, J.

         These consolidated appeals in this high-conflict, post-judgment family case are brought by the mother and former wife, Dr. Kane, from an order holding her in civil contempt (Case No. 3D17-148) and an order on a series of motions (Case No. 3D17-69). For jurisdictional and other reasons, we first describe the procedural history and then separately analyze the two appellate cases. We dismiss the appeal in Case No. 3D17-69 for lack of jurisdiction. In Case No. 3D17-148, we reverse and vacate the order granting the former husband's motion and supplemental motion for contempt, sanctions, and attorney's fees and costs.

         Procedural History

         The former husband and appellee here, Dr. Sanders, petitioned in mid-2010 for the dissolution of the parties' six-year marriage. By March of 2011, he and Dr. Kane had entered into a mediated marital settlement agreement and parenting plan ("MSA"). The then-presiding family court judge approved and incorporated the MSA in a final judgment of dissolution of marriage only two weeks later. The parties' daughters were then two and five years of age.

         Within about three years, however, various disputes arose regarding time with the children and interpretation of a "right of first refusal" clause (the "ROFR")[1] in the parenting plan. The disputes intensified following Dr. Kane's remarriage. Under Dr. Sanders' interpretation of the ROFR, Dr. Kane could not leave the two girls in their home for 45 minutes to go to the grocery store without first offering to drive the children to Dr. Sanders' home to leave them with him (and offering to pick up the children to return them to her home). As father and former husband, Dr. Sanders also claimed that Dr. Kane violated the final judgment because she made a "major health decision" unilaterally when she changed the date their daughters were to go to the dentist.

         Dr. Sanders moved for the appointment of a parenting coordinator, and Dr. Kane agreed to such an order. Several months later, Dr. Sanders filed a "Motion to Compel, for Contempt, Sanctions, Attorney's Fees and Costs, " alleging: five occasions when he was deprived of his right of first refusal; Dr. Kane's alleged failure to pay for piano lessons, in violation of the MSA; her violation of "sleep-over" agreements and "healthy snacks" agreements established with the parenting coordinator; Dr. Kane's interference with Dr. Sanders' telephone contact with the two girls; and her "excessive physicality with and hitting of" the daughters.

         When Dr. Sanders' motion was heard in December 2016, the breaches of the ROFR turned out to involve strained interpretations of that clause (leaving one or both of the children at home with child care for a matter of hours rather than a full day, and for reasons which were practical rather than violative of the parenting plan embodied in the MSA). The alleged violation of the "healthy snacks" agreement arranged by the parenting coordinator occurred when the children refused to accept carrots, hummus, and apples Dr. Sanders brought to school on days when Dr. Kane was the custodial parent. Dr. Sanders supplemented the motion for contempt with allegations that Dr. Kane was refusing to meet with him and their older daughter (by then ten years old) regarding her participation on a jump rope team, such that Dr. Sanders would not allow further participation in those activities.[2]

         Given Dr. Sanders' concern about the children's contact with Dr. Kane's fiancé (who became Dr. Kane's husband), the parties mutually agreed that a licensed psychologist should conduct an investigation and provide a report. Each party met twice with the psychologist, but Dr. Sanders then advised the psychologist that her work was suspended. Dr. Kane filed a motion to appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor children, and the parenting coordinator filed a request for a status conference to ask the family court for psychotherapeutic evaluation and treatment for the two girls.

         Dr. Kane scheduled the psychologist for a deposition, but Dr. Sanders moved for a protective order based on an assertion that the psychologist was ...

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