Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Matthiesen v. Matthiesen

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

March 1, 2018




         Brian Matthiesen (“Brian” or “Defendant”) filed an Amended Verified Motion for Attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s Fees pursuant to Florida Statute § 61');">1.1');">16 (“Amended Motion”) and a Motion for Sanctions based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">11');">1 (“Rule 1');">11');">1 Motion”) against Zania Matthiesen (“Zania” or “Plaintiff”). [ECF Nos. 47-48');">48');">48');">48]. Zania filed responses in opposition to the motions. [ECF Nos. 49-50');">50]. For the reasons stated below, the Undersigned denies the Amended Motion, grants in part the Rule 1');">11');">1 Motion, and awards Brian $4, 39');">39');">39');">393.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 1');">18, 201');">11');">1, Zania and Brian, as part of a divorce proceeding, entered into a Mediated Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”). [ECF No. 8-1');">1, pp. 8-29]. On February 21');">1, 201');">12, the Circuit Court for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Florida entered the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (“Final Judgment”), approving the MSA. [ECF No. 1');">1, pp. 4-7].

         On March 31');">1, 201');">15, Zania moved to set aside the MSA and Final Judgment in state court, alleging that she received much less than she was entitled to because Brian filed “fraudulent financial affidavits” during the divorce proceedings. [ECF No. 8-1');">1, pp. 30-31');">1]. On February 1');">1, 201');">16, Zania voluntarily dismissed her state court motion and filed the Complaint in this case. [ECF Nos. 1');">1; 8-1');">1, p. 32');">p. 32].

         Zania alleged six counts arising from the purportedly fraudulent financial affidavit: (1');">1) Fraud by Concealment; (2) Equitable Accounting; (3) Fraudulent Misrepresentation; (4) Negligent Misrepresentation; (5) Unjust Enrichment as to the premarital home; and (6) Unjust Enrichment as to other marital assets. [ECF No. 1');">1, pp. 1');">1-21');">1].

         On February 1');">12, 201');">16, Brian served the Rule 1');">11');">1 Motion on Zania and Rafael Castro, Zania&#39');">39');">39');">39;s counsel. [ECF No. 50');">50, p. 3]. Brian asserted two grounds for sanctions: (1');">1) diversity jurisdiction was based on false allegations and (2) the domestic relations exception barred any purported diversity jurisdiction. On March 5, 201');">16, the safe harbor period provided under Rule 1');">11');">1 expired.[1');">1" name= "FN1');">1" id="FN1');">1">1');">1]

         On February 21');">1, 201');">16, Brian moved to dismiss under the same arguments asserted in the Rule 1');">11');">1 Motion. [ECF No. 8]. On August 1');">1, 201');">16, the Undersigned dismissed the case based on the domestic relations exception&#39');">39');">39');">39;s applicability (“Dismissal Order”). [ECF No. 39');">39');">39');">39].

         On August 1');">19, 201');">16, Brian filed his Rule 1');">11');">1 Motion [ECF No. 40], which the Undersigned struck for failure to comply with the Local Rules. [ECF No. 41');">1]. After conferring with opposing counsel on September 7, 201');">16, Brian filed another Motion for Attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s Fees on September 1');">15, 201');">16. [ECF No. 43]. The Undersigned denied that motion due to additional procedural issues. [ECF No. 46].

         On June 1');">12, 201');">17, Brian filed two motions that cured the procedural infirmities outlined in ECF No. 46: (1');">1) an Amended Motion seeking attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s fees under § 61');">1.1');">16 [ECF No. 47] and (2) a Rule 1');">11');">1 Motion seeking attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s fees as sanctions [ECF No. 48');">48');">48');">48]. Zania opposed both motions. [ECF Nos. 49-50');">50].

         II. ENTITLEMENT TO ATTORNEY&#39');">39');">39');">39;S FEES[2]

         A. Section 61');">1.1');">16

         Brian seeks fees under § 61');">1.1');">16, which is the basis for awarding attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s fees in dissolution of marriage, support, or child custody proceedings. Under this state statute,

The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under this chapter, including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals . . . . In determining whether to make attorney&#39');">39');">39');">39;s fees and costs awards at the appellate level, the court shall primarily consider the relative financial resources of the parties, unless an appellate party&#39');">39');">39');">39;s cause is deemed to be frivolous.

§ 61');">1.1');">16. Essentially, before a court can award fees under this statute, that court must consider the parties&#39');">39');">39');">39; financial resources, the merits of their positions, and the history of the divorce proceedings. Rosen v. Rosen, 696 So.2d 697, 700 (Fla. 1');">1997).

         However, the Court has previously invoked the abstention doctrine when it determined that the domestic relations exception applied, and it is well-established that “the purpose of the abstention doctrine . . . is to abstain from reaching the merits of certain claims.” Stone v. Wall, 1');">135 F.3d 1');">1438, 1');">1441');">1 n.3 (1');">11');">1th Cir. 1');">1998), certified question answered, 1');">1038');">734 So.2d 1');">1038 (Fla. 1');">1999) (internal citations omitted).

         In the Dismissal Order, the Court abstained from reaching the merits of Zania&#39');">39');">39');">39;s claims as to not “review, modify and/or vacate a state court divorce decree.” [ECF No. 39');">39');">39');">39, p. 1');">10]. Based on this Dismissal Order, the Court cannot consider awarding fees under § 61');">1.1');">16 because it requires a merits determination. [ECF No. 39');">39');">39');">39, pp. 7-8]; Stone, 1');">135 F.3d at 1');">1441');">1 n.3 (“If a court states that abstention is appropriate . . . . it should not then adjudicate the case on its merits[.]”). As a result, the Court denies Brian&#39');">39');">39');">39;s Amended Motion without prejudice.

         B. Rule 1');">11');">1

         Brian also seeks Rule 1');">11');">1 sanctions against both Zania and her counsel. [ECF No. 48');">48');">48');">48, p. 1');">1]. However, in contrast to a determination for § 61');">1.1');">16 fees, imposing a “Rule 1');">11');">1 sanction is not a judgment on the merits[.]” Willy v. Coastal Corp., 50');">503 U.S. 1');">131');">1');">50');">503 U.S. 1');">131');">1, 1');">138 (1');">1992) (internal quotation omitted). Rather, it is a determination of “whether the attorney has abused the judicial process, and, if so, what sanction would be appropriate.” Id. A court may impose Rule 1');">11');">1 sanctions after finding that it is without subject matter jurisdiction because “[t]he interest in having rules of procedure obeyed . . . does not disappear upon” such a finding. Id. at 1');">139');">39');">39');">39.

         Rule 1');">11');">1 sanctions are proper when a party files a pleading: (1');">1) for an improper purpose; (2) based on a legal theory that has no reasonable chance of success; or (3) that has no reasonable factual basis. Lee v. Mid-State Land & Timber Co., 1');">1');">285 Fed.Appx. 601');">1, 608 (1');">11');">1th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). Courts must “avoid using the wisdom of hindsight and should test the signer&#39');">39');">39');">39;s conduct by inquiring what was reasonable to believe at the time [the document] was submitted.” Peer v. Lewis, 606 F.3d 1');">1306, 1');">131');">11');">1 (1');">11');">1th Cir. 201');">10) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         i. Imp ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.