final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, Jorge
Rodriguez-Chomat, Judge. Lower Tribunal No. 03-12047
Bonham Law Firm, P.L. and David L. Bonham, for appellant.
Sturman Kane, in proper person.
EMAS, FERNANDEZ and LUCK, JJ.
trial court held the former husband in indirect civil
contempt for not making his court-ordered alimony payments.
The former husband contends on appeal that the contempt order
violated his due process rights because he did not receive
the contempt motion and notice of the allegations against him
until the hearing, and therefore did not have an opportunity
to prepare. We agree the former husband did not receive
proper notice, and reverse the contempt order and the
judgment and writ of bodily attachment that followed it, and
remand for further proceedings.
Background and Procedural History
Kane and Ilene Sturman Kane were divorced in October 2004.
The final judgment of dissolution, which incorporated a
marital settlement agreement, required the former husband to
pay alimony to the former wife in the amount of $4, 650 until
August 14, 2015, the trial court entered an "order of
referral to general magistrate" referring a
"motion: for contempt [d]ated: 1/24/2014." There
was no motion attached to the referral order; the trial court
docket did not reflect a motion for contempt dated January
21, 2014; and there was no such motion in the record.
on the referral, the general magistrate held a contempt
hearing on January 12, 2016. The former husband, who lived in
Israel, was represented by counsel. The former husband's
counsel told the general magistrate that while there had been
an earlier motion for contempt that resulted in a judgment,
"to my knowledge there's no other renewed motion for
today. . . . I couldn't access anything." The
general magistrate told the former husband's counsel that
the former wife, who was representing herself, had "a
letter sent in that the court deems to be a motion." The
former husband's counsel explained that "I just had
no access to any of this and I've been looking for it. .
. . [A]gain the only thing that I say is I didn't have
privy to see this." At the end of the hearing, after
finding the former husband in contempt, the general
magistrate gave the former husband's counsel a copy of
the former wife's letters. The letters were still not on
the trial court's docket or in the record.
general magistrate entered a report finding that the former
wife's letter was "a Motion for Contempt in light of
the fact that she [was] a pro se litigant." The general
magistrate also found that the former husband had not made
alimony payments since January 17, 2014. The general
magistrate recommended that a judgment be entered against the
former husband in the amount of $158, 474.73.
trial court ratified and approved the general
magistrate's report, and adopted her findings and
recommendations. The trial court entered judgment consistent
with the general magistrate's recommendation, and a writ
of bodily attachment for the former husband to be brought
before the trial court within forty-eight hours of arrest.
former husband moved for rehearing because he was denied due
process. The former husband contended, as he did at the
January 12, 2016 general magistrate hearing, that he did not
receive the former wife's letters which prompted the
referral, and that the letters were never made part of the
record. Because he didn't have the letters until the day
of the hearing, the former husband argued he was "denied
the ability to properly prepare for the contempt
hearing" and was "prejudiced as a result. Such
action by ...