Three times was too many for Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade’s ex-wife. Four years ago, an Illinois court entered a 102-page (!) judgment after a 38-day (!) trial, detailing D-Wade and his ex-wife’s custody and timesharing arrangements. D-Wade was given sole custody and permission to relocate the minor children to Florida, with his ex-wife granted timesharing/visitation rights.
D-Wade registered and domesticated the judgment in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court in 2012. When he did that, under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), jurisdiction over custody issues was relinquished from the Illinois court to the Family Division of the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.
Three years later, Wade and his ex-wife are still fighting over visitation. D-Wade’s ex has filed three separate appeals to the 3rd District Court of Appeal. In her first two appearances before the 3rd DCA, D-Wade’s ex-wife successfully challenged an order by a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge requiring her to submit to a psychological evaluation, and successfully petitioned for the judge to be disqualified from presiding over the case.
By the former Mrs. Wade’s third appeal, however, the 3rd DCA was disturbed that the parties were continuing to fight it out in court instead of resolving their differences — suggesting that their lawyers may be responsible for unnecessarily prolonging the battle. In an opinion released on March 25, 2015, the court rejected the former wife’s argument that the circuit court had impermissibly modified the Illinois court’s custody judgment when it ordered that she give more advance written notice be given for time-sharing and declined to award “make-up days” to her to compensate for lost visitation days.
But the substance of the dispute, which was over a pretty minor issue, seemed to have been of secondary importance to the 3rd DCA. Most of the opinion is dedicated not to that issue, but to critiquing the conduct of both parties’ lawyers. The court chastised both sides’ lawyers for sending “abrasive and accusatory” emails to each other instead of working to resolve the issues.
Even more concerning to the court, however, was the lawyers’ apparent lack of attention to the custody judgment’s requirement that a Parenting Coordinator be consulted to minimize and resolve disputes. Although the originally appointed Parenting Coordinator had resigned, the lawyers should have arranged for the appointment of another, the court felt. Doing so could have avoided continued litigation — and kept the star player’s family out of the news — by providing “a path of confidentiality and non-judicial resolution for the benefit of the children and, by benefiting the children, the parties.”
Anticipating future court battles and appeals — this dispute centered on visitation for the summer of 2014, so similar disputes ostensibly could arise over time-sharing over future summers — the 3rd DCA made clear that it would not welcome future appeals over similar minutiae:
In a high-conflict, high-profile case such as this, the parties and their counsel have the resources to appeal every adjustment of time-sharing procedures based on particular occurrences, but it does not follow that every such adjustment warrants the comprehensive appellate review accorded a substantive post-judgment modification.
In other words, do not waste your money or our time appealing again over relatively trivial issues.