Can a spouse file for relief from a final judgment of dissolution after 11 years based on a fraudulent financial affidavit?
In a recent decision, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal held that a spouse may receive relief from a final judgment of dissolution after 11 years based on a fraudulent financial affidavit. The case involved a couple who divorced in 2010. In the divorce, the husband submitted a financial affidavit that the wife alleged was fraudulent. The wife did not challenge the affidavit at the time of the divorce, but she filed a motion for relief from judgment in 2021.
The trial court dismissed the wife’s motion, finding that she was barred by the statute of limitations. The appellate court reversed, holding that the “no time limit” provision of Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.540(b) applied to the wife’s motion. Rule 12.540(b) allows a party to file a motion for relief from a final judgment based on fraud, and it specifically provides that there is “no time limit” for motions based on fraudulent financial affidavits.
The appellate court found that the plain language of Rule 12.540(b) applied to the wife’s motion. The court rejected the husband’s argument that the rule should be interpreted to allow a reasonable time for a party to discover the fraud. The court found that there was no basis for such an interpretation in the rule itself or in case law.
The decision makes it clear that spouses may file for relief from a final judgment even if they discover the fraud years after the judgment was entered.
The decision is also a reminder to spouses to carefully review their financial affidavits before they sign them.
You can read the case here: Mason v. Mason.