In re Guardianship of Graham, — So.2d —-, 2007 WL 2189111 (Fla. 4th DCA Aug 01, 2007)

In the linked-to case two brothers were feuding over whom would be appointed mom’s guardian.  The brother that lost, ‘Larry," decided to take matters into his own hands after the trial court ruled against him.

After the trial court appointed the guardian, Larry surreptitiously took Betty from the residence where she had been placed by the guardian and moved her to California without giving notice to the court or any of the parties. The trial court held Larry in indirect criminal contempt for removing Betty from Florida and otherwise defying the guardianship orders. Larry has refused to reveal his exact whereabouts as well as the whereabouts of his mother.

Adding insult to injury, Larry managed to find a lawyer who was audacious enough to argue that since Larry had essentially kidnapped his mom and taken her out of Florida . . . the Florida court system no longer had any authority over her.

The attorney .  .  .  argued that the court was required to dismiss the guardianship proceedings because the ward could not be located after diligent search. See Fla. Prob. R. 5.680(a). When the court asked, “But we have the ability to know where the ward is; don’t we?” The attorney responded, “But she’s not-she’s not-they didn’t until I divulged that.” That same attorney has continued to argue in this proceeding that the guardianship proceedings must be dismissed because Betty is no longer in Florida.

The trial court of course rejected Larry’s ludicrous argument, and the 4th DCA affirmed.

Lesson learned:

First, in contested guardianship proceedings, always expect the unexpected.  Second, if the other side goes completely crazy, remember the trial court’s contempt powersFinally, if you’re involved in a legitimate proceeding where there are legitimate reasons for moving a ward to another state, make sure you remember that Florida Statutes section 744.2025(1) requires a guardian to obtain prior court approval before removing the ward from the state.  Here’s how the procedural steps involved in a change of domicile were summarized in the linked-to case:

The statutes provide for termination of a guardianship upon a change in domicile of the ward where another state has appointed a guardian, but the statute requires that the change in domicile be accomplished by the legal guardian with prior approval of the court. § 744.524, Fla. Stat. (2006) (providing for termination of guardianship when the domicile of a ward has changed as provided in section 744.2025). The petition does not suggest that California has appointed a guardian for Betty and clearly the circuit court has not approved Betty’s change in domicile. See also Fla. Prob. R. 5.670 (setting forth the procedure for terminating a guardianship on change of domicile of a ward and requiring the Florida guardian to file a petition for discharge); cf. In re Guardianship of Gechtman, 719 So.2d 960 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998).