When Can the Court Relieve a Party or a Party's Legal Representative from a Final Judgement Decree Order or Proceeding ?
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.540(b) provides:
(b) Mistakes; Inadvertence; Excusable Neglect; Newly Discovered Evidence; Fraud; etc. on motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or a party's legal representative from a final judgment, decree, order, or proceeding for the following reasons:
(1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect;
(2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial or rehearing;
(3) fraud (whether heretofore denominated intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party;
(4) that the judgment or decree is void; or
(5) that the judgment or decree has been satisfied, released, or discharged, or a prior judgment or decree upon which it is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated, or it is no longer equitable that the judgment or decree should have prospective application.
The motion shall be made within a reasonable time, and for reasons (1), (2), and (3) not more than 1 year after the judgment, decree, order, or proceeding was entered or taken.
A motion under this subdivision does not affect the finality of a judgment or decree or suspend its operation.
This rule does not limit the power of a court to entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment, decree, order, or proceeding or to set aside a judgment or decree for fraud upon the court.
Florida Family Law Rule of Procedure 12.540 provides that rule 1.540 "shall govern general provisions concerning relief from judgment, decrees, or orders, except that there shall be no time limit for motions based on fraudulent financial affidavits in marital or paternity cases."
When a court vacates a judgment pursuant to a rule 1.540 motion, the effect of that ruling is to return the case and the parties to the same position that they were in before the court entered the judgment. See Adelhelm v. Dougherty, 129 Fla. 680, 684, 176 So. 775, 777 (1937); Zwakhals v. Senft, 206 So. 2d 62, 63 (Fla. 4th DCA 1968); see also 33 Fla. Jur. 2d Judgments and Decrees 356 (1994).
In fact, the one exception to the rule of absolute finality is rule 1.540, "which gives the court jurisdiction to relieve a party from the act of finality in a narrow range of circumstances." Miller v. Fortune Ins. Co., 484 So. 2d 1221, 1223 (Fla. 1986).