Florida Homestead Requires That Both Spouses Agree on The Sale or Mortgage of a Home

Transplanted residents from other states are often surprised by this one … and sometimes clobbered.

Florida has a constitutional protection called homestead.

What homestead does, among other things, is require that the legal spouse of a homeowner:

  1. join in any deed of a home to a third party and

  2. join in or consent to any mortgage on a home

Florida confers these rights and protections on spouses by virtue of their legal status of being married. How the property is titled or when the property was acquired is irrelevant.

So … a married spouse cannot sell a house they own, or mortgage it, unless the other spouse joins in the transaction or signs a written consent to it.

And a spouse generally won’t be able to get a away with lying about their marital status.

Title insurance companies conduct public records searches that are bound to foil any such lie. When couples divorce in Florida, a final judgment is recorded, just like a deed or mortgage.

Read more in this Sun Sentinel column House Keys: Ask a real estate pro: Do I need my estranged wife’s consent to sell home?.

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Canadian Boy Allegedly Abducted to US by Mother Seven Years Ago Finally Returns to Father in Canada

Mother and Father live in British Columbia, Canada.

Mother and Father have three year old Son together.

Mother and Father break up.

Mother allegedly abducts Son to the US.

Canadian family court awards Father sole custody of Son.

Mother manages to remain at large with Son for seven years, despite Father’s efforts to locate Son.

Mother reportedly flies into a rage while in a laundromat in Arizona, allegedly because Son bought some candy.

Police are summoned.

And discover that Mother is wanted in Canada for parental child abduction.

Police arrest Mother for disorderly conduct.

Son is taken into child protective custody.

Son is then returned to Father, who comes to Arizona. Father plans to bring Son back to Canada (and his two older siblings, Sisters).

Due to the age at which Son was taken, he barely recollects Father or Sisters.

Unrepentant, Mother defends her actions and insists that Father is not Son’s father … despite a DNA test reportedly proving that he is.

Son can undoubtedly look forward to a big adjustment.

Arizona authorities are working with the Canadian courts to find a way to extradite Mother to Canada.


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Should A Biological Mother Be Financially Accountable to a Father Under the Law, Who Turns Out Not to Be Their Child’s Father Biologically?

Tennessee Husband and Wife have a Son together.

Husband and Wife divorce.

Son now lives primarily with Husband.

Husband learns that Son is not Husband’s biological offspring, but rather the product of an affair by Wife.

Husband sues Wife to recover child support and for damages due to emotional distress caused by Wife’s fraud.

At trial, the family court awards Husband $26,000 in child support and $100,000 in emotional distress damages.

Wife appeals. And the intermediate level appellate court strikes the financial awards to Husband.

Husband appeals. And the state Supreme Court will address for the first time whether a defrauded father may sue for child support and/or damages due to paternity fraud.

This is an issue that will not go away. After years of lobbying by men’s rights groups, numbers of states, including Florida, passed legislation permitting legal fathers to disprove that they are the biological fathers of their legal children and avoid future child support payments.

The catch is that the legal father must mount his legal challenge pretty quickly. And that is believed to be true in the other states as well as Florida.

Further, the sole remedy to date is believed to be termination of child support, but not recovery of previously paid support – or damages. That would represent a significant departure and a new page in our law books.

Not to mention the impact it would have on the innocent children who are the subjects of these disputes.

Read more in this WREG TV News 3 article: Tennessee Supreme Court could determine whether paternity fraud is grounds to sue and this Insurance Journal article: Father’s Day: Tennessee Court Considers Paternity Fraud, Damages.

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Highest Court in the US Rejects Publicly Funded Attorneys for Child Support Enforcement Defense Cases

Times may be tough, but the US Supreme Court isn’t budging.

There has long been debate on whether the government should provide attorneys to parents defending in child support enforcement cases.

Some states have decided that, yes, under their state constitution, the government should afford counsel to defendants in child support contempt cases.

Their rationale: if a court holds a parent in contempt, the court can incarcerate them. Such a case is therefore similar to a criminal case, in which there is a right to counsel.

In a recent case before the US Supreme Court, however, the high court ruled not to extend the right to government-provided counsel to child support enforcement cases.

The court justifies its holding because defendants in support enforcement proceedings can earn their own release simply by complying with the court’s order. Not so in criminal cases.

If the parent pursuing enforcement has an attorney though, then the defendant is entitled to certain “substantial procedural safeguards”, but not publicly funded legal representation.

In the case before the Supreme Court, a South Carolina father contended that he was poor and unable to meet his support obligations. But, without a lawyer, he argued, he was unable to present his defense effectively.

The court was mindful of the fact that many parents seeking enforcement of the other parent’s support obligation often don’t have attorneys themselves.

Procedural safeguards include notices that ability to pay is a key issue in the case, requiring the court to make findings as to the defendant’s ability to pay.

Read more in this New York Times article: Court Issues Split Ruling on Poor’s Right to Counsel and this New York Times editorial: Legal Help for Indigent Parents.

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Regardless of the Law’s Characterization of Pets as Mere Property, Divorcing Spouses Usually Look on Their Pets as Family Members

In a significant number of divorces, the divorcing couple have one or more pets.

Under the law, pets are characterized as property and treated accordingly.

But some, if not all, family members, think of family pets as part of the family, even like children.

And the fate of the family pet or pets in divorce court can be complicated … and cold.

A pet health information website recently sponsored a study of the role and influence of pets in family life. It can be substantial.

Among other things, the survey concluded that a whopping ninety percent of pet parents (sometimes called “owners”) would give up money in a divorce in exchange for their pets.

And fight harder over their pets than over money.

Domestic abusers often use family pets to exert control over their victims. And victims of domestic abuse often remain with their abuser longer than they otherwise would out of concern for their pets.

Read more in this Huliq article: Animal lovers choose pets over alimony and presidential candidates.

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New York State Legalizes Gay Marriage; Gay Divorce On the Horizon

New York state has just legalized marriage for gay couples, effective thirty days from now. This new law makes New York the sixth state and the largest state to recognize gay marriage.

Passage of the law in New York is anticipated to be a catalyst for a sea change for gay marriage in the US. With New York’s large, influential and mobile population, married gay couples will soon travel and relocate into other states and challenge their attitudes and law regarding gay marriage.

Academics and others look forward to the prospect of now being able to obtain adequate statistical samplings from which to draw conclusions about the economic impact of gay marrage on society, such as on employment benefits, including retirement and the wedding and hospitality industries.

And, with the advent of gay marriage in New York, gay divorce cannot help but be far behind.

Additional economic data to be watched will be the impact of gay marriage on divorce rates among the general population, as well as the gay population, and the impact on professionals who deliver services related to breakups and divorces, from lawyers, to marriage counselors, to divorce coaches, to domestic violence counselors, etc.

Read more in this New York Times article: New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage, Becoming Largest State to Pass Law and this Reuters news article: National impact from New York marriage law: experts.

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Mistakes to Avoid in a Prenup, or Prenuptial Agreement

Whether it’s the economy or other forces at work, prenuptial agreements, or prenups, continue to gain popularity. While it used to typically be the husband-to-be who requested a prenup, these days it is slightly more likely to be the wife-to-be seeking it.

Prenups are no longer just about protecting assets. In this age of runaway debt, they are also about protecting one spouse from the other’s debt.

Some common mistakes to avoid are:

  • Getting it done with only one attorney and thinking that that attorney represents both fiances. One attorney cannot represent the interests of both intendeds.

  • Not knowing the property division law in the state in question.

  • Not knowing how to enter a calm and clear-headed discussion about the issues with the other future spouse.

  • Not carefully reviewing the agreement and not taking its words at face value. The less-endowed partner should be wary of provisions intended to regulate behavior … or deny the existence of any marital property that the less endowed spouse would leave the marriage with.

  • Giving up too much without adequate consideration of long term consequences. For example, how would a stay at home caregiver and homemaker for many years support themself in the event of divorce if they waive alimony in the agreement?

Read more in this Reuters Wealth piece- Prenup: 5 ways to protect your assets and your marriage.

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Husband Outrages Adult Child By Asserting Claims Regarding Child’s Earnings and College Scholarship in Divorce

Mississippi Husband and Wife have a Child who recently graduated from high school.

Child now works, either full-time, perhaps on a summer job, or part-time.

Husband is a dentist.

Husband allegedly takes all money received from relatives for Child over the years, for birthdays, graduations and the like.

Couple files for divorce.

In the divorce, Husband subpoenas Child’s employment records regarding her salary information.

Husband and Wife are paying for Child’s college education. Child earns a $1,000 scholarship – and Husband demands “his share” of same.

Child objects.

Child is shocked and appalled by Husband’s attitude.

Demonstrating Child’s inexperience with divorce.

Having said that, divorce is governed by state law and may vary from state to state.

Where the parents have an obligation to support a child in Florida, the child’s independent income, be it salary or a scholarship, is a legitimate consideration in determining child support awards under Florida child support law.

But, in Florida, child support obligations end when a Child turns eighteen and has completed high school.

As many people discover when they first become involved with the legal system, the law is often totally unrelated to what many may consider “right” or “moral”.

And all that matters in family court (or any court) is the law.

Read more in this [South Mississippi] Sun Herald column: Misguided parent shows his vindictive side.

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Disorderly Conduct Charges Against Noted Geek Husband and Physician Wife, Stemming from Alleged Domestic Abuse, Dismissed With Mutual Consent

Connecticut Husband and Wife’s marriage is breaking up.

Husband is a geek, I mean technology columnist for none other than the erudite New York Times and correspondent for CBS News.

Wife was a plastic surgeon.

Recently, Husband was exercising visitation and timesharing with their three Children.

Wife came to the scene during Husband’s timesharing.

And the two professionals reportedly “got into it”.

Wife allegedly bit Husband on the arm.

And Husband allegedly struck Wife on the head with … her iPhone.

Both spouses were arrested on misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges.

Demonstrating yet again that domestic abuse encroaches into all professional, economic and social circles.

At their second appearance in court, however, the charges against both spouses were dismissed.

Read more in this Stamford [CT]Advocate news article: Charges dismissed against New York Times tech writer David Pogue and wife and this Westport [CT] Times news article: Charges dismissed against NY Times tech writer David Pogue and wife.

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Divorcing Husband and Wife Arrested for Plotting to Fake Husband’s Death in Hopes of Wife Regaining Custody of Their Children from Protective Custody and Husband Starting a New Life After a Sex Change Surgery

Oklahoma Husband and Wife are divorcing.

Husband and Wife have Children together.

Children are removed and taken into protective custody because Husband uses a “sex toy” in the presence of one of their Children.

Wife drops Husband off at a lake for a fishing trip.

After Husband’s scheduled return, Wife allegedly files a report with the police to the effect that Husband has gone missing.

Due to changes in Wife’s account, police arrest her.

Wife later reportedly admits that Husband solicited her assistance in staging his death.

Husband is said to have been looking to avoid outstanding warrants for his arrest. And to start a new life after a sex change surgery.

Wife reportedly went along with Husband’s plan to be done with Husband and in the hope of re-gaining custody of Children.

Both Husband and Wife now stand charged with conspiracy to commit a crime by filing a false police report.

Read more in this Oklahoman news article: Divorcing Stillwater couple accused of trying to fake man’s death.

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