Florida has not recognized Common Law Marriage since 1968. In 1960, only 460,000 couples identified themselves as living together without marriage, according to CBS News. In 2007, USA Today reported that 6.4 million people were living as a couple out of wedlock.
In Florida, if you are living with your significant other and share a house payment, vehicles and debt, then there are options for you. The best thing to do is speak with a lawyer about protecting yourself from what could be a disaster if things do not end-up happily ever after.
If you previously lived in a state that recognizes Common Law Marriage, of which there are only 11, then Florida still recognizes your status as “married.” However, for those of you entering into a “moving in together” portion of your relationship, be certain to speak with someone about protecting yourself and your partner from future disaster. None of us want to think the worse of our partners, but at least if a marriage does not work you have the law to protect you from all debt falling on you. Until the State of Florida decides this is a growing matter that needs to be addressed, options are the key to your future success and your present comfort.
Recently, a Long Island doctor donated his kidney to his wife to save her life. Eight years and one extra-marital affair later, the doctor demanded the return of his kidney or $1.5million in compensation in their divorce lawsuit. His claims are presuming that his kidney will always be his property, and that this property was “on loan” to his wife.
In California, a man attempted to cut out the breast implants he bought for his ex-girlfriend. He asserts that he was trying to recover what rightfully belonged to him, since he paid for the augmentation. The ex-girlfriend suffered six stab wounds; the scorned lover is being prosecuted for attempted murder.
I published an article about compensating people who contribute body parts for the advancement of science and medicine, entitled Stealing What’s Free: Exploring Compensation to Body Parts Sources for Their Contribution to Profitable Biomedical Research. In general, these contributions are considered gifts: the source does not get compensated, and does not get the body parts back. In analyzing the two headline-making stories above, I would fathom a guess that these guys are out of luck. The intent of donating the kidney and funding the breast augmentation was to give a gift–once given, it can’t be taken back. From the reports I’ve read, I would be shocked if a court ordered these women to undergo surgery to return the gifts.
Evander Holyfield was once the world heavyweight boxing champion. Now he is involved in another type of battle; this one is to save his third marriage from heading toward divorce. After a series of public foibles, Holyfield and his third wife, Candi, are scheduled to appear on the Dr. Phil show to discuss their faltering marriage.
In a statement, the couple said that they admired Dr. Phil’s “heartfelt approach” in helping couples in trouble. Dr. Phil is a former psychologist made famous by appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. Several years ago Dr. Phil was awarded his own television talk show where he helps people deal with difficult times in their lives.
The Holyfield’s are expected to open up about their less-than-perfect private life, including how Holyfield struck his wife recently. Critics accuse Holyfield and his wife of seeking attention rather than real healing, and point out that an abusive relationship and a troubled marriage cannot be saved in a one hour television show.
Henry Lisowski allegedly threatened his ex-wife with murder two years before she disappeared in March of 2008. After several months of searching for the woman, police received a letter from Lisowski saying that his wife had died and that he had thrown the body in a dumpster. Prosecutors maintain that the man killed his wife because she was taking him to court for child support. Defense attorneys claim that his wife died from falling down the stairs and Lisowski hid the body because he was afraid her death would look suspicious.
At the time of Ms. Lisowski’s disappearance, Lisowski had been ordered to pay $1000 a month in child support, and a hearing had been scheduled to determine if he had underreported his income in order to avoid paying more. It later turned out that he had underreported his income by over one hundred percent.
When questioned by police about his wife’s disappearance, Lisowski claimed that she was a drug addict and believed that the drug cartel had gotten to her. Lisowski had fresh scratch marks across his cheek when he was questioned. He also expressed no interest in taking the children into his home.
The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) recently completed a project intended to ensure that the voices of domestic violence sufferers remain central to their work. The project was designed to capture the insight provided by survivors in order to improve the efficacy of the Battered Women’s Movement. FCADV is dedicated to giving a voice to survivors of domestic abuse, so that they can share their stories and pass on lessons they have learned.
For the project, FCADV advocates interviewed numerous abuse survivors and advocates across Florida, including Jacksonville divorce attorneys. They have published a report with the substance of what they learned. The report includes stories from 106 females and one male victim of domestic violence. The participants were fairly evenly mixed as far as the types of communities they lived in and their ages. The majority of respondents had children living in their homes. Only 18% of respondents were employed full time.
The project revealed that the two most pressing needs of survivors are for affordable housing and for a more sensitive justice system, including better educated and fairer judges, family law attorneys, law enforcement and prosecution. The next two most pressing concerns were for jobs and affordable childcare. To read the full report, visit Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Survivor Listening Project Report.
Mechelle Seals had very low self esteem and very little experience with men when she met her first husband. After a year of marriage, however, a fight ended in the man throwing Ms. Seals to the ground and threatening their four month old daughter with a gun. Her second husband verbally abused her, and was convicted of sexually abusing her mentally handicapped daughter.
She recently explained why she stayed with both of these men, what prompted her to leave them and how she has turned her life around. She says that the abuse in her first marriage started very gradually, first with little insults and nags, then accusations of infidelity. The first time he hit her, he had been drinking and she forgave him – she believed she could help him change. The second time he got physical with her, he held a gun to their child’s head and told her to get out. She managed to escape with the child. They eventually divorced and Ms. Seals moved to Florida to get a fresh start.
About ten years later she met and married her second husband. She still had low self esteem, and she fell for the man because he paid attention to her. Soon after the wedding, the man began verbally abusing her and her now twelve year old daughter, who has an IQ of 65. A few months later, the girl knocked on a neighbor’s door and reported that her step father had been sexually abusing her. Ms. Seals divorced her husband while he was in jail awaiting trial.
Famous actor Charlie Sheen was arrested on Christmas day for an alleged assault on his wife, Brooke Mueller. But Sheen’s manager has told reporters that the couple is working out their differences amicably and has no plans to divorce. Other sources have reported that Mueller wants a separation. She has taken out a restraining order against her husband, and was recently seen vacationing without him. But she is also reportedly under a lot of pressure to change her story of the events on Christmas day; Sheen has a lot to lose and could face prison time if convicted.
The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for couples who are already not getting along. Of course, violence is never the answer – it is a crime. Sheen is entitled to his day in court. If he is found guilty of the domestic abuse charges, his fans can only hope that he gets the counseling he needs to stop abusing his partner(s). Read more about the arrest and the conflicting stories about a possible divorce at Charlie Sheen Doesn’t Want a Divorce.
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, please seek help immediately, and then contact our firm for expert, compassionate legal counsel.
Many people wonder why an abused woman would return to her abusive partner after leaving. According to therapists who treat such couples, reconciliation is quite common. Steve Stosny, the founder of CompassionPower, an anger and violence management program that treats individuals convicted of domestic abuse, discussed the phenomenon in an interview recently.
According to Stosny, victims of domestic abuse will leave their partner out of fear, anger, or retribution. But once those strong feelings start to fade, they feel guilt, shame, and anxiety – and those feelings can send them right back to their abusive partner. There is an emotional bond that is hard to break. Once the victim returns, there is often a honeymoon phase where the abuser apologizes and promises never to lose his temper again. But without therapy, the honeymoon doesn’t last.
Other professionals point to fear of change as a reason why a woman wouldn’t leave. A wealthy woman might not want to lose her lifestyle and for a poor woman, leaving might mean she has no way to support herself. In other cases, the man guilts the woman into staying by saying he will kill himself if she leaves.
Tiger Woods has cancelled at least three scheduled meetings with the Florida Highway Patrol to discuss the car accident he was involved in early Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving. He is not required by Florida law to talk to police about a traffic accident under investigation. But he has spoken to reporters in an attempt to dispel rumors that the accident happened in the middle of a domestic dispute with his wife, Elin Nordegren.
According to a prominent Hollywood news website, TMZ, the fight was sparked by Woods’ alleged affair with another woman, Rachel Uchitel, who has denied the relationship. Woods and Ms. Nordegren started fighting after the National Enquirer printed a story about his alleged affair with Ms. Uchitel. He reportedly told a friend that Ms. Nordegren attacked him during the argument, scratching his face and chasing him out of the house and down the driveway with a golf club.
Some have speculated that he is putting off meeting with police to allow the scratches on his face to heal so that his wife will not be arrested for domestic violence. Florida law does allow police to intervene in a spousal abuse case against the wishes of the parties involved.
A recent study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly paints a bleak picture for low income women who are subject to abuse. Even those who seek help for domestic violence issues suffer from depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and have to deal with stressful issues like child custody and child support, unemployment and finding affordable housing. Their situation has driven many of these women to return to their abusive partner.
The study points out that most domestic violence programs are focused on getting the woman away from her abuser and starting the legal proceedings to protect her and legally dissolve the relationship if necessary. Very few offer counseling, guidance or follow up to see how the women are doing after they leave. The researchers recommend that programs be offered for these women that provide housing opportunities, job training, transportation and child care so that they do not feel forced to return to their abusive partner because they have nowhere else to go. You can read more about the study findings at Nancy Hengeveld: Without support, battered women often return to their abusers.
If you are involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help for yourself, and then contact one of our Family Law Experts for compassionate legal counsel.