Articles Tagged with Jurisdiction

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Commonly known as DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act was partly overturned by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. 336862_rainbow_flag_in_san_francisco.jpg

DOMA was originally enacted in 1996 under President Clinton. One component of the statute permits states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed under the laws of other states. President Clinton, later in 2009, admitted that he supported same-sex marriage but ultimately did not feel it was a federal issue. The other part of the statute defines marriage, for federal purposes, as between one man and one woman, effectively precluding married same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits. It was this federal definition (“Section 3”) that the Supreme Court struck down.

In 2011, the Obama administration proclaimed that although it is their belief that the Section 3 is unconstitutional, they would continue to enforce the bill but refused to defend it in court. Prior to the historic Supreme Court ruling, Section 3 was struck down as unconstitutional in the Court of Appeals for eight federal circuits.

The case that made it to the Supreme Court which ultimately led to its overturning is United States v. Windsor. The case followed Edith Windsor who had married her spouse Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. The couple moved to New York and New York state recognized their same-sex marriage. When Thea died, she left her entire estate to Spyer. Historically, when a spouse dies in the US, the spouse, and only the spouse, will be exempt from federal estate taxes; if the estate is left to anyone but a spouse then the limit is $3.2 million dollars before estate taxes apply. In Edith’s case, the IRS did not recognize Edith as a legitimate spouse under DOMA leaving Edith with an estate tax bill totaling over $300k.

Windsor proceeded to sue for a refund of the money she did eventually pay. The grounds were that such a tax under DOMA’s non-recognition was a violation of her Fifth Amendment right of equal protection. The two federal courts ruled in favor of Edith and the case made it to the Supreme Court; oral arguments were heard in March 2013. The court found Section 3 unconstitutional as “a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment”.

Governor Scott and Senator Marco Rubio disagreed with the SCOTUS decision but identified that it won’t affect Florida ban. The Florida state ban on gay marriage was introduced in 2008. The Florida ban would need to be repealed by either an act of legislature, which is slow and the bill was introduced based voted on by the citizens of Florida (62%), or by a petition requiring nearly 700,000 signatures. Equality Florida, a gay-rights group, announced it will campaign in 2014 for a bill to challenge the Florida ban.

Although the focus is on same-sex marriage, an interesting effect of this case is same-sex divorce. Historically, upon a divorce, ex-spouses could transfer unlimited money between them in settling property distribution. Same-sex couples now can settle divorces without imposing large tax fees. Additionally, federal gift taxes would not apply to same-sex spouses.
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338px-Chris_Bosh_e1 By Flickr user Keith Allison, via Wikimedia Commons.jpgLast month, Miami Heat basketball player Chris Bosh spent more than two hours being questioned about his residency before an Orlando judge. The 28-year-old Dallas, Texas native maintains that although he has been employed by the Miami team for two seasons, he is still a Texas resident. Orange County Judge Robert Evans is tasked with determining whether Bosh is actually a Florida resident for child support and child custody purposes. Bosh has reportedly been involved in a support and custody battle with Allison Mathis, the mother of his three-year-old daughter, since the child’s birth.

At the Orlando hearing, attorneys for Mathis submitted a mortgage affidavit Bosh signed approximately two years ago that states he intended to make the $12.5 million home he purchased in Miami his primary residence. Bosh’s voting records were also admitted into evidence during the hearing. Bosh reportedly failed to vote in the 2008 presidential election and his name was purged from Texas voter rolls. Bosh allegedly re-registered to vote in Dallas two weeks prior to the proceeding. Although the man failed to register for a homestead exemption on his Miami property, Bosh reportedly only applied for such an exemption on his suburban Dallas home one-week before the hearing. After Bosh admitted to having an out-of-state driver’s license, Judge Evans allegedly asked the basketball player if he was aware that he was required to obtain a Florida license within 30 days of moving to the state.

Bosh’s residency is important because a Texas court ordered the basketball superstar to pay Mathis approximately $2,600 per month in child support three years ago. Mathis, a resident of Orange County, Florida, has asked the Orlando court to order Bosh to pay a larger sum each month to provide support the couple’s daughter. If Bosh is deemed to be a resident of Florida, Judge Evans could instead order Bosh to pay as much as $30,000 in monthly child support. The Orlando judge is reportedly expected to make a decision regarding the Miami player’s residency in late September.

Parents in Florida must provide financial support for their children. Any award of child support is determined using statutory guidelines that reflect the costs of medical and dental care, day care, and the amount of time each parent spends with a child pursuant to a court approved time-sharing plan. If you need assistance with a child support or child custody matter, you should speak with a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney.
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In Sootin v. Sootin, the former husband and former wife divorced in Miami-Dade in 1998. The former husband was obliged to pay the former wife permanent alimony. During 2008, the former husband sought to modify or terminate his alimony obligation. The former wife successfully moved to dismiss the petition since she now resided in Tennessee.

Next, the former husband moved to Tennessee and filed a petition to register and modify the divorce decree previously entered in Miami-Dade. After the former wife moved to dismiss the petition for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction in Tennessee, the Miami-Dade court, after consultation with the Tennessee Court, transfered the case to Tennessee. The former wife appealed this order.

In reversing the trial court’s transfer order, the Third District Court of Appeal held that the Miami divorce court erred in transferring the case to Tennessee. The court reasoned that Florida, under the Unified Interstate Family Support Act (hereinafter “UIFSA”), had continuing exclusive jurisdiction over the alimony order throughout the existence of the obligation.