Category: Domestic Partnerships

You’re Probably a Criminal: Family Law Update

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Partnerships on Thursday, February 11, 2016.

It is illegal for an unmarried man and woman to live together in Florida. So, you’re probably a criminal. But Florida is roaring into the 21st Century, and the Florida Legislature may correct the cohabitation wrinkle.

Florida’s law was originally enacted in 1868. The law made cohabitation a crime. The punishment is serious too: up to 2 years in prison, up to 1 year in the county jail, or up to a $300 fine.

Another law makes it a second degree misdemeanor for a person to engage in any unnatural and lascivious act with another person.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures only three states, Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi, make cohabitation illegal. Eight states that once made cohabitation illegal have repealed those statutes, one as recently as 2013.

Granted, the law is rarely enforced, but there have been multiple attempts to do away with the ban on cohabitation, and all have failed. Although many lawmakers want it off the books for good, some support it.

It may also be unconstitutional. In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court held that decisions about the intimacies of a physical relationship are a form of “liberty” protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I’ve written before about legislative updates. Tallahassee is an important city to watch now that the Legislature is back in session. New Senate Bill 498 is moving forward.

The proposal to scrap Florida’s 147-year-old ban on unmarried men and women living together received unanimous approval during its first committee stop in the state Senate for the 2016 session. The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.

Local Republican State Rep. Charles Van Zant has been against changing the law since the beginning. But, Ryan Strickland, who lived with his wife for four years before they got married, says it’s time.

“People need to adjust as the time goes on,” Strickland said. “Lots of laws need to be adjusted to reflect the times and the feelings of people.”

Recent census data suggests that more than 430,000 couples in Florida are in violation of the law. That means that they could be fined $500 and spend up to 60 days in jail.

The bill, if passed, would repeal the provision in §798.02, F.S., which makes it a second degree misdemeanor for any unmarried man and woman, lewdly and lasciviously to associate and cohabit together.

The bill would take effect upon becoming a law.

The Miami Herald article is here.

Introducing the 3 Parent Birth Certificate

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Partnerships on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

Florida child custody law relating to homosexuality is a work in progress. For example, Florida law restricts the issuance of birth certificates, and expressly states that no person may adopt if that person is a homosexual. However, the ban on homosexual adoptions has been held to violate the equal protection provision of the Florida Constitution.

In re: Gill, 45 So. 3rd 79 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010), declared Florida Statute §63.042(3) unconstitutional, and granted the adoption of foster children to a gay foster parent. The court ruled there was no rational relationship between the statutory ban and the best interests of children.

“Under Florida law, homosexual persons are allowed to serve as foster parents or guardians, but are barred from being considered for adoptive parents. All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents, but not homosexual persons – even where, as here, the adoptive parent is a fit parent and the adoption is in the best interest of the children.”

Gill overturned the long-standing statutory ban on gay adoption, and opened the legal doors for all qualified gay persons, whether previous adoptive parents or not.

With the law as it is, it is notable that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Antonio Marin approved the adoption of a 22-month-old baby girl that will list three people as parents on her birth certificate: a married lesbian couple and a gay man. Judge Marin’s order ended a two-year paternity fight between the couple and a friend of the women who donated his sperm, but wanted to play a role in the child’s life. You can read more about the decision here.

Judge Marin’s order means the child’s birth certificate will include a biological father and both women as parents, and the two women will have sole parental rights. While the father will be allowed to visit the child, he is not expected to provide any child support.

Children With Strangers: The New Co-Parents

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Partnerships on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

Many parents got married with the idea of having child custody. A growing number of parents had children outside of marriage. Now there is a new breed of parent, and they visit special websites.

No, not JDate or eHarmony. The websites I’m talking about are for people looking to find strangers to start a family with. Really. They are Parenting Partners, or sometimes called co-parents.

There are several websites to help them:


These websites cater to strangers trying to find and match themselves with the perfect sperm donor, egg donor or co-parent. As the New York Times reports:

“While some people have chosen to be a single parent, many more people look at scheduling and the financial pressures and the lack of an emotional partner and decide that single parenting is too daunting and wouldn’t be good for them or the child,” said Darren Spedale, 38, the founder of Family by Design, a free parenting partnership site officially introduced in early January. “If you can share the support and the ups and downs with someone, it makes it a much more interesting parenting option.”

Some people are critical of online parenting. Elizabeth Marquardt, for example, who is the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, argues:

“It’s a terrible idea, deliberately consigning a child to be raised in two different worlds, with parents who did not even attempt to form a loving bond with one another.

Still, people are doing it. And, some have become wise consumers too:

“We become super-critical – much more than if it was just a cup of coffee or a date.”

That’s nice. However, these arrangements have problems typical of any family. What if a parent wants to move away? What will the timesharing schedule be? How will decisions about health, education and welfare be made? Consider this couple:

While Mr. Blue and Ms. Pieke plan on sharing parenting responsibility for Indigo equally, they never drafted any kind of legal agreement, which they both agree was unwise.

A lot of these issues can be addressed in an agreement, because they are the problems a lawyer specializing in family law deals with daily. Anyone looking to become a parent this way will likely have more success with a written agreement.

If nothing else, it also will force you to think about these issues before you click the “check out” button.

Gay Divorce is Here…or uhm There!

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Partnerships on Tuesday, January 1, 2013.

Marriage in Florida is limited to a man and a woman. divorce too. This means gay couples cannot legally marry in Florida. Their unions are not recognized either. What about gay divorces? While the issue of gay marriage appeared in the presidential elections, and is a hot topic in other states, there has not been a lot of news about the issue of gay divorce anywhere.

However, a Family Court in Ramat Gan, Israel corrects this omission. The Family Court last week approved a divorce between Professor Uzi Even and Dr. Amit Kama, two gay men. This is not the only first for Mr. Even, he is also the first openly gay member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

The decision is an important one, because Israeli law only recognizes marriages performed under the auspices of religious courts. In Israel, gay couples are forbidden to marry. Instead, gay couples marry in civil ceremonies in other countries, or simply don’t marry. Unlike Florida however, their marriages are recognized in Israel when they return from abroad.

Israel’s Interior Ministry can try to veto the Family Court decision. The ministry would have to go to court in order to do so. A few years ago, the Israeli Supreme Court forced the Interior Ministry to recognize same sex marriages performed abroad, and ordered the government to list a gay couple wed in Canada as married. Same sex marriages are performed in Israel, but they have no formal legal status. As the Israeli paper Haaretz reports:

“The irony is that while this is the beginning of a civil revolution, it’s based on divorce rather than marriage,” newly divorced Kama, a senior lecturer in communications in the Emek Yizrael College, told Reuters. He and Even, both Israelis, married in Toronto in 2004, not long after Canada legalized same sex marriage. They separated last year, Kama said. It took months to finalize a divorce as they could not meet Canada’s residency requirements to have their marriage dissolved there. At the same time in Israel, rabbinical courts in charge of overseeing such proceedings threw out the case, Kama said.

By winning a ruling from a civil court, Kama and Even may have also set a precedent for Israeli heterosexual couples, who until now have had to have rabbis steeped in ancient ritual handle their divorces, legal experts say.

“This is the first time in Israeli history a couple of Jews are obtaining a divorce issued by an authority other than a rabbinical court, and I think there is significant potential here for straight couples” to do so as well, said Zvi Triger, deputy dean of the Haim Striks law school near Tel Aviv.

Same Sex Marriages, DOMA, and Taxes

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Domestic Partnerships on Wednesday, October 24, 2012.

Death and taxes impact everyone, gay or straight. Recently, the issues of homosexuality, same sex marriage and divorce have been in the news, especially with the presidential debates. Whatever side of the debate you may find yourself, have you ever asked whether homosexuals should be taxed differently? When asked that way, the question sure sounds unconstitutional.

In 1963, Edie Windsor met her late-spouse, Thea Spyer, in New York City. They entered into a committed relationship, and lived together in New York. In 1993, they registered as domestic partners in New York City when it became available. In 2007, as Spyer’s health began to deteriorate, they decided to marry in Canada – which permitted gays and lesbians to marry. Two years later, Spyer died, leaving her estate to Windsor.

The unlimited marital deduction is one of the major deductions in determining a taxable estate. There is no limit to the amount of the marital deduction, so a married person can potentially eliminate estate taxes by leaving the entire estate to her surviving spouse. However, the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Because of the operation of DOMA, Windsor did not qualify for the unlimited marital deduction, and was required to pay $363,053 in federal estate tax on Spyer’s estate.

So, in addition to losing her spouse, and facing the prospect of living her remaining years alone, Windsor now faced a $363,053 federal tax bill that married heterosexual couples do not have to pay. In 2010, Windsor commenced a lawsuit seeking a refund of the federal estate tax levied on Spyer’s estate and a declaration that DOMA violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Last week in Windsor v. United States, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that DOMA’s section 3 does not pass constitutional muster. I understand that a petition for a writ of certiorari is already pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.