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Florida’s law was originally enacted in 1868.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 Eight states that once made cohabitation illegal have repealed those statutes, one as recently as 2013.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.