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Legislative change could help cover costs of family law attorney

A woman living in another state recently enjoyed a bit of a victory after her case prompted legislative action. The woman is a victim of domestic violence, and when she tried to divorce the man who harmed her, she learned that state law required her to pay for his family law attorney. While that outcome may be unthinkable to many Florida residents, the matter illustrates the loopholes that often exist in the law. 

The state where the woman resides presumes that an inmate is indigent and therefore cannot pay for his or her own legal needs. The solution is to require the inmate's spouse to cover his or her legal costs. In this case, however, the husband was serving a prison sentence for choking, beating and attempting to shoot the woman who was trying to divorce him. 

His legal costs were relatively low, but the wife still had trouble making the payment. That was largely due to the fact that, after firing a gun at her and beating her, the husband went on to clean out their bank account before he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to attacking her and is serving a 10-year prison sentence. 

The matter prompted efforts to change that law, and a bill recently passed the state's House and will now advance to the Senate. It would compel the state to cover the cost of a family law attorney in divorce cases where the incarcerated party was an abusive spouse. For many Florida residents, that is the only reasonable outcome.

Source: courier-journal.com, "Soon, spouses might not be stuck with abusive partner's divorce bills", Deborah Yetter, Jan. 25, 2018

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