Same Sex Marriage and Bankruptcy in Florida

On February 8, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee will “take the position that same-sex married couples should be eligible to file for bankruptcy jointly and that domestic support obligations should include debts such as alimony owed to a former same-sex spouse.”

Since the 2008 constitutional amendment passed, Florida law has not recognized same sex marriages. Until now, same sex couples, even those legally married in a state which recognizes same sex marriage, were not allowed to jointly file bankruptcy in Florida. The Trustees in Florida deferred to state law.

This new announcement changes how federal bankruptcy will be handled for same sex couples in Florida. While few Floridians will be affected by this policy, it could be crucially important to those who are now eligible.

Permanent alimony in Florida could end

According to this story in the Florida Times-Union:

A bill passed by the Florida Legislature and headed for the governor’s signature would make major changes to the state’s alimony laws and custody-sharing agreements, worrying family law advocates that women and children could be hurt.

If signed by Gov. Rick Scott, the law would end permanent alimony in Florida.

If signed by the Governor, we expect a flurry of activity as existing divorce agreements are appealed.

Florida Senate passes alimony reform bill

The Florida Senate has passed a divorce reform bill, which would end permanent alimony and automatically set 50/50 time sharing for divorcing couples in Florida. One of the most controversial parts of the proposed reform would make the application of the new law, if enacted, retroactive.

This means that people who are currently paying any type of alimony would have the ability to terminate or modify their alimony obligations based solely on the new law. Alimony recipients could be in jeopardy of having their alimony payments terminated.

If passed and signed into law, we expect a rush of motions at the courthouse to file or reopen family law cases in an attempt to take advantage of the change in the law.

Making Home Affordable event

Making Home Affordable, a U.S. government program, has announced two events for Miami, Florida. Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:00pm to 8:00pm and Thursday, February 28, 2013 9:00am to 3:00pm at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami. We’ll be sure to let you know when they come to Jacksonville.

Private Student Loan Debt Could Become Dischargeable

For the fifth time, US lawmakers have introduced a bill which would treat private student loan debt the same as other private debt in bankruptcy proceedings. Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Danny Davis (IL-07) introduced the legislation.

“Congress taking action on student loan debt is long overdue,” said Congressman Cohen. “People who seek higher education to better their futures should not be dissuaded from doing so by the threat of financial ruin. The bankruptcy system should work as a safety net that allows people to get the education they want with the assurance that, should their finances come under strain by layoffs, accidents, or other unforeseen life events, they will be protected. Our bill takes a modest but important step in achieving this goal.”

“The 2005 bankruptcy restrictions penalize borrowers for pursuing higher education, provide no incentive to private lenders to lend responsibly, and likely affect African American borrowers more negatively than other borrowers,” said Congressman Davis. “I am proud to join with my colleagues to ensure that our statutes do not unintentionally burden particular groups of people. Private education debt is no different than other consumer debt; it involves private profit and deserves no privileged treatment. I will work actively with Senator Durbin and Congressman Cohen to protect student borrowers.”

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November real estate sales

The number of homes for sale in the Jacksonville area dropped to its lowest level since 2005 says the Times-Union. That means all those homes sitting on the market have been purchased. With a more limited supply, the average price is now up above $180,000. Overall good news for the Jacksonville real estate market.

Wells Fargo to Help Jacksonville Area Customers Facing Mortgage Payment Challenges

Wells Fargo & Company is hosting a free Home Preservation Workshop for Jacksonville area Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Wells Fargo Financial, and Wells Fargo Home Equity customers facing financial hardships. Wells Fargo has invited more than 4,000 mortgage customers to the free workshop which will be held on Wednesday, October 10 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville. Parking is free.

At the event, customers who meet basic guidelines may begin the process of applying for Florida’s Hardest Hit program, which provides up to 12 months of mortgage payments for those who are unemployed or underemployed.

Some Wells Fargo customers – those whose loans are both serviced and owned by Wells Fargo – may be eligible for options created by a settlement with attorneys general in Florida and elsewhere. Homeowners whose loans are “under water” – meaning they owe more on their mortgage than the value of their home – may be eligible to refinance their loan based on criteria including demonstrating ability to repay. Depending on eligibility for a loan modification, homeowners who are behind on their payments may also receive a principal reduction on their mortgage.

How to register for Wells Fargo’s Jacksonville Home Preservation Workshop

Walk-ins are welcome, although registration is strongly recommended in order to guarantee the ability to meet one-on-one with a representative. Customers should register by Monday, October 8, 2012 at or call 1-800-405-8067 for more information.

Florida buyers may not understand risks in coastal real estate purchases

Living along a Florida beach sounds like a dream, but it can bring nightmarish worries, including severe weather, erosion and regulations limiting how the land is used.

A new study by researchers with the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS, suggests that many buyers aren’t aware that living on the coast brings special challenges. In 2006, following two active hurricane seasons, state lawmakers strengthened real estate laws to ensure home and condominium buyers are told about the regulations and risks before their purchases are completed.

But the study findings suggest many who bought Florida coastal real estate in recent years either didn’t get the warning or didn’t absorb it amid the flurry of document-signing that accompanies closing a real estate deal.

“They’re either not being informed or they simply don’t remember – both of which are plausible,” said Tom Ankersen, director of the law school’s Conservation Clinic and Florida Sea Grant College’s legal specialist. Florida Sea Grant operates in partnership with UF/IFAS.

The UF Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic and Florida Sea Grant collaborated on the survey, sent to about 2,500 property owners in five coastal counties who bought property after the disclosure laws took effect. The study included follow-up interviews with some survey recipients and coastal real estate agents.

Their findings showed that nearly 86 percent of the 290 mail-survey respondents either did not receive the coastal hazards disclosure or did not recall receiving it. In fact, a majority of those who responded to the survey had no idea their property was partly or totally seaward of the coastal construction control line, also known as the CCCL.