Florida has a well-deserved reputation as a haven for debtors. One of the state’s most attractive offerings is Florida’s constitutional exemption of homestead property from forced sale by creditors. Residents of other states who find themselves unable to pay their debts often decide that Florida offers an unbeatable combination of sunshine, beaches and protection from their creditors. They move to Florida, purchase the most expensive home they can afford, and enjoy their new lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that creditors can’t attach the monies invested in their homestead.
Some Florida appellate courts, however, have expressed the belief that the exemption can’t be applied to shield former spouses from having to pay their alimony and child support arrearages if the former spouse is found to be using the exemption for this fraudulent purpose.
For example, consider a former spouse who inherits two million dollars, quits his or her job, buys a Florida home for 1.9 million dollars, and then quits paying his or her alimony and child support obligations. The constitutional homestead exemption protects the former spouse home investment from all creditors except, perhaps, his or her ex-spouse. Because the former spouse rolled virtually his or her entire inheritance windfall into homesteaded property before stopping his or her support payments, it is apparent that the former spouse is attempting to use the homestead exemption in a fraudulent manner to avoid his or her support obligations.
If a family law court determines that this has occurred, the court can void the homestead exemption. Whether this outcome is likely in your case depends very much on the particular facts of your case. Consult with an experienced family law attorney about your case to determine whether you should seek this particular support collection remedy.