FAQ: Divorce Florida Style
DIVORCED IN CUBA?
This article was written by featured Family Law Attorney Michael H. Gora.
Q My former wife and I were born and raised near Havana, Cuba. We were married when we were both nineteen, and had a son two years later. I came to the United States many years ago.
My ex and I wrote for a year, and then she wrote, saying that she had divorced me. She sent me a court paper ordering me to pay child support, which I have in a safe deposit box. I have paid her child support for about ten years. I have re-married
My “ex” moved to Miami last year. I found out that she was here last week when she served me with divorce papers, claiming that we were still married. She asked for alimony, half of my current property, an increase in her child support, and attorney’s fees.
Since I left Cuba, I started a business, which has become very successful. I make a very good income; have a large home near the beach. My wife, who works in the business with me, and I have been enjoying the fruits of our labors.
Do you think that there is a chance that my former wife has rights against me? That we are not really divorced? If I am not divorced, is my marriage to my American wife legal?
A To answer your question you should ask your attorney to try to obtain a certified copy of the Cuban legal records leading to the child support court order that you still have in your possession. Additionally, use any legal contacts of friends you still have in Cuba to research the records of the court named in the support court order for any other documents.
The issue will turn on the type of the case your former wife filed. If it was for child support only, you may still, technically, be married. If her case invoked the Cuban divorce law on the issue of dissolving your marriage and distributing property you may actually be divorced, if the Cuban court had jurisdiction over you.
You should have your legal contact in Cuba, or friends in Cuba check the marriage records to see if your former wife re-married after you left the island. Her re-marriage would certainly indicate her intent and belief that you were legally divorced, and that your Cuban divorce was finalized.
If you were not legally divorced in Cuba your marriage in the United Sates would not be valid. If your marriage in Cuba had not ended in a valid, completed divorce your “wife” could ask the court for the typical remedies available to her under Florida law.
These remedies could include, technically, permanent, rehabilitative, or lump sum alimony. The trial court in Florida would have broad discretion over the amount of alimony and amount or time period. If you also saved the letter to you, stating that you were divorced, it might go a long way in eliminating or reducing alimony.
Technically, any property that you accumulated during the marriage, would be marital property, and subject to equitable distribution between you and your “Ex”. However, the Florida court will also have a great deal of discretion to divide any marital property in a fair way, other than 50% each.
Michael H. Gora, divorce attorney, has been certified by the Board of Legal Specialization of the Florida Bar as a specialist in family and matrimonial law and is a partner with Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Gora P.A. in Boca Raton.