Lawyer's ex-wife seeks legal fees from new wife

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When most Floridians go through a divorce, they view the entry of the final order as an end to the conflict. In some cases, unfortunately, one or both ex-spouses are motivated to continue the battle. A remarkable example of this phenomenon recently occurred in a divorce in Fort Lauderdale when an ex-wife ended up accusing her former husband and his new wife of fraud and attempting to collect legal fees from the wife.

When the couple divorced in 1996, the parties signed a marital settlement agreement in which the husband agreed to pay his ex-wife $5,000 per month in alimony. He began to default in making these payments in 1997. The ex-wife obtained two court judgments ordering the ex-husband to pay her $426,000 and $236,000 plus interest. When the ex-wife tried to collect the judgments by levying on her former husband's assets, she discovered that he had transferred his most valuable assets to his new wife for virtually no payment.

At this point, the ex-wife decided to commence a lawsuit against her ex-husband's current wife. She sought recovery of the past due alimony and reimbursement for her legal fees. The lawsuit alleged that the new wife conspired with her husband to fraudulently transfer assets and thereby defeat her attempt to collect her judgments for alimony. The trial court ruled in favor of the new wife, and the first wife took her case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court denied the request for legal fees but remanded the case to the trial court for a determination of whether the ex-husband's alleged fraud justifies the sale of the house to satisfy the two judgments.

Some post-divorce proceedings are nothing more than attempts to gain revenge. In this case, however, the ex-wife has convinced the appellate court that her claims are meritorious and deserve a full trial. Whether or not she succeeds with the merits of her case, her case has raised a significant legal issue that could affect many future divorces in the state.

Source: Daily Business Review, "Lawyer's Ex-Wife Asks Court to Make New Wife Pay Her Legal Fees," Samantha Joseph, July 18, 2017

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