A Broward reader who recently split with her long-time partner asked what her legal and property rights are in Florida. "Are there any laws helping to guide us through this separation?" she said.
I asked Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who specializes in alternative family issues, for a response:
This is such a sad, but tragically common situation. And this is what we're fighting for. As I always say, give us same-sex marriage so that we can have same-sex divorce, complete with all of the equitable distribution that legally married couples get upon relationship dissolution. Unfortunately, until that day comes, we have to protect ourselves with estate planning documents and contracts which memorialize our intentions regarding the property we own in the event of what I call the "3 big D's:" dissolution, disability, or death.
This woman might try hiring a creative lawyer who can make some claims like there was an implied or oral contract that these were BOTH intended to be considered jointly held properties even if only was was titled in the name of both partners. The legal theory of constructive trust can also be argued here, and that is an effective remedy in a situation where someone has been wrongfully deprived of her rights by another person who has legal right to property which she should not possess or else it would be considered unjust
enrichment. Also, since there is that one property owned together, there's a bit of leverage to encourage a settlement around the rest of it. The interest in separating completely but needing her to sign off on the title to the second home could be just enough to make the other come to the table
and be reasonable about the primary residence and the business.
And speaking of the business, if she wasn't fairly paid for the work she did in that enterprise, she can make a claim for quantum meruit (services rendered that haven't been paid for).