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Inmates can face serious property division obstacles

Going through a divorce is an onerous process for anyone, but for Florida spouses who are incarcerated, a divorce can seem like an impossible goal to accomplish. That leaves many inmates in a terrible position when it comes to property division or other matters. One state has created a program aimed at assisting spouses in various family law matters, even while they remain behind bars. The success of the program could spark similar efforts across the nation.

All jurisdictions have a specific set of rules when it comes to how cases are processed. Very often, initiating or furthering a case requires a party to appear in court or at the courthouse to file documents. That can be a hurdle for inmates, who have no ability to gain transportation to court. While they may be able to receive transportation for an existing case, they are often unable to gain transportation for the purpose of initiating their own legal proceedings.

One solution is to establish a special court or court division that allows inmates to appear via video. The program also secures pro bono legal aid through local organizations, so that the inmates are represented and guided through their case. That can help them to work through matters of property division, child custody and other issues while they are incarcerated, which improves their chances of success once they are released.

In terms of property division, this could make a world of difference for incarcerated spouses living in Florida. Being able to work through the property division process while still in prison could step any dissipation of assets that might take place prior to the party's release. If there is real estate or other property to be sold, or investments to divide, the resulting funds could be deposited into an account. That would give the inmate a financial cushion to rely upon as he or she got back into the swing of things upon release.

Source: theatlantic.com, "It's Almost Impossible for Inmates to Get a Divorce", Kim Bellware, Sept. 1, 2017

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