Unmarried Florida couple bicker over son’s remains

On behalf of Furr & Cohen, P.A. posted in Unmarried Couples on Saturday, May 31, 2014.

When a couple divorces, division of assets and property can be a complicated process. One Florida court had several variables to consider in determining which parent should take custody of their deceased son’s remains.

Their 24-year-old son had been involved in a DUI hit-and-run caused by a wealthy Floridian who ran a red light in his luxury vehicle, and struck the son’s car, pushing it into a body of water. The driver of the luxury vehicle walked home and didn’t call 911 until one hour later. In the meantime, the young man drowned.

The billionaire, founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, in Wellington, was convicted of killing the boy while driving impaired. His blood alcohol limit was twice the legal limit.

In spite of being sent to serve 16 years in jail, legal representation for the man requested a new trial in light of a tell-all book published by a juror serving on his trial. The sentence and conviction were overturned.

The cremated ashes are now at the center of a convoluted custody battle, marked by a bitter dispute of the now-divorced couple, misconduct of a juror, and the billionaire defendant.

In a previous civil case against the billionaire, the parents were awarded $46 million which they split. Now they are focusing on the remains of their son, and trying to come to an agreement of where he should be buried.

Florida courts ruled that remains, including cremation ashes, are not assets or property and cannot be divvied up between two sparring parents. The father asked the court to share the remains; the mother says she can’t due to religious reasons.

The billionaire now sits under house arrest awaiting his second trial. The courts, following precedence, are reticent to disagree with previous findings that a person’s body or remains can be split up and shared. They will appoint a person to mediate if no agreement can be reached.

In a divorce, sensitive issues come up. Although this case in Florida is unusual, unmarried couples deserve the right to claim custody and ownership of a child’s possessions when the child dies before them. If you are in such a situation, it is in your best interest to find a sympathetic and informed person who can provide assistance in these tragic times.

Source: NBC News, “Florida Couple Fights Over Custody of Son’s Cremated Remains” Elizabeth Chuck, May. 28, 2014