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Witness protection program complicates Florida divorce

| Jun 7, 2014 | Divorce

What happens if you want to divorce someone in the witness protection program? Although this is a relatively rare request, one Florida couple is facing some difficulty in ending their marriage because the Federal Bureau of Prisons has the man locked up in a secret detention facility. This inconvenient fact is making it nearly impossible for the two to divorce, since federal officials have to serve as intermediaries in the case.

The man, age 52, was sentenced to a 50-year prison term after pleading guilty in connection with a massive financial fraud case. The defendant has been held in witness protection because he testified against high-ranking organized crime suspects, which could lead to danger, even behind prison walls. The woman, 40, is serving shorter term — 18 months — for her role in the Ponzi scheme. She is not enrolled in the witness protection program.

Attorneys for the woman may experience some difficulty in even getting the documents to the man, as federal officials initially balked at the idea of serving the man with the divorce papers. The process has been further complicated by the fact that the Bureau of Prisons maintain an In the Monitoring Section, which tests all airmail for contaminants, even radiation. This makes it difficult for the two parties to communicate quickly, which could lead to an extended divorce proceeding.

Although few people probably pursue divorces against somebody who is being held in the witness protection program, this case demonstrates the special circumstances that can sometimes surround a relatively commonplace divorce proceeding. Even something as straightforward as an uncontested divorce can be complicated by extenuating circumstances. This is just one reason why do-it-yourself divorces are not always the best method; a divorce attorney can provide additional help you need if you have a special situation.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Where’s Rothstein? Divorce hits delay because fraudster is in secret prison” Paula McMahon, Jun. 02, 2014

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