The Second District Court of Appeal, which includes Charlotte among the 14 counties within its jurisdiction, ruled last month that a husband and wife who are legitimately separated may each have their own homestead tax exemptions.
Florida’s Constitution allows every “person” to claim a homestead exemption but further states that no “individual” or “family unit” can claim more than one such exemption.
In the case of Wells vs. Haldeos the court noted that, although still married, Mr. Haldeos and Ms. Accomando had been separated since 2003, have no financial connection, and do not provide benefits, income, or support to each other. Thus, they constitute two separate “family units” and therefore can claim two separate homestead tax exemptions.
The court makes it very clear that the results would not be the same if the separation was not bona fide or if there were fraudulent or otherwise egregious acts going on. It also stated that the person claiming the homestead exemption has the burden of proving that he or she qualifies for it.
Note: This ruling does not affect the requirement that a spouse must sign a deed or mortgage relating to the homestead even if they are separated, not on the title, or have signed a pre-nuptial agreement waiving homestead rights. Thus, hopefully Mr. Haldeos kept Ms. Accomando on his good side in case he ever wants to sell or mortgage his home.