Trusts have long been a tool used in asset protection and estate planning to protect property and income. But what if a person seeks to use a trust as a shield to protect a trust beneficiary from making support payments in family law cases? The answer is not necessarily straight forward, but depends on the circumstances and the terms of the trust. However, Florida trust law makes it possible for a trust to be used to provide support to a trust beneficiary’s dependents. This is limited to child support or spousal support and is only considered when there are no other alternatives to receiving the support that is sought. The person seeking to attach a trust’s distributions to a beneficiary must demonstrate to the court that certain factors are present that justify going after the trust. A trust’s spendthrift provision will not defeat a garnishment for support of a dependent.
Recently, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, in Berlinger v. Casselberry, upheld a trial court’s order issuing a continuing writ of garnishment against any future disbursements from a trust for the ex-husband’s benefit after the ex-wife filed a motion for contempt and requested a writ of garnishment. In this case, the ex-husband was ordered to pay a substantial amount of alimony per month. The ex-husband stopped making the alimony payments, but lived a lavish lifestyle with his new wife. The couple lived off a trust set up for the benefit of the ex-husband, who had attempted to hide the trust. After the ex-wife discovered the trust, she requested the writ of garnishment, which the court granted.
The State of Florida holds spendthrift provisions in high regard and will respect them, generally. However, the State’s policy as it relates to a person’s obligation to support his or her dependents is of higher interest to the State of Florida. For more information on trusts or family law issues, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PPLC. Initial consultations are free.