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Navigating firearms possession in divorce cases involving allegations of abuse, violence

Previously, we briefly commented on how firearms would be handled in a Florida divorce cases. As we noted, firearms are generally dealt with as other marital assets, but exactly how firearms they are divided depends on the circumstances of the case and whether the couple seeking dissolution can agree on how to handle distribution of firearms that may have significant value.  

The way firearms are dealt with in divorce can become more complicated when there are allegations of abuse or violence. In these cases, of course, there is first the question of whether there is evidence to back up allegations of abuse or violence. Those who are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence offense may not possess or purchase firearms, under federal law. 

In addition, those with active restraining orders are required by Florida law to surrender their firearms, and law enforcement officers are able to enter an abuser’s home to seize firearms with a court order, though this often doesn’t happen. Florida law is relatively easygoing when it comes to surrender of firearms in that they may be sold or transferred to a third party who doesn’t live in the same home. The third party must be approved by the court. Firearms may be returned after a protection order expires or is dismissed if an appropriate motion is filed and the owner meets certain conditions.

Even when there isn’t enough evidence to support criminal charges, or when there isn’t a protection order in place, firearms possession and purchase restrictions may be triggered when a court order includes a finding that a spouse is a credible threat to the physical safety of the other spouse or children. Thus, firearms possession can become complicated even when there are no criminal charges or protection orders in place.

In divorce cases where valuable firearms are involved, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to address both the distribution of these items and to navigate any possessory and purchase restrictions that may be triggered.

Sources:

2016 Florida Statutes, Section 790.233

18 U.S. Code, Section 922

www.flcourts.org, Florida Firearms Legal Summary for Domestic Violence Cases: State and Federal Firearms Laws, Accessed May 8, 2017. 

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