WEST PALM BEACH —The former wife of a Fort Lauderdale man has lost her bid in a Florida appeals court to force her ex-husband’s new wife to pay legal fees stemming from an effort to recover past-due alimony.
Renee Spector, who is the ex-wife of Robert Spector, had petitioned the appellate court to clarify, rehear and/or reconsider its earlier decision to dismiss her suit lawsuit seeking legal fees and costs from Ellen Spector, her ex-husband’s current wife.
According to a July 12 decision by the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, the three-judge appellate panel unanimously denied her request for rehearing and reconsideration, but granted her motion for clarification.
"This result may have been different had the former wife sought attorney’s fees against the former husband," the appeals court said in its decision. "Instead, she sought attorney’s fees against the former husband’s new spouse. To that, she is not entitled."
During their 1996 divorce proceedings, Robert Spector agreed to pay his ex-wife $5,000 per month in alimony but reportedly stopped making payments within a year. Renee Spector filed a motion seeking enforcement of the divorce agreement in 1999.
After remarrying, Robert Spector attempted in 2000 to have the alimony amount altered but was found in civil contempt for “willful and deliberate failure to comply with alimony provisions.”
The court at that time ordered Robert Spector to pay $128,024 in overdue alimony and $100,000 of his wife’s legal fees. He then unsuccessfully filed for bankruptcy.
After his attempt to file for bankruptcy, he took out a second mortgage on his home and transferred real estate properties and a life insurance policy to his current wife, who borrowed money against the policy’s value. The proceeds of these transactions were allegedly used to remodel the couple’s homestead instead of satisfying Robert Spector’s growing debt to his ex-wife.
Renee Spector filed suit against Robert and Ellen Spector to recover the past-due alimony from the proceeds of these transactions. However, the Broward County Circuit Court found that these transfers were protected under Florida’s homestead protection laws.
Renee Spector appealed, challenging the lower court's decision and requesting legal fees and costs from Ellen Spector.
On May 24, the appeals court overturned the circuit court’s judgment on May 24, sending the case back to the lower court with instructions to find whether Robert Spector “acted either egregiously, reprehensibly or fraudulently so as to justify a forced sale of the protect property.” The appellate court, however, denied her request for legal fees and costs, prompting her motion for reconsideration.