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Florida appellate court hears case in fight over son's ashes

A panel of appellate judges in the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal heard oral argument Tuesday in a difficult issue. Many Florida residents may have followed the high-profile DUI manslaughter trial of John Goodman, an issue that has not been fully resolved in criminal court. The victim of the 2010 car accident in that case was a 23-year-old Florida man. His parents chose to have the young man cremated, and the former couple (who divorced in 2007) is battling over the man’s cremated remains.

The question posed in the case is how ashes should be legally classified under Florida law. The father of the accident victim says that his son’s ashes should be classified a property. He wants to divide the ashes so that he can bury his son at a family plot. The mother of the accident victim does not want the ashes to be divided.

The case is on appeal after a trial court judge in Palm Beach County ruled that the man’s cremated remains could not be divided. That ruling apparently was based, at least in part, on a case from a state in the northeast region of the country.

Our culture continues to change over time. We have previously discussed a variety of issues in family court where legal arguments are made seeking to modify the law to address changes in our culture. Family law issues are not confined to defining what may or may not be included in property issues.

Disputes and legal issues can arise in many areas as people seek to adopt, or experience rights similar to others in the community. For instance, the issues that same-sex partners and people in the LGBT community face everyday are among the areas of family law that Florida lawyers may address through legal arguments in court in the pursuit of equal rights.

Source: Palm Beach Post, “Parents of Scott Wilson, Goodman DUI crash victim, face off in court over who owns son’s ashes,” Jane Musgrave, April 8, 2014

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