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Experts: Schenecker's wrongful death suit against wife designed to offset divorce judgment

TAMPA — In a pending divorce, Parker Schenecker could lose up to $1 million in assets to his wife, who is charged with murdering their two children.

On Monday, Schenecker sued his wife on behalf of their dead children, a move legal experts say is designed to help offset whatever a divorce judge awards Julie Schenecker.

Parker Schenecker, 48, said in a statement that the wrongful-death suit is not about money, but rather "to give voice to my children and to hold their murderer accountable for what she did."

Julie Schenecker, 50, is accused of shooting her 13-year-old son, Beau, and 16-year-old daughter, Calyx, each twice in the head on Jan. 27.

In February, Parker Schenecker filed for divorce, requesting an "unequal in his favor" share of their estimated $2 million in marital assets.

Edward Brennan, a divorce attorney for Julie Schenecker, said Parker Schenecker's attorney was seeking virtually everything in negotiations.

Julie Schenecker filed a response last month. She demanded half their assets, $50,000 in legal costs, permanent alimony, her diamond engagement ring and a life insurance policy on Parker Schenecker with her as the beneficiary.

"All she's asking for is what she's legally entitled to," Brennan said. "And her current situation has zero impact on the divorce."

Legal experts agree. In nearly all cases, experts said, assets and liabilities acquired during marriage must be split between spouses. And pending criminal charges should be immaterial to divorce proceedings, they said.

The Scheneckers' assets include their savings, military pensions, three vehicles and homes in Tampa Palms, Maryland and Kansas. Their liabilities total more than $800,000.

If Julie Schenecker is sentenced to prison or a mental hospital, the judge likely would not order alimony or the life insurance policy as a guarantee, legal experts said.

But state law will almost certainly uphold the rest of her demands, they said.

Enter the wrongful-death suit.

With it, Parker Schenecker could recoup assets lost in divorce court.

"It's a backup plan," said Barry Cohen, a local criminal defense lawyer. "Whatever she gets, they'll take back in the wrongful-death case, and that's good lawyering."

If Julie Schenecker does lose the wrongful-death suit — which doesn't yet specify an amount of monetary damages — she likely wouldn't be left penniless.

Funds from the sale of their primary home in Tampa Palms, 401(k) plans and IRAs cannot be pursued to satisfy a wrongful-death judgment, veteran litigator Arnold Levine said. Potential alimony would also be protected, said Levine, who disclosed he plans to meet with Brennan and Julie Schenecker this week to discuss joining her legal team.

On Monday, Parker Schenecker filed the final response in their divorce case before it enters court. In it, he denied her request for alimony, calling it "unjust and inequitable." He also filed a motion requesting the court dissolve their marriage before their looming divorce battle in court.

"Husband has tried to treat Wife with a respect she declined to show her own children," his divorce attorney wrote, "but to remain married to the person that coldly executed his children would be morally repugnant to him."

Jack Nicas can be reached at (813) 226-3401 or jnicas@sptimes.com.

Experts: Schenecker's wrongful death suit against wife designed to offset divorce judgment 05/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2014 11:58am]
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