By Gerri Elder
Divorced mom Merry Morris was on the run for two years before turning herself in and ending up behind bars in Palm Beach County, Florida. She is in jail for contempt of court because she has failed to pay her ex-husband $1.8 million for violating their postnuptial agreement. She has already spent a week in solitary confinement for allegedly assaulting a guard at the jail.
Unless Morris pays up, she could be in jail for quite a while. However, she continues to claim that she can't pay her ex-husband. It's not that she doesn't have the money, just that the money is in an irrevocable trust in the Cook Islands and she can't access it. The trustee of the account says that he will not release the cash to Morris' ex-husband because he does not recognize orders of foreign courts.
While the trustee has released money for Morris to purchase cars and clothes and to take exotic vacations, Morris' divorce lawyer says that he is adamant that he will not release the money based on a court order from the United States. Additionally, he says that he won't release the money to Morris if she requests it based on the court order.
Leland Morris' divorce lawyer says that his client doesn't enjoy seeing Morris in jail. He doesn't need the money and says that he would accept a substantially smaller amount of money, to be paid to the children, if Morris would agree to seek psychiatric treatment.
The Palm Bach Post reported that negotiations are underway between the divorce lawyers on behalf of Merry and Leland, but so far Leland still wants Merry to pay more than she is willing or able to get her hands on.
Attorney Jeff Fisher represents Leland Morris in the case. Fisher says that the real problem is that Merry has blatantly disregarded court orders in the case. Fisher wrote the provision of the postnuptial agreement that Merry Morris is in jail for violating. The unusual agreement has been considered by the Supreme Court in Florida. Two justices thought that the agreement might not be legal but they declined to rule on the matter because Merry Morris was a fugitive at the time.
Merry and Leland Morris divorced in 2001. Leland feared that Merry would flee with their two children and asked Fisher to construct an agreement to ensure that she would not. Leland agreed to pay Merry a $1.5 million bonus on top of the divorce settlement in exchange for her agreeing for him to have primary custody of the children. If Merry contested any part of the postnuptial agreement, she would have to return the $1.5 million to Leland.
Two years after the divorce and postnuptial agreement, Merry accused Leland of violating the agreement and asked that it be modified to accommodate her lifestyle. Because her complaints were ruled to be a challenge of the agreement, Merry was ordered to pay Leland $1.5 million plus $300,000 in attorney fees. She refused to pay and was held in contempt.
Fisher filed a lawsuit in order to force Merry to sell her home in order to pay part of the money that she owed to Leland. He says that after the lawsuit was filed, Merry borrowed approximately $450,000 against the house.
Again a judge ordered Merry to return the money to her ex-husband, and still she refused. She was then held in criminal contempt. She then refused to appear in court to explain herself and was charged with two more counts of criminal contempt and warrants were issued for her arrest. At that point Merry went on the run to avoid being arrested and remained on the lam until she turned herself in.
It's anyone's guess as to what will happen next. It seems likely that Merry Morris will remain in jail until she finds a way to pay her ex-husband the money she owes or some other agreement is reached.