Can my ex use extortion to get me to sign adoption papers on our child?
The answer will depend on part on whether there is a valid basis for the small claims action.
A person commits the crime of extortion if he knowingly obtains by threat control over the property of another, with intent to deprive him of the property. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing, damaging information to family, friends or the public in exchange for payment of money or other advantage. It is a form of extortion, but differs in that extortion involves depriving someone of property.
Whether you will be able to later void the agreement based on duress or be held to have voluntarily waived the provisions of the divorce decree is a matter of subjective determination for the court, based on all the facts and circumstances involved. Duress is defined as the constraint of another’s will so that he is forced to give consent when he is not in reality willing to do so. Duress must destroy the free will of a party and cause him to do an act or form a contract not of his own volition. The alleged coercive event must be of such severity, either threatened, impending, or actually afflicted, so as to overcome the mind and will of a person of ordinary firmness. Duress is viewed with a subjective test, looking at the individual characteristics of the person allegedly influenced, and duress does not occur if the person has a reasonable alternative to succumbing and fails to avail themselves of the alternative.
The following is a Florida statute:
836.05 Threats; extortion.--
Whoever, either verbally or by a written or printed communication, maliciously threatens to accuse another of any crime or offense, or by such communication maliciously threatens an injury to the person, property or reputation of another, or maliciously threatens to expose another to disgrace, or to expose any secret affecting another, or to impute any deformity or lack of chastity to another, with intent thereby to extort money or any pecuniary advantage whatsoever, or with intent to compel the person so threatened, or any other person, to do any act or refrain from doing any act against his or her will, shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.