In order to be entitled to the homestead claim or 'exemption', continuous, uninterrupted physical presence of the residence is not required nor is a daily presence essential. When homestead status has been acquired, it continues until the homestead is abandoned, which is normally evidenced by establishment of domicile at some other place, or alienated in a manner provided by law.
Under Florida law, the intent to establish homestead is evidenced by specific acts toward creating a permanent abode which are not contradicted by any subsequent behavior. Intent coupled with actual use are all that is required to make the written legal claim. Establishing homestead status under Florida law requires actual use and occupancy of property; however, continuous, uninterrupted presence is not required. M.O. Logue Sod Service, Inc. v. Logue, 422 So.2d 71 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982).
Daily residence is not essential to create or maintain a "homestead", nor is it disrupted by temporary absence with the intent to return. Collins v. Collins, 150 Fla. 374, 7 So.2d 443. You do not have to occupy the premises 24 X 7.
Involuntary absence is not sufficient to support a finding of abandonment. Dean v. Heimbach, 409 So.2d 157 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982). Although an involuntary nature of absence from property claimed as homestead under Florida law is an important factor to consider, a homeowner sufficiently occupies the property to establish homestead status under Florida law if this is where he "hangs his hat", even though he spends the current bulk of his time living away from property and his involuntary absence from property is required or even to defend and serve time for a criminal or civil suit. Compliance with the "intention coupled with actual use" requirement is sufficient.
The requirement regarding legal abandonment, which boils down to two issues, is voluntarily moving to a new residence and claiming it as homestead, and/or rental of the property for profit. A homestead has been "abandoned" when it is no longer a bona fide home and place of permanent abode. Law v. Law, 738 So.2d 522, 24 Fla. L. Weekly D1924. Temporary absence from a homestead will not deprive it of its homestead character, unless there is a design of permanent abandonment. Only permanent abandonment of a homestead deprives the property of its homestead character. Lanier v. Lanier, 95 Fla. 522, 116 So. 867.
The Florida statutes define "permanent residence" as follows:
"Permanent residence" means that place where a person has his true, fixed, and permanent home and principal establishment to which, whenever absent, he has the intention of returning. A person may have only one permanent residence at a time; and, once a permanent residence is established in a foreign state or country, it is presumed to continue until the person shows a change has occurred. Fla.Stat.Ann. § 196.012(17).