Month: July 2014

Celebrity Divorces and New Gay Marriage Case

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

A wealthy celebrity divorce is always juicy news. Michael Moore’s is no exception. Not surprisingly, his divorce reveals that the couple fought over (what else?) their enormous wealth.

As the Washington Post reports, for the neighbors of Traverse City who boat past Moore’s home, tongues wagging, the $2 million, 10,000 square-foot property has been a symbol of Moore’s “do as I say, not as I do” lifestyle.

Back in 2009, a morning show invited Moore on the broadcast to bash Wall Street executives. Moore ranted against business leaders living in “gated communities” and “castles with motes around them.”

This lavish display of wealth hasn’t been lost on the couple’s neighbors. “He is not a common man. No way,” one neighbor told The Detroit News.

Moore and Glynn own nine properties in Michigan and New York, including a Manhattan condo that once was three apartments. His wealth is pegged at around $50 million.

New Same-Sex Marriage from the 4th Circuit Court

A federal appellate court just invalidated Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban. The 4th Circuit is the second federal appellate court, after the 10th Circuit, to strike down an exclusion of gay couples from marriage.

The Fourth Circuit held that the ban violated gay couples’ fundamental right to marry and placed heavy reliance on both Windsor and Lawrence v. Texas as establishing the equal validity of gay couples’ intimate and relational choices:

Lawrence and Windsor indicate that the choices that individuals make in the context of same-sex relationships enjoy the same constitutional protection as the choices accompanying opposite-sex relationships. We therefore have no reason to suspect that the Supreme Court would accord the choice to marry someone of the same sex any less respect than the choice to marry an opposite-sex individual who is of different race, owes child support, or is imprisoned. Accordingly, we decline the Proponents’ invitation to characterize the right at issue in this case as the right to same-sex marriage rather than simply the right to marry.

The opinion used the word “segregation” in striking the law:

Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

The federal case of Bostic v. Schaefer can be read here.

New Study Shows the Reasons for Divorce

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Sunday, July 20, 2014.

Since the 1970s, the percentage of Americans who divorce has hovered between 40% to 50%. Using new data, a recent survey shows who wants out and why.

I’ve written about the reasons for divorce before. This new study notes that women are most prone to discontent in marriage: 20% of married women report having thought about leaving their spouse within the past year.

However, thoughts about separating – or conversations with one’s spouse or partner about exactly that – do not signify that a relationship is over: 13% of married respondents report having talked about separating.

Women also are far more likely to want out of their marriages than men: 55% said they wanted their marriages to end more than their spouses while only 29% of men reported the same.

For over 125 years, wives are consistently more likely to file for divorce than husbands. These results are resistant to time, which is surprising since economic opportunities for women have expanded dramatically – giving women outside options – and divorce laws have been altered, typically in their favor

The most-cited reasons for wanting a divorce were:

Infidelity by either party: 37% (28% spouse’s infidelity)

Spouse unresponsive to your needs: 32%

Grew tired of making a poor match work: 30%

Spouse’s immaturity: 30%

Emotional Abuse: 29%

Financial Priorities/Spending Patterns: 24%

Alcohol and Drug Abuse: 23%

Physical violence was a common reason listed by women seeking a divorce.

When married couples are asked about physical abuse, nearly identical shares of men and women say that they have experienced some form of physical abuse at least once in their marriage.

Are Muslim Postnuptial Agreements Enforceable?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Agreements on Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

Postnuptial property division, like prenups, help couples plan their future. Can agreements have Muslim or other religious principles in them? Illinois recently ripped one up.

I’ve written before about the enforceability of Muslim marital contracts. As the Volokh Conspiracy recently reported though, there is a new contract from Illinois that had some mixed non-religious and religious provisions. For example:

Husband shall name Wife as a tenant by the entirety of the property. Should Wife unreasonably file for divorce she will forfeit her right to any share of the home.

Husband and Wife agree to base their life and marriage on the Holy Quran and Sunnah, as practiced in the Islamic religion.

Husband and Wife agree not to call the police for any incident.

Husband and Wife agree that any violation of any of this agreement avails each party to forfeiture of all rights herein, including custody.

The Illinois appellate court said the contract was unenforceable. Not because you can’t have Islamic principles in a contract, but because the contract violated normal, non-religious principles. For example:

It gave the husband sole power to determine which parent gets custody of the children.

An “unreasonable divorce,” the linchpin on which the entire agreement turns, is vague, ambiguous, and uncertain.

The court also held the agreement was “substantively unconscionable” because it was so one-sided. The Wife forfeited all her rights to the largest asset, if she unreasonably filed for divorce, but not the husband.

Muslims, as all religious peoples, are entitled to enter into contracts that reflect their unique religious principles. But all agreements in the United States are limited by standard contract law, family law and Florida public policy.

The Volokh Conspiracy is here.

Divorce Timing

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Timing is everything they say. The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing. If so, is there a right time to divorce? The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch seems to think so.

Right thing to do at the wrong time.

Say you’re hedge-fund billionaire Dave Tepper, and just separated from your wife after 28 years. Your net worth is about $10 Billion. Timing is definitely a factor in your decision to divorce.

If the Tepper divorce goes ahead today, it would very likely be less expensive if it happened before the 2009 financial crisis. A lot of stock traders were panicking in 2009. But Tepper bought shares of troubled banks and took in nearly $4 billion for himself.

Divorce timing isn’t limited to stock market booms and busts either. Consider whether you would want to divorce if you know your company was about to go public. What if your spouse was about to receive a huge bonus, or a big inheritance? If any of those apply to you, waiting may be the right move at the right time, or the right move at the wrong time, or, well you get the point.

I wrote an article about dividing property in divorce when the value of the home is underwater – where the mortgage is worth more than the property. This may be the time to put off the divorce decision.

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

During the housing market meltdown, there were often no liquid assets to distribute. The share of underwater mortgages fell to below 20% in the first quarter of 2014 for the first time in four years and it’s expected to fall to 17.2% by the end of this year, according to real-estate website Zillow. That gradual rise in house prices will help unhappy couples to live happily ever after financially.

There are also practical and emotional issues to consider. Do you want to get divorced a week before your daughter’s wedding, or your son’s bar mitzvah or an in-law’s funeral? How about when your kids are taking their SATs, EOCs, or FCATs?

Having a plan is meaningless. Planning is everything. (Dwight D. Eisenhower said that) If so, once you’ve decided to divorce, carefully planning comes into play.

The Market Watch article is available here.

Same-Sex Marriages A Year after U.S. v. Windsor

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Same sex/GLBTA on Monday, July 7, 2014.

Last Year, the Supreme Court struck the Defense of Marriage Act as an unconstitutional deprivation of equal liberty. Since then, court rulings have overturned many state laws, not Florida’s, that said marriage was only between a man and a woman. What else has happened?

I’ve written before that same-sex marriages are recognized by the federal government now. As the Washington Post reports, some basic rights are still complicated for same-sex couples. The Justice Department just released a report showing the following changes:

Social Security: Couples living in states that recognize their marriages are entitled to Social Security spousal benefits. But Social Security benefits need to be based on the law of the state the married couple lives in, preventing Floridians from taking advantage of spousal benefits.

Veteran benefits: The VA is required to base spousal benefits on the laws of the state the couple lives in. That means Floridians may be denied marriage-based veteran benefits, such as the ability to file for dependency claims and survivor pensions.

Taxes: The IRS lets same-sex couples file as married on their tax returns, some states require same-sex couples to file as single on their state tax returns

Family leave: The Labor Department proposed a rule last week that all employees should be eligible to care for a same-sex spouses regardless of their state.

Health care: About 2/3 of Fortune 500 companies offered health benefits to same-sex spouses, but had to pay taxes on those benefits because the marriage wasn’t recognized. Now, those companies can offer health benefits tax free.

Immigration: The Department of Homeland Security announced that same-sex marriages will be treated the same as opposite-sex marriages for isponsoring same-sex spouses and filing to get visas for fiancés.

A year after Windsor, change has happened piecemeal for same-sex couples. Yet, every day witnesses another court decision extending Windsor. Florida still lags behind.

The Washington Post story can be read here.

Circumcision and Custody

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

Let’s cut to the chase here: some people want their child circumcised, others don’t. In child custody cases, what happens when parents disagree? A Florida court is considering that issue.

3000-year old Egyptian hieroglyph

A recent case was started in Palm Beach County, and involves a 3-year old. A written agreement between the parents requires his circumcision. The father still wants this done, but the mother’s enthusiasm has gone flaccid, and she wants to chop up the agreement.

The Mother, Heather Hironimus, agreed with the Father, Dennis Nebus, to circumcise their child. Now Hironimus has told Nebus she doesn’t want their child exposed to general anesthesia, “for fear of death”! The Mother’s attorney, Sinatra, argued the best interest of the child trumps the agreement.* The mother lost.

*These are their real names.

At issue is a parenting agreement Nebus and Hironimus signed and filed in court, which stipulates that their son would be circumcised under arrangements made by the father. The parents never married.

Her complaint is no longer limited to the risks of anesthesia, now the Mother is seeking the support of Intactivists, a group which opposes circumcision. She is fundraising for help with her legal fees:

I am pleading with fellow intactavists, parents and all others to help me save my son, his foreskin, his rights . . . from allowing the ‘system’ to make these decisions. Please help me help my son!!

The case came to a head in Palm Beach, after a judge ruled the circumcision could proceed. The judge required the Mother to facilitate the circumcision and that she “not in any way lead [the child] to believe that she is or was opposed to his being circumcised, whether or not she accompanies [the child] to the procedure.”

The Mother appealed to the Fourth District. The appellate court issued a stay of the trial court order. Now the circumcision must wait.

While this is a novel case in Florida, the Oregon Supreme Court handled something similar. In Oregon, the Supreme Court concluded that decisions to have a circumcision are unfettered by a noncustodial parent’s concerns or beliefs. However, by age 12, the child’s preference is necessary to the determination.

Florida has different family laws, we don’t have primary and secondary parents for instance. And, unless there is a provision for sole parental decision making or ultimate authority, the parents are going to need to agree. If the parents can’t agree, they have to come to court for a resolution. This is a case to keep an eye on.

More information on the Palm Beach circumcision case can be found here.