Year: 2016

Divorce and Chris Rock

Chris Rock surprised audiences at the New York Comedy Festival last week, taking the stage at the Apollo and telling the audience they’ll be seeing more of him on TV due to his divorce.

Rock joked:

“When you see me on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ . . . I’m not on crack, that’s just alimony!”

Rock finalized his divorce from his wife of nearly 20 years, Malaak Compton-Rock, this summer.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, the 50-year-old comedian opened up about how he’s faring since the 19-year marriage ended.

“I’m doing OK,” Rock told the paper. “You know, some days are better than others, some days you’re sad outta your f*cking mind. But my daughters are good and I’m only an hour away. Two houses close by. It’s good.”

Rock also addressed whether or not joking about the difficulties of marriage in his stand-up and films harmed the relationship in any way.

“Hey, I’m getting divorced now.” “Marriage is so tough, Nelson Mandela got divorced – he got out of jail after 27 years of torture, spent six months with his wife and said, I can’t take this sh*t no more.”

I’ve written about how to properly behave during the divorce process, and even how good relations with your Ex could save your life. Whether you’re in court or outside of court, how you treat yourself and spouse matters.

Take for instance, Erica Arsenault. Erica volunteered to donate a kidney to her former mother-in-law after her divorce. Erica made the incredible offer nearly 10 years after she divorced the woman’s son. They say the whole ordeal has brought a family separated by divorce closer than ever.

Chris Rock’s divorce hasn’t been the most peaceful one up to this point. According to divorce docs obtained by People, Rock claimed that his estranged wife had “repeatedly refused to permit [him] normal and usual access to the children, and has acted in a manner detrimental to the children’s best interests.

“Married guys know more about women than single guys. Single guys have girlfriends. Girlfriends are always auditioning, always on their best behavior. Wives are like Supreme Court justices. They do whatever the f— they want”

The Page Six article is here.

Gifted Children Can Cost You in Child Support

Every parent wants their children tested for gifted programming. But parents going through divorce may find that a gifted child could cause them to pay additional child support to develop their child’s talent.

A couple just found out that gifted children can cost more in a divorce. A New Jersey family court recently judge ruled that basic child support payments, which usually cover the costs of a child’s extra-curricular activities, may not be enough to help advance a child’s potential.

In the New Jersey case, the mother of the teen – referred to as Julie in the judge’s decision – asked her ex-husband to pay half of their daughter’s costs of pursuing an acting career, including clothing, travel, make-up, dues and coaching. Her former husband objected, insisting those expenses are covered by the $113 he pays in weekly child support.

I’ve written about child support in Florida before. In Florida, a court may adjust child support based upon deviation factors, which can include things like:

(1)  Extraordinary educational expenses, and

(2)  Meeting special needs, such as costs that may be associated with the disability of a child, that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though fulfilling those needs will cause the support to exceed the presumptive amount established by the guidelines.

The New Jersey Judge said:

While New Jersey’s child support guidelines say those costs generally are covered in basic child support, the guidelines also say additional financial support can be ordered to help pay for costs related to developing the special needs of a gifted child.

Courts generally recognize children’s special gifts in the areas of academics, athletics, technology and the arts. Determining giftedness can be slightly more difficult in the arts because an actor’s performance can be subjective – “mesmerizing” to some and “stale as a bucket of overpriced popcorn” to others.

He said it isn’t enough to have an “expert” testify to the giftedness of a child because the child may have extreme talent but may not have the drive, discipline or commitment to achieve that greatness.

“In this case, Julie demonstrates such an unusually heightened desire and ability, through her attitude, her confidence, and her willingness to work hard and commit,” Jones wrote. “In this respect, she is in fact a gifted child.”

The judge ordered Julie’s father, who earns about $33,000 annually, to pay an additional $5 a week toward her theater activities. Julie lives with her mother, who earns about $23,000 a year and who will also have to set aside $5 a week to pay for those additional activities, Jones said.

The New Jersey article is available here.

Interstate Custody Hague and UCCJEA

Parents move from state to state. Sometimes, children are moved by parents wrongfully, creating interstate custody problems. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and the Hague Convention on Child Abduction can work together in those cases as a recent New York case shows.

In New York, an appellate court recently reconciled the UCCJEA and Hague in the interstate custody case of Krymko v. Krymko. A husband and wife and child moved from Canada to New York.

After about five months in New York, the mother took the child back to Canada without the father’s consent and she promptly filed for custody there.

The father filed his own custody action in New York, applied for the return of the child under the Hague Convention, and instituted a Hague Convention case in Canada.

The Canadian court ruled that the child had been “habitually resident” in New York on the day that she was taken back to Canada, and ordered that the mother return the child to New York.

The mother brought the child back to New York but asked New York to dismiss the New York case because New York was not the “home state” of the child under the UCCJEA.

I have written on custody issues before, and I will be speaking at the Marital & Family Law Review Course in January on the UCCJEA and the Hague. The Review Course is the premier advanced, continuing education opportunity for marital and family law attorneys in Florida.

The “home state” is generally defined under the UCCJEA as “the state in which a child lived with a parent . . . for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding.

The mother claimed that the child had been in New York for only five months before being taken back to Canada.

The New York court held that, even if the time in New York was less than the required six months, the subsequent stay in Canada, was found by a Canadian court to be wrongful.

Accordingly, the stay in Canada would be deemed to be a “period of temporary absence” within the meaning of the UCCJEA, which should be added to the prior period of five months so as to constitute the required six-month period.

Additionally, the New York court noted that even if the six-month rule had not been satisfied, New York had initial custody jurisdiction because Canada declined the case.

The case illustrates the interplay between the UCCJEA and the Hague Convention when dealing with interstate custody issues.

Divorce and Living Longer

The oldest person in the world, Emma Morano of Italy, credits her longevity to a diet of raw eggs and divorce from her husband. Is there a positive side to divorce?

According to New York’s WPIX 11 T.V., Morano celebrated her 117th birthday on Tuesday and is now the only person alive to have lived through three centuries.

She was born Nov. 29, 1899, in the Piedmont region of Italy, back when King Umberto I reigned. Morano became the world’s oldest living person in May after American Susannah Mushatt Jones died at the age of 116.

When she was a teenager, a doctor suggested that Morano eat raw eggs to combat her anemia. She followed a stringent diet of two raw eggs, one cooked egg, a little minced meat and pasta for the past 90 years. With age, her diet has been cut down to just two eggs a day and some cookies.

The other secret to Morano’s long life: separating from her husband in 1938, decades before divorce was even legal in Italy, she says. Morano’s one true love was killed as a boy during World War I, and she did not intend to marry anyone else, she told Italian media outlet La Stampa in comments confirmed by her niece Antonietta Sala.

But she eventually married after her future husband forced her to do so. “He said, ‘If you’re lucky, you marry me, or I’ll kill you,'” Morano told La Stampa. A year after her 6-month-old child died, she left her husband. “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone,” she told the New York Times.

I’ve written about the positive aspects of divorce in the past. The rise of divorce internationally, for example, has been an indicator of and force behind social changes that have improved prospects for women, reduced gender inequality, and fueled development.

All of which suggests that the more people are able to get out of bad marriages, the better off their societies are likely to be.

So, the more common divorce becomes in a society, the less of a stigma it’s likely to be. Conversely, divorce causes greater unhappiness in societies where it’s rare.

The period before a divorce people report low life satisfaction, but the period after it is comparatively satisfactory, especially for women as Emma proves.

The WPIX 11 story is here.

Alimony Reform . . . Chicago Style

When it comes to divorce, the adage: “for richer or for poorer” may determine how much alimony gets paid. Illinois recently revamped its family laws, including reforming alimony, and switched to the no-fault system.

In a Chicago divorce, the multimillionaire founder of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, are battling over whether the wife needs more than $400,000 a month for her living expenses.

As the Chicago Tribune reports, while the superrich duke it out over a standard of living most people will never experience, a shift in Illinois divorce law aims to reduce conflicts in dissolving marriages and establish better equity for former spouses with more modest incomes.

The policy changes are driven by attempts to correct past injustices that often left ex-wives with little money and no viable way to support themselves after years of raising children, divorce attorneys said. They mark the first major revamp of Illinois divorce law in almost 40 years.

The first comprehensive change in alimony law in Chicago took effect this year and reflect other cultural shifts. The biggest change is that the old grounds for divorce – like adultery, bigamy and cruelty – have largely been eliminated, moving Illinois to a no-fault divorce system.

The new law also eliminated the words “custody” and “visitation,” replacing them with “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time.” That means parents must propose and accept an agreement on who will have the kids when, and how the parents will jointly make decisions about their children’s education, religion, health and extracurricular activities.

In addition, for the first time, Illinois’ divorce laws have set a formula for determining alimony. Additionally, the duration of maintenance, which was left to the judge’s discretion before; now depends on the length of the marriage.

Wealthy spouses fighting over riches attract media attention, but it’s far more common for poor couples to wrestle with the increased expense of maintaining two households instead of one.

In Florida, I’ve written about past legislative efforts to modify our custody and alimony laws. Last year, Governor Scott vetoes a bill that would have modified custody and alimony.

The bill was emotionally divisive, but had broad support in the Legislature, passing the House by a comfortable 74-38 margin and the Senate by a 24-14 vote in March 2016.

The Chicago Tribune article is here.

When The Judge is the Bully

Mothers are coming forward saying a divorce judge is bullying people from the bench. They are accusing her of ripping families apart, failing to enforce child support orders and leaving children as collateral damage. What do you do?

A video was recently released in Las Vegas showing a tear-stricken 12-year-old girl who’d been home-schooled in her mother’s ballet studio for three years since her parents divorce. Pleading to stay with her mom, but being ripped from the home and the life she’d known.

In court, Judge Hughes said the child’s mother was alienating her from her father. But even he was not happy about the way the judge handled things, according to a comment he posted on social media.

No one from Family Court would comment on the judge’s behavior. A spokesperson sent a statement saying custody cases can be highly contentious and everyone has a right to appeal.

I’ve written about judges getting in trouble before. The legal profession provides fertile ground for bullying. It’s a fast-paced profession; it’s adversarial in nature; litigation brings a winner and loser; and even alternative dispute resolution, whose conduct is designed for compromise, can find counsel and parties jockeying for position.

The goal of bullying is to devalue and dehumanize the target or the other person. The consequences of being bullied include depression, demoralization, anxiety, absence, loss of productivity and even post-traumatic stress.

Bullies have power when they get people derailed from their professional task-focused relationship. Don’t get reactive and allow yourself to be knocked off that course is going to lead to bad results more often than not.

Some ways to cope:

* Recognize you are being bullied

* Don’t take it personally

* Maintain a realistic sense of your own worth

* Know the rules and recourse options

Judicial bullying can occur due to a judge’s personal insecurity, lack of an understanding as to the proper role of a judge and a reluctance to do the job.

Examples include:

* Undue pressure to settle or compromise

* Belittling attorneys on and off the record

* Revealing bias on and off the record

* Placing unreasonable demands on attorneys’ time, such as rocket docket, no continuances, no extensions

* Holding attorneys accountable for events beyond their control

The Las Vegas news article is here.

Thanksgiving Timesharing Tips

E-Online is reporting about Brand & Angelina’s Thanksgiving timesharing/visitation issues. With the holiday a few days away, now is the time to resolve timesharing problems so you can enjoy your turkey with minimum stress for you and your children.

I’ve written about problems and solutions to holiday timesharing/visitation issues before. Here are some good suggestions to make your Thanksgiving visitation battles a little easier:

Alternate. Some families alternate Thanksgiving every other year. If you get the kids for Thanksgiving this year, next year will be the other parent’s turn. Having a regular plan to fall back on can eliminate the potential for what is fair.

Be flexible. An easy Thanksgiving schedule for everyone may require some changes from the normal visitation schedule.

Be respectful. You may not want to be friends anymore, but you need to figure out how to communicate with your ex without all the emotional baggage.

Don’t mix issues. Do not bring up unrelated issues which could make a problem free Thanksgiving dinner impossible. Set aside your differences until after the holiday season.

Pick your battles. Thanksgiving may be more important to you than Easter is to your ex spouse. Don’t fight just for the sake of fighting.

Protect the children. Your children’s memories of Thanksgiving should be about great food and family fun. They should not be forced to witness you and another parent arguing.

Plan. Start talking about the holiday visitation schedule sooner rather than later, the longer you wait the harder it can be.

Thanksgiving can be stressful. But the weather has cooled, kids are on vacation, and work may have slowed too. Try to make it the best time of year.

The E-Online article is here.

After the Trumpocalypse: Politics and Divorce

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Thursday, November 17, 2016.

The stress of Brexit is adding to pressure on couples on the brink of divorce. Lots of comparisons are made between the Brexit vote and our recent presidential election. Is America’s divorce rate about to increase like London’s?

According to the London Guardian, for partners who voted different ways in the Brexit referendum, the difficulty of reconciling opposing political views may be the final straw according to British divorce lawyers.

So much so, that a Dutch entrepreneur announced plans to set up a divorce hotel in the UK to help separating couples sort out their problems over the course of a weekend. The hotel may be just in time because the Brexit vote was a traumatic rupture from the idea of a European union.

“We have come across a number of families in this country [who are splitting up] because one them voted differently [to the other] in the referendum,” Shepherd said. “They fell out in a big way because one voted for remain and one for leave.

A similar phenomenon may be happening in the U.S. between warring couples split between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I have written about the cause of divorce in the past.

Asked about the effect of Brexit on relationships, the Guardian reported:

“[I]t has imposed an added strain on relationships, one in which people might not be talking to each other as well. Brexit has been an issue.”

While the UK may be experiencing an increase in divorces due to the Brexit vote, only time will tell if the U.S. will suffer similar pressures from the election of Donald Trump.

The Guardian article is here.

Future First Lady and Divorce

There is a rumor going viral on the internet that Melania Trump is filing for divorce from her husband, president-elect Donald Trump. Is it true?

According to one source, the Nevada County Scooper (motto: what we lack in credibility we make up for in humor) reports:

Donald Trump, the brash entrepreneur who is running for President in the 2016 election, is filing for divorce from wife Melania. Melania, a model and designer, has been married to Donald since 2005. She is Donald’s third wife.

Sources cite growing discord between the once happy couple. They have been seen arguing frequently and spending most of the time apart from each other.

An anonymous source, spoke to us about the split. He said, “Donald just feels like she has not risen to his level of greatness. She has not embraced The Donald’s persona.”

I checked with Snopes, and they find: “there was no truth to this story.” But, what if the story was true? I’ve written about preparing for divorce before. There are some things any spouse should do to remain financially secure in divorce.

Surround Yourself with Professionals

You need to hire your own lawyer, not rely on your spouse’s attorney to be fair. Another professional is a financial planner or accountant, or both.

Secure Your Financial Documents

Before anyone can assist you, you need to understand your financial situation: all the assets and debts, not just the joint property. This is much easier to do when you have gathered the essential tax, banking and credit card documents.

Update your Will

Many couples have a will they made when married. If so, you may need to update it in order to give power to the provision in your marital settlement agreement.

Child and Spousal Support

Child support and alimony are big issues when you prepare for divorce. How much you receive or have to pay in support is governed by Florida law or it can be a decision you and your spouse may agree to within reason.

The Nevada County Scooper article is here.

President-Elect Trump and Divorce

Major events can have an impact on people going through divorce. With the stunning election results from yesterday, what does a Trump presidency mean for divorce and family law?

Not much. Divorces are state concerns. With the rising mobility of families, many cases cross state lines and international borders. In August, President Obama signed the implementing treaty for the Hague Convention on the Recovery of International Child Support.

However, the president has had little impact in this area of law. Even on a personal level, presidents have little connection to divorce. Ronald Reagan was the only president of the United States who was even divorced. Until now. President Elect Donald Trump has been divorced twice.

I’ve written about divorce statistics before. There are some very interesting statistics about divorce:

– In America, the divorce rate for a first marriage is around 41%.

– The divorce rate for a second marriage is 60%.

– The divorce rate for a third marriage is 73%.

– The average length of divorce proceedings in the United States is 1 year.

– Western states have the highest marriage and divorce rates, followed by the South. The Northeast has the lowest marriage and divorce rates.

– Nevada has the highest rate of divorce at 14.7%.

– Florida’s rate of divorce is around 13.%

– If a spouse has gained more than 20% of his or her body weight, divorce is more likely.

– The most expensive divorce was Rupert and Anna Murdoch’s in 1999: $1.7 billion.

In answer to the question “what a Trump presidency means for divorce and family law?” Probably lots of funny late-night impersonators and not much else.