Month: October 2016

Scary Divorce Stories

In honor of Halloween, below is a series of some scary divorce stories published in various websites which should bring a chill into the holiday.

The Nazi Uniform

I’ve written about this one before: Heath Campbell entered court dressed in a full Nazi uniform, donning a trimmed mustache reminiscent of Adolf Hitler – the man he named his firstborn child after. The hearing was for visitation rights to his youngest child. The family gained national attention when a stope refused to write “Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler” on a birthday cake.

When Your Ex Moves Next Door

After a lengthy and harshly contested divorce case, the wife looked out her window on the day after the trial ended and saw a moving van at the house next door. It was her ex moving in. He had purchased their neighbor’s house secretly during the trial.

Hairless Hair Follicle Test

A client was ordered to submit to a hair follicle drug test, then shows up for the test having shaved their head. Hair follicle tests can be achieved with leg hair, hair from the armpit or pubic hair; it’s even better when the client realizes that any hair can be used, so waxes their whole body and calls it a ‘lifestyle choice.’

Chicken Dinner Divorce

A husband was shooting the breeze with his wife and she said to him, ‘Do you want chicken or fish tonight for dinner? Oh, and by the way, I’m having an affair with the neighbor so I want a divorce.’ Her nonchalance really threw him into a tailspin. He became convinced she was trying to kill him, and installed a deadbolt on his room, bought a mini-fridge and a hotplate, and didn’t leaveuntil the divorce was final.

Tool Time

“My client hated his wife so much that idea of her having his toolbox was abhorrent to him. He asked for temporary use and possession in a $3,000 hearing for tools that were worth $500. He could have bought a top-of-the-line new set at his lawyer’s hourly rate – and without looking so petty in front of the judge.

Dividing the Cat Allergy

During a very heated divorce, it came as a surprise when the wife, who had been fighting for the contents of the house, quickly agreed to give up the living room furniture set to her husband. When the movers delivered the furniture, the husband start wheezing and sneezing. He was allergic to cats. Right after he moved out, she bought three Persians who slept all over the living room furniture.

The Huffington Post article is here.

Custody and Psychological Records

In a child custody case, an Indiana court just ruled that a law allowing a psychologist to deny a child patient access to his records does not apply to parents obtaining those records.

The Indiana father wanted to see his child’s mental health records for his custody case, but the doctor and counselor took the position that Indiana law prevented the release of the records based upon the doctors’ opinions.

In Florida, parents are the natural guardians of their children. We generally presume that when children lack the capacity to make certain decisions, their parents – as their natural guardians – make those decisions for them.

But not always. Children have a right of privacy in some decisions, for example the right to seek an abortion, without parental consent, so parents cannot in all circumstances control the exercise of their child’s rights.

I’ve written about children’s issues previously. Children can invoke and waive constitutional rights without their parents. A minor may waive the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

For medical decisions specifically, there are several statutory provisions that appear to limit parents’ access to their child’s medical records.

For example, under the Baker Act, a parent, as natural guardian, is entitled access to “appropriate” clinical records of the minor patient. While parents are entitled to hospital records of their children, these records may not always include psychiatric care records.

While, Florida law generally provides for confidentiality between a patient and a psychiatrist at the request of the patient or the patient’s legal representative, can the parents of a child waive that right if the child insists on confidentiality?

The answer may depend on the facts of a given case. Since a child has a privilege in the confidentiality of his communications with his psychotherapist, if his parents are in litigation over the best interests of the child, (such as in a custody case) the parents may not assert or waive the privilege on their child’s behalf.

The Indiana case is here.

HBO’s Divorce

Nora Ephron once said, “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.” With that in mind, how is Sarah Jessica Parker’s new television program: Divorce holding up?

The New Yorker reviews Parker’s new series. Explaining in the first episode why she wants to divorce, Parker’s character, Frances, says to her husband, Robert, “I want to save my life while I still care about it.”

I’ve written about fault and divorce before. Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

As the article explains, can “no fault” ever truly mean no fault? Regardless of which divorce route the fictional Frances and Robert may be on, there are some old-style recriminations flowing from her affair with another man. He says, “You’re the villain here, not me.”

“Remember that divorce you wanted? Well, I want one, too. But that sneaky, easy, friendly way that you were hoping for? You can forget it.”

In “Divorce,” the husband is poised to make an alimony claim on his wife’s income. Frances’s friend warns her, “Unless you want to end up with nothing, you need to destroy him before he destroys you.”

“Isn’t there a way to do this without lawyers?” is the setup for the too-common trajectory from attempts at civilized resolution to protracted war, in which empathy for the other drops out entirely.

The article finishes by noting that how a couple lived in their marriage – who spent more time with the children, who worked longer hours, who made more money, who sacrificed a job or earning potential – becomes the material with which legal divorce claims are constructed.

The New Yorker article is here.

Information on the HBO series can be found here.

Business Valuation Changes

I was honored last night to be sworn in as the President of the First Family Law American Inns of Court in Miami by the Hon. Reemberto Diaz, circuit judge. There was also a discussion on equitable distribution of business interests.

The American Inns of Court is an association of lawyers, judges, and other professionals from all levels and backgrounds who share a passion for professional excellence.

Our Inn was founded 20-years ago by the Hon. Richard Yale Feder, circuit judge. Judge Feder was not only a founder of our Inn, he was the primary motivator behind establishing the Family Division Courthouse in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

Last night’s presentation was not only a humorous look at family law statistics nationwide, but a cutting edge presentation on the new I.R.S. regulations impacting business valuations in matrimonial cases by Philip J. Shechter, CPA/ABV, CVA from Cherry Bekaert LLP.

I’ve written about equitable distribution before. Business valuations in divorces usually contain discounts. The two primary discounts are:

– discounts for a lack of control or a minority interest discount, and

– discounts for lack of marketability.

Initially the IRS stated that discounts were not available when valuing an interest in an entity that was controlled by family members. Discounts have become very popular in business valuations, and because of the increase in use if discounts the IRS has tried to limit claimed abuses and loopholes.

Section 2704 states that the Secretary of the Treasury may provide in regulations new restrictions that are to be disregarded in determining the value to a family member if the restriction reduces the value for estate tax purpose but does not ultimately reduce the value of the interest to the transferee.

The proposed regulations to section 2704 severely restrict the ability to use discounts in cases of family ownership. It anticipates work arounds, such as having a small portion of ownership in non-family members and prohibits using discounts in those situations too.

The new regulations could go into effect before year-end 2016.

A copy of the new regulations is here.

Nationwide Custody Reform

U.S. News and World Report have an article on child custody reform across the country, and Missouri’s policy to encourages courts to maximize time children have with both parents.

According to the article, research shows that children want open contact with both parents and that meaningful involvement with both parents produces the best outcomes for children.

The idea of shared parenting polls around 70% approval, yet few people realize that shared arrangements are not typical until they or someone close to them go through a divorce. It is a shock how quickly courts separate children and one parent, usually their fathers.

Arizona’s original child custody reform instructed courts to maximize time with each parent according to the best interests of the child. The policy worked well. Missouri’s new policy is a looser version of the policy recommendation Arizona passed.

For all our progress in equality, our courts still assume that children should remain with women and that a consistent physical dwelling is more important than significant and substantial time with both parents.

With an informed judiciary, the “maximize time standard” has seen equal parenting time in Arizona go from a rarity to almost normal and attitudes about parenting have shifted for the better.

One of the most significant impacts of the statute has been the change in terminology from “visitation” and “custody” to “parenting time” and “legal decision-making.

I’ve written about custody issues before. In Florida, we went through a major transformation of our custody laws in adopting the parenting plan concept, and eliminating the outdated terms of “primary residential parent” and “visitation.”

It is not Florida’s express public policy that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

There is also no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.

In Florida today, courts order that the parental responsibility for children be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.

The U.S. News and World Report article is here.

Florida Divorce and Foreign Laws

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in International Child Custody on Thursday, October 13, 2016.

Ms. Omari married a secular man in a secular marriage in New York. They later had a Muslim ceremony after moving to Lebanon. When they divorced, her religious marriage came back to haunt her.

As The Atlantic reports, although her husband was not religious, under Sharia family law in Lebanon, the father was granted custody of the couple’s two sons. And when he took them — along with all the furniture — there was nothing she could do.

“He became an Islamist overnight.”

This becomes an important matter in international custody disputes. In Lebanon, all matters of personal status — marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance — are governed by religious codes, of which there are 15 recognized by the state.

Each religious sect follows a distinct set of personal state laws (several of the country’s 18 sects fall under a single jurisdiction). By shunting citizens into religious communities, the personal status laws fracture the country’s four-million-strong population along sectarian lines in an intimate, personal way.

The 15 different sets of religious laws in Lebanon converge on one issue: all of them discriminate against women in one or more fields. For example:

– Evangelical Christians set the minimum age of marriage at 16 for males and 14 for females, as does the Armenian Orthodox Church.

– A Druze woman needs her male guardian’s permission to marry if she is under 21.

– For Sunnis and Shi’a, a male witness to a marriage is considered equivalent to two females.

The law in Lebanon is a by-product of Ottoman and colonial history. The early Ottomans gave authority over family law to four recognized religious groups.

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce before. Florida passed Florida Statute 61.0401, which prohibits courts in Florida from enforcing:

– A choice of law provision in a contract selecting the law of a foreign country which contravenes the strong public policy of this state or that is unjust or unreasonable.

– A forum selection clause in a contract that selects a forum in a foreign country if the clause is shown to be unreasonable or unjust or if strong public policy would prohibit the enforceability of the clause.

– A judgment or order of a court of a foreign country is not entitled to comity if the foreign court offends the public policy of this state.

Florida’s law does not mention Sharia. In fact, no religion is mentioned at all. However, in an international child custody case in Florida, to the extent Lebanon’s law violates Constitutional rights here, the Lebanese law may not be enforceable.

The Atlantic article is here

Related Posts: International Child Abduction & The Hague

International Child Abduction & The Hague

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in International Child Custody on Friday, October 7, 2016.

A New Yorker is raising awareness to a growing issue of International Child Abduction. It happens when a child is wrongfully taken and held in another country. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

According to Channel 10 news in New York, Corey McKeighan shares custody of his son with his mother who is from Russia. What was supposed to be a mother and son three week trip to her country, has McKeighan worried he will never get his son back.

McKeighan’s ex-wife agreed to return on September 16th. “The day before they were supposed to return, she had called me and said, ‘We’re not coming back and you’ll never see us again.'”

In a panic, McKeighan contacted the U.S. State Department, FBI, and congressional leaders. They are working with the foreign government to resolve this case that they say is international child abduction.

In Russia, it is difficult because Russia and the United States are not in a treaty relationship. However, Russia and the United States are signatories to the Hague Convention.

A U.S. State Department official says:

“We are aware of the reports regarding an international parental child abduction case. Due to privacy considerations, we decline to provide additional details.

I’ve written about the topic of custody before. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides remedies for a “left-behind” parent, like Mr. McKeighan, to obtain the wrongfully removed or retained child to the country of his habitual residence.

The Convention seeks to deter abducting parent by eliminating their primary motivation for doing so: to “deprive the abduction parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.”

So, when a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another signatory country, the Hague Convention provides that the other country: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where:

a) it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and

b) at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

The news 10 article can be found here