Month: November 2016

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.

Brad, Angelina & Florida Custody

Brad Pitt is seeking joint custody of his six children in his divorce from Angelina Jolie. Conversely, Ms Jolie has asked for full physical custody of all the children, who are aged eight to 15.

The BBC reports that Ms Jolie cited “irreconcilable differences” when she filed to end the marriage. Reports suggest that Mr Pitt is being investigated over an incident with his eldest son on a plane. A child welfare agency in Los Angeles is examining what happened during the incident on a private flight in mid-September.

California divorce courts generally favor joint custody, but the outcome of the plane row could affect the judge’s decision. The actors may also hammer out a deal privately to avoid the matter being aired in public.

I’ve written frequently about custody in Florida. 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 now 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 BBC article is here.

World Series Tickets and Divorce

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Thursday, November 3, 2016.

It happens only once every 108 years, or so it seems. But, tickets to see the Chicago Cubs in the World Series can be a valuable property to divide in divorce. At least in Illinois it is, as one couple found out.

According to ESPN, court documents filed in a Cook County Circuit Court on Friday say a woman this week submitted an “Emergency Petition For World Series Tickets” to see Game 4 on Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.

Judge Marya Nega ruled after arguments that the husband can keep the tickets for himself and the couple’s 12-year-old son, but should pay for a new ticket for Nancy Riddle in a “comparable” section to his.

The Cubs haven’t won a World Series title since 1908, and long-suffering fans are paying a minimum of thousands of dollars per ticket at Wrigley Field.

The cheapest available tickets start at around $3,000. Even standing-room tickets on sites such as StubHub started at around $2,500, with some sellers asking for more than $100,000 for prime box seats.

I’ve written about equitable distribution before. Generally, courts have to distribute marital assets, and begin with the premise that a distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution. Courts can also, if good cause exists, order an interim partial distribution.

The husband’s lawyer, Michael Berger, described the legal tussle, saying his client landed the World Series tickets because he bought a season-ticket package deal with his friends this year before divorce proceedings began in April.

Berger said he objected to the issue being an emergency because the Cubs might not make it back to another World Series in the wife’s lifetime.

Berger is a fan of the Cubs’ crosstown rivals, the White Sox, and said he reluctantly acknowledged to the court during arguments before the judge that the Cubs “are a great team.

“Even if the Cubs lose this time, it is likely — regrettably — that they will be back to the World Series again soon,” he said in a Thursday phone interview.

One team, the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, has a clause in place to handle similar situations:

“Upon divorce or separation, we will honor a stipulation authorizing retention or transfer of tickets to one or both of the parties. Without stipulation or agreement, the tickets shall revert to the Green Bay Packers who shall have the right to divide them tickets between the parties.”

The ESPN article is available here.