Month: July 2017

No-Fault Divorce at the White House

Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director, had an explosive first week on the job. His Wife filed for divorce in New York, and his new boss, White House Chief of Staff divorced him from his job. Does fault play a role in divorce?

Anthony Scaramucci is so explosive, President Trump removed him from his new role. President Trump! The news of his ouster, at the hands of John F. Kelly, a new chief of staff tasked with instilling order in the West Wing, followed a particularly chaotic weekend in Mr. Scaramucci’s personal life.

On Friday, The New York Post reported that Mr. Scaramucci’s wife, Deidre Ball, had filed for divorce while pregnant with the couple’s second child, a boy born last week.

In an interview on Sunday, Jill Stone, who is representing Ms. Ball, confirmed the divorce filing, but said it was not caused by Mr. Scaramucci’s decision to work for Mr. Trump.

“It has nothing to do with Trump,” Ms. Stone said.

Mr. Scaramucci’s devotion to Mr. Trump is well documented, and he is thought to be the catalyst for two high-profile departures since his arrival: Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff.

Ms. Stone, who may have been invoking a bit of wishful thinking when it comes to this White House, added, “Honestly, it’s a private matter, and she’s hoping that it just dies down.”

Florida No-Fault Divorce

I’ve written about Florida No-Fault 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.”

But is no fault divorce the reason the United States has a high divorce rate? Many people think so, and want to return to the old “fault” system to promote families.

Despite the attack no fault-divorce laws are under, no fault laws exist in all 50 states to make it possible for one party to get a divorce without proving any bad behavior took place, and without getting the permission of the other spouse.

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Back at the White House

The week of his son’s birth in New York coincided with his first week in the White House, and Mr. Scaramucci remained in Washington with the president.

On the day his son was born, Mr. Scaramucci, 53, traveled aboard Air Force One with Mr. Trump, and then watched as the president delivered a politically charged speech to thousands of Boy Scouts in West Virginia.

The couple, who married in 2014, worked together at SkyBridge Capital, the hedge fund business founded by Mr. Scaramucci. It was the second marriage for both.

The New York Times article is here.


International Child Support

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled this week that divorced mothers will have to share the financial burden of child support with the fathers if their salaries are equal, or the woman’s is higher and children are in joint custody. This brings Israel into line with Florida law on the matter.

The Israel Case

Until now, men have been required to pay child support to their ex-wives even in situations of joint custody when the mother earned more than the father.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the ruling was given in response to an appeal by two divorced men whose ex-wives earned higher salaries than they did but who were still required to pay child support even though their children were in joint custody.

“The exclusive obligation of the father for child support payments and the exemption granted to the mother is not directly affected by the question of child custody,” wrote the justices.

The current law – requiring the father alone to pay for essential needs in child support – is likely to leave the father without the necessary resources to guarantee the welfare of the child and his well-being when he is staying with him, and also causes financial difficulties [for the father] himself.

The justices agreed with the claim of the two fathers that current law discriminates against men in not taking into account situations in which there is joint custody.

Florida Child Support

I’ve written about child support issues in Florida before. Calculating child support in Florida used to be entirely at the judge’s discretion, based on a parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s needs.

Florida established child support guidelines which follows the income shares model. The guidelines are far from foolproof, but do provide the amounts can be adjusted upward or downward. The statute allows deviations by up to 5 percent after considering relevant factors.

Additionally, the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of 10 enumerated factors, and one equitable factor — the colloquial “catch-all” exception. Finally, the statue mandates use of a gross-up calculation of support for substantial time-sharing.

In Florida, parents exercising substantial time-sharing incur their own child rearing expenses when they time-share, and are duplicating payment for items already included in their child support.

Without adjustments for substantial time-sharing, parents can be paying twice for a child’s expense, making time-sharing prohibitively expensive. Accordingly, in 2008, the statute was amended to expand the meaning of substantial time-sharing to equalize the child support obligation.

Back in Israel

Attorney Amir Shai, who represented one of the fathers, described the ruling as one of the most important decisions of the last decade. “From now on, the discrimination by which only fathers have to financially support their children will end,” said Shai.

Children in Israel now have two addresses which must take care of them, as in any normal country. It’s reasonable to expect that tens of thousands of fathers will now flood the courts with requests to adjust their child support payments in accordance with this ruling in the coming months.

The Jerusalem Post article is here.


Paying for Divorce

A joke floating around the internet asks:  “Do you know why a divorce cost so much? Because it’s worth it.” The joke, although in bad taste, poses another interesting question: how do you protect yourself from today’s high divorce costs?

An Un-level Playing Field

As Forbes magazine recently reported, divorce is never easy. It represents the end of a way of life you have known for years.

Not only could a divorce wear you out emotionally, it could wear you out financially.

Even the wealthiest may not have sufficient access to capital during a divorce. Assets could be frozen during the divorce. Some turn to friends or family for capital but, for some, this is not an option and certainly it is not an easy ask.

It’s not uncommon for the spouse with the financial power during the marriage to declare war against their former partner by cutting off credit cards and hiding assets.

Those who can’t bear the divorce costs, often “surrender,” reluctantly agreeing to a sub-par settlement, all because he or she can’t afford the steadily mounting divorce costs, or can’t take the stress of protracted litigation, with someone who can afford to litigate a case to death.

Florida Law on Attorneys’ Fees

One way to level the playing field of high divorce costs is to ask one side to pay for attorneys’ fees. In Florida attorney’s fees may be awarded in a divorce, including enforcement and modification proceedings, separate maintenance, custody and support proceedings and appellate proceedings.

The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding.

I’ve written about reducing attorneys’ fees through various means before. The purpose of awarding attorneys’ fees is to make certain that both parties in a divorce proceeding “will have similar ability to secure competent legal counsel.”

There are also fees for frivolous cases. A reasonable attorney’s fee can also be awarded to the prevailing party if the court finds that someone brought a claim that was not supported by the material facts the then existing law to those material facts.

Paying for Divorce

People are often surprised to find out that divorce costs so much, they can be shockingly expensive. Attorneys can cost many hundreds of dollars per hour and require substantial retainers up front, and then you have to add on fees for accountants, psychologists, guardians, and other professionals.

Clients often do not have the money to simultaneously engage in divorce proceedings and be able to afford living expenses such as mortgage payments, school tuition and other personal costs during the proceedings.

Divorce funding can “level the playing field,” enabling people to fund their attorney and expert fees while maintaining their standard of living. A business niche has emerged to provide financing for those without the immediate means to fund the legal battle.

This levels the playing field significantly against the well-known tactic of wealthy husbands or wives dragging on divorce proceedings and costs ad infinitum until their spouse runs out of money and are forced to concede.

With independent financing, these individuals can pursue settlements they might not otherwise have been able to attain.

The Forbes article is here.


Divorce and Illegal Income

Scott Shadle threatened to divorce his wife if she stopped turning over money from their prostitution business – which they ran from their apartment. Scott and Rebecca’s prostitution business raises a question: what do you do with an illegal marital business and illegal income?

A Marital Prostitution Business

Police say Scott Shadle had posted online ads charging for sex with his wife, Rebecca Shadle, 38. The alleged sex-for-cash business took place at Eastmont Estates apartments in Greensburg, Pa.

According to, police have text messages detailing discussions between the pair over how much money to charge for sex and how much of the proceeds Rebecca Shadle would then turn over to her husband.

The texts also document a martial spat between the couple that grew out of the alleged home-operated prostitution business.

When Rebecca Shadle threatened to cut off the money, her husband texted “that he would file divorce papers and call her caseworker,” court documents state.

Rebecca Shadle, 38, of Greensburg, Pa., is also accused of charging her male sex customers extra to touch a 7-year-old-girl entrusted to her car. She faces charges of trafficking of a minor, aggravated indecent assault of a child, sexual exploitation of children, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.

She allegedly was charging her male customers extra to touch a 7-year-old-girl entrusted to her care. She faces charges of trafficking of a minor, aggravated indecent assault of a child, sexual exploitation of children, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.

Florida and Illegal Income

The article from Pennsylvania does not indicate how much illegal income the couple made from their prostitution business. But, the question still remains: can the value of the business, and the illegal income generated from prostitution, be used to calculate alimony or child support?

In short, no. I’ve written on the subject of alimony and support before. The problem is that a Florida court cannot base a future award of alimony or child support on a future illegal income from a career consisting of vice and criminality.

Generally, it is against public policy to base a court order of support upon the assumption that a husband or a wife will violate the law in order to acquire the necessary funds to pay for support.

It makes sense, and there’s a simple reason for this public policy. If we were to base an order of support or alimony on anticipated unlawful conduct, and illegal income, the courts would not only be recognizing illegal activity, but also encouraging the future violation of the law by spouses.

The Shadle Family Business

Police say Rebecca has acknowledged being a prostitute and letting two men inappropriately touch the girl. Her husband, Scott Shadle, faces three counts related to promotion of prostitution. A pair of alleged customers face sex charges in the case related to their alleged contact with the 7-year-old girl.

The Fox News article is here.


Texting and Divorce

A wife in Taiwan was recently granted a divorce from her husband, who she accused of ignoring her — and her unanswered text messages were a key piece of evidence. Ghosting, as it is called, is a way of ending a relationship by ignoring communications.


In the Taiwan case, the wife sent her husband messages via the Line app for six months. The messages were marked as read — meaning he presumably opened and read them — and yet the wife rarely, if ever, got a reply.

At one point, the wife sent her husband messages saying she was in the emergency room and demanding to know why he wasn’t answering her messages.

The judge in the Taiwan family court saw the unanswered messages (and the terse, unemotional replies the wife did occasionally get) and concluded the wife had enough grounds for a divorce:

“The defendant did not inquire about the plaintiff, and the information sent by the plaintiff was read but not replied to. The couple’s marriage is beyond repair.”


Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. I’ve written about no-fault divorces in Florida before. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” But is no fault divorce the reason the United States has a high divorce rate? Many people think so, and want to return to the old “fault” system to promote families.

The divorce process is really no mystery. If you or your spouse has decided to file for divorce in Florida, at least one of you must be a resident of the state or a member of an armed force stationed in the state. Proving fault, of course, is not required.

Divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage” in Florida, and begin when you or your spouse files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage” with the circuit court. Any assets and debts amassed during the marriage, referred to as “marital assets,” will be divided “equitably”. Assets you had before marriage may be considered “non-marital assets”. Judges will divide marital assets equally, unless there is a basis for unequal distribution, and your non-marital property is set aside.

Alimony is an extension of the obligation for spouses to support each other financially during the marriage. In Florida, a court can order alimony, and will look at statutory factors such as the standard of living during the marriage; the length of the marriage; and the age and physical condition of each spouse.

If children are involved, the court will also make a decision based on what is in the “best interests” of the child. Unless there is a reason that it would be detrimental to your child’s upbringing, the court will grant shared responsibility.

Additionally, the court will calculate your child support based on our statutory guidelines that attorneys use to properly calculate the child support needed for a child and how much each parent has to pay.

Answer Your Texts

The dissolution of marriage procedure, once it is completed will change your taxes. Property transfers, the taxability of alimony payments, allocating the federal; dependency deduction for children may all have tax impacts. Working with an accountant and lawyer will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Answering your spouse’s texts might also help.

The NextWeb article is here.


Florida Cohabitation Agreements

There has been a very sharp increase in the number of cohabiting couples over the past 15 years or so. This rise in cohabitating – and not marrying – has led to a rise in complex and often costly legal disputes which could be avoided with a cohabitation agreement.

As the Guardian reports, despite what many believe – and around one in four people living together think they have the same legal protection as married couples  – there is no status in Florida law as a common-law spouse or partner.

The number of unmarried couples has doubled since the mid-1990s to nearly three million, while the number of children living with unmarried parents has risen from 0.9 million in 1996 to 1.8 million in 2012. In addition, there are an estimated 6,000 same-sex couples, not in a civil partnership, who have children.

Basically, the law does not recognize in any meaningful way a living-together relationship outside marriage or civil partnership.

So, if a cohabiting relationship breaks down there is very little protection for the weaker partner. As a result, some cohabiting families can find themselves facing real difficulties should they split up, particularly when children are involved.

Florida Law on Cohabitation Agreements

I have written about agreements, and especially cohabitation agreements before. Florida law recognizes that unmarried cohabitants may agree to enter into an enforceable contract that establishes rights and responsibilities towards each other: “as long as it is clear there is valid, lawful consideration separate and apart from any express or implied agreement regarding sexual relations.”

One of the reasons Florida allows for cohabitation agreements is because the right to contract is one of the most sacrosanct rights guaranteed by our fundamental law.

Should your cohabitation agreement be in writing? While it may be literally true that nothing in Florida’s statute of frauds specifically requires that a cohabitation agreement be in writing, it absolutely should be.

Florida is actually unique in the writing requirement. Among the other states that also recognize contracts between unmarried cohabitants, only three—Minnesota, New Jersey, and Texas — have held that such agreements must be in writing, and all three of those jurisdictions have enacted statutes specifically containing this requirement.

However, given that one of the primary purposes of an agreement is to reduce the risks of protracted litigation and excessive attorney’s fees, failing to have a solid, written cohabitation agreement is counterproductive.

Cohabitation v. Marriage

In Florida, as in many common law countries like England and Wales, when married couples divorce, both parties have a legal right to maintenance and their share of assets, including property and inherited property. Judges have complete discretion under family law to take all the circumstances and history of the relationship into account and decide on a fair division.

However, cohabiting couples have no such rights, regardless of the number of years they have been together and whether they have children.

So, for example, partner A moves into partner B’s property (partner B, whose name is on the deeds, is the sole owner), they live together and maybe have children. If they separate, whether after five, 10 or even 30 years, partner A has no right to personal maintenance from partner B even if she has always been supported financially.

‘No Nups’ What’s in a Cohabitation Agreement?

As the law stands, the only solution for cohabiting couples who want legal protection should they split up is either to marry or to draw up a cohabitation agreement, otherwise known as a “no nup”.

So what is a cohabitation agreement?

Generally, No Nups set out who owns what, and in what proportion, and lets you document how you will split your property, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets should the relationship break down.

No Nups can also cover how you will support your children, over and above any legal requirements to maintain them, as well as how you would deal with bank accounts, debts, and joint purchases such as a car.

The agreement can also be used to set out how you and your partner will manage your day-to-day finances while you live together, such as how much each contributes to rent or mortgage and bills, and whether you will take out life insurance on each other.

The Guardian article is here.


Upcoming Speaking Engagement

For readers who may be interested, I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting as a workshop leader at the Family Law Section 2017 Trial Advocacy Workshop in St. Petersburg.

The Florida Bar Family Law Section is hosting the 2017 Trial Advocacy Workshop, from July 20th to July 23rd, at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.

The Trial Advocacy Workshop helps to improve your trial skills while preparing and presenting a family law case from beginning to end. The program offers a two-track option (choose between a children’s issues case or a financial issues case).

The workshop provides you with individualized attention within your small group. All workshop leaders are Florida Bar board certified in Marital & Family Law. In their respective workshops, attendees will meet with forensic psychologists and forensic accountants in small settings with the opportunity to ask questions and engage in open discussions.

Registration is limited to 80 participants, and there will be no on-site registration.

More information is available here.


Marital Settlement Agreements

“Shahs of Sunset” star Golnesa “GG” Gharachedaghi is having an interesting divorce problem. Her pending divorce from her husband, Shalom Yeroushalmi, has run into a serious roadblock: her husband refuses to sign the divorce papers.

According to a Page Six report:

“There are no issues about spousal support, assets or those typical divorce things at all,” the source said. “He is not asking for anything. What he’s basically doing is tormenting her. He’s not signing just to give her a hard time.”

“He just keeps saying he’s going to sign, then he doesn’t sign,” the source added. “He’s trying to drag it out and prevent her from moving on.”

Marital Settlement Agreements

Most family law cases are resolved by agreement, not by trial. A Marital Settlement Agreement is the method to resolving all of the issues, and is the final product of the negotiations.

A marital settlement agreement puts in writing all the aspects of the divorcing parties’ settlement. Topics covered in the Marital Settlement Agreement include the parenting plan and timesharing schedule, the division of the parties’ assets and liabilities (called “equitable distribution”), alimony, child support, payment of attorney’s fees and costs, and any other items to which the parties have agreed.

A marital settlement agreement entered into by the parties and ratified by a final judgment is a contract, subject to the laws of contract. The enforceability of contracts in Florida is a matter of importance in Florida public policy.

Accordingly, because a marital settlement agreement is treated like any other contract, and is subject to interpretation like any other contract, they can be enforced by the court.


If Yeroushalmi signs the marital settlement agreement, the divorce petition can make its way through the system, allowing the former couple to sever all formal ties. However, if he doesn’t, a judge may grant GG a default divorce after a considerable amount of time of inactivity on Yeroushalmi’s behalf.

GG and Yeroushalmi had a whirlwind romance. They secretly tied the knot at the end of January 2017, though GG realized within days she had made a terrible mistake.

“I wanted to throw up, “she said. “I was just thinking, ‘My dad’s going to kill me right now. And my mom is going to wake me up and then kill me again.’”

She filed for a divorce after one month of marriage.

The Page Six article is here.

Divorce & Common Law Marriages

Comedian Ron White’s wife is filing for divorce, and the duration of their marriage could be a major point of contention. Margo Rey filed divorce pleadings last week in Los Angeles, mentioning they had a common law marriage in Texas.

If the couple have had a common law marriage in Texas since 2008, long before they officially got married, they may be considered married in the eyes of the law, if they live together as husband and wife, and hold themselves out in public as a married couple.

The answer to their dispute about the length of the marriage may be important as it relates to property division and alimony.

Margo says she wants Ron to pay spousal support. The issue of the common law marriage may have been raised so she can argue that her marriage could be a few years longer, and thereby entitling her to more alimony.

Florida Common Law Marriages

Florida deems common law marriages void. What about a common law marriage from another state? I have written about a unique case in South Carolina before, and the White divorce raises it again.

In South Carolina, Debra Parks wanted her relationship to be considered a common-law marriage under South Carolina law. Parks is gay. But until 2014, same-sex marriage was illegal.

In a groundbreaking case for South Carolina, a Family Court judge has ruled that Parks and her former partner had a common-law marriage under state law. And the state must recognize that their common-law marriage has been legal for almost 30 years, the judge ruled.

The South Carolina ruling immediately becomes a legal precedent, and has the potential to impact thousands of people in same sex relationships because it backdates the period of effect to the beginning of the common-law marriage.

South Carolina is one of eight states that recognize common law marriage. The case is important because same sex marriages were not recognized until 2014 and left an entire group of people “out in the cold” without the protections the law provides to heterosexual couples.

Florida law is different. No common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, is valid in Florida. The South Carolina case could create a conflict between Florida Statutes – which makes common law marriages in Florida void as of 1968, the Parks case, which recognizes the creation of same-sex, common law marriages in South Carolina.

Interstate Problems

The generally established principle is that the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the place where the marriage occurred. So, while Florida no longer recognizes common law marriages, nevertheless, it may be forced to recognize the validity of common law marriages in other states.

The TMZ article on the White divorce is here.