Month: June 2018

Smelly, Dirty Divorce Tricks

The billionaire co-founder of PIMCO allegedly left dead fish and other vile smelling liquids in the mansion he once shared with his ex-wife Sue Gross. The gross smelling liquids are a perfect example of smelly, dirty divorce tricks to watch out for.

Smelly Dirty Divorce Tricks

Failing the Smell Test

Court documents outline how the Los Angeles bond king — who later joined Janus Capital — left the home in Laguna Beach “in a state of utter chaos and disrepair” following the couple’s divorce. California’s tax assessor values the home at more than $11 million.

Photos published by the paper from the case show a lineup of foul smelling sprays, including “puke smell” and “fart prank,” that were allegedly used by Bill.

Sue also alleges the 74-year-old hired an “army of spies” to monitor and harass her and her family members, the paper reported. It also reported that a source close to Bill “denied the house was left in disarray.”

Smell a Rat

Last month, Sue testified that she fooled her ex-husband into thinking he was sleeping in the presence of a Picasso painting for several months after she swapped the priceless piece of art for a fake she had created herself.

Their court documents also include a restraining order, showing acrimony between Bill and Sue Gross, even as they’ve agreed to at least some of the financial aspects of their parting.

Days before the divorce was finalized, Bill Gross was granted a temporary restraining order that bars 67-year-old Sue Gross from approaching him or entering properties where he is living or working.

The order also calls for Sue Gross to stay away from her ex-husband’s girlfriend, Amy Schwartz. Bill Gross said in a court declaration filed in January:

“Sue’s escalating harassment of me and my employees has crossed the line into danger and my inability to feel safe in my own home”

A representative for Sue Gross responded by saying Bill Gross was the aggressor:

“The last year has been painful … since she became the target of Bill’s bullying and threatening behavior in the divorce proceedings. Sadly, as (was) heavily documented around his departure from Pimco, Bill has clearly suffered from paranoia and rage since well before … the separation.”

Florida Dirty Divorce Tricks

I’ve written about behavior and dirty divorce tricks before. They can seriously backfire. A couple of common tricks to watch out for:

  • Refuse to pay household bills until you are forced to do it by the court to “Starve Out the Other Spouse”. The goal is to get the other spouse in a financial position where he or she, out of desperation, will accept an unfair settlement.
  • Wait until the latest possible day to pay support money, even if you’ve got the money to send. Never mind that your spouse just might need the money to pay bills or buy things for the children.
  • Petition the court for sole custody of your children when you will actually agree to a shared custody and equal timesharing. The real purpose for the request is to strike fear into the heart of your spouse and use it to coerce financial concessions.
  • Refuse to speak with your spouse about anything, including the children. This helps to create conflict, court hearings, and increase legal fees to wear the other side down.
  • File a fraudulent domestic violence petition to have your spouse excluded from the family home.

Yes, sadly these are cases of what people have actually done during the pressures of a divorce, and all of these instances are documented. Consider the stress family cases have on everyone and show some respect to others.

Come Out Smelling Like a Rose?

The fighting has prompted Sue Gross to step down from the board of the William and Sue Gross Family Foundation to form her own as-yet-unnamed charity.

It is unclear how her absence will affect the family organization, of which Bill Gross once described her as “the boss.”

The foundation, with reported assets of $355 million, has helped finance causes as diverse as UC Irvine’s nursing program and Doctors Without Borders.

The Orange County Register article is here.


Family Law Super Lawyers

I am very pleased to announce that I have been selected to the 2018 Super Lawyers list in the area of Family Law. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Family Law Superlawyer


Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

The annual selections are made using a patented multi-phase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law.

Florida Board Certification

“Board Certification” in Florida, mean certification from The Florida Bar, and recognizes attorneys’ special knowledge, skills and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice.

Board certified lawyers are evaluated for professionalism and tested for expertise. Certification is the Florida Bar’s highest level of evaluation of the competency and experience of attorneys in the 26 areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

In addition to being named in Superlawyers, I am also board certified in marital and family law, currently serve on the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, and I am a member of both the California and Florida Bars. One of my recent article “To Catch a Time-sharing Deviation” was published in The Florida Bar Journal.

The article, “To Catch a Time-sharing Deviation”, is also cited as a reference in the Florida Benchbook – which is published by the Office of the State Courts Administrator. I am also a frequent speaker, and have lectured to different professional organizations including, the Florida Bar, the Florida Chapter of the AFCC; Miami-Dade County Family Court Services; and The First Family Law American Inns of Court.

For more on Family Law Super Lawyers visit Superlawyers.


Hiding Money in Divorce

“Martin” actress,Tisha Campbell-Martin, is accusing her estranged husband of hiding money during their divorce proceedings. Hiding money, especially when you are going through a divorce raises all kinds of concerns . . . for both parties. What are some of the consequences?

hiding assets in divorce

Campbell-Martin filed legal documents in court – which were obtained by TMZ – claiming her husband Duane Martin was hiding and misappropriating money while they were married.

It’s unclear how much money she thinks he was hiding from her or what specific remedies she is seeking.

Hiding Assets in Divorce

In Florida divorce, judgments and marital settlement agreements can be set aside on various grounds, including fraud. Divorce fraud has become very common, and I’ve written on the subject before.

One of the areas ripe with fraud is hiding money in a divorce. In certain cases, Florida allows you to challenge and vacate or modify a marital settlement agreement if the agreement was based on things like fraud, deceit, duress, coercion, misrepresentation, overreaching.

Additionally, Florida courts have allowed challenges to agreements where the marital settlement agreement makes unfair or unreasonable provision for the challenging party given the circumstances of the case.

Judgments may also be overturned because of fraud and fraud on the court. The thinking is that cheaters should not be allowed to prosper, and it has long been central to our legal system.

Florida rules of court expressly allow you to get some relief from a judgment if it was the product of fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party.

Courts have available to them all kinds of sanctions, in a wide variety of shapes, attempting to encompass the virtually limitless ways people in divorce manage to misbehave.

Truth or Consequences?

According to the article, actress Tisha Campbell-Martin is asking a judge to take legal action against her husband for hiding money during the divorce. She originally filed for divorce in February, after 20 years of marriage.

The couple separated in December of 2016. She is seeking alimony from her husband, and allegedly wants to block the court’s ability to award him spousal support. What are some of the remedies the judge in Campbell-Martin’s case can consider?

If you lie during the divorce process, during your deposition for example, in order to hide assets, you may have committed perjury – which is a crime. Also, if your lies are discovered by your spouse, your spouse’s attorney, or a judge, you may face severe sanctions.

Similarly, if you don’t properly report your assets on your financial affidavit or fail to disclose financial information to your spouse during a divorce, a court can order you to do so. If you defy the court when it, for example, orders you to share account balances and the location of money, you can be held in contempt of court.

The TMZ article is here.


When to sign a Prenuptial Agreement

More and more people are using prenuptial agreements. The belief that a prenuptial agreement is only for the rich and famous is fading away. Increasingly, prenups are becoming more widely used. But can the timing of the prenup be an issue?

Prenuptial Agreement

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

These days, the prenup has become more important than ever. People are marrying when they are older, and better informed about the implications of marriage. Many people have married before. So, more people look for prenuptial agreements.

Prenuptial agreements aren’t just for people entering second marriages, they are important for any couple planning to marry. I have written extensively on prenuptial agreements.

A prenup can help keep your non-marital property yours. The property you brought into the marriage is yours – mostly. But over time it is common for people to start mixing things up. Inheritance funds get deposited into joint accounts; properties get transferred into joint names…and all for good reason.

Unfortunately, tracing commingled property is expensive, and hard to prove. But, if you put it in writing at the beginning, you might be able to avoid this task, and save some money down the road.

Prenuptial agreements also help you to change the law. For example, right now in Florida, there has been an ongoing debate about alimony. When you go to court, a judge has to follow state law regarding alimony.

However, through prenuptial agreements you can modify Florida’s legal standards for awarding alimony, in addition to modifying what the current law says about the amount of support and the duration of the alimony period.

Second Marriages

For second marriages, a prenup is an especially good idea. What some clients don’t realize is that going through a second, third, or fourth divorce can be more complicated than first-time divorces.

In multiple divorces, couples are older, and have less time to make up for losses. Also, couples are competing for dwindling resources. Child-support, alimony, and dividing up of the retirement accounts may still be pending, and there can be little left to divide in a second divorce.

Some can simply state what assets each party has brought into the marriage, and what assets each party will take away if the marriage ends. Or, if there is a disparity in incomes, you can add to the contract how much the lower-income spouse will receive.

Timing of Prenups

But many people are afraid of prenups. They are afraid prenups take the romance out of getting married. That’s too bad. As I’ve written about before, there are a lot of concerns prenups can handle:

  • Will you have to care for an older parent
  • Who pays or supports the house when going back to school
  • Agreeing to spending habits
  • Who pays for what credit card debt
  • Who handles the costs of a business
  • Who pays the taxes
  • What happens if someone dies or becomes disabled

The truth is that prenuptial agreements can put a damper on things because people wait too long to address them. Clients make appointments for a prenup a few days before the wedding.

As a result, there may not be sufficient time to prepare and review the agreement, and it could be challenged as unfair.

If you want a prenuptial agreement, then talk to your future spouse about one at the beginning. Being upfront about your needs, and not springing it on them at the last minute is proper planning. Proper planning and allowing a lot of time will protect the agreement accusations of undue pressure.

If the prenuptial agreement is drafted, signed and put away long before the wedding, you will better protect yourself, and have some protection against challenges about bad timing.


Divorce Waste and Property Division

An English ex-husband has ‘come under fire’ after he admitted to burning down his marital home out of anger over his divorce. This sad event raises the issue of waste in divorce, and how courts can order an unequal property division when assets are destroyed.

Divorce Waste

‘Great Balls of Fire’

According to the Mirror, Paul Duffy appeared at Leicester Magistrates’ Court to admit to a charge of arson at his home in England. Emergency services were called to a ferocious blaze at his address in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The house is almost completely destroyed due to arson. An investigation into the blaze found 27 individual seats of fire, two jerry cans and evidence of flammable substances and petrol.

The fire caused an explosion at the property and the house next door was damaged, although no-one was inside the address. Duffy left, but later returned to the scene, where he gave himself up to police officers and was arrested.

In interview he made a full and frank admission of his role in starting the fire.

Florida Divorce Waste

In Florida divorces, courts distribute the marital assets and liabilities between the parties every day. Judges have to start with the premise that the distribution should be equal. But is there a way ‘to fight fire with fire’ if a spouse destroys marital property?

In Florida, courts are allowed to distribute property unequally if there is a justification for an unequal distribution. I’ve written about this concept of waste, and other aspects of property division before.

One of the relevant factors courts look to is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

There are many examples, besides arson, of spouses dissipating or wasting assets. Other instances of people ‘pouring gasoline on the fire’ include spending money buying a girlfriend jewelry or lingerie, gambling losses, and drug usage.

Some people get ‘fired up’ over their divorce, and would rather lose the money outright than split it with their spouses.  Where this kind of marital misconduct results in a waste of marital assets, it can serve as a basis for unequal division of marital property.

‘Burning down the house’, one of the largest assets in a marriage, would be a good reason to justify an unequal distribution of the property in divorce. It’s Florida’s way of saying: ‘if you play with fire you’re gonna get burnt.’

‘Fire Away’

According to reports in England, the husband had left the area after starting the fire but later returned to the scene, where he gave himself up to police officers and was arrested.

The house was not insured. The house was ruled to be unsafe and had to be demolished later that day. The husband is now facing jail. Clearly, the husband has jumped ‘out of the frying pan into the fire.’

The Mirror article is here.


Prenups and Remarriage

Thinking of remarrying? If so, there are a few precautions your must take to make sure your next marriage is successful, and that your finances and children are protected. This can include financial counseling, reviewing important documents and preparing prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

prenup for remarriage

First Steps

You have concerns before you get remarried, and those concerns can grow into relationship problems unless you sit down with your spouse or future spouse and talk about finances.

As U.S. News and World Report writes, you should start with a simple discussion about your assets and liabilities. Couples also need to discuss their financial goals.

Do we have separate accounts, or do we co-mingle?

Do we get a new home, or do I keep the home I have, and you keep the home you have?”

There are a lot of personal and financial decisions that need to be discussed before the wedding party.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just resolving uncertainty in a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets to the union can benefit from one. They are also important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, properties and other investments.

A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important in second marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment.

Without a prenup, if your spouse dies, you will have statutory rights under state law to a share of your deceased spouse’s estate and may also have a right to lump sum death benefits, or a survivor annuity under a retirement plan.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand these rights by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce. Prenups can be very worthwhile provided they’re done right.”

The most basic of prenups should list an inventory of premarital assets that would stay with the original owner in case of a divorce. Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable.

Final Plans

U.S. News and World Report makes several other suggestions which make sense.

Make sure your estate plan is up to date. You need to be extra cautious if you have children from a previous marriage. You want things to work out with your current spouse and also make sure your kids are not disinherited.

Update your will. Your will and beneficiary designations need to be updated for many major life events, including the birth of a child, death of a family member, marriage, divorce and remarriage.

Review all your documentation. If you are entering your second or third marriage, you may need to make significant changes to your estate plan, beneficiary designations and even your emergency contacts.

Make sure that all the documents you leave behind clearly spell out your wishes. Take the time to do proper estate planning, because a prenup may say one thing and the estate plan may say something different.

If they don’t realize it, at death there could be a problem if [the estate plan and the prenup] are not consistent in their goals.

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


Do you Divorce or Annul?

In a divorce fraud case from England, Neil Rattue was married for 15 years before he was found to have forged his divorce decree, and illegally married another woman. Do his two ‘wives’ file for divorce, or, like rats leaving a sinking ship, annul their marriages?

divorce or annul

Smell a Rat

Rattue invented a sickness, claiming he had “terminal cancer” to keep his double life hidden from both ‘wives”. The court in the UK heard a victim statement from his first wife, read out by the prosecutor, who said she felt like her husband had ‘stolen her life’ from her.

Why did he not ask me years ago for a divorce or when he met his new wife? Instead he was leading a double life. I have spent the last 19 years living with my mum as he left me with no other option. I am paying for this both mentally and emotionally. He has stolen my life from me.

Though he stopped seeing his first wife in 2001, he dutifully continued to call her daily for 17 years to ask how she was and discuss their debts, which she was paying off.

A court previously heard his first wife had paid off £30,000 of debt, from credit cards and loans taken out with Rattue, but still had a staggering £37,500 to be paid.

 Florida Divorce and Annulment

What if this took place in Florida? I’ve written about divorce and annulment in Florida before. Florida does not have a statute authorizing annulments. The decision to divorce or annul a marriage will depend on certain facts.

Annulment has a history beginning in England, and if King Henry VIII had been able to secure an annulment from the Pope, England might have remained a Catholic country. Today, annulment may best be known for rescuing Britney Spears from an ill-advised alcohol-related Las Vegas “bender.”

Because Florida is one of the handful of states that has no annulment statute, annulments in Florida are purely a question of common law, decided pursuant to the inherent equitable powers of the circuit court.

The historical common law “impediments” to marriage traditionally fell into two general categories: lack of consent and lack of capacity. This is substantially still the case law in Florida.

Lack of consent would include, for example, people who are related within certain degrees, and minors without parental consent.

Lack of capacity, is exactly the situation the Rattue wives are in. Lack of capacity includes marriages involving fraud, mental illness, sham marriages, and shotgun weddings.

While none of the “marriage” statutes in Florida specifically address purported marriages between one person and another person who is already legally married to a third party, bigamy is, of course, a crime. Bigamy raises the question: do you divorce or annul the marriage?

Whether to divorce or annul will depend on the legality of the marriages. Given that Rattue was never legal divorced, he forged his divorce decree, his second marriage would not likely be recognized in Florida.

This is not only a surprise for the first wife but can be devastating for the second wife. But, it also means his second wife would have to file for an annulment. His first wife, who was legally married, could file for divorce.


According to the report:

The matter was not heard by a family court judge hearing whether to divorce or annul the marriage(s), but in criminal court. Judge Richard Parkes QC said Rattue had been ‘cowardly’ and ‘deceitful’ in maintaining his marriage to his first wife, despite having started a new marriage and raising children without his first wife even knowing.

Salisbury Crown Court, Wiltshire, heard how Rattue had met his first wife in Wiltshire in 1980 and they were married three years later. Rattue, who often worked away, then met his second wife while traveling.

The pair, who married on October 3, 1998, lived together in York, North Yorkshire, having two children together. Prosecutor Phillip Warren said Rattue had taken a friend’s divorce certificate without him knowing, before using it to forge his own.

Eighteen months ago, he would still phone me at work every day where he would ask me how I was. He still made me pay off all the money. He said we have got to stay married for the purpose of the loan and I believed him. Little did I know, it was because he had already forged our divorce certificate. This has been a prison sentence since 2001 when he left and stole my life from me.

The Mirror article is here.


Alimony for Him

Score another win for the women’s rights movement, but I’m guessing it’s not a win women will celebrate. In a surprise twist in the age of #equalpay, more women in divorce are having to pay alimony to their ex-husbands.

Hear Me Roar!

As MarketWatch reports, an increasing number of women are paying alimony and child support when their marriages break up, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Some 54% of the attorneys surveyed have seen an increase in women paying child support in the last three years, and 45% noticed an uptick in women paying alimony.

Despite complaints about the women’s pay gap, the trend of women paying alimony is being seen as a sign of women’s growing earning power. But experience is also showing that having to pay a man alimony is a bitter pill to swallow for women.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about alimony, and alimony reform in Florida, many times. In every dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Once a court determines there is a need and ability to pay alimony, it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate.

But, the gender of the recipient is not a statutory basis for granting or denying alimony. Courts are supposed to be blind to gender in alimony awards.

The Future is Female!

Many women, no matter how educated, how professional, how modern they are, are surprised to learn that they might have to pay alimony. In the past, maybe mom was a kindergarten teacher and dad was working on Wall Street. For example:

  • In 1960, just 11% of households with children under 18 had mothers who were the breadwinner.
  • In 2013, moms were the primary provider in a record 40% of families, a 2013 Pew Research Center report found.
  • Some 31.4% of single dads who have custody of their kids received spousal support in 2016, and 52.3% of moms did.

The average amount of child support was $5,774 per year, or about $329 a month, but only 68.5% of that money was actually received, according to Census data.

Equality Includes Both Genders!

Paying alimony is something Sarah Gilbert never thought she would have to do, but the 44-year-old mom of three boys now sends $349 a month to her ex-husband. The Portland, Ore. resident says the experience has made her never want to get married again, even though she’s now in a happy relationship.

Her husband was a stockbroker when they first met, then he left the financial world to join the U.S. Army. After the military, he struggled to find work and was unemployed when they split. She was shocked when a judge gave her ex-husband primary custody and ordered Gilbert to pay monthly support.

The jaw dropped out of my mouth. I literally could not believe it. Had I been working a corporate job, I would have expected to pay spousal support to him, but I was a tour guide.

As a defense to paying alimony, working women going through a divorce will sometimes argue that their husbands are underemployed and could have earned much more than if he worked harder.

But the reality is, if during the course of the marriage, you and your husband agreed he’d earn less, work less, and you took on the role of the primary breadwinner, you’re going to pay that support.

The MarketWatch article is here.


Gimme More Child Support

The divorce of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline has been toxic, but could be made worse because he is rumored to be strapped for cash and seeking more child support. How is child support calculated when one parent is super wealthy and the other is not?

Oops I did it Again

Federline, aka “K-Fed”, has asked a judge to increase the $20,000 per month child support payment he receives from Britney. The father is claiming their 2 kids enjoy a lavish lifestyle with her, but all he can provide them with is a lifestyle that is relatively meager.

Federline also is rumored to claim the kids go on 5-star vacations, they have every toy imaginable, a lighted tennis court, all because he claims she makes $34 million a year, while he only pulls in $3,000 per month.

How do the child support guidelines work when one parent makes millions and the other only makes a few thousands?

Florida Child Support

High income parents have special problems in determining child support. Courts are reluctant to award child support that is deemed “excessive,” but the courts are bound by child support guidelines which set a presumptive amount of support.

To make matters worse, research suggests that child support guidelines themselves are flawed in setting support for the high income parent.

I wrote an article about some of the problems with Florida child support. For example, Florida guidelines follow the income shares model. The guidelines are are regressive, so poorer parents pay a larger share of income than wealthier parents.

Good Fortune Child Support

For high-income parents, the guidelines can award support far exceeding any child’s needs. Also, Florida’s guidelines have never been updated, so they are based on the cost of goods as they existed in the 1970s.

Because of these problems, the guidelines expressly provide the amounts can be adjusted upward or downward. Florida allows deviations by up to 5 percent after considering relevant factors. And the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of enumerated factors.

There are some circumstances under which a court may divert more substantially from the child support guidelines. Good fortune child support can be awarded in cases in which one parent is very wealthy.

Courts have determined that children of such parents deserve to benefit from that parent’s wealth and success, especially since they would enjoy such benefits if the parents were married.

Some of the benefits to a child born to a wealthy parent can include private schools, travel, and other special activities above and beyond basic necessities.

Additionally, Florida has allowed courts to order savings and trusts for the children of a wealthy parent, even if they reside primarily with the other parent.

Make Me

One Britney source with direct knowledge of the situation tells TMZ:

Britney spends no more on the boys than he does. He’s barely getting by because he has to support 3 additional kids and his wife and himself on funds Brit gives him for their 2 kids.

The source also reportedly said, “The law is that both parents are to contribute to their children’s support. Where is his contribution?” Federline says his expenses are around $23,000 a month. So, when you add up his earnings and Britney’s $20,000 per month, he currently breaks even.

The TMZ article is here.

Photo credit  CC BY-SA 2.0