Year: 2020

90-Day Fiancé and International Child Custody

A 90 Day Fiancé star, Jihoon Lee, may soon become involved in an international child custody case after his estranged wife moved from South Korea to Utah with their son and a child from another relationship.

International Child Custody

Seoul to Soul

According to reports, Jihoon hasn’t reached out to estranged wife, Deavan Clegg in months amid their divorce, an insider exclusively reveals to In Touch.

“Things are very messy with the divorce right now. The papers have been filed, but Jihoon is currently on the run from trying to be served them,” the source continues. “Deavan’s lawyer is taking every step possible to make sure he is served and the divorce can be finalized soon so she can officially move on from their relationship.”

Jihoon is not taking his son’s removal to the United States well:

Being alone is so painful. I miss [my son] so much and I want to hug him. I felt broken without [my son] after not being together for a year. But now another man is pretending to be [my son’s] father and my wife’s husband. On paper, Deavan and I are still married.

While there has not been a report of a court action to return any child to South Korea, what are the remedies available if he wanted to do something about returning his child to South Korea?

Florida and International Child Abduction

I’ve written about international child custody cases under the Hague Convention and the UCCJEA before. The UCCJEA and the Hague Convention are similar. The Hague Convention seeks to deter abducting parents by depriving the abducting parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.

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:

  • 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
  • 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.

However, many countries, unlike South Korea and the United States, are either not signatories or treaty partners with us in the Hague Convention. Fortunately, when a country is not a signatory country, the UCCJEA may provide relief.

Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA into law. The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case. In part, the UCCJEA requires a court have some jurisdiction vis-a-vis the child.

That jurisdiction is based on where the child is, and the significant connections the child has with the forum state, let’s say Utah. The ultimate determining factor in a Utah case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.

90-Day Divorce?

Jihoon, 31, confirmed the separation from Deavan, 24, in August while their story line on season 2 of 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way was still playing out on TV. Deavan then confirmed she moved back to America from the former couple’s marital home in South Korea with their son and her daughter from a previous relationship.

Since Deavan left Jihoon in South Korea, the couple have not been in communication. He reportedly blocked Deavan for five months now so it’s been hard to get a hold of him or even reached out to their son since he’s been back in America, so it’s nice to see Topher step in as a father figure.

Jihoon previously spoke out against Deavan’s claims, defending himself and explaining the reason why he blocked the mother of his son on all platforms.

“The reality is terrible. I know all this s–t. Like he’s going to have a new father. Do you know how it feels? My heart is always breaking. It happened without my knowledge,” Jihoon wrote in a statement via Instagram on September 3, revealing Deavan had not yet filed for divorce at the time. “And I don’t want to get involved in their lives. So I blocked them all. So extreme. But that’s how I organize my mind-set. I will never forget my son and love him forever.”

The In Touch article is here.

 

Exploding International Divorce Rates

More news about exploding international divorce rates as new data shows the largest annual percentage increase in separations in England and Wales in nearly 50 years – with same-sex splits almost doubling.

International Divorce Rates

Not So Merry England

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said divorces of heterosexual couples rose by 18.4% 90,871 in 2018 to 107,599 last year – the highest number since 2014, when 111,169 divorces were granted.

It was the largest annual percentage increase in the number of divorces since 1972, following the introduction of the The Divorce Reform Act 1969 which made it easier for couples to divorce upon separation, the ONS said.

Divorces among same-sex couples in England and Wales nearly doubled, from 428 in 2018 to 822 last year. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of these were between female couples.

The data suggests a reversing trend after divorce rates in the previous two years had dropped to their lowest since the early 1970s.

Florida Divorce Rates

I’ve written about fluctuating divorce rates in the United States before. Part of the problem with counting divorces in the U.S., unlike in England and Wales, is that collecting divorce statistics in the United States is not consistent.

Individual counties in some states keep excellent records of finalized divorce cases, an important statistic in measuring divorce rates. Miami-Dade County, for instance has excellent records of filing online. However, other counties in Florida and outside of Florida may not.

Additionally, different American states and the federal Census Bureau, have had a rocky history of collecting the data from across the country on divorce rates. In fact, the federal government has stopped providing financial support for detailed state collection.

The Crown . . . of Statistics

The crown of statistics gathering in England, the ONS, said that the scale of the recent increases could partly be attributed to divorce centers processing a backlog of casework in 2018, which was likely to have translated into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019.

It added the size of the increase can be partly attributed to a backlog of divorce petitions from 2017 that were processed by the Ministry of Justice in early 2018, some of which will have translated into decree absolutes (completed divorces) in 2019.

This is likely to have contributed to both the particularly low number of divorces in 2018 (the lowest since 1971) and the increase seen in 2019.

“The pandemic has put immeasurable strain on relationships and has caused a massive influx of cases hitting the divorce courts. In 35 years as a family lawyer I have never seen a consistently busy year like this year and that will be reflected in next year’s divorce numbers.

The ONS also said that the number of same-sex divorces has risen each year, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population since the introduction of marriages of same-sex couples in March 2014.

Same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014. Since then, the number of divorces of same-sex couples increase each year from very small numbers in 2015, when the first divorces took place, to more than 800 in 2019, reflecting the increasing size of the same-sex married population in England and Wales.

While we see that 56% of same-sex marriages were among females, nearly three-quarters of same-sex divorces in 2019 were to female couples. The ONS said that there had been an overall downward trend in divorce numbers since the most recent peak of 153,065 in 2003.

But this is broadly consistent with an overall decline in the number of marriages between 2003 and 2009. Unreasonable behavior was the most common reason for couples divorcing in 2019, the ONS said.

The new figures showed that 49% of wives and 35% of husbands in heterosexual marriages petitioned for divorce on these grounds. It was also the most common reason for same-sex couples divorcing, accounting for 63% of divorces among women and 70% among men.

The Independent article is here.

 

Divorce and Cheating in Cabo

Cheating may be involved in the divorce between Dancing with the Stars‘ Gleb Savchenko and his estranged wife, Elena Samodanova after Samodanova was spotted kissing another man while vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Cheating Divorce

Dirty Dancing

The So You Think You Can Dance choreographer, 36, submitted documents to a Los Angeles courthouse on Tuesday, December 22, seeking a dissolution of marriage with minor children.

Samodanova also filed a request for mediation regarding child custody, visitation and child support. The estranged pair share two young daughters.

Court documents obtained state that “the court orders both parties to participate in mediation to discuss custody and/or visitation” and help form “a mutually agreeable parenting plan.” A hearing is scheduled for March 2021.

Samodanova and Savchenko announced that they were going their separate ways after 14-years of marriage. At the time, Dancing With the Stars fans wondered whether Savchenko had become more than friends with season 29 partner Chrishell Stause.

Both denied the rumors.

Florida Divorce and Cheating

I have written about divorce and cheating before. Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? There is still a statutory basis for infidelity to be an issue in your divorce proceedings, but not in the way most people think.

Adultery may impact the division of property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, and it is presumed that property should be evenly divided. This presumption may be overcome by proof that one spouse intentionally wasted marital assets.

This waste is sometimes known as dissipation. Paying for expensive jewelry, foreign trips, rent, car payments, and dinners for girlfriends and boyfriends is considered wasting marital assets. The court has the power to reduce an adulterer’s equitable distribution to credit the marital estate for waste.

Florida law specifically provides that a court may consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded. However, courts have struggled to reconcile the “fault” of adultery with the concept of “no fault” divorce. The result is a mix of weak opinions.

Chapter 61 discusses the “the moral fitness of the parents” as one of the factors the court considers in determining the best interests of a child.

So, if one parent can prove that the other parent’s adultery had, or is reasonably likely to have, an adverse impact on the child, the judge can consider adultery in evaluating what’s in the best interest of the child. However, it would be extremely unusual for an issue to be decided on those grounds.

They danced the famous Merengue

In photos published by Page Six, Samodanova wears a black swimsuit and red cover up as she shares a kiss on the beach with a man identified as none other than Dancing with the Stars’ Vlad Kvartin!

“It is very convenient that hours after Elena was caught out kissing another man on a beach in Cabo that she has now decided to announce that she has filed for divorce.”

My relationship with Chrishell was and remains platonic. Our friendship during our season on DWTS was not the reason for our split. Elena and I have had longstanding issues in our marriage. This has been an ongoing situation between Elena and I paired with poor timing.

Amid the pair’s messy split, an insider reported that Savchenko’s first priority was providing for his children. “Gleb is such a hands-on dad and very protective of his kids,” the source said. “He is trying to handle everything in the best way possible to not give Elena any sort of leeway for the sake of their children.”

Earlier this month, the Celebs on the Farm star joined Stause and her new boyfriend on a romantic couple’s trip to Mexico. Savchenko was accompanied by new girlfriend Cassie Scerbo.

As they showed off their budding romance on social media, a source revealed that the duo “really enjoy each other’s company” and “are just starting to get to know each other.”

In a very moving social media post, sure to touch everyone’s hearts, Samodanova sadly remarked:

“I don’t know if Prince Charming exists anymore. It’s a fairy tale which I do not really believe anymore.”

The People article is here.

 

Divorce and Theft

If you thought someone might be hesitant to sue for damages for the theft or conversion of their adult film and magazine collection, you’d be wrong. One person made a federal case out of it. A U.S. District Court now has to decide the value of one Michigan man’s destroyed pornography collection following his own divorce.

Divorce and Theft

Law Hub

David Werking lived at his parent’s Grand Haven, Michigan home for ten months starting in October 2016 after a divorce before moving to Muncie, Indiana.

He moved out of his parent’s home in 2017, leaving some of his possessions in the basement. Those possessions included a trove of pornography and an array of sex toys which David values at nearly $30,000.

In November, he asked his parents to return his property, and they did so — in part. The pornography and sex toys were not among the possessions returned to David. Instead, David’s parents told him that “the items were destroyed.”

On New Year’s Day 2018, his father wrote in an email:

“I do not possess your pornography. It is gone. It has been either destroyed or disposed of. I may well have missed a few items that are now in your possession, but at this point, if you don’t have it, it is gone. Ditto for your sex toys and smutty magazines.”

The next month, Werking reported the case to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, and a sheriff’s deputy spoke with David’s mother, who acknowledged the couple had disposed of his pornography, the suit says.

David sued his parents in federal court, claiming that the value of his pornography collect was $25,557.89. To prevail on his claim, he must establish that the Defendants converted his property for their own use.

If David wins, the statute allows allows him to recover triple damages against his parents.

Florida Divorce and Theft

Although David’s case involves his third party claim for treble damages, and is un-related to his divorce, the issue of dissipation and civil theft claims arise frequently in divorce.

I’ve written before about various aspects of property division, the non-pornographic kind. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as collectibles, jewelry, and unique art, between parties under the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include 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.

Misconduct, for purposes of dissipation, does not mean mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

Michigan Mishugas

As the federal judge remarked:

Getting to the heart of the coconut now, the legal issue before the Court is whether the parents converted their son’s pornography “to their own use” by destroying it.

The parent’s emails to their son, made clear that they were motivated to destroy the pornography “from a belief in its deleterious effects.” The father could not have been clearer on this point; he told his son that he was motivated to destroy the pornography out of concern for David’s mental and emotional health.

The federal court found that David pleaded a plausible claim for relief against his parents on his statutory conversion claim because he has alleged that his parents were motivated to destroy the pornography because of his deleterious effects on his mental and emotional health.

Only the issue of how much he can recover in damages remain to be resolved. That will involve a valuation of David’s pornography collection and sex toys.

For reasons obscure, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney does not want to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the value of David’s adult film, magazine and sex toy collection. The court ordered both parties to file written submissions on the issue of damages.

The U.S. District Court opinion is here.

Divorce and Crime

Divorce and crime are in the news after the estranged wife of former San Diego congressman, Duncan Hunter, filed for divorce after more than a year of separation amid a corruption prosecution that netted them both felony convictions.

Divorce and Crime

Trouble in America’s Finest City

Margaret Hunter is seeking a divorce because of “irreconcilable differences,” and requests joint legal custody of their two daughters according to court records filed in San Diego Superior Court. She seeks physical custody of their daughters and reasonable visitation with their father. She also asked the court to award her spousal support and attorney’s fees and costs.

The divorce filings do not include any details about the “irreconcilable differences” that ended the marriage. An attorney for Margaret said she had no comment. A spokesman for Duncan did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Duncan Hunter has been living with his mother and father, Former Rep. Duncan Lee Hunter. The divorce records say Margaret and their daughters have lived in La Mesa since the couple separated in August 2019.

Duncan Hunter served as a U.S. Representative from 2013 to 2020 and succeeded his father, Republican Duncan Lee Hunter, a member of Congress from 1981 to 2009.

In 2017, the Department of Justice began a criminal investigation into Hunter and his campaign manager and wife Margaret Jankowski, for alleged campaign finance violations. The couple was indicted in federal court in August 2018 for allegedly using more than $250,000 in his campaign funds for personal purposes.

Margaret had been Duncan’s campaign manager. Both initially pleaded not guilty then separately changed their pleas last year, with each admitting to one felony count of conspiring to illegally convert campaign money to personal use.

Florida Property Division and Dissipation

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

One of the factors to consider is the “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

As a general rule, when misconduct during the divorce results in the dissipation of a marital asset, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning dissipated assets to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

The question is whether a spouse used marital funds for his or her own benefit and for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.

Thrown Under the Bus

In a Fox News interview, the congressman firmly put the blame for his campaign shenanigans where it belongs . . . on his wife:

“I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time, I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two. She was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure. But I didn’t do it.”

Duncan told a Fox News reporter shortly after the indictment that he had given his wife power of attorney when he was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003, and she handled his finances after that.

The indictment and other court records prosecutors filed in Duncan Hunter’s case before he pleaded guilty last year suggested Duncan carried on extramarital affairs with at least five women — three lobbyists, a staff member and a congressional aid — and used his campaign money to pay for weekend getaways and other outings with them, starting in 2009.

Margaret cooperated with prosecutors during their investigation, and they agreed to seek a lighter sentence. She was sentenced in August to three years of probation and eight months of house arrest, which she began serving immediately.

Duncan was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison, which he is scheduled to begin serving Jan. 4. His lawyer said he will do his time at the Federal Correctional Institute La Tuna in Anthony, Texas. Duncan resigned from his seat representing the 50th District in Congress in January.

The San Diego Tribune article is here.

When Divorce Court Rules on Your Religion

When a divorce court rules on your religion of choice, Constitutional issues are reborn. This happens frequently when couples agree to raise their children in a certain religion. In a recent appellate case, after the parents chose Christianity as their religion of choice, an Arizona family judge had to decide whether Mormons were Christian.

Divorce Religion

A Monumental Judgment

A Mother and Father married in November 1999 and had two children. In December 2017, the Mother petitioned for divorce and filed with the divorce decree a parenting plan signed by both parents. The Parenting Plan stated:

Each parent may take the minor children to a church or place of worship of his or her choice during the time that the minor children is/are in his or her care. Both parents agree that the minor children may be instructed in the Christian faith.

About a year after the divorce, the Father joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the children occasionally joined him at meetings. After the Mother learned the children were accompanying their Father to a Mormon Church, she moved to enforce the Parenting Plan, claiming the Mormon Church is not Christian under the Parenting Plan.

The family judge held two hearings on the enforcement petition. During the second hearing, the Mother called a youth ministry leader from her church to testify that Father’s Church is not Christian.

After taking the matter under advisement, the judge decided that the Parenting Plan directs that “the Children shall only be instructed in the Christian faith” and that Father’s Church was not “Christian” within the meaning of the Parenting Plan.

The family court judge decided the Father could not take the children to the Father’s Church’s services, that he had violated the Parenting Plan, and awarded the Mother attorney’s fees.

The Father appealed.

Florida Divorce and Religion

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce – especially as it relates to vaccinations. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are not statutory factors Florida courts consider when determining parental responsibility.

Nor is religion an area in which a parent may be granted ultimate responsibility over a child. Instead, the weight religion plays in custody disputes grew over time in various cases.

One of the earliest Florida case in which religion was a factor in deciding parental responsibility restricted one parent from exposing the children to that parent’s religion.

The Mother was a member of The Way International, and the Father introduced evidence that The Way made the Mother an unfit parent. He alleged The Way psychologically brainwashed her, that she had become obsessed, and was neglecting the children. The trial judge awarded custody to the Mother provided that she sever all connections, meetings, tapes, visits, communications, or financial support with The Way, and not subject the children to any of its dogmas.

The Mother appealed the restrictions as a violation of her free exercise of religion. The appellate court agreed, and held the restrictions were unconstitutionally overbroad and expressly restricted the Mother’s free exercise of her religious beliefs and practices.

Following that, and other decisions, Florida courts will not stop a parent from practicing their religion or from influencing the religious training of their child inconsistent with that of the other parent.

When the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, the court generally does not make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. The court should also avoid interference with the right of a parent to practice their own religion and avoid imposing an obligation to enforce the religious beliefs of the other parent.

Road to a Constitutional Victory

On appeal, the first thing the appellate court found was that the trial judge’s ruling was based on the wrong interpretation of the Parenting Plan. The religious-education section of the Parenting Plan unambiguously stated that:

“[e]ach parent may take the minor children to a church or place of worship of his or her choice during the time that the minor children is/are in his or her care.”

This language, it was held, permitted the Father to take the children to any “place of worship,” be it “Christian” or “non-Christian.” Nothing in the clause explicitly limits or narrows this authority. The family judge was found to have erred to the extent that it found the Parenting Plan did not permit Father to take the children to a church or place of worship of his choice.

But, the appellate court also held that even if the clause expressly constrained the Father’s right the court would have vacated the holding because the court violated the First Amendment of the Constitution when it ruled that a Mormon Church is not Christian.

The appellate court ruled that the divorce judge had to abstain from handling Mother’s claim once it became clear the dispute concerned an ecclesiastical matter.

The Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, “preclude civil courts from inquiring into ecclesiastical matters.”

Here, the family court dove right into an ecclesiastical matter by addressing whether the Mormon Church is part of the Christian faith. That very question has long been a matter of theological debate in the United States. A secular court must avoid ruling on such issues to prevent the appearance that government favors one religious view over another.

Although the judge was interpreting the Parenting Plan, the court did not resolve it through neutral principles of law but instead engaged in the exact type of inquiry into church doctrine or belief that the First Amendment prohibits.

For example, at an evidentiary hearing, the trial judge allowed in testimony from a minister to claim that Mormon Church was not part of the Christian faith, and admitted a chart comparing the tenets of the Mormon Church with Christian beliefs. The court’s order specifically found “that Mormonism does not fall within the confines of the Christian faith.”

In reversing, the appellate court ruled that courts are not the appropriate forum to assess whether someone who self-identifies as “Christian” qualifies to use that term. If the trial court’s order could stand, the “harm of such a governmental intrusion into religious affairs would be irreparable.”

A parenting plan’s religious-education provision can be enforced without violating First Amendment principles if the dispute does not require a court to wade into matters of religious debate or dogma.

The Arizona opinion is here.

Kelly Clarkson and Divorce Fraud

Kelly Clarkson’s divorce from husband Brandon Blackstock, who was also her manager, is heating up after she filed a fraud claim against Blackstock’s management company with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Kelly Clarkson Divorce Fraud

Never Again

If you thought Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock’s divorce couldn’t get any messier, well, you were wrong. Though Clarkson has declined to share many details about why they’re divorcing a lot has been made public throughout a series of court documents.

In September, when the couple filed for divorce, Blackstock’s father Narvel sued his son’s ex-wife for $1.4 million, stating that she owed his company, Starstruck Management Group, for unpaid management fees.

Clarkson made the recent filing in October, in which she called her oral agreement with Starstruck Management Group a “fraudulent and subterfuge device” and accused Blackstock and his father, Narvel Blackstock, of being unlicensed talent agents in California.

Clarkson’s filing not only attempts to void her agreement with Starstruck and the Blackstocks, but it also seeks the money she paid for their services from 2007–20, arguing that Clarkson paid “unconscionable fees” for “illegal services.”

The petition, set to be ruled on in February, could also dismiss a separate lawsuit that Starstruck filed against Clarkson in September. That suit claimed Clarkson already owes an additional $1.4 million in commissions from The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Voice along with millions of dollars from future payments.

“Starstruck developed Clarkson into a mega superstar,” that filing claimed. Clarkson’s filing, meanwhile, argues she should not have to make those payments either.

If successful, Clarkson could see up to tens of millions of dollars back in her pocket come February, given her touring and TV success over the past 13 years..

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud involving property. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as bank accounts, between parties under the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include things like the financial situation the parties, the length of the marriage, whether someone has interrupted their career or an educational opportunity, or how much one spouse contributed to the other’s career or education.

Another important factor 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.

Dissipation of marital assets, such as taking money from a joint bank account, happens a lot. In those cases, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning the dissipated asset to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

Misconduct, for purposes of dissipation, does not mean mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

The Trouble with Love is

Clarkson has filed a Petition to Determine Controversy with the Labor Commissioner’s Office claiming that Starstruck and the Blackstocks had violated Section 1700 of the California Labor Code.

That is also known as the Talent Agencies Act, a controversial California regulation that requires any individual who is acting as an agent in the state to be licensed. The difference being that a manager handles talent’s day-to-day operations while they are on the job while an agent is tasked with booking those jobs.

Agents are also required to provide a surety bond of $50,000, which Clarkson claims Starstruck failed to do while operating as an agent. They also failed to obtain her written approval to act as an agent, failed to work in a manner that served her best interests.

What they did do, claims Clarkson, is demand “unconscionable fees” and give “false information,” make “false representations,” and conceal “material information from [Clarkson] concerning certain matters relating to [Starstruck’s] … violation of the Labor Code.”

Clarkson and her attorney Edwin McPherson argue in the filing that:

“based on the wrongful acts and conduct of [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks] … all agreements between the parties, should be declared void and unenforceable, no monies should be paid by [Clarkson] to [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks], and all monies previously paid by [Clarkson] to [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks] should be disgorged forthwith.”

The Yahoo article is here.

 

Speaking at the 2020 Case Law Update

For anyone interested who hasn’t already registered, I will be speaking at the 2020 Case Law Update on December 10, 2020. Join me and fellow board certified Marital & Family Law attorney, Reuben Doupé, for an interactive discussion on some of the major Florida family law decisions that helped make 2020 a memorable year.

case law

Sponsored by the Florida Bar Family Law Section, attendees will be eligible for 2 CLE credits – 0.5 of which may be applied towards Ethics.

Topics will include the latest decisions from Florida appellate courts on modifications, parenting plans, alimony, equitable distribution, child support, relocation, enforcement, contempt, paternity, attorney’s fees, and disciplinary and ethical considerations.

Registration is here.

Coronavirus and the World Divorce Crisis

The BBC reports on the seldom talked about impact of the coronavirus pandemic around the world: the divorce crisis. Divorce filings, applications and break-ups are skyrocketing across the UK and around the world.

Pox and Pax

Pox Britannica

Leading British law firms reported a 122% increase in inquiries between July and October, compared with the same period last year. Charity Citizen’s Advice reported a spike in searches for online advice on ending a relationship.

Here at home in the US, a major legal contract-creation site recently announced a 34% rise in sales of its basic divorce agreement, with newlyweds who’d got married in the previous five months making up 20% of sales.

There’s been a similar pattern in China, which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns at the start of the pandemic. The same is true in Sweden, which, until recently, largely relied on voluntary guidelines to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.

It’s old news that the pandemic is affecting many of our core relationships. But lawyers, therapists and academics are starting to get a clearer understanding of the multiple factors feeding into the Covid-19 break-up boom – and why it looks set to continue into 2021.

Some describe the pandemic as “the perfect storm” for couples, with lockdowns and social distancing causing them to spend increased amounts of time together. This has, in many cases, acted as a catalyst for break-ups that may already have been on the cards, especially if previous separate routines had served to mask problems.

What’s been different is the significant increase in the number of women initiating divorces, with 76% of new cases coming from female clients, compared with 60% a year ago. This trend ties in with the findings of numerous studies of working parents’ lives during Covid-19, which suggest that a disproportionate share of housework and childcare is still falling on women, even in heterosexual couples where the male partner also works from home.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about no-fault divorces before. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

This often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010. Whether or not it is intimacy or communication, you do not need to list a reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable break in the marriage.

Pax Britannica

For other couples, the increase in mental health problems linked to the pandemic is playing a role in break-ups. Some relationship experts believe that even strong couples who weren’t facing problems before the pandemic, and avoided major shifts in household health or dynamics may also be susceptible to break-ups.

This is because the pandemic has taken away well-established routines that offered comfort, stability and rhythm. Without these, this leaves partners with limited opportunities to “seek other forms of support or stimulation” beyond their relationship, which can put them under strain.

“More people are finding themselves trapped in a situation where they are struggling to cope with what is going on for them as well as what is going on between them. Like a pressure cooker that does not let any pressure out, the lid can eventually pop and the relationship breaks down.”

The pandemic is likely to be one of the first major life challenges young couples face together, which might partly explain the rise in divorce applications from newlyweds in some countries, including the US and Canada.

Newlyweds and couples relatively early on in their relationship might not have been tested in the way the marriages of 30-years have been over the years with different trials and tribulations. The stripped-back lifestyle that the crisis has created is the opposite of many new couples’ visions of “wedded bliss about how perfect life is going to be”.

Additionally, relationship experts say the financial impact of Covid-19 is also likely to be playing a major role in break-ups, as people find themselves unemployed, furloughed or taking home lower pay checks.

The number of divorces has tended to increase without exception during economic downturns at least since the Second World War. Given that we are now experiencing a severe crisis especially economically, we expect that the end result will be an increase in marital instability.

Decreased income increases the potential for strain on the relationship due to conflicts on how to prioritize different types of consumption, and psychological strain increases that in turn, resulting in reduced relationship quality due to worries of how to make ends meet.

The pandemic has disproportionately hit those who were already working in insecure employment in low-income industries such as hospitality, leisure, retail and tourism – sectors in which women, young people and ethnic minorities are overrepresented.

Interestingly, some believe that improved economic fortunes could actually trigger divorces, because some spouses currently experiencing marital problems may be putting off splitting up for practical reasons.

This new wave of break-ups might also include partners who are currently staying together because they are nervous about being alone, beginning to date again in an era of social distancing or, conversely, worried about the logistics of starting divorce proceedings while still cohabiting during lockdowns. They don’t want to have to say, ‘I want a divorce’ and then have to spend 24 hours a day with them.

Psychotherapists argue that the pandemic is also prompting more existential re-evaluations of what, and whom, people want in their lives. This is clear from evidence showing that people are looking to move house and have a different lifestyle, such as moving to the country with less time spent commuting.

Such re-evaluation is also taking place in marriages, with couples reassessing their life choices and their emotional needs. The pressures of the pandemic have reminded us all that life might be short and we are tasked to assess how, and with whom, we are spending our precious time.

The BBC article is here.