Month: June 2020

Free Speech and Family Law Clash

Free speech and family law clash again, as a Florida appellate court rules on just how far a judge can go in restraining an online stalker of a politician. Like the plot of Tiger King gone wrong, a Broward state senator filed an injunction against a convicted sex offender who also happens to be a public advocate on behalf of registered sex offenders.

Free Speech Family Law

Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin Redux

Lauren Frances Book is a Florida State Senator who also runs a non-profit called “Lauren’s Kids” to assist survivors of sexual abuse and to prevent its occurrence. Because of her own childhood experience as a victim, she has been an advocate for laws that support and maintain sex offender registries, and place residency restrictions on convicted offenders.

Derek Logue, like the senator, is also a public figure of sorts. After he was convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl in 2001, he co-founded what is described as the Anti-Registry Movement – which opposes sex offender laws.

Channeling “Joe Exotic” and “Carol Baskin”, Logue travels to, organizes, and participates in various demonstrations and counter-demonstrations around the nation opposing the type of sex offender laws for which the senator advocates. He also has Facebook and Twitter accounts and internet websites. One website is “Floridians for Freedom: Ron and Lauren Book Exposed.”

Sen. Book has complained about Logue’s online comments:

“I think I found the official Laura Ahearn/ Lauren Book theme song” next to a link to a YouTube video for a song titled, “You Are A C—,” by Australian singer and comedian Kat McSnatch:

“Why don’t you shut that scabby c— mouth before I f— up your face.” The crude video also features an image of a tombstone that reads, “R.I.P. Annoying C—.”

On his website as well as other social media platforms he uploaded a picture of the senator’s home along with her address; a video for a song containing an obscene title, with lyrics that are “Not Safe For Work” posted on his Twitter page and a cartoon depicting a headstone with a vulgar insult and the phrase, “Died of Natural Causes.”

Sen. Book filed an injunction claiming she fears for her and her family’s safety following physical threats Logue allegedly made against her online and in person during two public events in 2015 and 2016. She wants to keep him from coming within 500 feet of her home and her offices.

The trial court granted the injunction without identifying which of the various occurrences supported it.

Florida Free Speech and Family Law

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children, and that can involve restraints on free speech. Speech can also be enjoined under our domestic violence laws. In Florida, the term “domestic violence” has a very specific meaning, and it is more inclusive than most people realize.

It means any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.

It can also mean cyberstalking. A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.

A credible threat means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm.

Tiger King 2

Logue appealed, saying his actions served a legitimate purpose advocating against legislation affecting sex offenders, his social media posts don’t constitute “a course of conduct directed at a specific person” and the senator’s subjective fear does not satisfy the objective “reasonable person” standard required by the statute.

The court found that here, although the posting of the vulgar song may have been directed at the senator, and was certainly intended to be insulting, it was not credibly or objectively threatening. Even if it were, an injunction is not the appropriate remedy.

The case presented an issue that goes to the foundation of our country— freedom of expression under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While the senator was irritated by Logue’s actions, the Constitution protects the right of the political irritant to voice his opinions as much as it protects any citizen’s right to do so.

Publicly expressing anger toward an elected official is not a basis for entry of an injunction. In public debate, elected officials must tolerate insulting remarks—even angry, outrageous speech—to provide breathing room for the First Amendment.

Courts have acknowledged that what may be actionable in the context of interactions between private individuals are viewed differently in the context of political debate by public actors. Because the senator is a public figure and not a private citizen what constitutes harassment, credible threats, or even defamation against her is different.

The opinion is available here.

 

Israeli Prenuptial Agreements are Kosher

Whether Israeli prenuptial agreements are kosher is a big question in the holy land as Israel’s version of Real Housewives, Nicol Raidman, has filed for divorce from her former oligarch and billionaire industrialist husband Michael Cherney.

Israeli Prenuptial Agreement

Land of Milk and Honey

Nicol Raidman is a businesswoman, socialite and former reality TV celebrity in Israel, who recently announced she is divorcing her billionaire husband in what is shaping up to be the most expensive divorce lawsuit in Israeli history, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

After 11 years of marriage, Raidman and industrialist Michael Cherney are dissolving their union. But Raidman is alleging that Cherney has failed to honor his prenup with her, which promised her $25 million (NIS 86 million) in any settlement.

She is now planning to take Cherney to court and demanding hundreds of millions of shekels under their prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements are generally enforceable in Israel, if authorized before a notary, a marriage registrar, or by the family court or the religious court. In fact, former Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, called on couples getting married to sign prenuptial agreements to ensure that husbands will not withhold a get, or Jewish writ of divorce, from their wives.

In Israel, where all divorces are subject to religious law, the norm has left thousands of women in legal limbo due to husbands who refuse to grant divorces. The phenomenon has received a lot of attention in recent years as rabbis try to battle husbands who are “get-refusers.”

Some Jewish groups mandate its members require couples to sign a prenuptial agreement to avoid such scenarios. The agreement, commonly referred to as a “halachic prenup,” generally penalizes the husband financially for refusing to give the get.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrity sports figures, and they are about much 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. But prenups are frequently challenged in court.

Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable.

For example, Florida courts must consider things such as fraud, duress, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, and whether there was any financial disclosure.

Real Housewives of the Holy Land

Cherney’s lawyer told the network that any and all claims would be made to the court rather than the media. Raidman is known to be a close friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara.

In 2011-2013 Raidman took part in the Channel 10 reality television show “Me’usharot” based on the US show “The Real Housewives.” She has launched her own luxury clothing and perfume brands.

Cherney, an oligarch who made his fortune in the former Soviet Union, is a close confidant of Yisrael Beyteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman. The couple have two children.

The Times of Israel article is here.

 

International Child Custody and a Washington Woman in Saudi Arabia

In an interesting case involving international child custody and a Washington woman in Saudi Arabia, the woman who previously lost custody of her daughter in Saudi Arabia for being “too western”, is back! She traveled home for Christmas and is trying to stay in Washington state with the child.

International Child Custody

Shifting Sands

I’ve written about the case of Bethany Vierra Alhaidari before. Bethany, a 32-year-old student and yoga teacher, moved to Saudi Arabia to teach at a university in 2011. She divorced her Saudi husband, and sought custody of their four-year-old daughter. But the Saudi court concluded that she would not be a good parent.

“The mother is new to Islam, is a foreigner in this country, and continues to definitively embrace the customs and traditions of her upbringing. We must avoid exposing (the child) to these customs and traditions, especially at this early age.”

She started sleeping with her ex-husband, Ghassan al-Haidari, in a bid to get him to allow her and their daughter to spend Christmas with her family, in Washington state. It worked, but she did not return from the Christmas vacation.

Bethany is now asking a family court in Washington to give her custody of her five-year-old daughter Zaina. She said the custody agreement with her Saudi ex-husband was signed under duress and that she was not given a fair hearing by Saudi courts.

In recent years Saudi Arabia has attempted to shake off its image as one of the most repressive countries in the world for women.

In 2018, the government lifted a long-standing ban on women driving and made changes to the male guardianship system last year, allowing women to apply for passports and travel independently without permission from a man.

However, women continue to face numerous restrictions on their lives, and several women’s rights activists who campaigned for the changes have been detained and put on trial. Some of them are alleged to have been tortured in prison.

Florida and the UCCJEA

I’ve spoken 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, like Saudi Arabia, are 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 Washington. The ultimate determining factor in a Washington case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.

Alternatively, Washington could possibly hear the case if Washington was the Home State of the child within 6-months before filing or the children are in Washington and the court has emergency jurisdiction. In Bethany’s case, she is using a rarely used section of the UCCJEA.

A Washington Yogi in King Salman’s Court

Bethany appealed the Saudi ruling last August. But she said that it was ignored and that a Saudi judge forced her to reach a custody agreement. She went back to living with her ex-husband and at Christmas he allowed her to take Zaina to see her grandparents in Washington. They did not return.

She next filed a case with a court in Washington in January that cited a rarely-used clause in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Even though Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the UCCJEA requires State courts to recognize and enforce custody determinations made by foreign courts as if they were State courts.

However, a court need not enforce a foreign court order or defer to a foreign court’s jurisdiction if the child-custody law of the foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights.

The UCCJEA language comes from article 20 of the Hague Convention. The “human rights, or fundamental freedoms defense, is invoked on the rare occasion that return of a child would utterly shock the conscience of the court or offend all notions of due process.

Washington has some experience with this clause. In 2015, a court in Washington ruled that the state should not enforce custody decrees from Egypt because there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Egyptian child custody laws violated fundamental principles of human rights.

Bethany’s husband has asked a Washington family court to enforce the custody agreement registered in Saudi Arabia, saying that his ex-wife was seeking more favorable terms.

Parents don’t get to just move the child to a foreign state and then start a custody case if they don’t like the parenting plan they had in the child’s home state.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

Coronavirus Divorce Spike and Property Prices

The coronavirus divorce spike is having an impact on property prices. Many have heard that the financial impact of shutting down the economy, coupled with the stress of being in quarantine for months, is causing a surge in divorce rates. That increase is also impacting property values.

divorce property

House Hunters

In Great Britain, there has been a 42% rise in divorce inquiries between mid-March and mid-May, compared with the same period in 2019, according to the figures from Co-op Legal Services.

Based on the latest divorce data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), this could mean an extra 38,346 couples could be calling it a day in 2020.

Some are speculating that therefore; the property market could see a boost of 38,346 homes entering the market if these additional divorces lead to the sale of the family home.

With the current average UK house price at £243,809, the addition of divorce properties hitting the market could total over £9.34bn ($11.85bn) in transactions for the property market, according to research from estate agent Barrows and Forrester.

Florida Divorce

I have written on the topic of divorce and coronavirus issues in the past. For many couples simply putting a shared home up for sale may seem like the simplest solution, but remember, that step won’t automatically erase all mortgage headaches or end the need to co-operate with your former spouse.

You will still need to agree on a realtor and asking price as well as determine how the continuing mortgage payments will be made. Will you be splitting the expense 50/50? Will the spouse who continues living there make the full payment?

If your home sells for more than the outstanding balance on the mortgage, how will the remaining proceeds be divided between you both after settling the joint debt? Worse, if you end up underwater on the mortgage, you’ll have to decide if you can even afford to sell it and how you’ll pay off the remaining debt if you do.

There are also the taxes. You can each exclude the first $250,000 in capital gains — the amount your home has appreciated in value since you bought it — from your taxable income, if the home was your primary residence and you owned it for more than two years.

If you opt to file a joint tax return, you can exclude up to $500,000. Earnings above that exclusion or on the sale of, say, a vacation property, could stick you with a tax bill.

Miami Divorce Spike and Property Prices

The surge in divorce filings and the impact on property owners, it is thought, could provide a much needed boost to the industry which saw market activity slow to a trickle for much of the lockdown as the UK government urged against house moves, with many estate agents shutting their doors with physical viewings and valuations off the cards.

The coronavirus sparked the biggest monthly fall in UK house prices since 2009, according to lender Nationwide’s closely followed house price index.

The same is true in Miami, where home sales in South Florida plummeted in April. Sales of both condos and single-family homes dropped nearly 40% in Miami-Dade and Broward from the same month in 2019.

Incredibly, median prices continued to increase. Median prices rose for both single-family homes and condos, despite the pandemic and drop in sales. Sales under contract in February and March, closed in April, reflecting a strong first quarter.

The median price for single-family homes grew by 7.3%, from $356,000 to $382,000. The median condo price increased by 6.9%, from $248,000 to $265,000.

More than 90% of median-priced single-family homes and condos sold for at or near the asking price. Cash transactions comprised 22.1% of all transactions, down from 34.8% in April 2019. That’s still more than the national percentage of 15%.

However, some think divorce property on the market could lift property stock and keep prices up amid a considerable increase in buyer demand since the industry lockdown was lifted in May.

Unfortunately, divorce is an inevitable aspect of modern-day life and one that has been exacerbated as a result of a lengthy lockdown at home with our significant other. It’s also one of three influences that regularly see properties come to market, along with death and debt, as couples look to divvy up their existing assets in order to move on in life.

The one positive of this is there has been a huge uplift in buyer demand since the property industry reopened last month but a continued hesitance by some sellers to list and this stock boost should help meet this demand while helping keep house prices buoyant.”

The UK Yahoo article is here.

 

The Divorce Pandemic hits Saudi Arabia

The divorce pandemic hits Saudi Arabia after first starting in China, South Korea, and the United States – which have reported increases in divorce filings following the easing of some quarantine restrictions.

Saudi Divorce

Dry Statistics

According to Al-Amri, the number of divorce cases handled by courts across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reached 53,675 in 2017 or 149 cases each day.

But new reports show that divorce rates in Saudi Arabia have increased by 30% during the lockdown period enforced by the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, reported the Dubai-based English language newspaper Gulf News quoting Saudi Justice Ministry.

The paper said the rate of divorce has increased compared to the same period last year.

However, during the lockdown period, 13,000 people also tied nuptial knots an increase of 5% compared to the same period in the previous year.

The ministry also informed that as many as 7,482 requests of divorce and Khula – a procedure in Islam which allows a woman to divorce her husband – were lodged.

According to the newspaper, some Saudi working women including doctors, citied secret marriages of their spouses as reasons for seeking a divorce.

Apparently, the preventive measures taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus including imposing lockdown – contributed to helping women to uncover the secret marriage of their husbands.

The high rate of divorce has become a destabilizing factor in Saudi society and it obstructs the Kingdom’s march to greater progress. Social consultant and researcher Salman Bin Mohammed Al-Amri has expressed his deep concern over the repercussions of the high incidence of divorce in society.

The office of the Grand Mufti approved 6,163 divorces during the same year, which is an increase of 846 cases compared to 2016.

“We should know that there are hundreds of divorces not recorded by the courts, so the actual figure could be much higher than what is officially reported”

The total number of divorces could be 40 to 45 percent of the total number of marriages, which was put at 159,386, in the same year. “This shows that we have to take drastic measures to bring down this huge number of divorce cases in the country,” Al-Amri told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about the divorce statistics before. Forced together due to a shelter-in-place order may be the reason for your divorce, but legally you don’t need one. That’s because Florida is a no-fault divorce state.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or annoying behavior in a government enforced quarantine.

The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

What do you do if you are trapped in quarantine with someone you want to separate from?

To avoid problems during a quarantine, you may have to force yourself to work together – however difficult that may be.

Couples who are separating or separated already, and are parents, are being forced to work as a team and talk through problems that are making forced quarantine impossible. Reassure each other that you will make it through and work together.

The key if you’re living together is to strike the right balance between having quality intimate time together, or if you’re at the brink of your relationship, giving each other some space.

Shifting Sands

Measures must be taken to control divorces to reduce its social impact as it causes untold problems to the children of divorced couple. Men and women who have separated after years of living together also face psychological, economic and social problems.

“We have to conduct a detailed study on the increasing number of divorce cases in Saudi society to find a viable solution.”

Injustice, lack of honesty and trust, and confusion are the hallmarks of divorce cases across the Kingdom. It destabilizes families, the foundation of society.

Saudi and Gulf societies have changed considerably in recent years as a result of foreign influences and other factors, largely affecting social, cultural and economic norms.

“Our families have been influenced by the new urban culture and modern information technology. Education and employment of women and the Kingdom’s openness to foreign cultures were other factors that increased the divorce rate.”

Many parents have failed to prepare their sons to get married by training them to take responsibility. Some men fail to fulfill their Shariah duties toward their wives while those having more than one wife fail to treat all of them fairly and equally.

There are many other reasons including bad temper, infidelity, drug and liquor habits, miserly attitude and high dowry, in addition to psychological, health and social reasons.

Al-Amri said women are the most affected in case of divorce due to society’s negative attitude toward them. A divorcee loses economic support and financial security provided by her husband and this brings down her living standard, in addition to making her a burden on the family.

“As a result of this situation, such women will be forced to seek financial help from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and charitable organizations. This will lead to depression and push them to commit suicide,” he explained.

Most divorced Arab women are unlikely to get married for a second time because of the tough attitude of society toward them.

The situation of divorced men is not very different as they too face a lot of difficulties and mental pressure. They may be forced to pay to child support. Many divorced men are afraid of marrying another woman due to the failure of the first marriage.

Children are the worst hit by divorce as they will lose the sense of security and will not be able to concentrate on their studies. The father will try to take custody of his children and keep them away from their mother. “This will create a horrible family atmosphere for children,” said Al-Amri.

Instead of becoming leaders of progress and prosperity, separated men and women would become depressed individuals unable to make any contributions to the country’s growth. It will increase financial burden on the state, charities and civil societies as the divorcees and their children will require financial support.

The Al Arabiya article is here.

 

Can Divorce Privacy Fly?

Singer R. Kelly no longer needs to wonder can divorce privacy fly in his case. We now know his legal name is Robert S. Kelly, and a lot of embarrassing information he wanted kept private. Although the files were initially sealed by the court in his divorce case, they have been opened to the public by an appellate court.

divorce privacy2

Surviving R. Kelly’s Divorce

In 2006, R. Kelly filed a petition to dissolve his marriage with wife Andrea. In June 2013, the family court entered an agreed order directing that the entire court file be sealed because of a “serious likelihood of the media culling through the record for the purpose of revealing painful, potentially scandalous, details.”

In 2019, radio station WBEZ and the Chicago Tribune filed a joint motion to access the sealed court files after a more than $160,000 in unpaid child support landed the singer in jail, and just three weeks after Kelly was jailed while gathering the cash to post bond on criminal sexual abuse charges tied to allegations by four women.

Kelly and his former wife have been battling over finances for more than a decade, with the embattled R&B singer and his reality TV star ex each claiming poverty at times, the unsealed divorce filings show.

Among other revelations, Kelly was repeatedly accused of falling behind on child support and he sought to reduce them, claiming he had seen a “steady decline in his popularity” due in part to his “age, drastic decline in record sales, increased album purchase prices …. and the overall economic downturn.”

In response, Andrea Kelly tried to have his child support payments increased, saying he had “gone to great extents” to hide his income and assets. She also noted in the filing that her pay from the reality TV show “Hollywood Exes” wasn’t sufficient to pay the bills.

Kelly’s attorneys revealed that the singer faced a tax liability of more than $7 million and that the mortgage on his house in suburban Olympia Fields — often mentioned as the site of his alleged improper sexual encounters with teenage girls — had been foreclosed.

As long-standing allegations of predatory sexual behavior against Kelly gained public attention, his former wife accused him of withholding payments as punishment for her speaking out about his alleged abuse. In turn, Kelly has said her public allegations have made it difficult for him to earn money.

Florida Divorce Privacy

I’ve written on divorce privacy issues before. Divorce privacy is an issue that comes up a lot. Divorces in generally, and court records themselves, are public events, and the filed records of court proceedings are public records available for public examination.

Both the public and the media can challenge any closure order by filing the appropriate motion in court. The closure of court proceedings or records should only occur when it’s necessary to comply with established public policy, to protect trade secrets; or to protect children in a divorce among other reasons.

In addition, Florida has new rules protecting sensitive data from public view. This includes protecting Social Security, Bank Account, Debit, and Credit Card Numbers because if those numbers are included in a document, they may become part of the public record.

If information is absolutely required, there is a rule with procedures for sealing and unsealing of court records. Also, the Clerk of Court has the authority to redact or make confidential only specific information.

If sensitive information has already been filed in Court Records, you must complete and submit a “Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing” in order to remove or seal it.

“When a Woman’s Fed Up”

Andrea hinted at the long legal tussle in comments for the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which featured multiple women accusing Kelly of wrongdoing and amplified the wave of public backlash against the singer.

“People think that I’m living this great, lavish life, but they don’t understand,” she said. “… People just think oh, you know, she wants to come forward now because the checks stopped. … The checks have been over for a very long time.”

Originally, the family court order allowed public access “to the entire court file, including the redacted documents and noting the sealed documents” beginning on August 13, 2019.

But then the court clerk placed material in the public file that the court had ordered to be sealed and the court thereafter restricted further access in the best interest of the children.

WBEZ appealed and the appellate court reversed finding the right of the public to review court records is supported by constitutional guarantees and case law.

“Litigation is a public exercise; it consumes public resources. It follows that in all but the most extraordinary cases complaints must be public. Consequently, judicial proceedings in the United States are open to the public.

Access to judicial records is not absolute, and every court has supervisory power over its own records and files, so it may deny access at times. The party opposed to public access must establish both that there is a compelling interest favoring a closed file and that the protective order is drafted in the least restrictive manner possible.

One scenario in which a court may deny public access is where the court finds that a public hearing may be detrimental “to the child’s best interests.” In a dissolution of marriage case, the court may order the sealing of records of “any interview, report, investigation, or testimony.

Here, the appellate court found redacted documents that didn’t contain confidential information relating to the parties’ children’s medical care, nor otherwise support the court’s concern for the best interests of the children.

The documents also did not refer to a child of either party, and they didn’t provide sufficient information to identify any specific other child. At best, redaction merely protected R. Kelly from embarrassment, which is an impermissible basis to withhold material from the public.

In light of the strong public policy in favor of public disclosure of judicial proceedings, we therefore hold that the circuit court abused its discretion in redacting paragraphs 26-29 in the body of count II of the March 2014 motion, and the corresponding prayer for relief in count II.

The Reason article is here.

*Photo credit Andrew Steinmetz

 

Swinging into Divorce

There are many reasons why happy marriages are swinging into divorce. Some blame the coronavirus quarantine. Others can point to financial causes. But Silicon Valley actor Thomas Middleditch has found another reason: the swinging lifestyle.

Swinging into Divorce3

“Swinging Saved Our Marriage”

Actor Middleditch has excellent advice for any couple wanting to have a successful swinging and polyamorous marriage: Be open about your rules as a couple.

“Mollie and I have created our own rules, and compared to most of the people we’ve met who do this kind of (stuff), our rules are strict. It’s a perpetual state of management and communication, to the point where it’s like, ‘All right, we’ve got to stop. Chill.’ I’m gas, and she’s brakes. This is actually the premise for a comedy series we’re writing together.”

Thomas Middleditch told Playboy in September he and his wife Mollie are into the swinging lifestyle.

The “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” star told the magazine he’s been to some sex parties, “some weird parties that were very ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ from which I walked away thinking, ‘I don’t need it, but I’m glad I saw that.'”

Mostly, he says, his first concern is his wife. “Anything that happens has to be run by the queen…I love my wife like I’ve never loved anyone before. With two people who feel that way about each other, how do you go down that road? It’s tough. Bring a therapist along for the ride.”

Citing “irreconcilable differences” Mollie Gates filed for divorce on May 28 after they separated on May 22. Mollie has requested spousal support. The couple do not have any children together.

Florida Grounds for Marriage

I have written about some of the various reasons why people divorce in the past: snoring, calling the bride “fat” at the wedding and others. In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida abolished fault as a ground for dissolution of marriage. The only requirement to dissolve a marriage is for one of the parties to prove that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. Generally, you have to prove that your marriage exists, one of the spouse’s has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The reason for the irretrievable breakdown, however, may be considered under certain limited circumstances in the determination of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and debts, and the development of the parenting plan.

Every case is different, so results can differ from case to case. Outcomes in a divorce include, among other things, dividing the assets and debts, an award of alimony, determining the amount of child support, and parental responsibility and time-sharing schedules. There is no “one-size-fits-all” or “standard” dissolution of marriage in Florida.

But is that swinging lifestyle the cause of all of the marriage trauma?

Do all good things come to an end?

Ironically, the Silicon Valley actor’s split from his wife Mollie Gates comes just months after he revealed swinging had “saved their marriage”.

A source told People: “They still care deeply for each other and will move forward as friends.” Their split comes just months after Thomas delved into the couple’s sex life with Playboy magazine. The actor, 38, told the publication last September: “Only after I got married was, I like, ‘Mollie, I’m sorry, but we have to get non-traditional here.’”

While this may seem like a standard celebrity separation buried amid more important weekend matters, you may recall that Middleditch gave a widely circulated interview with Playboy in late 2019 about their relationship, where he revealed that he told Gates, shortly after their wedding, that he wanted a “nontraditional” and open marriage.

“To her credit, instead of saying ‘Fuck you, I’m out,’ she was like, ‘Let’s figure this out.’ To be honest, swinging has saved our marriage,” he said at the time. “We have different speeds, and we argue over it constantly, but it’s better than feeling unheard and alone and that you have to scurry in the shadows.” Middleditch also said that their experiences at sex parties is the “premise for a comedy series we’re writing together.”

Well, they may have found what the season finale looks like.

The Vulture article is here.