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Shaming Your Child on Facebook

Should you use Facebook to publicly shame your child in a child custody dispute? Seems like an obvious question, but one a Louisiana appellate court recently answered.

According to the opinion of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, a mother complained when a trial judge failed to stop the father and his new wife from posting embarrassing photos about the minor child on social media.

The Mother sought the injunction based on an incident wherein Jason Tinsley, as a means of punishment, forced the minor child to post a picture of herself on her Instagram account holding a sign that said:


In addition, Jason Tinsley and his wife posted the same photo on their Instagram and Facebook pages, with Jason Tinsley making this photo his profile picture on his Facebook page.

The mother contended that this form of discipline was inappropriate, humiliating, and demeaning, and they should be prohibited from posting such pictures on social media accounts.

The trial court denied her request for the injunction. The appeals court affirmed the trial judge’s decision. The court found that there was no irreparable injury, loss, or damage that could result to Nicole Tinsley or the minor child.

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties is made in accordance with the best interests of the child.

While the Louisiana appellate court affirmed, it did find that the father’s use of social media – particularly his forced takeover of and publishing of content on a minor child’s social media account – was clearly improper and inappropriate.

Jason Tinsley staged an intentionally embarrassing picture of the minor child, he then posted the embarrassing picture of the minor child on his social media accounts, and he forced the minor child to post (or publish) the embarrassing picture of herself on her own social media account, all of which was for the sole purpose of punishing the child by notifying the child’s family and friends (and Jason Tinsley’s family and friends) of the child’s transgression – an apparent lie about a boy being at a public park while the child was at the same park with a friend.

The court held:

It is hard to imagine a more improper or inappropriate use of social media by a parent than to use it punitively to publicly humiliate a minor child by requiring a child to publish a photograph of herself wearing the modem day equivalent of a scarlet letter to thereby notify the public of her wrong.

A discussion and link to the decision is available here.

Big News on Pet Custody

Who gets the dog in a divorce? Although pets are more like family than property, divorce courts have treated them like chattel. But in a new twist, Alaska changed its law to allow for pet custody rights.

As the Washington Post reports, although pet custody battles are often passionate and sometimes truly wacky, courts think of them more prosaically: as part of the “property distribution” in a divorce.

As of January 17, 2017, courts in Alaska will begin granting custody of pets when their humans divorce. This is a dramatic change, because four-legged family members are traditionally classified as “property.”

The amendment makes Alaska the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to explicitly empower judges to assign joint custody of pets. In a blog post, the Animal Legal Defense Fund called the well-being provision “groundbreaking and unique.”

I’ve written about Florida and pets in divorces before. Your chocolate lab may be considered a member of the family to you, but under Florida law, “Brownie” is merely chattel – personal property to be divided in divorce. A judge lacks authority to grant custody or award visitation or a timesharing schedule to personal property.

As the Alaska amendment shows, there is a shift occurring in our society in which the pet is considered more a member of the family and becomes a part of the battle when the family disintegrates.

Some people argue that pets should stay with the children; others think they should remain with whoever purchased them, or whoever was their primary caretaker.

Often couples purchase pets with shared money, but rarely do people want to be “bought out” of their share of Fido, as might happen with a car or a house.

The Alaska amendment was sponsored by former representative Liz Vazquez (R) and the late representative Max Gruenberg, a Democrat and family lawyer who told the Associated Press in 2015 that he’d once handled a divorce that resulted in joint custody of a sled dog team.

The Alaska bill also allows courts to include pets in domestic violence protective orders and requires the owners of pets seized in cruelty or neglect cases to cover the cost of their shelter.

The Washington Post article is here.

Divorce Lawyers Behaving Badly

A New York appeals court has upheld a $10,000 sanction against an attorney for bad faith conduct in handling his own divorce.

As the U.S. Supreme Court has found:

“[t]he adage that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client’ is the product of years of experience by seasoned litigators.”

Divorce is a specialized area of the law, with its own rules and ways, most lawyers who attempt to represent themselves find themselves ill-equipped to competently handle the procedural or substantive aspects of their divorce cases on their own.

Also contested divorces are almost guaranteed to be emotionally charged, so a self-represented lawyer may be hard-pressed to summon the level of rational thought and independent judgment that is required of a capable litigator.

In a New York divorce case, an attorney representing himself was found to have used his pro se status to inflict harm on his wife, their child and the court, and in so doing cause significant harm to himself. The court found:

the attorney’s ill-advised behavior seriously calls into question his fitness to practice law. It is also, according to defendant and the attorney for the child, indicative of a personality that makes plaintiff incapable of properly parenting the parties’ child.

The first judge, in Washington D.C., also found:

That a motion the attorney brought was “replete with intemperate and uncivil language about which the Court previously cautioned him” and that “much of the matter . . . is redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous.”

On the front of the copy of the reconsideration motion that the Husband filed, a handwritten note was attached that stated:

“You’re pathetic! (Judicial Complaint forthcoming).”

Then, to a New York judge – after the case was transferred from D.C. – the lawyer is reported to have said:

I just want to make it known on the record that I am tired of the lies coming from the court and tainting of the record, knowing full well this is going to go to the Appellate Division.

I’ve written about courtroom behavior before. Divorce turns spouses against each other, to view each other with suspicion, and as enemies. Not surprisingly, good relations after the divorce seem unlikely, and future friendships seem impossible.

It takes a lot to make up with the person who may have ruined your life, or who has become public enemy #1.

The decision is available here.

Speaking on Interstate & International Custody

I will be speaking next Friday at the Marital & Family Law Review Course in Orlando, Florida on interstate child custody, interstate family support, and the Hague Convention on international child abductions.


Parents move from state to state for various reasons. It is a matter I have written about too. Whether children are moved by parents wrongfully or not, moving creates interstate custody and child support and spousal support problems. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and The Hague Convention on Child Abduction, can work together in those cases.

I am honored to have been selected to speak at the 2017 Marital & Family Law Review Course is considered the premier advanced, continuing education opportunity for marital and family law attorneys and judicial officers in Florida, and is co-presented by The Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, and The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).

More information and registration is available here.


Divorce to Save Taxes?

If you were divorced as of 11:59 p.m. on December 31st, you can file as single for the entire year. High-income married couples can get hit with the “marriage penalty” because their combined incomes put them in a higher tax bracket.

As Marketplace reports, filing “single” could be better for you, and every cent counts. Some can be better off filing “married jointly”, but sharing any tax savings sharing information with your soon-to-be Ex, may make filing “single” your choice.

I’ve written about divorce and taxes before. The 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act made permanent the Bush-era expanded standard deduction, and the expanded 15% bracket for joint filers.

But for high-income earners, the 2012 law raised taxes on couples making more than $450,000, and individuals making more than $400,000. As it turns out, some couples found out they could save over $25,000 a year if they divorced.

Think about that for a second. If you could save over $25,000 a year in taxes, you could take a trip to Italy, ski Deer Valley, put a little cash away for college, and still have some mad money to spend just by divorcing and turning their marriage into a long-term relationship.

As Marketwatch further reports, speedy divorce seekers beware: judges can deny you an expedited divorce if you are looking for a quick split – even if that would mean over $25,000 in tax breaks.

There are also a lot of risks though, known and unknown. Consider how a divorce will impact your relationship. There is no fake divorce. Once the court signs the final judgment, you are divorced. IRS rules regarding your filing status have something to say.

In addition, there are estate planning issues, retirement and social security complications, and many other issues besides the mere tax savings.

The Market Watch article is here.

It’s Not You: New Year’s Divorce Rush

You are not alone. Divorce filings surge in January as people decide to start their New Year with a clean slate, helped by a stressful holiday period and, perhaps, even more stressful in-laws.

As Market Place reports, being cooped up in a house for several days when a marriage is experiencing serious problems – while dealing with the pressure to put on a happy face for the kids and visiting relatives – takes its toll on the most stoic of couples.

I’ve written about the recent rise in divorce filings, and many times the holiday season can highlight problems. What should you do? Whatever the reason for your problems, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process.


Line up your priorities for life after the divorce. Is it finding a home? Is it retiring? Getting a job? Managing your special-needs child? Consider writing down your most important goals.


Even if you aren’t certain you need to hire an attorney, or filing for divorce at all, it is a good idea to meet with an expert in Florida’s divorce and family laws. Who better than someone certified by Florida as an expert in marital and family law? We offer free consultations, but even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information.


Litigation is something to avoid. It’s time-consuming, contentious and expensive. The majority of divorces end up settling. There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution out there, including collaborative divorce, mediation, and informal settlement conferences.

As Market Watch further reports, there is good reason for treating a divorce like a calm business deal. Don’t rush to file. Think about your end game. Many people file quickly out of anger perhaps after learning of a spouse’s misconduct. But it’s better to be strategic.

No one should make such a big financial decision when they are feeling tired and emotional. And divorces are one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.

Divorces are up there with getting married and buying a home. There’s one big difference with divorces though: They can be devastating for your finances, especially if your partner earned more money and the couple are forced to sell their home.

The Market Watch article is here.

Prenups and Your Idea for a Killer App

The New York Times reports that a growing number of people are signing prenuptial agreements to divide their intellectual property: things like iPhone app ideas, songs and restaurant concepts.

Protecting your ideas and future income – rather than on current salaries, real-estate and personal property – makes perfect sense in an age when intellectual property is so highly valued.

Employers increasingly require employees to sign away all future ideas and opportunities to compete with the company and divorcing partners too hope to keep these assets in case of a breakup.

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements, or “prenups,” are contracts entered into before marriage that outline the division of assets in case of divorce or death.

Prenupts, and Post-nups (agreements entered after a marriage) resolve things like alimony, ownership of businesses, title of properties, and even each spouse’s financial responsibilities during the marriage.

There are many other concerns that can be addressed in a prenup: Caring for a parent; Going back to school; Shopping habits; Credit card debt; Tax liabilities; and even death or disability.

In the world of intellectual property, interpreting prenups for future intangibles is difficult: What did the parties actually mean to include? How are amorphous ideas and innovations to be valued?

There are dangers with this new prenup trend. Consider the example of a wife holding a steady job while the husband works on his app. They share the risk now, but if they divorce, the husband reaps the rewards of his intellectual property, and the prenup could ensure his ex-wife gets nothing.

Intellectual property – including music, art, literary works, films, scientific and medical developments, technology – is normally protected against third parties by copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets.

But among couples, a need has developed to protect “ideas” conceived by either a bride or groom who see him or herself as the next Mark Zuckerberg. In the event of a divorce, these couples want protection for what may be each person’s most valuable asset – the product of their intellect or invention.

The New York Times article is here.

Upcoming Speaking Engagement

For any readers who may be interested, I will be speaking at the Marital & Family Law Review Course in Orlando, Florida on Friday, January 27th, on interstate child custody, interstate family support, and Hague Convention child abductions.


The 2016 Marital & Family Law Review Course is considered the premier advanced, continuing education opportunity for marital and family law attorneys and judicial officers in Florida, and is co-presented by the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar, and The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).

More information and registration is available here.

Divorce and Your Data

As former congressman Anthony D. Weiner and his soon to be ex, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton found out, your data is not secure during divorce.

The New York Times reports that no matter a person’s level of technical skill, it can be difficult to hide digital behavior from a spouse, a spouse’s lawyers or, in Mr. Weiner’s case, federal investigators.

In August, Ms. Abedin, one of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides and confidantes, informed her husband, a former congressman and mayoral candidate, that she wanted to separate after his latest sexting scandal. A federal investigation of Mr. Weiner revealed a trove of messages, including some belonging to Ms. Abedin.

I’ve written about the intersection of online social media and divorce before. In divorce proceedings, lawyers and investigators routinely mine public social media profiles for a glimpse into the activities of the client’s spouse.

But their investigations go far beyond that, as they sift through whatever data they can legally obtain for signs of hidden assets or to catch the spouse in a significant lie. Lawyers are likely more focused on questions of finance and child custody than lurid questions of adultery or betrayal.

Even so, a computer “tells you everything about a person’s character,” said Brook Schaub, a forensic analyst and licensed private investigator at the accounting firm Eide Bailly. It has “become the file cabinet, the stationery, the social networking, the everything,” he said.

The data that can become publicly available depends largely on the individuals’ penchant for privacy and how careful they have been. Even those who value privacy during the relationship are at risk of the former spouse finding sensitive data.

The first steps taken after the divorce process begins can be critical. Some recommend that clients create a new email account, stop sharing calendars and turn off the ability for apps on their phones to track their locations.

Someone committed to finding embarrassing or otherwise discrediting information about a spouse can most likely find a way, especially if he or she is willing to flout the law. Such revelations may not be admissible in court, but they could bring professional ramifications or personal embarrassment.

But there are also fully innocent and legal ways that a spouse can gain access to what was thought to be private data, especially among those lacking savvy with their technology.

As an example, a text message could go simultaneously to a phone and an iPad that was left with children or a former spouse, something many people forget or don’t know, especially if they didn’t set the devices up themselves.

The New York Times article is here.

Divorce and Chris Rock

Chris Rock surprised audiences at the New York Comedy Festival last week, taking the stage at the Apollo and telling the audience they’ll be seeing more of him on TV due to his divorce.

Rock joked:

“When you see me on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ . . . I’m not on crack, that’s just alimony!”

Rock finalized his divorce from his wife of nearly 20 years, Malaak Compton-Rock, this summer.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, the 50-year-old comedian opened up about how he’s faring since the 19-year marriage ended.

“I’m doing OK,” Rock told the paper. “You know, some days are better than others, some days you’re sad outta your f*cking mind. But my daughters are good and I’m only an hour away. Two houses close by. It’s good.”

Rock also addressed whether or not joking about the difficulties of marriage in his stand-up and films harmed the relationship in any way.

“Hey, I’m getting divorced now.” “Marriage is so tough, Nelson Mandela got divorced – he got out of jail after 27 years of torture, spent six months with his wife and said, I can’t take this sh*t no more.”

I’ve written about how to properly behave during the divorce process, and even how good relations with your Ex could save your life. Whether you’re in court or outside of court, how you treat yourself and spouse matters.

Take for instance, Erica Arsenault. Erica volunteered to donate a kidney to her former mother-in-law after her divorce. Erica made the incredible offer nearly 10 years after she divorced the woman’s son. They say the whole ordeal has brought a family separated by divorce closer than ever.

Chris Rock’s divorce hasn’t been the most peaceful one up to this point. According to divorce docs obtained by People, Rock claimed that his estranged wife had “repeatedly refused to permit [him] normal and usual access to the children, and has acted in a manner detrimental to the children’s best interests.

“Married guys know more about women than single guys. Single guys have girlfriends. Girlfriends are always auditioning, always on their best behavior. Wives are like Supreme Court justices. They do whatever the f— they want”

The Page Six article is here.