Author: Ron Kauffman

Trapped in a Quarantine Means a Baby Boom or Divorce Boom, and There’s More Good News about the Coronavirus

If you’re feeling trapped, you’re not alone. The forced quarantines and shelter-in-place orders mean couples are spending a lot of time together . . . +maybe too much. That could mean another baby boom, or if China is an example, divorce boom. Plus, there is more good news about the Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Divorce Baby Boom

Birth of the “Coronials”

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Sarah Bradburn’s coronavirus shopping list consists of two very important items: condoms and toilet paper.

“We are all emotional and clinging to our spouses. But when we’re stressed, we just become closer.”

During the first few surreal days of the coronavirus scare, there were predictions far and wide of a huge number of corona babies that would be born in nine months. Maybe they’ll be described as “coronials?”

In fact, Lori Sapio, a Chicago photographer, plans to post a CV19 newborn special in April similar to her Cubs newborn special that she announced after the team won the World Series. But is it really coming? Or will the social distancing and forced time together cause more divorces than babies?

In China — where the coronavirus hit long before it arrived here — the divorce rates rose, and couples formed a line outside a divorce registration office as soon as they were out of quarantine.

The Coronavirus and Divorce

I’ve written about the coronavirus and divorce 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.

Good Coronavirus News

Some good news for all of us. The U.S. Senate passed the largest economic relief bill in American history Wednesday night. By a vote of 96-0, the bill gives help to big and small businesses, health care facilities, and folks who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

Some key provisions:

Stimulus to the Economy: The bill will pump some $2 trillion into the economy.

Direct payout to Americans: The bill would give one-time direct payments to Americans — $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

There is a phase-out for individuals who made more than $75,000, or married couples who filed jointly who made $150,000.

The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts if you included direct deposit information on your tax form. If you did not, your check will be mailed to you.

Unemployment insurance help: Additional unemployment insurance benefits will be bolstered for four months by increasing the maximum unemployment benefit that a state gives to a person by $600 per week.

Funds for hospitals, equipment: The bill will provide $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients. Of the $150 billion, $100 billion will go to hospitals and $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service. The other $49 billion will be used to increase medical equipment capacity.

Aid to state and local governments: Around $150 billion will be allocated for state and local governments to pay for the cost of fighting the virus and providing services to those who have the virus.

The Chicago Tribune article is here.

 

Child Custody and Timesharing Problems, and Good News on Coronavirus

The need to quarantine has not stopped child custody and timesharing problems from surfacing. In fact, it aggravates these problems as parents grapple with sharing custody and protecting themselves and their children. The Supreme Court of Texas recently resolved one issue, and there is even more good news about the coronavirus.

Child Custody Problems

Solving Child Custody Problems is Big in Texas

The coronavirus outbreak has caused urgent disputes among divorced and separated parents over exchanging the children during school closures. This forces attorneys to file emergency motions.

Many parents following their agreements about exchanging their children during and after spring break discovered a problem: this year school never re-started after spring break, so when do you return the children?

I have been working remotely during the coronavirus crisis, and resolving these problems daily. I have also been fielding a lot of calls from clients and potential clients asking about whether they were going to get their children back from the other parent, and whether they should exchange the children as agreed and ordered.

Many states handle things differently. Recently, the Texas Supreme Court weighed in. The Texas Supreme Court settled the issue of when to exchange when there is no start to school after spring break in an emergency order of the pandemic, ruling:

“For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the original published school schedule shall control in all instances. Possession and access shall not be affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic, including what is commonly referred to as the COVID19 pandemic.”

Justice Debra Lehrmann said the court agreed on the solution during a teleconference to relieve a source of stress during the outbreak.

Florida Child Custody Problems

I’ve been involved in resolving and have written about child custody problems in Florida before. Here are a few tips for parents to lower or prevent your divorce or separation from ruining your holidays or draining your bank account:

Look at the timesharing schedule in your agreement or final judgment. Become familiar with exchanging children on specific holidays, dates and the times the kids are supposed to be with you, or the other parent.

Make your plans in advance and send a nicely worded confirmation email of the exchange schedule to the other parent to avoid disagreements early on.

Be flexible. Fighting during a time of great stress will only make matters worse, while fostering relationships with extended family is considered in the children’s best interest.

A little pre-planning and communication can save you a lot of emotional and financial expense. This is a national emergency and our children are exposed to the stress from those around them. Don’t make things worse. With that said, there is also . . .

Good News on Coronavirus

There is always good news, even during a pandemic.

  • The IRS has announced that the April 15, 2020 deadline for filing and payment of your individual income taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020.
  • Strangely, your second quarter estimated income tax payments are still due on June 15, 2020.
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed. The last Senate version of the bill I read had a small business loan program allowing maximum loan amounts calculated as the lesser of the product of average total monthly payments by the applicant for payroll, mortgage payments, rent payments, and payments on any other debt obligations incurred during the 1 year period before the date on which the loan is made, or $10,000,000.
  • SCIENCE Magazine released an article it published on May 30, 1919 after the Spanish Flu pandemic about lessons learned. Very interesting reading throughout.
  • A potential universal flu vaccine has passed an important set of clinical trials.
  • A patient has been declared ‘cured’ of HIV – and it’s not even the first time, with no trace of infection in his blood 30 months after undergoing a specialized type of stem cell therapy.

The Supreme Court of Texas order is here.

 

Texas Hold ‘Em: Hague Convention and More Good News on the Coronavirus

The national emergency has not stopped international child custody and Hague child abduction cases, but definitely made them more challenging. I recently came back from trial in a Texas federal court helping a father return his daughter to Mexico, and there is good news on the coronavirus front.

Hague Child Abduction Mexico

Oh, Mexico

My client and the Mother are dual citizens of Mexico and Cuba, and met in Cancun, Mexico. They are both professional musicians. Together they have a daughter who is currently five years old.

During the early years of their relationship, they all lived together in an apartment, and traveled together. When they broke up, the Father moved to an apartment nearby, and he and his daughter would timeshare, he paid for her piano lessons, her private school tuition, and even the Mother’s rent.

On July 12, 2019, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the Mother called the Father that she had taken their daughter to an undisclosed location.

He suspected she took her to Florida, and even had a possible address for the Mother here. Unbeknownst to him, the Mother actually took their daughter to a small, west Texas town.

The same day, the Father went to the Cancun Police and filed a missing child report. A few days later, he filed a Hague application for the child’s return. He hired me to file a case in Miami federal court, which was transferred to a federal court in Texas when the child was discovered there.

Habitual Residence and the Hague Convention

While the abduction was going on, and a few days before our Texas trial, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a major Hague Child abduction case involving the habitual residence of a child.

I have written about the recent U.S. Supreme Court case before. In Monasky v. Taglieri, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the determination of a child’s “habitual residence” for purposes of the Hague Convention depends on a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis and that a district court’s habitual-residence determination should be reviewed for clear error.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction provides that a child wrongfully removed from his or her country of “habitual residence” must be returned to that country, which then has primary jurisdiction over any resulting custody proceedings.

A removal is “wrongful” if it is done in violation of the custody laws of the country of the child’s habitual residence. The Convention instructs that signatory states should “use the most expeditious proceedings available” to return the child to his or her habitual residence.

In Monasky, an American brought her infant daughter to Ohio from Italy after her Italian husband, Domenico Taglieri, became physically abusive. Taglieri petitioned for his daughter’s return under the Hague Convention, arguing that Italy was the daughter’s “habitual residence.”

The federal court agreed, and found the parents had exhibited a “shared intention” to raise their daughter in Italy. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed with dissents. Monasky then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that establishment of a child’s habitual residence requires actual agreement between the parents.

The Supreme Court noted that the Hague Convention does not define “habitual residence.” Relying on the treaty and decisions from the countries who are signatories, the high court concluded habitual residence it is a “fact-driven inquiry into the particular circumstances of the case.”

The Supreme Court also noted that Monasky’s ‘actual agreement’ requirement would leave many children without a habitual residence, and outside the Convention’s domain and the Hague Convention always allows a court concerned about domestic violence to not order a child’s return if “there is a grave risk that return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.”

Texas Hold Em

Texas Hold ‘Em?

One of the issues which had to be resolved in our trial was the habitual residence of the child, and whether the parents shared an intent to abandon it. During our trial in Texas, the U.S. District Court found the parents did not share an intent to change the child’s habitual residence, among other defenses, and ordered the child returned to the Father and to her home in Mexico.

Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s, brand new decision, the federal court found the daughter’s habitual residence is Mexico, and that she was wrongfully removed to the United States in violation of the Hague Convention.

At the same time the Coronavirus was raging across the world, the U.S. government just ordered the border with Canada closed, courts were closing around the country, and there was a real concern we wouldn’t be able to return to Mexico.

But we faced another, potentially bigger problem. How do you enforce a federal court order to return a child to Mexico when the entire world is shutting down? The alternative to us moving immediately to secure the child’s return to Mexico would be to ‘hold em’ in Texas. Acting quickly, the father and daughter made it safely home to the habitual residence of Mexico.

Good News and the Coronavirus

We are under quarantine, and we can expect that to continue in the near future. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some good news to report. For instance:

  • Distilleries across the U.S. are making their own alcohol-based hand sanitizers and giving it away for free.
  • Restaurants, sports, and businesses are stepping up to combat the community effects of the novel coronavirus. The sports world is raising money for stadium employees, and Uber Eats is divvying out free delivery to help independent restaurants to name a few.

Air and Water pollution has plummeted in cities with high numbers of quarantined individuals. In fact, Venice’s waters are running clear for the first time and people are seeing fish.

  • China is re-opening parks and athletic centers, and loosening travel restrictions as the novel coronavirus comes under control in China, and parks and tourist attractions have reopened across the country.
  • Neighbors across the country are stepping up to make grocery runs for those who can’t leave their homes.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision is here.

Covid-19, Child Custody, and Good News on Coronavirus

Parenting is tough enough when you’re in quarantine. But for parents who are divorced and shuttle their kids between two households as part of a child custody arrangement, deciding how to proceed with quarantines related to the coronavirus can be even more challenging.

Child custody covid-19

A Virus Among Us

“Today” recently profiled parents in Florida about how they are coping. Rachelle Dunlevy, a mom of two from Indialantic, Florida, says since her ex-husband lives nearby, they have agreed to stick with their current custody schedule, for now. Megan O’Connor, whose daughter is about to turn three, has been divorced for almost a year, and says she and her ex-husband are doing the same.

“My ex is a public health professional, so he is aware of social distancing, but also of the importance of our daughter having access to both of her parents during such a fragile time. Currently, we are both in town so we are maintaining our current schedule. We’ve decided to do that because we view ourselves as a family unit — though we are no longer together romantically, our daughter is intrinsically a part of each parent.”

But what do parents do when there’s conflict over whether or not to pause a custody arrangement during the pandemic? When it comes to making decisions about coronavirus and custody, communication is key.

The first and foremost concern should be the health of your family. It is important to communicate respectfully and be cooperative with any schedule changes, even if it results in less parenting time for you and more parenting time for the other parent.

Understand that you and your co-parent may have different views about how to approach this pandemic and neither of you may be wrong or right, so it’s important to be calm. Your child is also navigating a pandemic and a change in their everyday routine and you do not want to add to their stress and anxiety — a united front between the parents is best.

The number one priority should always be the well-being of the children and the coronavirus doesn’t care about courts and agreement.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility.

Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities. Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

Good News About Coronavirus

As new cases of SARS CoV-2 (aka Covid-19) Coronavirus are confirmed throughout the world and millions of people are being put into quarantine, there is some good news too.

Most people with COVID-19 recover. Estimates now suggest that 99% of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 will recover and some people have no symptoms at all.

Children seem to be infected less often and have milder disease. According to the CDC, the vast majority of infections so far have afflicted adults. And when kids are infected, they tend to have milder disease.

The number of new cases is falling where the outbreak began. During his speech declaring the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, the director-general of the WHO pointed out that “China and the Republic of Korea have significantly declining epidemics.” That’s a good thing and suggests that efforts to contain the spread of this infection can be successful.

We have the internet! We can practice social distancing and preserve our professional and social connections.

This a good test run for much more serious and deadly outbreaks such as the Spanish Flu and the Ebola virus. Our response to future pandemics should improve because of what we are doing now.

The coronavirus epidemic is a global problem for those infected and those trying to avoid it. But amid all the doom and gloom, there are some positive stories, positive messages and reasons to remain hopeful.

The Today article is here.

 

Divorce and Adultery May No Longer be a Thing and Good Coronavirus News

Is the coronavirus, SARS-2, SARS-CoV, Covid19 to blame? No one is sure, but British reports are showing far fewer married couples are listing “adultery” as grounds for divorce, according to new figures recently published in Britain.

Adultery Divorce Drop

Divorce Without Fault

The Sunday Times reported that the rate has dropped by more than half in a decade. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), it was used for 9,205 divorces in 2018, compared to 20,765 in 2008 and 36,310 in 1998.

A desire to avoid blaming the other person in a doomed marriage comes as a “no fault” divorce bill makes its way through parliament. Speaking to the paper, Sir Paul Coleridge – chairman of the Marriage Foundation – said:

“I think people are more grown up than they used to be and realize that a single act of adultery does not tell you very much about the cause of the break-up of a marriage. It may be a symptom of the problem, but my experience is that it isn’t the cause. The cause is the broken relationship, and the adultery arises out of it.”

According to the ONS, the most common grounds for divorce – used in half of all cases, compared to one in ten for adultery – is unreasonable behavior.

It comes as it was revealed that suspicious partners can order DNA ‘infidelity’ tests online to prove whether their other halves have really strayed.

The ‘evidence’ – such as underwear, bedding, condoms, cigarette butts, strands of hair or chewing gum – is sent off to a lab for analysis

The Sunday Times previously reported that one UK-based company is offering a £90 “semen detection test”, a £299 “gender” test to check if the sample is from a man or a woman, or a £500 comparison test to differentiate between their own sample and a “suspicious” one.

They also found a £60 “sperm detection kit” sold online – containing a solution that turns samples purple if semen is present – which is being sold as a way to catch a “cheating spouse”.

Florida No Fault Divorce

I’ve written about no fault divorce before. No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. In Florida no fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

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

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.

Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? Since Florida became a no-fault state, the fact that, “she (or he) is sleeping with a co-worker” doesn’t hold much traction in court any more.

When is adultery relevant in divorce in Florida? Although we are a no-fault state, there is still a statutory basis for infidelity to be an issue in your divorce proceedings, but not as a reason for divorce.

Some people think no fault divorce is one of the main reasons for a high divorce rate. Despite the recent legislative moves in the UK, there is a movement here to return to the old “fault” system to promote families.

Good News and the Coronavirus

  • Did you know that “2019-nCOV” was the initial name given for the virus?

But the name was hard to remember and was misleading, because it gave the misimpression that the virus was novel. It’s not. In fact, it’s the least novel of the respiratory disease-causing viruses. It’s defining feature is its NON-novelty!

  • Do you know how to kill the coronavirus?

Since it is an enveloped virus, it’s killed by soap/detergents, ethanol, Windex (which contains detergents), and bleach.

  • Do you know how long the coronavirus lasts on surfaces?

On steel and plastic, 10-fold drop in ~12 hours; On cardboard, about 1 hour; On a napkin, the survival should be like on cardboard or maybe lower, and the virus will get trapped by the paper fibers. That said, don’t wipe your mouth with a napkin that someone just handed you.

  • Does “social distancing” have any effects?

The R0 rate (“R zero rate”) refers to how contagious an infectious disease is. Preemptive hygiene enhancement and social distancing help reduce the average frequency and intensity of exposure to the virus, might reduce infection risk, reduce the average viral infectious dose of those exposed, and result in less severe cases who are less infectious.

  • Is there a cure for the Covid-19 disease?

Right now people are working on it. But thanks to earlier research, we may already have drugs with activity against it. For example, Remdesivir (Gilead) seems to work against SARS-CoV-2 in cells.

The Times article on adultery and divorce is here.

 

A Royal International Child Custody Case

Child custody cases impact everyone, including world leaders as one recent British case proves. But the stakes in an international child custody matter can change when a parent who holds the power of a state government behind him, gets tough.

Royal Child Custody

A Royal Scam?

When you are concerned in your child custody case about the unlimited resources of the other side, knowing the children’s father is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates does not help.

Luckily, the children’s mother is Her Royal Highness Princess Haya bint Al Hussein. She is a daughter of His Majesty the late King Hussein of Jordan and the half-sister of the present ruler of Jordan, King Abdullah II.

The mother is the second official wife of the father, who, in addition, has a number of “unofficial” wives. These two children are the two youngest of the father’s 25 children.

In April 2019 the mother travelled to England with Jalila and Zayed. Although it was normal for the children and the mother to visit England, she made it clear soon after arrival that she and the children would not be returning to Dubai.

The Princess claims she fled the Gulf emirate with her children, saying she had become terrified of her husband’s threats and intimidation. The threats continued after the princess moved to London adding that the Sheikh had used the apparatus of the state “to threaten, intimidate, mistreat and oppress with a total disregard for the rule of law.”

In May 2019 the father commenced proceedings to order the children to be returned to the Emirate of Dubai. The mother initially contested the court’s jurisdiction by asserting that she enjoyed diplomatic immunity, it being the case that shortly after her arrival in England the government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan appointed the mother to the post of First Secretary at the Jordanian Embassy in London

The father, as the ruler of the State of Dubai and as the Head of the Government of the UAE, claims and acknowledges that his position attracts certain immunities, and cannot be required to attend this court to give oral evidence.

In October 2019 the father substantially revised his position by no longer pursuing his application for the children to be returned to Dubai. He agreed that the children would now continue to live with their mother and be based with her in England.

Within the same time period, the father published a poem entitled “Luck strikes once”:

“My spirit is cured of you, girl. When your face appears, no pleasure I feel. Don’t say troublemakers are the ones to blame. It’s your fault, though you’re fairer than the moon…They say luck strikes once in a lifetime and if you lose luck you have no excuse”.

The mother took the poem as a direct reference to herself.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody and domestic violence before. Florida does not use the term “custody” anymore, we have the parenting plan concept. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.

The best interests of the child are determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

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.

When discussing family or household members, Florida law defines these to mean spouses, former spouses, persons related by blood or marriage, persons who are presently residing together as if a family or who have resided together in the past as if a family, and persons who are parents of a child in common regardless of whether they have been married.

In Florida, individuals who have experienced domestic violence have civil and criminal remedies to protect themselves from further abuse. Protection orders may include the victim’s children, other family members, roommates, or current romantic partner. This means the same no-contact and stay-away rules apply to the other listed individuals, even if the direct harm was to the victim.

This could include a parent leaving a series of anonymous notes in the other parent’s bedroom making threats such as “We will take your son – your daughter is ours – your life is over” or warning her to be careful; and leaving a gun on the bed with the muzzle pointing towards the door and the safety catch off.

Can’t Buy a Thrill

After listening to witnesses and the King’s poetry, a judge at the High Court in London found that the Father “acted in a manner from the end of 2018 which has been aimed at intimidating and frightening” his ex-wife Princess Haya, 45.

Judge Andrew McFarlane also said the Sheikh “ordered and orchestrated” the abductions and forced return to Dubai of two of his adult daughters from another marriage: Sheikha Shamsa in August 2000, and Sheikha Latifa in 2002 and again in 2018.

The judge made rulings after a battle between the estranged spouses over the welfare of their two children, but the Sheikh fought to prevent them from being made public. The U.K Supreme Court quashed that attempt.

The judge found that Haya’s allegations about the threats and abductions met the civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities. Princess Haya also alleged that Sheikh Mohammed had made arrangements for Jalila — then aged 11 — to be married to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.

In 2002 the return was from the border of Dubai with Oman, and in 2018 it was by an armed commando assault at sea near the coast of India.” The judge said Shamsa, now 38, was abducted from the streets of Cambridge and “has been deprived f her liberty for much if not all of the past two decades.”

Sheikh Mohammed is also the founder of the successful Godolphin horse racing stable and last year received a trophy from Queen Elizabeth II after one of his horses won a race at Royal Ascot.

In a statement released after the rulings were published, the Sheikh said that “as a head of government, I was not able to participate in the court’s fact-finding process. This has resulted in the release of a ‘fact-finding’ judgment which inevitably only tells one side of the story.”

“I ask that the media respect the privacy of our children and to not intrude into their lives in the U.K.”

The Time article is here.

 

Big British Property Division Case

A British woman who “sacrificed” her career as a lawyer so she could be a stay-home mum and raise her children has won an unequal property division on top of an equal share of the family’s wealth after her divorce. This case proves that the interruption of your career can impact your divorce.

Merry in England

A woman who “sacrificed” her career as a solicitor so she could look after her children has won compensation on top of an equal share of the family’s wealth after her divorce.

The ruling could have implications for other divorce cases in which one partner has stepped back from their career for the good of the family, a lawyer said. The Cambridge graduate was embroiled in a fight over cash with her millionaire husband, who is also a solicitor, after the breakdown of their marriage.

A judge has decided the pair, who were married for about a decade and have two children, should split assets of nearly £10 million equally but that the woman should get another £400,000 in compensation for curtailing her legal career.

Mr. Justice Moor said there had been “relationship-generated disadvantage” as the husband was still able to enjoy a “stellar” career.

[The woman] viewed herself as the parent who would take primary responsibility for the children. The husband’s career took precedence. I accept that it is unusual to find significant relationship-generated disadvantage that may lead to a claim for compensation but I am clear that this is one such case. I have come to the conclusion that an appropriate sum to award for relationship-generated disadvantage, over and above her half share of the assets, is the sum of £400,000.

As a talented lawyer, our client sacrificed a potentially lucrative career for her family and to care for the children. Although Mr. Justice Moor has made clear this decision should not open the floodgates to a raft of relationship-generated disadvantage claims, the judgment affirms that in truly exceptional circumstances the principle of compensation still exists in family law, and rightly so.

Florida Property Division and Careers

I have written about property division before. Florida’s equitable distribution statute begins with the premise that the distribution should be equal, but the trial court may make an unequal distribution when proper justification is demonstrated.

The equitable distribution statute lists several factors for a trial court to consider in making this determination, and the court must support its equitable distribution scheme with specific factual findings.

As in the recent England case, a Florida trial court follows several factors to support an unequal distribution, including: what were the contributions to the marriage by each spouse, the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, and the interruption of personal careers.

Generally, the fact that one spouse is the primary bread winner won’t support an unequal distribution in Florida.

Stiff Upper Lip

In another British case, a businesswoman who left behind her career in order to become a “stay at home mum” while her husband continued with his high-flying career has been awarded virtually all of the family fortune by a divorce judge.

Jane Morris, 52, had been criticized by her former husband for not bringing more money in after they split, having quit her career as a recruitment consultant to keep house for him and their three children for 20 years.

However, it emerged that she was awarded half a million pounds while husband, Peter Morris, the managing director of a software company with a seven-figure turnover, was left with just £66,000.

Details of the case came out as he launched a challenge in the court of appeal against the financial outcome of the divorce and a six-week prison sentence which is hanging over his head after it was imposed on a suspended basis for non-payment of alimony and support.

The court heard that the 51-year-old businessman “took credit” for the “high standard of living” the couple enjoyed in their £1.2m cottage in the Chiltern Hills.

However, the couple’s “extravagant” spending, both during their marriage and after their “bitterly contested” break-up in 2013, brought them “to the brink of financial disaster”, reducing multi-million-pound family assets to just £560,000.

Awarding 90% of the family assets to her, the judge had said that she “needs adequate maintenance” because sacrificing her career had left her with a “low earning capacity… in her middle fifties with rusty skills.”

Morris had hit out at his wife’s own expenditure and criticized her for not earning more, having re-entered the labor market since they separated. But she was ruled to be “a sensible woman” who was “probably in need of emotional and psychological comfort” during her own spending sprees.

The Guardian article is here.

 

Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus

A Chinese city has reached a peak in divorce filings as a result of the coronavirus COVID-19. Marriage registration offices in China’s Shaanxi Province report seeing an unprecedented number of divorce appointments since courts reopened this week.

divorce and coranavirus

El divorcio en los tiempos del coronavirus

No, not one of Gabriel García Márquez’s lesser known works. But what is happening around the world is impacting divorce. For example, a part of China’s coronavirus epidemic control efforts has been closing the marriage registration office, and adopting an appointment system on March 1. What they have discovered is interesting.

We started receiving some telephone appointments on March 2, and more appointments came in in the next future days an official of the registration office in Beilin district of Xi’an, told reporters. On March 5, the office received 14 divorce appointments, hitting the upper limit set by the office.

As a result of the epidemic, many couples have been bound with each other at home for over a month, which evoked the underlying conflicts, adding that the office had been closed for a month, therefore the office has seen an acutely increasing divorce appointment. Usually the office would see a wave of divorcemes after Spring Festival and the college entrance examination.

A similar situation also occurred in another marriage registration office in the city’s Yanta district, whose service limit is five appointments for divorce. An official of the office confirmed the office is also seeing a divorce peak.

There is no vacancy for divorce appointments until March 18. The official said that due to long-time staying at home, the underlying conflicts might emerge and result in impulsive divorces. “We received some divorce appointments and they regretted it later”.

Some young couples even decided to remarry when their divorce certificate is printing. The official suggested couples be serious and prudent toward their marriages and avoid regrets from impulsive decision-making.

A telephone appointment is required a day before the registration, and their visit time is scheduled down to minute. It usually takes 30 to 40 minutes for a couple to get a marriage or divorce certificate, and the office would be sanitized after receiving another couple.

Florida Vaccinations and Child Custody

The spread of Covid-19 brings to mind the frequent problem of parents not protecting their children against vaccine preventable diseases.

I’ve written on the relationship between vaccinations and child custody in Florida before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility. Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (the WHO) advises you to take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

  • Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least 1-meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

  • Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene. Make sure you cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

  • Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

  • Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

  • Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Information from the WHO about the coronavirus Covid-19 is available here.

 

A Strange New World of Equitable Distribution

Divorce typically involves dividing up the marital property. Every case can be different in what there is for equitable distribution. Houses and retirement accounts are pretty common, and collectible cards and dolls are rarer, but actor William Shatner’s divorce involved something truly strange: horse semen.

Equitable Distrib Horse Semen

To Seek Out New Life

Actor, William Shatner, famous for his role as captain of the Star Trek Enterprise, was recently awarded horse breeding equipment in his divorce settlement with ex-wife Elizabeth Shatner.

The actor’s divorce was settled in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday, according to court records. They separated from one another in February 2019.

But the most interesting part of the former “Star Trek” actor’s divorce is what he wanted as equitable distribution. Shatner, who is a horse breeder, will get “all horse semen” as a part of the settlement.

Wine, pets, antique rifles, baseball cards, sports memorabilia are some of the more unique “assets” many of my cases involved. Like any important asset, horses can be a challenging asset to divide.

Valuation of horses can requires knowing their training, winnings, and earnings. Horse ownership also requires knowing the horse’s board, routine maintenance, insurance costs, breeding rights, showing rights, and cash earnings from breed organizations.

Interestingly, the horse’s frozen semen is often extremely valuable and must be spelled out in any divorce order or agreement along with rights to any potential offspring.

That’s because a horse’s DNA and cloning are big topics in the horse industry. The issue of equitable distribution is also complicated by the fact that it is not just the rights to a horse but also the rights to the horse’s DNA, and the rights to any cloning of the horse.

Florida Equitable Distribution

Does a family court have to distribute horse semen? I have written about property division, called “equitable distribution” in Florida, before. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing business assets in divorce.

That means that 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.

Boldly Going Where Few Men Have Gone Before

As additional equitable distribution, the Shatners divided their four horses between them. The captain will get “Renaissance Man’s Medici” and “Powder River Shirley”, while his ex-wife will get “Belle Reve’s So Photogenic” and “Pebbles”.

This is not the first horse semen rodeo for Shatner. He was sued in 2003 by ex-wife Marcy Lafferty Shatner, who claimed he violated the equitable distribution settlement in their 1995 divorce that allowed her one breeding privilege per calendar year with their American saddlebred stallions.

William and Elizabeth Shatner also divided their homes, including a home in Versailles, Kentucky that Elizabeth will get. In 2018, Shatner tweeted that he only visits his Kentucky home “once or twice a year.” But perhaps now it’s his old Kentucky home.

William and Elizabeth Shatner raised and trained American saddlebreds at their Versailles farm. He had homes in Kentucky, including Lexington, since the mid-1980s.

The couple will not receive any financial support from one another as a part of the settlement. They were married for 18 years.

The Lexington Herald Leader article is here.

 

Home in Milan: International Child Custody and the Hague

Last week, the Supreme Court decided a big international child custody case. The decision involved a baby brought here from Milan by her American Mother after her marriage to her Italian husband ended. At issue, where the baby’s ‘habitual residence’ is under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction – Italy or here.

Hague Milan Child Custody

An Italian Drama

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a treaty that requires a child wrongfully removed from his or her country of “habitual residence” be returned to that country.

A removal is “wrongful” if it is done in violation of the custody laws of the country of the child’s habitual residence. The Convention requires that the countries signing the treaty “use the most expeditious proceedings available” to return the child to his or her habitual residence.

The mother, Michelle Monasky, a U.S. citizen, brought her infant daughter to Ohio from Milan, Italy after her Italian husband, Domenico Taglieri, allegedly became physically abusive. Taglieri asked a U.S. court to order the daughter’s returned under the Hague Convention.

The father argued that Italy was the daughter’s “habitual residence.” The district court agreed, finding that the parents had a “shared intention” to raise their daughter in Italy. An appellate panel affirmed, but in a divided opinion.

The Mother asked the Supreme Court to decide the matter, and it did.

International Child Custody and the Hague

I have written and spoken on international custody and child abduction cases under the Hague Convention.

The Convention’s mission is basic: to return children “to the State of their habitual residence” to require any custody disputes to be resolved in that country, and to discourage parents from taking matters into their own hands by abducting a child.

The key inquiry in many Hague Convention cases, and the dispositive inquiry in the Taglieri case, goes to the country of the child’s habitual residence. Habitual residence marks the place where a person customarily lives.

Many people don’t realize it, but the Hague Convention does not actually define the key term ‘habitual residence.’ There are a couple of ways to determine it. The primary way looks to the place where the child has become “acclimatized.” The back-up inquiry for young children too young to become acclimatized looks to where the parents intend their child to live.

Not abducted children

Under the Tuscan Sun

The Supreme Court affirmed the two lower courts and ordered the child returned to Italy, albeit five years later. The Court rejected the Mother’s argument that you need an “actual agreement” to determine habitual residence, and held that a child’s habitual residence depends on a totality-of-the-circumstances.

The Court noted that the Hague Convention does not define “habitual residence,” but relied on the Convention’s text, its negotiation and drafting history, and decisions from the courts.

The Hague Convention’s text alone does not definitively tell us what makes a child’s residence sufficiently enduring to be deemed “habitual.” It surely does not say that habitual residence depends on an actual agreement between a child’s parents.

No single fact, however, is dispositive across all cases. Common sense suggests that some cases will be straightforward: Where a child has lived in one place with her family indefinitely, that place is likely to be her habitual residence.

Relying on foreign law, the U.S. Supreme Court found that there was a “clear trend” among our treaty partners to treat the determination of habitual residence as a fact-driven inquiry into the particular circumstances of the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court also resolved a circuit split, and held that a trial court’s habitual-residence determination is primarily a question of fact, entitled to clear-error appellate review. The Court declined to remand for further fact finding, noting that the parties had not identified any additional facts that the district court did not already have an opportunity to consider during the four-day bench trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision is available here.