Author: Ron Kauffman

The Rap on Joint Custody

Many are wondering what the rap is on joint custody after Kanye West requested joint legal and physical custody of his four children with Kim Kardashian. According to news reports, neither party is seeking spousal support.

Rap Custody

Famous

According to a legal response filed by the rapper’s attorney West, 43, requests joint legal and physical custody of their children. It should be no surprise that neither party is seeking spousal support.

The 43-year-old rapper’s sneaker and clothing business — now bolstered by Adidas AG and Gap Inc. — is valued between $3.2 billion and $4.7 billion by UBS Group AG, according to Bloomberg. A report published by the outlet on Wednesday, March 17, revealed that West’s total worth has skyrocketed to $6.6 billion. (Forbes previously declared West a billionaire in April 2020.)

Yeezy’s collaboration with Gap is set to hit stores this summer and “could be worth as much as $970 million” of the brand’s value, per Bloomberg. Last year, the Grammy winner signed a 10-year agreement to design and sell apparel under the Yeezy Gap label. West still holds total ownership and creative power within the company.

Along with the income from his Yeezy line, the “Gold Digger” artist has also accrued $122 million in cash and stock. He’s raked in an additional $110 million from his extensive catalog of music and has another $1.7 billion in other assets.

Forbes estimates that Kardashian West is now worth $1 billion, up from $780 million in October, thanks to two lucrative businesses—KKW Beauty and Skims—as well as cash from reality television and endorsement deals, and a number of smaller investments

Florida Shared Parental Responsibility

The question about an award of custody of children frequently comes up, especially now in Florida as the Legislature is considering a massive change to how timesharing is decided in family court.

Although Kanye is seeking “joint physical and legal custody, the term “custody” is no longer recognized in Florida. Florida replaced the “custody” term for the “parenting plan” concept in order to avoid labeling parents as “visiting parent” or “primary parent” in the hopes of making child custody issues less controversial, and encourage parents to co-parent more effectively.

Under Florida’s parenting plan concept, both parents enjoy shared parental responsibility and a time-sharing schedule. “Shared parental responsibility” means both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities and have to confer with each other so that major decisions affecting their child are made jointly.

A time-sharing schedule, as the name suggests, is simply a timetable that is included in the parenting plan that specifies the times, including overnights and holidays, that your child spends with each parent.

Florida’s parenting plan concept has changed sole custody into “sole parental responsibility.” The term means that only one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child, as opposed to the shared parental responsibility terms, where both parents make decisions jointly.

Go West

Amid the divorce, Kardashian has continued to live in the $60 million Hidden Hills mansion she shared with West, while the Yeezy designer Kanye has headed west, staying on his ranch in Wyoming.

I’ve written about the Kanye West Kardashian divorce problems before. Last year, after a series of tweets, Kanye claimed Kardashian and her mother, Kris Jenner, were trying to lock him up for medical reasons because of comments made during a rally in South Carolina.

West told the crowd during the Charleston event that he and his wife considered an abortion when she became pregnant with their first child. Kardashian emphasized in a past statement that “living with bipolar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas, no matter how big they feel to some.”

“I understand Kanye is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressure of being an artist and Black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bipolar disorder.”

West also asks for the court’s right to award spousal support for either person to be terminated, the filing says. In the document, West’s counsel lists irreconcilable differences as the couple’s reason for divorce, though a date of separation is not given.

West and Kardashian, 40, started dating in 2012 and tied the knot on May 24, 2014. Kardashian filed for divorce in February after nearly seven years of marriage.

The split between West and Kardashian came after a tumultuous period for the pair, who appeared to be on the brink of divorce last summer before reconnecting and spending private time together with their children.

In January, however, multiple sources confirmed that Kardashian had been working with a high-profile divorce attorney and planned to file for divorce. “They are just not on the same page when it comes to their future as a family,” one insider said at the time. “And Kim is okay with it.”

“Kim plans on staying at the Hidden Hills house with the kids. This is their home and Kim doesn’t want to move right now at least,” one insider previously told PEOPLE. “They both agree that the less stress the kids experience, the better. Kanye loves his kids. He wants them to be happy,” the source added. “He doesn’t want to fight with Kim about anything.”

The CNN article is here.

 

Florida Alimony Reform 2021

Florida Alimony Reform 2021 is back in the news as the Legislature once again takes up how alimony and child sharing are handled in family law courtrooms. This year’s bills in the House and Senate have many changes, including the elimination of permanent alimony and an equal timesharing presumption.

The Sausage Factory

As  WLRN reports:

“I was married for 17 years to a man who quit working the minute we were married. I supported about seven different businesses that he ran into the ground. He abused drugs and alcohol. And he was abusive to me and our two children.”

Shultz says she was ordered by the court to pay her ex-husband $5,250 per month for the rest of her life. I cannot retire because I have alimony payments to pay every 30 days,” Shultz says. House Bill 1559 would also allow payments to end when the person providing the alimony reaches full retirement age as determined by the U.S. Social Security Administration—with exceptions.

Under existing case law, someone paying alimony can apply to have their alimony adjusted or terminated upon reaching the normal retirement age for their job or profession.

Florida Alimony

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

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. In determining the type, amount, duration, and later modification or termination of an alimony award, the court has broad discretion but may only award alimony after initially determining that one spouse needs alimony and the other spouse is able to pay alimony.

If a court awards or denies an alimony request, it must consider enumerated factors and may consider the adultery of either spouse or any other factor it finds necessary to achieve equity and justice between the parties. An alimony award may be modified or terminated when the circumstances or financial ability of either party changes, including changes due to a receiving spouse’s supportive relationship or a paying spouse’s retirement.

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

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

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

Other factors, such as the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate are also considered.

No Time Like Equal Time?

A very strange component of the Florida alimony bills is that the bills deal with parenting time with children. The proposed bills would create a presumption that 50/50 time-sharing of children would be in the child’s best interest — meaning both parents would have equal time with their child.

Right now, timesharing is analyzed in detail. The existing law requires judges to evaluate several different factors in determining an appropriate parenting plan for a child. Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Delray Beach) questioned the change during a meeting on the bill:

“So, under your bill, if there is hypothetically one parent who is drug-addicted and another parent who has really been caring for the child—under your bill, this would create a presumption that 50/50 is in the best interest in the child.”

“Absolutely not,” bill sponsor Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez (R-Miami) said in response. “I mean, you walk into the courtroom, and there is a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing, but, in that scenario, specifically in the scenario representative, it is obvious that the judge would not grant 50/50 time-sharing to a drug-addicted parent.”

“There is a clear nexus between alimony and time-sharing, and we believe that when you walk into the courtroom, the focus of the divorce should be the children. And there should be an equal time-sharing of such, and if for whatever reason that should not be the case, then the judge can decide that,” Rodriguez says. Rodriguez says his bill allows for the presumption of 50/50 time-sharing to be rebutted by a judge.

Obvious? Philip Schipani is a family law attorney who represents clients who have special needs children. He says judges don’t always have a full understanding of a family’s situation. He worries the presumption created under Rodriguez’s bill will put an extra burden on his clients.

“And right now, I have a pending case—a child with special needs—this presumption if they put a 50/50—the father hasn’t seen the child for four years. Not only [does] the child [have] severe special needs, the husband’s a recovering drug addict who hasn’t seen the child in years. So, then you slap this presumption on, and then I have an extra burden to overcome. Not only do I have to explain the child’s condition, explain the drug addiction, I have to overcome this presumption as well,” Schipani says.

The WLRN article is here.

 

Property Division and Embryos

Property division of a couple’s embryos is back in the news again, and will increasingly be an important part of any divorce case, as more couples seek In Vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technology.

property division embryo

Modern Family

Many people recall that Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara was in a dispute with her former partner Nick Loeb over frozen embryos. They ended their engagement in May 2014, the year after they underwent in vitro fertilization treatment together, and he tried to gain full custody of the fertilized eggs to have them implanted in a surrogate.

In February a court granted Sofia a permanent injunction which would stop her former partner from being able to use the fertilized eggs to “create a child without the explicit written permission of the other person”.

Do agreements matter? When Peter Goldin, a 44-year-old communications director, and his husband decided to start a family through in vitro fertilization, they faced mounds of paperwork at the fertility clinic deciding what should happen to any remaining embryos in the case of divorce or separation?

The couple, who used one embryo to have a daughter, decided that if they broke up, Mr. Goldin would be the one who decided what to do with their one remaining embryo, since it was created with his sperm and a donor egg.

But Mr. Goldin said that when he and his husband separated last year, his husband no longer wanted him to have sole authority to determine what would happen to the embryo. “He had forgotten what he had signed at the clinic,” said Mr. Goldin, who, with the help of a lawyer, ultimately gained custody after a month of back and forth.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about the Vergara case and the subject of property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

Anyone who has been divorced knows the painful process well: disentangling finances, dividing possessions and mapping out custody arrangements for any children. And in recent years, with the use of artificial reproductive technologies on the rise, more couples have been confronting the even stickier question of what to do with frozen embryos.

In some states, consent agreements signed in fertility clinics, which can provide that embryos would be destroyed if the couple were to divorce have been determined to valid and enforceable contracts.

In New York, after a husband requested sole custody of the one remaining cryopreserved embryo and revoked his consent to use any of his genetic material, a court has narrowly read consent provisions and found such agreements permitted either party to withdraw consent to participation in the entire IVF process, and that the husband’s broadly worded revocation of consent was effective to revoke his consent to the continuation of the IVF process. The court awarded the remaining embryo to the husband, but only for the purpose of ensuring that NHF disposes of the embryo as provided in the Consent Agreement.

Divorce and Embryos

In the event of divorce, couples are not together anymore, probably don’t like each other, and if one person is going to use the embryo and have the child, that leaves the other person in an awkward spot.

For those who fail to plan for the worst, the results can be devastating. Couples who produce healthy embryos and freeze them for when they would be ready to have children face a problem years later when they want to divorce.

In many cases, judges have upheld agreements couples have signed at the fertility clinic, which say that the embryos could be brought to term only with the consent of both partners.

But as the New York Times reports:

“My state of mind at the time was complicated by cancer, being a newlywed and just this hope and opportunity to have children. It was unfathomable that that’s what would eventually determine that my last chance of having biological children would be taken away from me.”

Laws governing the disposition of frozen embryos vary from state to state. Judges have generally ruled in favor of the person who does not want to develop the embryo, but in Arizona, for example, the custody of disputed embryos goes to the party who wants to bring them to term.

Kathleen Pratt, 36, said that the process of poring over sheafs of legal documents to finalize the use of a surrogate led to several discussions with her husband, William, about what they would do with any remaining embryos if they divorced.

Ms. Pratt said her husband initially told her it made more sense to give her custody of remaining embryos — made with a donor egg and her husband’s sperm — because she was unable to have biological children. Then, Ms. Pratt said, she felt he should get to keep the embryos because they contained his genetic material, not hers.

Eventually they came to a decision: Neither should keep the embryos. Ms. Pratt, who lives in Charleston, S.C., remembers she and her husband saying to each other, “Why would we raise these babies outside of our family? If things go sour, let’s just call it a day.”

They ended up using both embryos to have a daughter in 2019 and a son last year. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone go through this with someone unless your relationship is solid,” she said.

The New York Times article is here.

Politics and Reasons to Divorce

Given the current divisiveness in our country, it should not surprise us that politics can be one of many reasons to divorce in other parts of the world. This is especially true for a Palestinian peace activist who claims he was offered an unconventional proposition by his Hamas captors: divorce your wife and you are free to leave prison.

divorce reasons

A Saga in Gaza

According to reports, Gaza resident Aman had signed a marriage contract with the daughter of an exiled Hamas official right before the pandemic started. Hamas, is an acronym of Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, which in English translates to Islamic Resistance Movement, and is the government ruling the Gaza Strip.

Two months after the marriage, Aman did not think he was doing anything subversive when he joined a Zoom call with Israeli peace activists. During the widespread closures at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Aman wanted to discuss the “double lockdown” he experienced in Gaza, which has endured 14 years of a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade against Hamas.

“I wanted to let people know more how it is when you live under Israeli occupation and siege, deprived of the rights the rest of the world enjoys.”

For over two hours, Aman and his group of peace activists, the Gaza Youth Committee, talked about coexistence with dozens of Israelis peace activists. As word of the Zoom meeting leaked out, social media filled with angry comments branding him a traitor.

Some urged Hamas to act. It did, and the Zoom meeting landed him in a prison cell known as “the bus,” and ultimately ended his marriage.

Florida No Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, if your spouse is either out in the streets demonstrating, or worse, attending a Zoom call with peace activists, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce reasons before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s political activism. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like collaboration or weakening the revolutionary spirit.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. 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. 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.

Searching for Reconciliation

Aman said that after his Zoom meeting, he and seven members of his group were summoned to Internal Security, the agency that deals with dissidents and people accused of spying for Israel. The questions focused on the Zoom meeting and who might have been behind it. Aman was accused of collaborating with Israel — a crime punishable by death.

Then the questioning took a strange new turn. Just two months earlier, Aman had signed a marriage contract with the daughter of an exiled Hamas official based in Egypt.

The couple did not have time to celebrate their wedding with a formal ceremony due to the coronavirus lockdown, but they were considered married under Islamic law.

Aman said she believed in the message of peace and joined his team in several discussions with Israelis. He asked not to publish her name, fearing it could bring her harm. Aman said his new wife was arrested with him, but they were quickly separated. “She doesn’t want you,” an officer told him. “It’s better you both divorce.”

For two months, he said, he resisted the pressure to break up. On June 28, she finally visited, telling him she had been released on bail.

“This was not the woman I knew. It was clear she was under heavy pressure.”

In mid-August, he said he finally signed the divorce papers after he was promised he would be released the next day. Yet he remained in captivity for two more months. On October 25, Egypt opened its border with Gaza to allow a Hamas delegation to travel to Cairo.

The next day, a Hamas court convicted Aman on the vague charge of “weakening the revolutionary spirit.” He was released on a suspended sentence. Only then did Aman learn his wife had been taken with the Hamas delegation to Egypt and turned over to her family. The Associated Press contacted the woman, who confirmed she was forced into the divorce and wanted her husband back.

“Now I have my personal battle: return to my wife.”

The ABC news article is here.

 

Divorce and Paternity

Divorce and paternity are in the news after the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves star Malik Beasley has decided to question his son’s paternity during his divorce from his model wife, Montana Yao.

disestablishment paternity

Technical Foul

Beasley, 24, is contesting the paternity of his two year old son, Makai, who was born in March 2019, according to court documents obtained by Page Six on Wednesday.

A paternity test was conducted, but the results were unknown leading up to Beasley and Yao’s March 29 court date.

The Timberwolves player’s attorney, Steven A. Hanley, told Us Weekly that the test was “taken last week.” While the results are pending, a court granted Yao’s request for $6,500 per month in child support, but a judge denied Yao’s request for $5,300 per month in spousal maintenance and for him to pay $20,000 for her attorney’s fees.

Florida Disestablishment of Paternity

I’ve written on paternity and disestablishment of paternity before. Paternity refers to a man who has the rights and responsibilities of a parent, regardless of whether he is the biological father or not.

Through legal paternity, the father is responsible for the child’s upbringing, has a parental relationship with the child, and has an obligation to support the child.

In Florida, there are a few ways to determine paternity, including marriage (such as when the mother and father are married at the time of the birth or Court order that determines legal paternity paperwork. For example, the father voluntarily signs the child’s birth certificate or affidavit of paternity.

You can also disestablish paternity in Florida to avoid these responsibilities. A father needs to demonstrate proof that he is not the father of the child in order to disestablish paternity in Florida.

For example, an affidavit signed by the Father explaining that newly discovered evidence regarding paternity has come to his attention since the time that legal paternity was first established. The evidence must have been discovered after the finding of legal paternity. It cannot have been known prior.

Another important factor to include is the result of a DNA test showing that the legal father is probably not the biological father of the child, or an additional sworn statement stating that he was not able to obtain a DNA sample from the child. The father can also request the court to order the DNA test.

The father’s child support payments also have to be current, or at least, substantially complied with and making child support payments on time. In the event there are any past-due payments owed, the father’s affidavit has to state why the payments are past due.

Finally, a court has to determine that the legal father has not adopted the child. The child cannot have been conceived by artificial insemination while the legal father and mother were married. The legal father must not have prevented the biological father from asserting his rights. Also, the child must have been under 18 years old when the petition for disestablishment of paternity was filed.

However, even if a father properly files a petition for disestablishment and follows all the necessary steps in the statute, a judge can still deny the petition.

Double Dribble

Beasley and Yao were married on March 20, 2020 but Yao filed for divorce on Dec. 8 of the same year shortly after cuddly pics surfaced of Beasley holding hands with Larsa Pippen.

Yao, 22, claimed earlier this month that Beasley kicked her and their son out of their joint home. She alleged on social media that the duo was bouncing around “hotels and Airbnb’s even moving states” until her parents agreed to help them.

The model also denied she cheated on Beasley, who began dating Pippen while they were still married. Pippen, 46, insisted that she met Beasley after he was separated from Yao, but photos of them in Miami suggest otherwise.

“It had nothing to do with me, so I wasn’t thinking anything about it,” Pippen said in February. “If you spent a minute Googling their situation, it wasn’t the ideal situation way before me.”

The article is here.

Good Causes of Divorce

In a never-ending series, we look at good causes of divorce. In this edition, a police detective from Pennsylvania filed for divorce from his wife after he noticed she was photographed with another man during the January 6th Capitol riot.

Causes of Divorce

Stopping the Steal

Jennifer — the wife of Detective Michael of a Pennsylvania township police department and part of the FBI Pittsburgh office’s Violent Crimes Task Force — is accused of taking part in the January 6 riots at the Capitol building.

Jennifer was charged with several crimes after the riot, including disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, court documents show.

The FBI said in court documents filed last week that it identified Jennifer through her association with a man identified as Kenneth , and shared a photo of the two together that it said was obtained from Kenneth’s iPad.

The detective filed for divorce in February, records filed at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas show, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Florida No Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, whether your Wife is out in the streets demonstrating, or worse, demonstrating with another man, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce and infidelity issues before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s political views. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. 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. 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.

No Collusion

He is not part of the investigation. Sean Frank, the chief of the township’s police department, said earlier this month that the detective had asked his wife not to go to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the riots.

The FBI said Jennifer was seen on restricted Capitol grounds, and inside the Capitol rotunda while wearing a red long-sleeve jersey bearing “Trump 20” on the back. It reviewed security-camera footage and police bodycam footage; court documents show.

The FBI said that it also looked at Facebook Messenger exchanges between Jennifer and Kenneth, where they discussed their plans to travel to Washington, DC, including renting a vehicle and a hotel.

She later told the FBI that she did not enter the Capitol building. But the FBI said that its evidence shows there is probable cause to believe that she was present inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, during the riot and related offenses that occurred at the US Capitol Building.

She said she had traveled to Washington on January 5 and returned the next day, court documents said. She said that she and Kenneth then fell out of touch — that she had travelled to the rally alone and stayed in a separate hotel from Kenneth — but that she saw him at the pro-Trump rally.

In its arrest affidavit, the FBI includes a photo that it says shows Jennifer wearing a camo-colored Trump hat while Kenneth is seen wearing a Q-Anon sweater and an American flag-themed balaclava around his face.

In late January, Kenneth was also charged in Pittsburgh federal court for knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building; disorderly conduct impeding government business; disruptive conduct in the Capitol building; parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol; and obstructing an official proceeding.

According to an FBI affidavit, Kenneth live-streamed video of himself on Facebook showing him and others inside the Capitol building. Facebook users who watched the live-stream contacted the FBI and identified Kenneth, it is alleged.

In the affidavit, photos alleged to be of Kenneth in Washington, DC show him wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt with an American flag patch on the arm, the letter ‘Q’ on one lapel, a ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag on another lapel, and a black Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap.

Jennifer works as a web and graphic designer for a distributor of nuts in Western Pennsylvania, according to her LinkedIn bio. Michael’s boss, the Police Chief Sean, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Michael pleaded with his wife not to go to Washington, DC on January 6.

The Business Insider article is here.

 

Can Men Get Alimony?

Many spouses wonder whether men are entitled to alimony in a divorce. This is especially true for Dancing With the Stars’ Gleb Savchenko, who responded to his estranged wife, Elena Samodanova’s, alimony demand with an alimony request of his own.

Alimony Reform 2

Dancing with the Lawyers

According to news reports, in three court documents, the Dancing With the Stars pro, 37, asked for joint legal and physical custody of their children.

Additionally, he requested that his wife, Samodanova, 36, provide him with alimony and that she pays his attorney’s fees. He’s seeking to terminate the court’s ability to provide Samodanova with financial assistance as well.

Savchenko and Samodanova announced their separation in November 2020 after 14 years of marriage. Samodanova, the choreographer of So You Think You Can Dance, is seeking primary custody of their children and child support. She also requested that her estranged husband provide spousal support and take care of her legal fees.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife. Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or for the moment, permanent alimony.

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

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

As Savchenko and Samodanova will discover, proving the ability to pay is one of the central issues in their competing claims for alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony.

In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include things like: the standard of living established during the marriage; the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party and the financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

Paying to the Stars

More news reports show the parties attended mediation in an effort to resolve the issues prior to the filing of this action and reached an agreement on several issues.

The controversy, Samodanova believes her estranged husband is capable of paying her alimony because he earns approximately $406,614 a year.

The businesswoman claimed that she is unemployed and stated her only source of income comes from the dance studio she co-owns with the reality star, which brings in $37,250 annually — or $3,105 per month — but has been closed since February 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Samodanova stated that Savchenko’s financial assistance would allow for their children to continue having “a high standard of living.”

Florida Alimony Reform

Meanwhile, two new bills were introduced into the Florida Legislature this week which dramatically impact alimony in Florida.

The bills prioritize certain forms of alimony; bridge-the-gap alimony followed by rehabilitative alimony, over any other form of alimony. The court cannot grant permanent alimony unless, and only if, the parties enter into an agreement for permanent alimony.

The US article is here.

 

Free Speech and Child Custody in Massachusetts

Free speech and child custody are in the news as people discover they can’t say a lot of things after their child custody battle ends. A recent Massachusetts appeals court just decided whether some typical child custody order restrictions violated free speech laws.

custody free speech

Chilling Speech

In a Massachusetts court, a Father filed a complaint for custody, support and parenting time, seeking custody of the parties’ child. The Mother counterclaimed and a temporary custody order was entered.

A few months later, the family judge entered its own temporary order relating to exchanges of the child, telephone calls and exchanging addresses. After the final hearing, the court ordered joint legal custody and nearly equal timesharing for both parents.

The order also contained numerous restrictions on both parents’ speech. Although the court’s order appears to have the best interest of the child at heart, prior restraints on speech are very serious constitutional violations.

The order restrained the parents from making any disparaging or negative comments of any type of nature whatsoever to one another by telephone, text or email or to any other third person, to include the child and/or disparaging comments relative to one another electronic social media. The order also prohibited the parents from discussing legal proceedings with the child.

Florida Child Custody and Speech Restrictions

I’ve written about free speech in family cases before. Family courts have a lot of power to protect children. Florida courts have to balance a parent’s right of free expression against the state’s parens patriae interest in assuring the well-being of minor children.

In Florida, there have been cases in which a judge prohibited a parent from speaking Spanish to a child. A mother went from primary caregiver to only supervised visits – under the nose of a time-sharing supervisor. The trial judge also allowed her daily telephone calls with her daughter, supervised by the Father.

The Mother was Venezuelan, and because the Father did not speak Spanish, the court ordered:

“Under no circumstances shall the Mother speak Spanish to the child.”

The judge was concerned about the Mother’s comments, after the Mother “whisked” the child away from the time-sharing supervisor in an earlier incident and had a “private” conversation with her in a public bathroom. The Mother was also bipolar and convicted of two crimes.

The appeals court reversed the restriction. Ordering a parent not to speak Spanish violates the freedom of speech and right to privacy.

Florida law tries to balance the burden placed on the right of free expression essential to the furtherance of the state’s interests in promoting the best interests of children. In other words, in that balancing act, the best interests of children can be a compelling state interest justifying a restraint of a parent’s right of free speech.

Stirring the Constitutional Speech Beanpot

The appellate court in Massachusetts reversed the speech restrictions because a number of – fairly typical speech provisions for a child custody order – placed an impermissible restraint on the mother’s speech and interfered in her child rearing.

The court found the family judge failed to provide specific findings to justify a compelling State interest in placing restrictions on the mother, or to explain why the limitations were necessary to protect the compelling interest.

Prior restraints are “extraordinary remedies,” and are “permissible only where the harm expected from the unrestrained speech is grave, the likelihood of the harm occurring without the prior restraint in place is all but certain, and there are no alternative, less restrictive means to mitigate the harm.”

A prior restraint will not be upheld unless it is “justified by a compelling State interest to protect against a serious threat of harm,” and the limitation on speech is “no greater than is necessary to protect the compelling interest that is asserted as a justification for the restraint.”

Although the judge clearly was attempting to reduce future conflict between the parties in fashioning the judgment as he did, he failed to provide specific findings justifying the State’s interests in the restraints imposed; instead he simply stated that the orders were made in “the best interest of the … child,” which alone is not enough to justify a prior restraint on speech.

The Massachusetts appellate opinion is here.

 

New Article “Like Home: The New Definition of Habitual Residence”

My new article “Like Home: The New Definition of Habitual Residence”, discusses habitual residence under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Oct. 25, 1980 and the federal International Child Abduction Remedies Act. The article is now available in the Florida Bar Journal.

New Article

American courts have had different standards for determining a child’s “habitual residence” under the Hague Convention. The controversy? How to establish a child’s habitual residence and what appellate standard of review should be applied after making that determination. The U.S. Supreme Court has now squarely addressed the conflict about habitual residence.

This new article examines the Hague Convention on international child abductions, ICARA, the U.S. Supreme Court decision, and . . . the Wizard of Oz.

The article is available here.

2021 Alimony Reform and Equal Timesharing

Two new bills which reform alimony and create an equal timesharing presumption were introduced into the Florida House and Senate after the Legislature opened this week. This is big news for all parents and spouses as the proposals make sweeping changes.

Alimony Reform

New Senate Alimony Bill

Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Anthony Rodriguez filed wide-ranging bills (SB 1922 and HB 1559) on Monday that would include eliminating the award of what is known as “permanent” alimony. Lawmakers have repeatedly considered alimony overhauls in recent years, with proposals dying during the 2020 session.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. senator, twice vetoed alimony proposals. In his second veto in 2016, Scott blamed an even more-contentious child custody component included in that year’s version of the bill. In 2013, Scott vetoed a different version, objecting that alimony changes could have applied retroactively.

Florida Alimony

In Florida, alimony is awarded to a spouse when there is a need for it, and the other spouse has the ability to pay for alimony.

Currently, Permanent Alimony is awarded to provide for your needs and necessities of life a they were established during your marriage, if you lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities of life following a divorce

As I have written before, alimony and equal timesharing reform bill have been filed for many years. Alimony can take various forms. Alimony can be awarded to “bridge the gap” between married and single life. This is usually a short-term form of alimony, and in fact, can’t exceed two years.

Alimony can be rehabilitative – to help a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by developing skills or credentials; or acquiring education, training, or work experience.

Durational Alimony is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide you with economic assistance for a time after a short or moderate term marriage, or even long marriages, if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.

Florida Time-Sharing

Florida has a public policy that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce and tries to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

However, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying a parenting plan of the child.

Instead, Florida law considers the best interest of the child, taking into account several factors such as the capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required. Other factors look to the geographic viability of any parenting plan, the moral fitness and mental and physical health of the parents.

Other factors focus on the child, such as the home, school, and community record of the child, or the reasonable preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference, and the developmental stages and needs of the child.

New Senate Timesharing Bill

The new Senate bill would dramatically alter the law. Although the bill purports to make the best interest of the child the test for determining all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing, the proposed bill would make it Florida law to presume that equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child.

Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, there is a presumption that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of a minor child common to both parties. This subparagraph applies to all actions filed on or after July 1, 2021.

The Senate Bill is here.