COVID-19 Vaccine and Child Custody Modification

A new case on the COVID-19 vaccine and child custody modification in Colorado asks what happens after the divorce when a parent has a change of heart about vaccinating the children, while the other maintains a religious-based objection to vaccination?

COVID CUSTODY

Rocky Mountain Parenting

In a post-divorce dispute, a court had to address the burden of proof to apply when considering the request of a father to modify the medical decision-making responsibility clause of their parenting plan to allow him to vaccinate the children, over the objection of the mother.

The parties’ parenting plan provided for joint medical decision-making authority and that “[a]bsent joint mutual agreement or court order, the children will not be vaccinated.”

The father had a change of heart about the children remaining unvaccinated. He described a “wake-up moment” he had when traveling for business to Seattle while the city was experiencing a measles outbreak, and then being afraid to be around the children after he got home out of fear of unknowingly exposing them.

Mother opposed vaccinating the children, in part, because it conflicted with her religious beliefs and also argued that vaccines pose a risk of side effects for the children. Specifically, because mother has an autoimmune disease and the children all had midline defects at birth, she asserted that vaccinations for the children are contraindicated.

The parents agreed a parenting coordinator/decision-maker (PCDM) could decide the issue. However, the PCDM declined to render a decision, stating that the issue was outside of her expertise and likened rendering a decision on it to “practicing medicine without a license.”

While the trial court rejected mother’s medical-based objections, the judge found that vaccination would interfere with mother’s “right to exercise religion freely,” and therefore imposed an “additional burden” on father “to prove substantial harm to the children” if they remained unvaccinated.

The court ruled that father had not met this additional burden and denied his motion to modify medical decision-making responsibility.

Father appealed.

Florida Vaccinations and Child Custody

I have written about 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.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida.

A Double Black Diamond Issue

The appellate court reversed.

Generally, Colorado has a substantial change in circumstances test for modifications, so that a court cannot modify a parenting plan unless it finds that a change occurred in the circumstances of the child or of a party and that modification is necessary to serve the child’s best interests.

In Colorado, a court has to keep the decision-making responsibility allocation from the prior decree unless doing so “would endanger the child’s physical health” and the harm likely to be caused by a change in decision-making responsibility is outweighed by the advantage to the child.

In this case, the court found that the mother’s free exercise rights are not implicated by a court’s allocation of decision-making responsibility between parents because when allocating decision-making responsibility between parents, the court is merely expanding one parent’s fundamental right at the expense of the other parent’s similar right.

The trial court erred by imposing a heightened burden on father to show substantial harm — a burden only relevant to show a compelling state interest under a strict scrutiny analysis — when considering his request to modify the parenting plan.

Once the court found the failure to vaccinate endangers the children’s physical health, and that the risks of vaccination are “extremely low” as compared to its benefits of “preventing severe illness, permanent severe damage, and death,” it should have proceeded to the second prong of the inquiry, namely, whether the harm likely to be caused by changing decision-making responsibility outweighed the benefit to the child.

The opinion is here.

 

Child Support and Losing Your Guns

Few people know that failing to pay child support can mean losing your guns. One father went before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to argue that his lifetime ban on owning a firearm was unconstitutional because his conviction for failure to pay child support didn’t justify such a ban.

Child support and guns

Brewing a Constitutional Challenge

In 2003, a child’s Father, Leevan Roundtree, failed to pay his child support for 120 days almost 13-years ago. As a result, he was convicted of multiple felony counts for failure to support a child. He wasn’t sent to prison, he made full restitution by paying what he owed and never reoffended. He’s never been convicted of a violent crime and there was no evidence he posed a danger to society.

One day, Milwaukee police executing a search warrant at Roundtree’s home found a revolver and ammunition under his mattress. A record check of the recovered gun revealed that it had been stolen in Texas.

Roundtree claimed that “he purchased the firearm from a kid on the street about a year ago, but that he did not know it was stolen.” The State charged Roundtree with a single count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He pleaded guilty and was subsequently sentenced to 18 months of initial confinement and 18 months of extended supervision.

As a consequence of his felony convictions, Roundtree was, and continues to be, permanently prohibited from possessing a firearm. Roundtree moved for relief, arguing that the felon-in-possession statute, which prohibits felons from owning a firearm, was unconstitutional as applied to him.

Florida Child Support

I’ve written about child support issues in Florida before. Calculating child support in Florida used to be entirely at the judge’s discretion, based on a parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s needs.

Florida established child support guidelines which follows the income shares model. The guidelines provide the amount you pay can be adjusted upward or downward after considering relevant factors.

Additionally, the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of 10 enumerated factors, and one equitable factor. Finally, the statue mandates use of a gross-up calculation of support for substantial time-sharing.

In Florida, parents are allowed a gross-up calculation because when exercising substantial time-sharing, they incur their own child care expenses, and may duplicate payment for items already included in their child support.

High income parents have special problems in determining child support. Courts are reluctant to award child support that is deemed “excessive,” but the courts are bound by child support guidelines which set a presumptive amount of support.

Like Wisconsin, Florida makes it unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been convicted of a felony in the courts of this state

Badgering the Wisconsin Supreme Court

In determining the constitutionality of the felony possession statute, the Wisconsin Supreme Court applied an intermediate scrutiny test, reasoning:

“felon dispossession statutes are ‘presumptively lawful,’ and upholds the flat ban on gun possession by all felons on the grounds that someone with a felony conviction on his record is more likely than a non-felon to engage in illegal and violent gun use.”

So, even if Roundtree didn’t exhibit signs of violence, the Wisconsin Supreme Court felt it was reasonable to keep guns out of the hands of people who have shown a willingness to commit a felony. Also, other courts have observed that nonviolent offenders have a higher recidivism rate and a large percentage of the crimes nonviolent recidivists later commit are violent.

But there were also dissenting opinions. One justice reasoned that the ban on firearm possession by non-dangerous felons were categorically invalid as applied to persons entitled to Second Amendment protection.

Another justice complained that the “correlation-centric reasoning” — that there is a correlation between past non-violent crime of any sort and future violent crime — does not meet the mark.

One dissenter asked:

What about the correlation between people who previously declared bankruptcy? Are they more likely to commit violent crime in the future? How about people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 25? How about those who were born out of wedlock, or who fall below the poverty line?

The Reason article is here.

The Covid-19 Vaccine and Child Custody

The Covid-19 vaccine is here, but big child custody questions are presenting themselves when parents disagree about vaccinating their children. As countries around the world start administering the vaccinations against COVID-19 on a massive scale, many parents are wondering what happens if one of the parents objects to vaccinating their child.

covid vaccine child custody

Point of Contention

In a recent English case, the parents objected to their child receiving various vaccinations which are routinely administered to babies. The father was driven by the fundamental belief that neither the court nor the State has any jurisdiction to take decisions in relation to his children.

The judge found:

It is self-evident that for a healthy, young infant, the risks contingent upon not vaccinating him significantly outweigh the benefits. The conditions identified include potential for catastrophic consequences which, as illustrated, involve paralysis, seizure, learning disabilities, visual loss and cancer.

The Court then ruled that the vaccinations should not be characterized as “medical treatment” but as “a facet of public preventative healthcare intending to protect both individual children and society more generally.”

Florida COVID-19 Vaccinations and Child Custody

I wrote an article 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.

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida.

Parting Shots

In re B, was another case in Britain which involved another English vaccination case, only this time it was a private matter between parents, as opposed to the state requiring a vaccination.

The case concerned a 5-year-old girl, B, whose parents were separated and unable to agree as to her immunization. Before the parents separated, B had received all the recommended vaccinations. Under the recommendations of Public Health England, she was now due (or overdue) 3 further vaccinations.

The father, though lacking relevant medical expertise, had carried out extensive research and exhibited over 300 pages of material in support of his position. The judge extrapolated the father’s 7 key points and Dr Elliman addressed the medical issues. The court dismissed the father’s proposition that where parents disagree on a child being vaccinated, then the status quo should be preserved as wrong in law.

Dr Elliman acknowledged that no vaccination is 100% risk free, but that vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious disease.

The judge noted the paramountcy principle and the principle that delay in determining the matter may be prejudicial to B’s welfare. In respect to the no order principle, the judge recorded that the court should decide the matter as the parents’ views were polarized. With regard to Article 8 of the European Convention, His Honor Judge Bellamy stated that any order made by the court must be proportionate and in B’s best welfare interests.

Having considered the case law, the judge then determined that Dr Elliman’s opinions were ‘mainstream’ whilst the father’s views were biased and unreliable. In conclusion, the judge granted the specific issue order and made a declaration that it was in B’s best welfare interests to receive the vaccinations.

The article on the British cases by Sarah Williams is here.

 

Enforcing Your Multi-Million Dollar Property Division Award

Enforcing your property division award is world news when it arises in the divorce of Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov and Tatiana Akhmedova taking place in a London courtroom. In a twist, Ms. Akhmedova is now suing her son for nearly $100 million in cash and assets to collect.

Property Division

From Russia with Love

Suing her son is a part of Ms. Akhmedova’s ongoing efforts to claim a portion of a $615 million divorce judgment, believed to be the largest in Britain’s history after a trial in 2016.

Her ex-husband has refused to hand over a single ruble and has kept his money, and himself, far away from Britain and the reach of its courts.

A new approach, enforce the award against her son, Temur, the older of the couple’s two sons, who is a U.K. resident who has plenty to seize.

His father gave his son a three-bedroom apartment next to Hyde Park worth about $40 million, when he was still in college, he is also the “registered keeper” of a $460,000 Rolls-Royce S.U.V., and is being sued under a theory that he is helping hide millions into trusts and tax havens around the world to frustrate his mother’s equitable distribution.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about this 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.

In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Akhmedov divorce, the court has the authority.

However, the court must base an unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

It has been a long-standing rule in Florida that an unequal distribution of marital assets may be justified to compensate for one spouse’s “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after filing of the petition….”

Moscow on Thames

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, London has been the place where rich and safety-minded Russians have parked their families, and at least some of their money.

The sons and daughters of these billionaires are now grown up, and Temur is part of a generation known for driving flashy cars and running up big tabs at posh restaurants in Knightsbridge and Mayfair.

In addition to mansions, a private jet, helicopters and masterpieces by artists like Rothko and Warhol, he bought a $500 million yacht, the Luna, from his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich.

“It is 380 feet of floating luxury, with nine decks, space for 18 guests, a crew of 50 and — just in case — a missile detection system and bombproof doors.”

Allegations of infidelity made by both husband and wife led to divorce, but Mr. Akhmedov refused to even send a lawyer to the 2016 proceedings, arguing that the couple was already divorced. A court in Moscow dissolved the marriage in 2000, he said.

Temur is described in court as his father’s “lieutenant,” but he says he was more of a secretary than a second in command. When he lived and traveled with his father, he typed dictated messages, which he sent to Mr. Akhmedov’s team of advisers, bankers and lawyers. These were often instructions, adamant and profane, on how to evade Ms. Akhmedova and her financial backers.

One of Temur’s texts included a message about a plan to transfer about $100 million worth of art in Mr. Akhmedov’s collection from a storage facility in Liechtenstein to the Luna. The point of moving the works, Temur testified, was to make them readily viewable by his father.

“I don’t want to sound boasting or anything,” Temur replied, “but on a $500 million boat, $100 million paintings isn’t really something crazy. It’s nice to look at the paintings.”

Ms. Akhmedova testified first, and her tone reflected more sorrow than enmity. She’d helped her son decorate that deluxe apartment given to him by his father. But at some point she started to believe that Temur was part of an effort to thwart her pursuit of her divorce settlement.

Temur’s own time on the stand was far more tumultuous, once he actually showed up. On opening day, Dec. 2, he was in Moscow and said in open court, via video call, that he’d been advised that his mother’s lawyers might try to win a restraining order that could strip him of his passport.

Temur denounced his mother as opportunistic and greedy. She filed for divorce, he said, right after her now ex-husband sold Northgas. He said that she’d declined an out-of-court settlement of $100 million offered by his father, a sum the younger Mr. Akhmedov considered exceptionally generous given his mother’s history of infidelity.

The New York Times article is here.

 

National Divorce Day

National Divorce Day arrives at every new year, and after the stress of 2020, this year is not likely to be different. But is there a way to avoid the surge in new year divorce filings?

National Divorce Day

New Year, New You

National Divorce Day is the first working Monday of the New Year when legal firms see a surge in consultation requests from people seeking a divorce and separation.

Lawyers typically see the number of inquiries double around this time and then in late January it tails off. Over the last two or three years people even inquire a little bit earlier between Christmas and New Year.

Legal statistics have shown that marital dissolution filings can jump as much as 27-30 percent during the first month of the year. In 2019, searches for divorce peaked between January 6-12 according to Google. This year, that Monday is January 4.

It’s thought the surge is due to a breakdown in relationships nearing the festive period, with couples halting divorce proceedings until after Christmas and New Year so as not to spoil the fun.

Relationships can also break down in January because of New Year’s resolutions or stress over the holiday period. Clients can wait until after the holiday season to start divorce proceedings, and these folks have been contemplating divorce for months, if not years.

Many of them have actually held out until the holidays were over to leave so as to spare their children from connecting Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years divorce.

Florida Divorce

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

Prioritize

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

Consult

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

Alternatives

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

2021 National Divorce Day

The events of 2020 have led many to believe that there are more reasons than ever to really take stock before making one of the most consequential decisions of your life. COVID-19 has been a game-changer in many ways for all of us, not the least of which has been in relationships.

If there was already stress and strain in the marriage, the pandemic has been like gas on the fire, magnifying all the nooks and crannies of pain and resentment between partners. If things were fine before COVID-19 hit, they might not be so great nine or 10 months in. Many of us are stressed and edgy.

The fallout from 2020 will leave a large wake of destruction and loss. It’s never a good idea to make any decision—let alone perhaps the most major decision of your life—when you’re on rocky terrain. So, there are some important and obvious reasons why this January might be the worst year ever to take the divorce leap.

Some helpful advice from Newsweek:

Consider whether you need a temporary or permanent break

Just about everyone in a long-term relationship has thought on occasion about what life would be like if they were free, single, and didn’t have to answer to anyone. It seems we humans often want what we don’t have. But, having worked with enough divorcing folks, I’ve heard plenty say, “If I had known how hard divorce would be (or how lonely I would be), I would’ve stayed in my marriage.”

 Evaluate the kind of hit your finances could take

Between 2007 and 2009, 18 percent of my private practice population was homeless as a result of getting a divorce at the exactly the wrong financial time. These homeless people included what we’d normally call “successful” people: an attorney, an accountant and a social worker.

Hard times compounded by the divorce, they ended up with nowhere to live and not enough money to rent a place. With 2020 having decimated businesses and many economies around the world, it’s important to think long and hard about how you’ll get basic needs met if the bottom falls out.

The Newsweek article is here.

 

90-Day Fiancé and International Child Custody

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

International Child Custody

Seoul to Soul

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

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

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

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

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

Florida and International Child Abduction

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

When a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another signatory country, the Hague Convention provides that the other country: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where:

  • it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and
  • at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

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

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

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

90-Day Divorce?

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

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

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

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

The In Touch article is here.

 

Exploding International Divorce Rates

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

International Divorce Rates

Not So Merry England

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

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

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

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

Florida Divorce Rates

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

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

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

The Crown . . . of Statistics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Independent article is here.

 

Divorce and Cheating in Cabo

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

Cheating Divorce

Dirty Dancing

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

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

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

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

Both denied the rumors.

Florida Divorce and Cheating

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

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

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

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

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

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

They danced the famous Merengue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People article is here.

 

Divorce and Theft

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

Divorce and Theft

Law Hub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Divorce and Theft

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

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

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

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

Michigan Mishugas

As the federal judge remarked:

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

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

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

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

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

The U.S. District Court opinion is here.