Swinging into Divorce

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

Swinging into Divorce3

“Swinging Saved Our Marriage”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Grounds for Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

Do all good things come to an end?

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

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

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

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

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

The Vulture article is here.

 

Prenuptial Agreements Take Center Field

Prenuptial agreements take center field, former Cardinal center fielder, Jim Edmonds, is finding out. That’s because his estranged wife, Meghan King, is trying to strike out their prenuptial agreement after the divorce was filed. Can prenuptial agreements be challenged?

Prenuptial Agreement Center Field

Play Ball!

Baseball is back in the news this summer, and retired slugger Jim Edmonds, is not having a great season. The four-time All-Star, who played 17 seasons most of which with the St. Louis Cardinals and California/Anaheim Angels, was hospitalized for pneumonia earlier in the year, and now admits he tested positive for the coronavirus.

But striking out a prenuptial agreement is the play of the day. Prenuptial agreements set out what property stays yours, what property does not, and ensure that your assets stay in your family line for the benefit of your children from another relationship and other reasons. Prenups can even be used to limit your exposure to paying alimony.

But can Meghan get out of her prenuptial agreement? Jimmy Baseball’s divorce is at a standstill until a judge decides if his prenuptial agreement is valid.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for celebrity sports figures, and they are about much more than just resolving uncertainty in a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets to the union can benefit from one. They are also important to have in place before a couple starts investing in businesses, properties and other investments. But prenups are frequently challenged in court.

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

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

Batter Up!

According to reports, Meghan herself has publicly explained the agreement was done at her urging because she didn’t want Jim’s family to think she was trying to take his money.

The mom-of-three openly discussed the matter throughout her time starring on the Bravo reality TV series and explained why she was so adamant about moving forward with a prenup.

“Way before we ever got engaged, I suggested him getting a prenup to protect his feelings about our marriage, about where my heart is coming from. And honestly, a big part of the reason, totally aside from the whole marriage thing, why I wanted it is to protect the children because I never wanted the children’s mothers or the children to think that me as their step mom or as this new person in their life was going to take things from them.

Jim, 49, has four kids of his own from previous relationships. He and Meghan welcomed three kids, daughter Aspen and twin boys Hart and Hayes, during their marriage. They split custody 50-50.

Additionally, reports say Jim is paying Meghan “more than three times” the amount of child support that’s been suggested by the court and continues to foot the bill for many of her living expenses. He is letting her live in one of his homes in St. Louis and is paying the mortgage and all the bills for that house. He gives her money for her full-time nanny and housekeeper.

He pays for practically every single expense related to the children. And, if that wasn’t enough, he pays half the rent on her Los Angeles beach house. Jim has been beyond generous to Meghan and provides full financial support for his children,” the rep asserts.

Meghan has told E! News:

“I’m looking forward to putting this behind me amicably and I don’t wish to discuss the private details of my divorce at this time.”

In an Instagram comment shared by Meghan and captured by tabloids last month, she shot down one follower’s claim that she’s received “serious child support” from her estranged husband.

“Girl I have a career thank you very much!” she wrote back. “That child support is not buying me gold and baubles. It barely pays for groceries for my tribe!”

The E!-online article is here.

 

You Can’t Post That: Free Speech and Child Custody

Free Speech and child custody becomes an issue every time someone posts photos of children on social media. Glowing grandparents should be especially careful. That’s because in the European Union, balancing freedom of speech and privacy has become much trickier after a Dutch court ordered a grandma to take down photos of her grandchildren.

Free Speech and Custody

European Union Speech Laws

In the Netherlands, a woman was asked by her daughter to take down pictures of her children from Facebook and Pinterest several times, but she did not respond. The daughter took this little family dispute to court, and asked a judge to stop her.

A judge in the province of Gelderland, in the eastern part of the country, decided that the grandmother was prohibited from posting photos on social media of her three grandchildren without the permission of her daughter, the children’s mother.

The District Court judge said grandma violated Europe’s sweeping internet privacy law, called the General Data Protection Regulation, or G.D.P.R. In the Netherlands, the G.D.P.R. dictates that posting pictures of minors under the age of 16 requires permission from their legal guardians.

The women, whose names were not provided in the court documents, fell out about a year ago and hadn’t been in regular contact, according to filings in the court case. After the children’s mother asked for the pictures to be deleted without the desired effect, she took the case to court.

Publishing the children’s pictures on social media would, according to the mother, seriously violate their privacy.

The Gelderland judge agreed that the grandmother did not have permission to post the pictures under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation.

Those rules do not normally apply to the storage of personal data within personal circles such as family. However, in this case, the grandmother had made the photos public without the consent of the mother — who has legal authority over which data of her underage children may be stored and shared.’

Florida Free Speech and Child Custody

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. Currently, grandparents have little to no rights to visitation in Florida.

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. She 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.

Not unlike the new EU law, 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.

As the Windmill Turns

The Dutch court also held that by posting of photographs on social media, the grandmother made them available to a wider audience, the court’s ruling, published earlier this month, explained.

“On Facebook, it cannot be ruled out that placed photos could be distributed and that they may come into the hands of third parties”.

The judge ordered the grandmother must remove the pictures of her grandchildren from Facebook and Pinterest within ten days, the judge ruled. If she does not, she must pay a penalty of €50 ($55) per day that the photos are online, with a maximum penalty of €1,000 ($1,100).

The daughter had asked to impose a penalty of €250 ($275) per day if the photos remained. According to the mother’s statement, publishing the children’s pictures on social media can seriously violate their privacy.

GDPR is the European Union’s data privacy law, which came into effect in 2018. It gives people more control over their personal data and forces companies to make sure the way they collect, process and store data is safe.

The EU’s intention was to achieve a fundamental change in the way companies use data — with its central idea being that people are entitled “privacy by default.” Although EU countries seem to have taken their data protection obligations under the GDPR seriously, their efforts to balance data privacy and freedom of expression have been more uneven.

Many are concerned that the GDPR’s safeguards to protect the right to data privacy may compromise freedom of expression. As the practice of enforcing the GDPR by family members continues to unfolds, many are watching if the EU can balance privacy and freedom of expression.

The CNN article is here.

 

Alimony Modification is No Laughing Matter

The coronavirus outbreak has meant alimony modification, as the pandemic has impacted everyone’s ability to work. For comedian Ron White, the coronavirus outbreak has meant he cannot tell his off color jokes in venues across the country. For everyone who lost their income, or saw it reduced dramatically, alimony modification is no laughing matter.

alimony modifcation white

“I got happily married to a rich woman. If you ever have a choice, go ahead.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused governments and private owners to stop holding mass gatherings of crowds. Ron White, the 63-year-old Texas born comedian, is asking a judge to end his spousal support obligations to ex-wife Margo Rey, who he divorced in 2017 because he has no venue to perform his stand-up in.

White has been paying $25,000 a month to singer Margo since November 2019, but says his income has been drastically reduced due to gigs being cancelled amid the global health crisis.

In court documents obtained White explained she continued her decades-long pursuit of being a professional singer at which she is not self-supporting. I have spent 200+ days per year traveling the country every year to do stand-up shows, and I made more than $200,000 per month doing it.

Now I cannot work. I have a tenth-grade education. I am 63. Margo still insists I pay her $25,000 per month. I have employees depending on me for wages and benefits. I do not even have $25,000 per month of income.’

The stand-up comedian provided a breakdown of his income and expenses which reveals his net income is just over $300,000 with expenses totaling more than $433,000. He claims his income since the pandemic is now zero.

The comic is asking the judge to terminate his spousal support obligations.

Florida Alimony Modification

I have written about alimony modification before, and spoke at the Florida Bar Family Law Section/AAML Certification Review Course in Orlando on the topic of Modifications. There are a few reasons why alimony and child support can be modified.

Dramatic changes have been brought on by the coronavirus. The pandemic has impacted people’s health and their ability to go back to work. Normally, things like substantial drops and rises in pay, big gifts or lottery winnings, loss of jobs, furloughing, and early retirement are the major forces behind alimony and child support modification.

In Florida, to modify alimony and child support, you have to show three fundamental things: a substantial change in circumstances, the change was not contemplated at the time of the final judgment of dissolution, and that the change is sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.

Florida courts have discretion to modify alimony and child support retroactively to the date of the original filing of the action to modify, or supplemental action for modification depending on the cause.

It is important to keep in mind that you have to take the initiative, a court will not increase or reduce or terminate your alimony and child support payments if you have not filed the appropriate pleadings.

“You ever smoke so much pot your wife starts to make sense? Me neither.”

The former couple married in 2013 and split four years later. Margo claimed her comedian husband left her penniless after she overcame cancer.

In court documents at the time the then 53-year-old said White ended their relationship and canceled her credit cards with no warning. He also allegedly changed the locks to the home they were renovating.

The songstress said she discovered White had cut her off when she was attempting to pay for medical bills connected to her cancer treatment.

She requested spousal support claiming that Ron’s team cancelled 30 of her gigs – booked alongside Ron’s – with no warning, leaving her without income.

During their divorce battle Ron claimed he wasn’t officially married to Margo because she refused to sign a prenup. But the wedding went ahead anyway with Ron shelling out $100,000 for the big day.

He tried to get the divorce thrown out and called their October 2013 Texas wedding a ‘mock marriage ceremony’ which Margo knew wasn’t real.

Last year a Los Angeles. Superior Court judge sided with Margo and declared the couple was in a common-law marriage under Texas law and had also lived together in California as husband and wife.

The Daily Mail article is here.

 

Property Division and the Family Castle

For many American families, their home is their castle. When divorce is on the horizon, your castle may fall under attack. Florida’s property division statute requires an equitable distribution of all marital property, but it is not a how-to guide. Money magazine has an article looking at some of your options.

Property Division Castle2

The Coronavirus Crash

Before the silent enemy Covid-19 hit us, the median value of a home in the U.S. was $247,084, and the average amount of mortgage debt a person topped $202,000.

With many experts predicting the coronavirus siege will lead to a surge in divorce, deciding how to deal with your marital home – and its accompanying debt – can be a dangerous financial burden in every case. Below are some strategies to defend your castle.

Selling the Castle

For many couples simply putting a shared home up for sale may seem like the simplest solution, but remember, that step won’t automatically erase all mortgage headaches or end the need to co-operate with your former spouse.

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

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

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

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

Keeping the Home

Divorce upends life, and it makes sense that a majority of the time at least one spouse isn’t ready to leave the marital home and add the stress of moving to their to-do list.

The idea of remaining in a familiar, comfortable home can seem even more compelling when there are children who might have to change schools or leave behind friends.

But many financial advisors and divorce attorneys caution against keeping your old home after a divorce, calling it one of the biggest mistakes you can make during the process.

If you want to remain living in the home you once shared with your ex-spouse, you need to carefully review your budget and weigh whether you can individually afford it.

Refinancing the Mortgage

If you have $50,000 in equity in your current home and you’ve agreed to a 50-50 split of its value, you’ll need to come up with $25,000 to buy out your former spouse. In return, your ex-spouse should remove their name from the property title, typically using a quitclaim deed.

If you don’t have the cash, you might need to give up other assets in the divorce negotiations equal to the home’s equity, such as your investment account, 401(k) or IRA.

However, qualifying as a single person can be challenging as lenders will examine your individual earnings, credit history, and savings to see if they believe you’re capable of repaying the loan.

Staying Co-owners of the Manor

If you are unable to refinance or payoff the mortgage, you may be able to keep the status quo. This is not recommended, as it requires a high degree of trust in your former spouse.

Since both your names will remain on the home and on the mortgage, you’ll both be liable for making payments. Should your ex-spouse stop contributing their share, you could face more debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy or poor credit.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about houses and property divisions before. In Florida, every divorce proceeding the court has to set apart nonmarital property, and distribute the marital property.

Florida judges always begin with the premise that the property distribution should be equal, unless there is a reason for an unequal distribution based on several factors.

One of the factors the court has to consider is the desirability of keeping the home for the kids or a spouse, if it’s equitable to do so, if it’s in the best interest of the child, and financially feasible.

However, whether keeping the home for yourself or the kids is financially feasible requires you to have an honest look at what you can and can’t afford. Some strategies to keep the home include:

Raiding Savings

While not the best solution, pulling from savings can help you keep hold of the home. By obtaining a court ordered qualified domestic relations order or QDRO, you can gain access to a portion of your ex-spouse’s employee retirement plan assets.

Such funds may not be subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty for people under age 59.5, meaning you’ll save more on taxes by using this money to secure your home than you would by tapping other accounts you may have.

Alternatively, if you have Roth IRA savings, you could pull an amount equal to what you’ve contributed tax and penalty free, again making it a smarter way to meet your mortgage payment needs.

Raising Rents

If you’re really determined to keep the home, but cannot pull from savings or refinance, it might be worth brainstorming ways you can earn income from it to help cover the mortgage and upkeep costs.

Renting out the whole home while you’re on vacation – or even just a bedroom or two when in town – could make you hundreds a night. Airbnb hosts, for instance, can make over $900 a month according to research.

If you can’t refinance the mortgage in your own name, keeping the home isn’t a wise decision. It is better to restructure your life in a way that makes sense in the long run, rather than pillage your other financial accounts.

The Money article is here.

 

Family Law Mediation During the Coronavirus

With most of the country in quarantine, many people are discovering that family law courts are open, but mostly for zoom hearings. Now, family law mediation has gone virtual too. Mediations join such other legal proceedings as depositions, motions, hearings, arbitrations as part of the zoom world.

meeting

Mediation During the Quarantine

Mediation is generally a requirement in divorce and family law cases if you want to ever proceed forward with trial. It is customary for parties, their lawyers and experts to meet in-person at the mediator’s office, or one of the law firms involved.

Meeting together is an advantage in that it gets parties and their counsel together with one objective in mind — settle the case. There is an unspoken “dance” that occurs in that parties engage in substantive discussions for a period of time.

Many times, a mediation does not settle until after dinner is ordered. When the mediator is in the other room spending time with one side, the other side is left to talk about the case (or often whatever else is on their minds). There is a lot of downtime.

With social distancing amid the coronavirus, family law cases and divorces have to do their mediations virtually. They have become successful, and perhaps it will have some lasting impacts afterwards.

Florida Family Law Mediations

I’ve written about mediation before. Under Florida law, the parties to a divorce and most other family law cases must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial. In many cases, mediation can be used earlier in the process to resolve all outstanding disputes before either party has filed for divorce.

In divorce mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional, in a confidential setting. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator.

Tips for A Virtual Mediation

Before starting the mediation is the best opportunity to perform a test run of the zoom app, webex, gotomeeting, google meet, or other apps you have, to test for connectivity issues for your virtual mediation. The mediator should identify the protocol and policies regarding virtual mediation.

Given the complexities of family law cases, it is common to have separate confidential caucus meetings between the mediator and the parties. In some cases, we have meetings with the mediator and the two lawyers and experts in advance of the mediation.

One of the good things about virtual mediations is the lack of having to travel to mediation, park your car, and find restaurants. Because of that, there can be a substantial cost savings associated with virtual mediations.

It is easy to present exhibits and documents in a mediation on zoom. Each attendee has the ability to share their screen to show documents and walk through any presentation.

Usually, the mediator puts each party into a virtual break-out room where the parties wait for the mediator to come to them to talk about their case. There is usually a lot of downtime for the other side at that point.

If you settle your case, the mediator will want everyone to sign an agreement or some type of term sheet of the conditions of settlement. In very complex cases, the mediator may have asked your counsel to make drafts.

How do you sign electronically? In virtual mediations, electronic signatures may be applied to the document through docusign, adobe e-sign or a similar product.

Despite the coronavirus, courts and law offices are open virtually, and cases are being settled at mediation every day.

The National Law Review article is here.

 

Child Custody and Speech Restrictions

Divorce can be stressful. Parents going through a high conflict child custody case often say and post things they come to regret. Children are the victims. In order to protect children, courts sometimes order speech restrictions in child custody cases, limiting what a parent can say, and removing posts from social media. That’s when the first amendment comes into play.

Custody Speech Restrictions

Boston Legal

Ronnie Shak and Masha M. Shak were married for about 15 months and had one child together. The mother filed for divorce when the child was one year old and then filed an emergency motion to remove the father from the marital home, citing his aggressive physical behavior, temper, threats, and substance abuse.

A Family Court judge ordered the father to leave the marital home, granted the mother sole custody of the child, and after the mother requested it, prohibited the father from posting disparaging remarks about her and the case on social media:

Neither party shall disparage the other — nor permit any third party to do so — especially when within hearing range of the child. Neither party shall post any comments, solicitations, references or other information regarding this litigation on social media.

The mother then moved for civil contempt alleging that the father violated the first orders by publishing numerous social media posts and commentary disparaging her and detailing the specifics of the divorce on social media. The Father argued this was an unfair prior restraint on his speech.

A second family judge, then modified the order stating:

Until the parties have no common children under the age of [fourteen] years old, neither party shall post on any social media or other Internet medium any disparagement of the other party when such disparagement consists of comments about the party’s morality, parenting of or ability to parent any minor children. Such disparagement specifically includes but is not limited to the following expressions: ‘cunt’, ‘bitch’, ‘whore’, ‘motherfucker’, and other pejoratives involving any gender. The Court acknowledges the impossibility of listing herein all of the opprobrious vitriol and their permutations within the human lexicon.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court granted direct appellate review.

Florida Child Custody and Speech Restrictions

I’ve written about divorce and speech issues before. How you speak to the other parent and the child, and what you post online, can have a big impact on your child custody case.

In fact, Florida Statutes expressly require a family court judge to consider how each parent protects their child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.

Family courts have a lot of power to protect children in custody cases. Florida courts have to balance a parent’s right of free expression against the state’s interest in assuring the well-being of minor children.

In other words, the court performs a balancing act using the best interests of children, which can be a compelling state interest justifying a restraint of a parent’s right of free speech, as the measure.

Back in the Back Bay

The High Court held the second judge’s additional language still violated the First Amendment. The State has a compelling interest in protecting children from being exposed to disparagement between their parents.

However, as important as it is to protect a child from the emotional and psychological harm that might follow from one parent’s use of vulgar or disparaging words about the other, merely reciting that interest is not enough to satisfy the heavy burden of justifying a prior restraint.

Here, there was never a showing made linking communications by either parent to any grave, imminent harm to the child. As a toddler, the child was too young to be able to either read or to access social media. The concern about potential harm that could occur if the child were to discover the speech in the future is speculative and cannot justify a prior restraint.

The court did list remedies to deal with disparaging speech. For example, a couple can enter non-disparagement agreements voluntarily, a parent may have the option of seeking a harassment prevention order, or sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress or defamation.

Judges, who must determine the best interests of the child, can also make clear to the parties that their behavior, including any disparaging language, will be factored into any subsequent custody determinations.

The Reason article is here.

 

When World Leaders Divorce

Courts are open remotely, lawyers are practicing law, and if you are wondering whether you are able to get a divorce, know that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, was able to obtain his divorce during the quarantine. It’s not just world leaders like the Prime Minister who are now free to plan their future wedding. Now, anyone can start their future after the lockdown restrictions are eased.

World Leader Divorce

London Has Fallen

Boris Johnson, of course, is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The world leader is the head of government of the United Kingdom, and directs both the executive and the legislature, and together with their Cabinet is accountable to the queen, to Parliament, to their party, and ultimately to the electorate, for the government’s policies and actions.

Marina Wheeler, 55, shares four of the Prime Minister’s six children and applied for a decree absolute in February. It is understood that the divorce was granted before Ms Symonds gave birth to Mr Johnson’s sixth child Wilfred last week. Ms Wheeler, a leading barrister, started divorce proceedings last year after she and Mr Johnson separated in 2018.

Florida Divorce

I have written about when divorce impacts a world leader, CEO of a large company, and everyone else. Divorce can be stressful, and can have an impact on people going through it. With the coronavirus spreading throughout the world, and courts on lockdown, it is good to know that legal remedies are continuing despite the pandemic, and that people are still able to get a divorce.

Divorces in the United States are state government remedies. With the family court system prohibiting entry to lawyers and clients except for emergency cases, many think that they cannot get a divorce. The opposite is true.

With the widespread use of zoom, courts are regularly holding divorce and family law proceedings electronically.

British prime ministers, like U.S. presidents, have little connection to divorce. Ronald Reagan was the only president of the United States who was even divorced. Until now. President Elect Donald Trump has been divorced twice.

There are some very interesting statistics about divorce:

– In America, the divorce rate for a first marriage is around 41%.

– In England and Wales the divorce rate is about 42%.

– The divorce rate for a second marriage is 60%.

– The divorce rate for a third marriage is 73%.

– The average length of divorce proceedings in the United States is 1 year.

– Western states have the highest marriage and divorce rates, followed by the South. The Northeast has the lowest marriage and divorce rates.

– Nevada has the highest rate of divorce at 14.7%.

– Florida’s rate of divorce is around 13%

– If a spouse has gained more than 20% of his or her body weight, divorce is more likely.

Back in England

The Prime Minister also has a fifth child, an 11-year-old daughter Stephanie, with art consultant Helen McIntyre. He was previously married to socialite Allegra Mostyn-Owen from 1987 to 1993. Sonia Purnell, Mr Johnson’s former colleague at the Telegraph and author of his biography Just Boris, said his ex-wife played a pivotal role in his political career.

‘Marina was a very important and supportive figure in Boris’s career. She persuaded him to take the McPherson Report into institutional racism in the police seriously. She persuaded him, as Mayor of London, to be more liberal on issues like immigration. He does owe her an awful lot. She has been a real stabilising influence in his life.

Since Ms Wheeler and Mr Johnson separated two years ago, she has surgery for cervical cancer last year and her mother Dip Singh died in February at the age of 87. She said her cancer diagnosis made her appreciate the ‘value of holding close those who you love and trust.’

A source close to the family told the Mirror: ‘Marina has been through so much over the last two years. Fortunately her family have been very close and supportive, particularly her sister Shirin.

‘Marina was an equal in that marriage. There was a point where Boris seemed to have a sense of real regret that he had endangered his marriage with his affairs. ‘Although there is no doubt she was hugely hurt by all his betrayals she would have no interest in standing in his way. She will want to move on with the next part of her life.’

Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds announced they were engaged on February 29, while also announcing they were having a baby in early summer. The couple’s first child, a son, was born on April 29.

The PM and his partner revealed their new son’s full name as Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson last week, with the first name a tribute to Mr Johnson’s paternal grandfather, Osman Wilfred Kemal, and Lawrie a reference to Ms Symonds’ grandfather.

The Daily Mail article is here.

 

Divorce Waiting Periods

With quarantines loosening up around the state, there has been a constant stream of reports of couples filing for divorce. What if, after weeks in quarantine, you discovered you had to wait two years to divorce? Citizens of Pennsylvania are in for a surprise when their quarantine ends, as the governor has changed their waiting period.

PA Divorce 2

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a new state law that reduced the divorce waiting period time after a no-fault divorce from two years to one.

Law 102, which will enter into force by 60 days, reduces the waiting period for a one-way divorce without errors from two years to one.

Marriage in Pennsylvania is a traditional divorce and two types of divorce without errors: mutual consent and a two-year separation. Separation simply means that you and your spouse live separately and individually, either under one roof or otherwise.

It is important to note that a one-year divorce waiting period does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be completed in one year. Proponents of the new law believe that it will reduce emotional pressure on families, which seems to worsen the two-year waiting period.

This new rule can save your spouse time, money, and emotional trauma. There is also a delay for people whose spouses disagree with the divorce.

Florida Divorce Waiting Period

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.

I’ve written about divorce and your rights before. Helping to expedite your divorce, the no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce. 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 also has a divorce waiting period of sorts, although it’s not as long as Pennsylvania’s.

In Florida, no final judgment of dissolution of marriage may be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition for dissolution of marriage.

However, the court, on a showing that injustice would result from this delay, may enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date.

Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Back at The Office

From Pittsburgh to Scranton, residents across Pennsylvania will be heading back to the office. A shorter divorce waiting period makes life easier not only for those divorced couples, but also for their children. In a statement, however, Republican Tara Tohil from Lucerne County, who sponsored the bill, said the quickest solution was in everyone’s favor.

“A shorter waiting time helps solve the couple’s financial situation faster and at a lower cost so that they can take care of the well-being of their children,” she said.

Although Law 102 shortens the waiting period after separation from two years to one year, the actual date of separation is still an important factor that can determine many aspects of the divorce process.

The fact is that happy couples will not file for divorce using a simple procedure. After you file for a divorce in Pennsylvania without your fault, you and your spouse will have to wait 90 days from the date you filed the complaint about the divorce before you file 5a and 5b, declaring your consent to the divorce. Therefore, if both parties agree to a divorce and each of them submits an application to the court, the divorce process can be completed much earlier if neither side agrees.

Although an erroneous divorce is always possible, most Pennsylvania couples are perfectly divorced, which means that one spouse is not required to prove that the other has committed an offense. Both spouses must be available and ready to sign legal documents confirming that they agree to a divorce. Thus, the waiting time is only 90 days.

Lehigh Valley’s Morning Call article is here.

 

Divorce Stimulus Checks and More Good Coronavirus News

If you have not already received it (and spent it shopping), your Economic Impact Payment may be on its way. But if you’re separated or going through a divorce, your economic stimulus check may not be as stimulating as you had hoped. As always, there’s also some good coronavirus news.

Divorce Stimulus Checks

A Stimulating Divorce Issue

Since the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), the $2 trillion stimulus package to spur the economic recovery, millions of Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments and are busy shopping.

You may be eligible to receive a payment if you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or qualifying resident alien, cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, have a Social Security number and an adjusted gross income below a certain amount.

Qualifying single adults who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will receive $1,200. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less will receive a total payment of $2,400. Taxpayers filing as head of household will receive full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.

But will the stimulus funds be impacted because you are in a divorce or family law case?

Florida Divorce and Tax

I’ve written about divorce and taxes before. For example, after the new tax code changes became law, it eliminated the alimony deduction. Many people criticized the tax law change in general. For example, the decision to end the alimony deduction received a lot of criticism. Many argued it made divorce worse.

Since the change, we’ve seen that some people are not willing to pay as much in alimony. This reduction in alimony amounts being paid has disproportionately hurt women, who have tended to earn less, and are more likely to be on the receiving end of alimony payments.

Who CARES?

For everyone who has not received it, the stimulus payment checks are something being counted on every day. Fortunately, most people should expect to receive their one-time, $1,200 stimulus payment from the IRS in the next few weeks. However, some people may receive less than they expected.

For example, if you have not filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS will calculate your payment based on the adjusted gross income listed on your 2018 tax return.

Also, if you have a pending divorce case, the payment will be deposited into the bank account that was provided to the IRS on your previous tax return. So, if your last tax return was a joint return prepared with your spouse, you may have to consult an attorney to discuss your options for recovering your payment.

Don’t forget you may also receive an additional $500 stimulus payment for each qualifying child. For anyone who filed jointly with their spouse, and whose custody arrangement has changed since they last filed a tax return, the portion of the check allocated for qualified children may be impacted.

Finally, the rules for child support enforcement are still in effect. Federal law requires child support agencies to collect past due child support from federal tax refunds.

In passing the federal CARES Act, Congress did not exempt the stimulus payment checks from federal offsets for unpaid child support arrears. All or a partial amount of your stimulus check may be intercepted and used to pay unpaid child support.

Good Coronavirus News

As we enter summer, there is good coronavirus news. More and more cities have decided on timetables for reopening certain parks and recreational facilities as part of a phase of returning to normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • In Miami, parks, boat ramps, golf courses and other facilities will open with certain restrictions.
  • Face coverings must always be worn unless otherwise noted.
  • Social distancing must be observed, and there can’t be gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Sadly, swimming pools are not being opened for adult lap swimming. This critical policy misstep – to open swimming pools to adult lap swimming – is a major oversight mayors around the state seem to be making, and will need to be corrected in the future.

The IRS economic impact payments information page is here.