Katie Homes & Tom Cruise: Can Court’s Choose a Child’s Religion?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Support on Wednesday, July 18, 2012.

Child custody cases always raise interesting issues. One of the questions in the Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise divorce is what religion will the child be raised in after the divorce. Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, and Katie Holmes is reportedly a Catholic. TomKat are not alone, about 27% of Americans were in interfaith marriages according to the Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Happily for them – but not so much for the media – Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise have reached a settlement in their divorce. But, when divorcing parents can’t agree about religion, can it be a factor in a custody case?

Whenever a court decides custody, the sine qua non is the best interests of the child. But, deciding the religious upbringing of a child puts the court in a tough position. There is nothing in our custody statute allowing a court to consider religion as a factor in custody, and a court’s choosing one parent’s religious beliefs over another’s, probably violates the Constitution. So, unless there is actual harm being done to the child by the religious upbringing, it would seem that deciding the child’s faith is out of bounds for a judge.

Ironically, that may not be the rule all over Florida. Different appellate courts in Florida have slightly different takes on the issue, and the question of whether a trial court can consider a parent’s religious beliefs as a factor in determining custody has been allowed. For this reason, it is best to speak to an attorney experienced in child custody matters.

Separations and Divorce

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Equitable Distribution on Sunday, July 15, 2012.

Equitable distribution, the dividing up of marital property, should be done equally. But there are reasons for a court to treat assets differently. One reason is a lengthy separation. A new study shows that about 79% of married couples who separate, end up getting divorced.

“Separation is very common and is more common than immediate divorce,” said researcher Dmitry Tumin of Ohio State University at a presentation at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, which ended Sunday. “Most separations last one year or less, but a few drag on a decade or more before ending in divorce. Other separations stay unresolved.”

Lengthy separations can have a significant impact on equitable distribution, and for good reasons. In separations which last several years, your house or business may have appreciated in value significantly (or depreciated) or you may have accumulated stock and other assets. While the general rule is that marital property should be distributed equally, trial courts can consider various factors to distribute properties differently.

Dividing marital property seems simple enough, just divide by two! However, the more knowledgeable you become, the better prepared you will be to resolve your case fairly and amicably. For this, and other reasons, it is always recommended to consult with an experienced, board certified attorney in these matters.

The Tom Cruise Divorce: Why Did Katie File In New York?

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Saturday, July 14, 2012.

The state of filing can have a big impact on the outcome of your divorce. Many people don’t have a choice. But if one party moves to another state, there may be a choice as to where to file.

Is one state better than another? Child support awards in California are typically higher than Florida, and Texas is rumored to be tough on alimony. Last year Bloomberg ranked all 50 states on the ease of divorce. You can read the ranking in: The Best and Worst States for Getting Divorced.

Which brings me back to the Tom Cruise divorce. Katie could have filed in New York or California, assuming she satisfied either state’s residency requirements. So, why New York over California?

I don’t think the reason has to do with the grounds for divorce, or any economic advantage. After all, New York and California, like Florida, are no-fault states, and Tom and Katie are believed to have a prenuptial agreement anyway.

I suspect one of the reasons is privacy. Unlike California or Florida, divorce filings in New York are not open to the public, so only the parties and their attorneys have access to documents filed with the court.

In an effort to protect the privacy of parties to a divorce, and prevent identity theft, Florida recently adopted a confidentiality rule to better protect social security and bank account numbers for instance. But Florida court filings are not private. Privacy – and confidentiality of court filings – are easily overlooked issues when filing for divorce, and something you should be aware of in deciding in which state to file.

In Child Custody Cases, Stay-At-Home Dads Are Here to Stay

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

Parenting Plans, and specifically timesharing, is increasingly more complex as parenting roles reverse. Time magazine reports that the proportion of stay-at-home dads has doubled in the past decade, and not because fathers got laid off and had nothing better to do:

“The percentage of stay-at-home fellas has doubled in the past decade, though it’s still tiny: just 3.4% of stay-at-home parents are fathers. But man, are those guys happy. Perhaps the joy they take in doling out Cheerios and doing loads of baby laundry is merely additional evidence of the inordinate pleasure that men take in parenting, a phenomenon discussed on Thursday on Healthland.”

“It’s clear to us that men strongly identify with this as a role,” says Brad Harrington, executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family and lead author of the stay-at-home dads report. “They don’t have a feeling of ambivalence of, What am I doing, I’m a man. There is no sense of angst. These guys strongly identified with being a SAHD. They are proud of it.”

Marital Debt: The Divorce Minefield

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Marital Debt on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

A lot could be said about divorce, but “easy” is not one of them. First there is the emotional trauma of ending a marriage, but that’s only the start of it. You also have to work out timesharing with the children, the property division of the marital assets and marital debts, paying child support (and possibly supporting your soon-to-be ex) paying for the process, and of course, taxes.

This is a short post about the hidden minefield of divorce: the dreaded marital debt.

Marital debt is a danger you may not be aware of until you’ve stepped into it. But, when you hire a lawyer and accountant to help, you ensure that you not only take on the debt you are legally obligated to pay, but learn which debts are the most advantageous to take – if given a choice. You also learn how your debt service impacts the property division, and the support you pay or receive.

If, as they say, “knowledge is power”, then in addition to your lawyer you should take the time to speak to an account or financial advisor to prepare for your divorce. This knowledge will help you take charge (pun intended) of your debt issues. You will then be prepared to work out a settlement, or learn what to request in court, with confidence. At my office we work with several accountants and financial advisors to help guide you through this minefield.

More Women Are Paying Alimony

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Alimony on Thursday, July 12, 2012.

The tables are turning on alimony and child support. As more women climb higher up the career ladder, and outpace their husbands in salary and title, they are finding that they are the ones having to support their ex-spouses after the divorce.

Many women are finding that breaking through the glass ceiling comes with financial responsibilities. Just as many of my male clients grumble about paying alimony to their former wives, more and more of my female clients arrive at our consultations worried about having to support their soon-to-be former husbands.

Whether you are concerned about your ability to pay, or interested in knowing whether your needs justify receiving support, you should know that Florida’s alimony statute has recently (and dramatically) changed. Everyone is concerned about the recent changes to the law, and the looming threats to amend the statute in upcoming legislative sessions in the years to come.

Reuters reports:

“As women climb higher up the career ladder and outpace their exes in salary, when love goes wrong and marriages break up they are being compelled to contribute to the livelihood of their former spouses.

More than half, 56 percent, of divorce lawyers across the United States have seen an increase in mothers paying child support in the last three years and 47 percent have noted a hike in the number of women paying alimony, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.”