Category: Divorce

Divorce Politics and Privacy

Connecticut State Senator Alex Kasser’s resignation is a very public reminder about the intersection of divorce, politics and privacy. The hard won seat for Democrats is now up for grabs by state Republicans in Greenwich.

Divorce Privacy Politics

Heartless in Hartford

Last week Connecticut state senator Kasser announced she is resigning, saying her ability to do her job has been harmed by a bitter divorce battle being waged by her husband, Seth Bergstein, a top Morgan Stanley executive. In her resignation statement posted on Medium, the Democrat from Greenwich wrote:

“Seth uses his powerful position at Morgan Stanley to enable his conduct, so I must work even harder to fight for my freedom.”

The stunning move comes two years after Kasser went public with her romantic relationship with a woman who had previously run her first Senate campaign and then briefly worked in her legislative office.

Kasser told her husband more than a decade ago told she is a lesbian, according to an op-ed she wrote in The Stamford Advocate newspaper last fall. Kasser, 54, charged on Tuesday that Bergstein “has tried to destroy” that same-sex partner, Nichola Samponaro, “with lies about our relationship and harassing court motions that mention her 56 times for no relevant reason — she had nothing to do with ending my marriage. I will not stay silent as a homophobic, entitled man attacks my partner.”

Bergstein, 55, is a senior managing director and head of global services at Morgan Stanley.

Florida Divorce Privacy

I’ve written on divorce privacy issues before. Divorce privacy is an issue that comes up a lot. Divorces in court are public events, and the filed records of court proceedings are public records available for public examination.

Both the public and the media can challenge any closure order by a divorce court. The closure of court proceedings or records should only really occur when it’s necessary to comply with established public policy, to protect trade secrets; or to protect children in a divorce among other reasons.

Florida also has new rules protecting sensitive data from public view. This includes protecting Social Security, Bank Account, Debit, and Credit Card Numbers because if those numbers are included in a document, they may become part of the public record.

If information is absolutely required, there is a rule with procedures for sealing and unsealing of court records. Also, the Clerk of Court has the authority to redact or make confidential only specific information.

If sensitive information has already been filed in Court Records, you must complete and submit a “Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing” in order to remove or seal it.

Divorce Power Politics

It is difficult to know where the balance of power in a relationship is when a powerful state senator admits to CNBC she no longer has contact with her three children with Bergstein.

Kasser made a splash in 2018 when she became the first Democrat in nearly 90 years to win the 36th District Senate seat, which includes Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan. Her narrow victory helped Democrats end two years of splitting control of the state Senate with Republicans. Last November, she doubled her margin of victory to 2.6% to win reelection to another two-year term. Kasser said a special election would determine her successor.

“I can no longer live or work in Greenwich as it is loaded with memories of the 20 years I spent raising my children here. It is too painful to be in Greenwich now that I’ve been erased from their lives, just as their father promised would happen if I ever left him.”

The senator’s surprise announcement also comes as she prepares for her divorce trial, set to begin in September in Stamford Superior Court, where her lawyers have sought to depose three Morgan Stanley employees over what they have suggested were improper efforts by the investment bank to obtain personal financial information from her.

“It is with deep sadness that I announce my resignation as State Senator. Serving the residents of Connecticut’s 36th Senate district has been a profound honor and a great joy. However, due to personal circumstances, I cannot continue. For nearly three years, I’ve been trying to divorce Seth Bergstein. As all survivors of domestic abuse know, emancipating ourselves is an epic struggle that takes years, requires unflinching courage and all our resources — mental, physical, and financial.”

Bergstein did not immediately return a request for comment. But his matrimonial lawyer, Janet Battey, in an email response to CNBC said, “Ms. Kasser’s outrageous allegations and narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“Ms. Kasser sadly continues to wage a public battle in the press while simultaneously dragging out the court proceedings,” Battey said. “Throughout the marriage, Ms. Kasser described Seth as a devoted father and patient and loving husband. Seth and his three children sought to keep this matter private, but Ms. Kasser continues to make blatantly false public statements in furtherance of her own agenda.”

“Mr. Bergstein trusts the legal system and family court and that the upcoming trial will reveal Ms. Kasser’s narrative for what it is.”

The CNBC article is here.

 

Modern Family Problems Divorce and the Home

Divorce and what to do with the home is in the news now that Modern Family actress, Julie Bowen, has listed her home for sale. Although she finalized her divorce from ex-husband Scott Phillips a few years ago, her case raises the issue of housing again.

Home Divorce

Hollywood Hills Home

According to many reports, the couple reached an agreement to split their assets of $25.3 million directly down the middle. In the divorce agreement, Bowen, who first filed for divorce in February, will receive more than $13 million while the real estate investor will receive $12.3 million.

In their marital settlement agreement, Bowen got to keep the Hollywood Hills house, worth $3.1 million at the time. Bowen had purchased the property after the separation.

Phillips, on the other hand, got to keep the couple’s $5.4 million marital home. Details of custody, child support and spousal support were filed in a private settlement agreement.

House and Divorce

I’ve written about the marital house during a divorce before. Generally, the home remains a marital asset, which is subject to equitable distribution, regardless of who lives there during the divorce process.

If a home is marital then both parties have equal rights to buy – out the other’s share. Both may also be on the hook for liabilities.

Until a divorce parenting plan in place, if you are interested in maintaining a meaningful relationship in your child’s life, leaving the home before a timesharing agreement is entered may show a lack of real interest in the child’s daily life.

Moving out can create the appearance of a new ‘primary residential parent’ by default. Worse, if the process takes a long time, it creates a new status quo.

The person leaving during a divorce may still have to contribute for the expenses of the home while also paying for a new home. It can be costly, and prohibitive expensive when you know that the process will take a long time.

Staying in the same home could create an incentive to negotiate a final settlement because living with your soon to be ex-spouse is very uncomfortable. However, if someone moves out, the person remaining in the home is sitting pretty and may be less inclined to settle.

Before moving out, there should be some discussions about maintaining the home and who is paying for which expenses, an inventory should be made of the personal property, artwork, silverware etc., and the boundaries for when the ‘out-spouse’ can use and enjoy the home after vacation

A Modern Family Home

The designer Hollywood Hills pad she purchased in 2017 shortly after splitting from her ex-husband was reportedly worth $3.1 million during the divorce because that was what she paid for it. The mid-century modern time capsule home just off iconic Mulholland Drive is now on the market for $3.85 million.

Designed by architect Thornton Abell, the glass-walled structure is made up of four bedrooms and three baths and spans over 3,200 square feet. Built in 1959 for prominent heart surgeon Augustus Bakos, the home was later acquired by the son of Beach Boys co-founder and guitarist Carl Wilson, who renovated the home and expanded it.

Pegged as “exceedingly private,” the property sits on a long, gated driveway and boasts pastoral canyon and treetop views. Interior features include floor-to-ceiling walls of glass, which are complemented by Palos Verdes stonework, terrazzo floors, custom divider screens and teak cabinetry.

Other interior finishes include a granite and stainless steel kitchen, an expansive master suite with a fireplace, a large walk-in closet and a terrazzo master bath with a glass ceiling.

It also boasts separate guest quarters, a small detached gym in the backyard, a poolside living room and a lush garden atrium. Bowen, 51, had been married to Phillips, a real estate investor, for over 13 years before calling it quits. They share 14-year-old Oliver and 12-year-old twins John and Gustav.

The New York Post article is here.

 

Bill Gates’s Divorce and Cheating

Bill Gates’s divorce and cheating is news again as more reports about him are emerging. Former employees are claiming they put up with inappropriate workplace behavior, romantic relationships with subordinates, and the demands of a boss who was painted as a nerdy tech savior.

Divorce Cheating

Blue Screen of Death

There was a time before his charitable works when Bill Gates was seen as the embodiment of corporate evil – and not just because of the blue screen of death when Windows 95 crashed. Simply typing “Bill Gates” into Ask Jeeves or Netscape on your Macintosh or Gateway 2000 desktop computer returned results like “antichrist”.

People cheered during the Microsoft antitrust case after Bill Gates himself was cross examined by attorney David Boies. But since then, Gates has embarked on a 20-year public relations effort to frame himself as a good-guy geek deeply excited by new technologies and leading the effort to fix the ills of the world.

He’s given away billions to fight malaria, climate change, world hunger. He led the effort to warn of a potential global pandemic and then, when his vision became reality and COVID-19 obliterated the global economy and killed millions, there he was at the forefront of vaccine research efforts.

In the wake of his divorce, however, it has become increasingly clear that there is a duality to Bill Gates. The stories about him have been largely suppressed by nondisclosure agreements to keep more damning details under wraps, a former employee said. “For such a long time you were told, ‘You have an NDA. You can’t talk,’” said the former employee, who signed such an agreement.

The current wave of reporting around Gates’s behavior encouraged this person to open up, but they are keenly aware that Gates has lawyers at the ready. “And these are not nice lawyers,” they added.

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.

C:\>Defrag

Vanity Fair also reports that, like most tech company leaders, Gates was reported to be often impatient and demanding—behavior that was commonplace given the rapid speed of the industry. A former partner who worked directly with Gates at Microsoft explained that if a deadline was missed, the party responsible would answer directly to Gates.

The former employee who signed an NDA called him “unrelenting” and “condescending,” adding, “He would ask you a question, and when you answered, he’d look at you and go, ‘That is NOT the right answer.’”

For years there have been whispers about inappropriate extramarital relationships. None of it was entirely shocking, despite the seeming contrast with his public persona. Bill and Melinda’s relationship began as an office romance, with Bill as the boss and Melinda as the younger employee.

For the people who worked for him, Bill’s behavior was something of an open secret. The former employee who signed an NDA said there were times when Bill came into the office driving a Mercedes, and an hour later, one of his security personnel showed up with a golden brown Porsche that Bill drove away in.

 “We all assumed that it was when he was with women. I knew there were many offsite meetings that were not on his calendar.”

Yet another source close to Bill disputed that he would disappear from the office, saying he was “one of the most intensely scheduled people on the planet.”

It’s not clear how much Melinda knew about her husband’s behavior or these rumors, or how much they factored into her decision to file for divorce. People close to the couple said there had been tension for some time, that they had been living separate lives for years, and that the decision to separate had been delayed until their youngest daughter graduated from high school.

The Times reported that in 2018, Melinda was unhappy with how Bill dealt with a sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, insisting on bringing in outside investigators. And then in 2019, when the relationship between her husband and Jeffrey Epstein became public knowledge, she hired divorce lawyers, setting a plan into motion.

The Vanity Fair article is here.

 

Chris Rock and the Four Percent Rule

Chris Rock offers some interesting advice he learned from his famously bitter 2016 divorce. The comedian said there was one piece of wisdom his divorce lawyer shared that helped him get through the two-year legal battle with his ex-wife.

Rock Advice

The Four Percent Rule

Rock told Business Insider in a recent interview that his former divorce attorney, Robert Cohen, was a capable, intelligent, and realistic lawyer who helped the comedian see the bigger picture. The advice: That most of his divorce had already been resolved, and the most contentious parts composed a tiny fraction of what was at stake.

“Put it this way. People get divorced. People fight. Things take sometimes years. At the end of the day, you’re only talking 4%, one way or the other,” Rock said. “[Cohen] said that to me. I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And that put it in perspective.”

Divorce lawyer, Cohen, told Business Insider that his ‘4% rule’ holds up in most divorces he handles. He’s one of the most prominent divorce lawyers in the country, and has represented a number of other high-profile clients, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the actors Uma Thurman and James Gandolfini, both of Donald Trump’s ex-wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples, and most recently, Belinda Gates.

“At the end of the day, the differences are usually a small percentage. Both with respect to money, and with respect to custody issues,” Cohen said.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about the Chris Rock’s divorce saga before. Whatever the reason for your marital 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.

Grown Ups

Rock’s turbulent divorce was highly publicized, and he’s since opened up about his flaws as a husband — in particular, his numerous infidelities. But he said Cohen remained cool-headed throughout the process, particularly when it came to disputes over child custody.

“I had some issues,” Rock said. “It’s like, when you’re a guy, some people don’t even think you want to see your kids. [Cohen] was very understanding about all of that.”

Rock opened up and admitted his divorce lawyer got him through a very tough time in Rock’s life. Then again, Chris Rock joked that fellow comedian John Mulaney, on a recent episode of “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” should hire Rock’s ex-wife’s lawyer instead: “You should get this guy — he’ll get you your money”

The Business Insider article is here.

Chris Rock – Orpheum Theatre Minneapolis 3/17 by Andy Witchger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Divorce and Will Power

There is a new law in Florida dealing with divorce and the power of your will. The new law tries to correct the situation where you create a will giving your property to your fiancée, then marry, but divorce without changing your will. Many families discovered a will had no power to exclude an ex-spouse due to a loophole. The Florida legislature just addressed the situation.

Divorce and Will

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way?

One of the many consequences of divorce is that it is supposed to be the end of the marriage, and the benefits of being married. But that is not always the case. For example, one of the financial benefits of marriage is inheriting from your deceased spouse. However, an ex-spouse usually can’t inherit from their ex-spouse. Usually.

The problem is that many people who divorce forget to change the terms of their wills, trusts, or other financial instruments, and forget to omit their now Ex-Spouse from inheriting. As a result, the Ex-Spouse can become a beneficiary.

This common omission has led to unexpected windfalls for ex-spouses’ years after divorce, to the detriment of a current spouse, children, parents, and other family members who expected to be heirs of an estate.

A law protected these expected heirs from this oversight. The law protected new spouses and children by creating the legal fiction that, for purposes of inheritance, revocable trusts, and certain beneficiary designations, a past divorce is treated in the distribution as if the surviving former spouse had died on the date of divorce.

But this legal fiction does not apply where the divorce judgment specifically requires that the Ex-spouse remain as a beneficiary of the will, trust, or other financial instrument, or where the beneficiary designation is reaffirmed after divorce.

A Florida case exposed a loophole in this area. Ron Priever executed a will devising property to his then fiancée, Ms. Gordon. Some two years later, Mr. Priever and Ms. Gordon married. They divorced in July 2013. Mr. Priever died two years later. He left no children or spouse.

In April 2015, the guardian asked to treat Mr. Priever’s estate as an intestate estate as if there were no will. Allegedly, Mr. Priever told several of his family members that he destroyed or revoked his will because of a premarital agreement and subsequent divorce from Ms. Gordon.

The guardian asked the court for an order determining beneficiaries. He argued that, under Florida law, the will was to be construed under a legal fiction: as if Ms. Gordon had died before Mr. Priever.

But Ms. Gordon objected. First, she argued that she was very much alive. Second, that Florida law did not apply in her case because she was not married to Mr. Priever when he signed his will – she was only engaged. The trial court disagreed with her and she appealed.

Florida Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”. I’ve written about divorce many times before. There are a lot of issues concerning divorce when a death of a spouse or former spouse occurs.

In divorce, the issue of benefits if you survive your spouse or ex-spouse is a frequent question. For example, eligibility for social security benefits. If you are 62 or older, have a previous marriage that lasted at least 10 years and have not remarried, you may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings record.

If you are considering divorce, or just starting the process, you should review your estate plan to make sure it reflects your divorce plans. That is because it doesn’t matter how far along the divorce case is taking, or how long you are separated, you are legally married until the judge signs the final judgment in.

If you die or become disabled before the final decree of divorce, your estranged spouse may still have legal control over you and your estate and may be entitled to most, if not all, of your estate. This may not be what you intended.

Through proper estate planning documents, you can provide that someone other than your former spouse will have control over you and your estate, and you can limit your estranged spouse’s rights as a beneficiary of your estate.

Willpower

The appellate court found the plain and unambiguous language of Florida law revokes provisions of a will executed by a “married person” and therefore it did not apply in Mr. Priever’s case.

The legislature has finally closed this loophole for divorced people whose will leaves everything behind to their ex-spouses.

The bill amends the Probate Code to provide that a former spouse is considered, for estate purposes, to have died on the date of the divorce. Once the law becomes effective, the date a will was signed will not affect this legal fiction.

The new bill amends the Trust Code to clarify the same result applies to a revocable trust. These changes apply to estates and trusts of decedents who die on or after the effective date of the bill, regardless of when the trust or will was signed.

The effective date of the bill for purposes of the changes to these two sections is upon becoming law.

The Senate Bill is here.

 

Ctrl+Alt+Del: Reasons for the Bill Gates Divorce

Ctrl+Alt+Del is not only how you end a Windows session or unfreeze a stuck screen, it just may be how to end a marriage. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a possible new reason for the Bill Gates divorce, and the DOS command line is c:\Epstein.

Bill Gates Divorce

Start

We are learning the separation between Bill and Melinda Gates, announced on twitter last week, has actually been in the works for years. Ms. Gates consulted with divorce lawyers roughly two years before she filed for divorce from Mr. Gates, saying their marriage was “irretrievably broken,” according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The 56-year-old philanthropist has been working with lawyers at several firms since at least 2019 to unwind the marriage of more than 25 years, according to these people and the documents. Last Monday, the billionaire couple announced they were ending their marriage. In a joint statement posted on Twitter, they said:

“we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”

The couple hasn’t said what prompted the split. One source of concern for Ms. Gates was her husband’s dealings with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to the people and a former employee of their charity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ms. Gates’s concerns about the relationship dated as far back as 2013, the former employee said.

According to the documents reviewed by the Journal, Ms. Gates and her advisers held a number of calls in October 2019 when the New York Times reported that Mr. Gates had met with Mr. Epstein on numerous occasions. Mr. Gates once stayed late into the night at Mr. Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse, the Times reported.

When asked about his relationship with Mr. Epstein in a September 2019 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Gates said:

“I met him. I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him.”

Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, said in 2019 that the software mogul and Mr. Epstein had met multiple times to discuss philanthropy.

Bill Gates regrets ever meeting with Epstein and recognizes it was an error in judgment to do so Ms. Arnold said at the time. Mr. Epstein died in jail in August 2019 awaiting trial on federal charges related to sex trafficking.

Florida Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, if your spouse is either out logging too much computer time, or late night meetings at Jeffrey Epstein Manhattan apartment, you don’t need to allege those as grounds for divorce.

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

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

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

Shut Down or Restart?

The couple negotiated their divorce throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the documents show. They have three children who are all now 18 years or older, the divorce filing shows. The youngest is a senior in high school.

Ms. Gates, a global advocate for women and girls, had told her husband she was uncomfortable with Mr. Epstein after the couple met him together in 2013, the former employee of the Gates Foundation said. Mr. Gates and some employees of the Gates Foundation continued a relationship with Mr. Epstein despite her concerns, this person said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Gates, who is 65 years old, said Friday he stands by his 2019 statement to the Journal and declined to comment further. A spokeswoman for Ms. Gates didn’t respond to questions about her reasons for seeking a divorce.

In early 2020, Mr. and Ms. Gates surprised many people when they said they wouldn’t attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual gathering of business and world leaders that the power couple had attended for years. A few months later, on March 13, Mr. Gates said he was resigning from the boards of Microsoft Corp. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The Microsoft co-founder said he planned to focus more on his philanthropic efforts. By that time, the Gateses were already in discussions to divide their vast wealth, according to the people familiar with the matter and the documents. Legal teams from both sides were privately in discussions with a mediator to work out a separation, the documents show.

The May 3 divorce filing says the couple had agreed to a separation contract to divide their assets—a fortune estimated at $130 billion by Forbes. Their assets include a $131 million lakeside compound in Washington state called Xanadu 2.0, a rare Leonardo da Vinci notebook and investments in Microsoft and Four Seasons Hotels.

Last week, Mr. Gates’s investment firm transferred nearly $2.4 billion worth of public company shares to Ms. Gates, including stakes in car-dealership owner AutoNation Inc., a Mexican broadcaster and a Canadian railroad.

The Gateses have said they would give away most of their wealth and donated more than $36 billion to the Gates Foundation over the years. The couple said they planned to remain co-chairs at the foundation and jointly lead it after their divorce. “We continue to share a belief in that mission,” they said in their Twitter statement.

Ms. Gates signed her divorce petition in Washington, near the family home and the foundation’s headquarters, according to the filing. Mr. Gates signed the papers from California.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

Politics and Reasons to Divorce

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

divorce reasons

A Saga in Gaza

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

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

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

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

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

Florida No Fault Divorce

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

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

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

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

Searching for Reconciliation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ABC news article is here.

 

Divorce and Paternity

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

disestablishment paternity

Technical Foul

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

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

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

Florida Disestablishment of Paternity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Dribble

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

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

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

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

The article is here.

Good Causes of Divorce

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

Causes of Divorce

Stopping the Steal

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

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

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

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

Florida No Fault Divorce

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

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

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

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

No Collusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Business Insider article is here.

 

Love, Divorce, and Fraud

Love has flourished during the COVID pandemic. So has divorce and fraud, as more consumers than ever report being scammed, according to new Federal Trade Commission data showing a record $304 million lost to love scams last year.

Divorce Fraud

Fraud is in the Air

The COVID pandemic has resulted in people staying physically distant, providing ample time and reason for unsuspecting people to look for relationships online and providing a lot of new reasons why scammers can’t meet you in person.

Downloading pictures stolen from the internet, your potential, future romantic partner has been building a false persona that seems just real enough to be true, but always having a reason never to meet in person.

They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States because they’re working on an oil rig, or are in the military, or they are a doctor with an international organization.

Eventually, your love interest will ask for money. The impact can be big, with the median loss reported to the FTC being $2,500 — more than ten times higher than the median loss across all other frauds.

Why does your online romantic partners need the money? Some claim they need to pay for a plane ticket. Others to pay for surgery or other medical expenses, or to pay for a visa or other official travel documents.

Romance scams started on dating sites and apps, but many report that the scams originated through social media. Interestingly, some people are saying their biggest losses occurred when they believed the scammer had sent them money! What happened was these instances turned out to be elaborate money laundering schemes, such as for fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits.

Florida Divorce Fraud

Not unlike an online romance scam, I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud before. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as bank accounts, 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 things like the financial situation the parties, the length of the marriage, whether someone has interrupted their career or an educational opportunity, or how much one spouse contributed to the other’s career or education.

Another important factor is 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.

Dissipation of marital assets, such as taking money from a joint bank account, happens a lot. Less common are scams like trying to cash stolen checks. The misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning the dissipated asset to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

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.

“And I don’t know if I’m being foolish”

Social distancing has complicated in-person dating. People are spending more time online. There is a general increase in the use of dating apps. And the pandemic has heightened the perceived credibility of requests for money—for, say, medical bills or car repairs to get to a vaccine appointment.

Protecting yourself can also be easy. Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”

Preventing fishy transactions has become easier in recent years as financial institutions and money-transfer companies have beefed up data analytics tools. As fraudsters change tactics, companies can adjust systems to adapt to new patterns, enabling quicker detection of suspicious activity or dubious customers.

That in part is how Western Union Co. has managed to stay abreast of fraudsters’ evolving tactics. Improvements in the company’s monitoring technology have led to a decrease in the number of romance scams reported at the company.

One thing that can’t be fixed by an algorithm: human gullibility in the face of possible romance. Which is why Western Union and competitor MoneyGram International Inc. say customer outreach and education is also key.

In addition to improved technology, MoneyGram also has a process to talk with customers flagged as potential fraud victims, which has helped reduce romance scams using the company’s services. If a requested money transfer is flagged as suspicious, MoneyGram might inquire whether the sender has actually met the intended recipient before completing the transfer. The company might also tell the customer that he or she could be the victim of fraud.

The reality is fraudsters are very good at identifying the kinds of psychological aspects that they can connect with their victims. They exploit those and become very practiced at it.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

FTC consumer tips on spotting romance scams is here.