Category: Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution of Boudoir Photos in Divorce

How a family court decides the equitable distribution of boudoir photos, complete with intimate inscriptions and nude photographs, is never easy. A Utah family court recently ordered a woman to hand over her most intimate photographs to her ex-husband and a third-party photographer he chose.

Equitable distribution Boudoir

‘Utah: Life Elevated’

A former wife was married for 25 years and together for 27. As expected, the process of splitting their assets would be complex in a long marriage. The issue became so complex, negotiations failed and a one-day bench trial had to be held.

After the trial, the family judge ordered the former wife to surrender her most intimate photographs of herself to a third-party photographer for editing, and then ordered that the edited photos be given to her ex-husband for his viewing pleasure.

“You don’t know where to turn because you don’t know the law and you have not only your ex-husband who you were married to for years (thinking) that forcing you to distribute basically porn is OK … you have his attorney that also thinks that’s OK. And then you bring it in front of a judge, and he thinks it’s OK.”

The family court’s finding of facts dated July 7th — the day the divorce was finalized — found that the nude photos were given as gifts to the former husband earlier in their marriage, and therefore he “has the right to retain them and the memories they provide.”

The court also found the former wife has a right for her intimate photos to not be in her ex-husband’s possession. So how did the family judge decide the steamy issue? The judge ordered her to turn the images over to the original photographer for editing.

That person is then to do whatever it takes to modify the pages of the pictures so that any photographs of the former wife in lingerie or that sort of thing or even without clothing are obscured and taken out, but the (photo inscriptions) are maintained for the memory’s sake.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

However, when distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

In Florida, nonmarital assets which are not divided include things such as assets acquired before the marriage; assets you acquired separately by non-interspousal gift, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement.

Conversely, marital assets which are subject to division, generally include things like assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage, the enhancement in value of some nonmarital assets – and for anyone giving their spouse a gift of sensual boudoir photographs – interspousal gifts during the marriage.

Wisdom of Solomon

Despite the ruling, the original photographer refused to edit the images over a concern about ethics and legal repercussions to her photography business. Being a boudoir photographer, her clients trust her with their images and privacy, and the photographer took that responsibility seriously.

The judge then made a second ruling, and ordered the former wife to give the images to a different photographer for editing. She was also ordered to retain the original photos for 90-days before destroying them, in case her ex-husband wasn’t satisfied with the edits.

The former wife said her ex-husband isn’t happy with the edited photos, though she feels that she has complied with the court’s order, and she feels that her ex-husband’s demand for the photos was an attempt to control and hurt her.

“If all he was truly interested in was the inscriptions, he got those. I’ve complied with the court’s order, even though I believe strongly that (the) order (is) violating on many levels and has affected my emotional and mental health. I can’t imagine doing this to someone else.”

The ex-husband said his former wife’s description of the situation is her perspective. This is not my perspective nor the perspective of an impartial judge. It appears that she has intentionally misrepresented and sensationalized several aspects of a fair proceeding to manipulate the opinions of others for attention and validation of victimhood.

One attorney was quoted as saying equitable distribution in a divorce always involves a balancing of interests but the judge here has just made a mistake in the balancing of interests and has tipped things much too far in one direction.

The Salt Lake Tribune article is here.

Divorce and Digital Accounts

Many couples are not only tied together in matrimony, but in their digital accounts too. If roughly half of marriages end in divorce, how do courts manage an equitable distribution of digital accounts such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple (and with House of the Dragon underway) HBO?

Digital Divorce

Stranger Things

The Washington Post reports that the average American has upwards of 150 digital accounts, according to password-management company Dashlane. That’s a decades-long record of an autonomous life lived online.

If a breakup is going to be an ugly one, a vindictive ex-spouse can cause a lot of digital damage. For instance, if you share cloud storage, or an Apple ID with your ex-spouse, there is a risk everything – from your photos and documents to your browsing and email history can be revealed.

Moving out of the marital home is already a hard and emotional decision. But, now you are faced with taking precautions when you are about to leave your digital home.

As soon as divorce becomes a reality, you need to decide if it’s time to change all the passwords to the accounts you plan on keeping after separation. This is especially true if you share devices like a computer or tablet. Many sources tell you to remember your passwords and create new ones for each account.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

However, when distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

In Florida, nonmarital assets include things such as assets acquired separately by either party by will or by devise, income from nonmarital assets, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement.

Importantly for a hi-tech divorce, non-marital assets would include assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party before the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities.

Netflix and Chill?

In some cases, a couple can divide, close, or even trade digital assets and decide which of the two households will keep an account. Sharing a Netflix account within your household, for example, may save money. But after divorce keep in mind that account sharing is only permitted for users within the same household. Netflix has announced it will crack down on illegal account sharing.

Putting aside the streaming services, like Netflix, which can easily be closed or limited, many couples may need to continue to share access to certain online accounts, even after a divorce or separation.

It is not hard to see why some accounts might need to stay active. For example, a couple’s joint checking account and credit card account may need to remain active so that certain bills during the divorce can be timely paid. Electronic access to statements and transactions; automatic bill payment services, medical insurance and cloud storage and document sites for photos and important documents and other files may be necessary too.

The law has not caught up with the digital divorce. There are no specific statutes for sharing accounts or establishing consequences should an ex-spouse or spouse change a password to lock out shared accounts.

Depending on the account, you may need to share a single login, set up separate logins to access the same account, or create a new, separate account in your own name. Anyone considering divorce has to secure their online identity, protect their passwords, protect their privacy, and most likely divide or close the shared streaming services.

The Washington Post article is here.

Equitable Distribution of Google Stock

Scott Hassan, known by some as the third Google founder, is finally headed to his divorce trial after nearly seven years battling over the equitable distribution of Google stock, real estate, and other technology stock – estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Equitable Distribution Google

“I’m Feeling Lucky”

As the divorces of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos show, technology billionaires are trying to divorce quietly, behind closed doors. For example, when Google co-founder, Sergey Brin divorced his ex-wife, he hired a private judge to hash out the details.

A quick Google search shows that Hassan and Huynh’s divorce is anything but quiet. Huynh accuses her husband of engaging in “divorce terrorism,” such as creating a negative website called AllisonHuynh.com.

The site contains documents posted of sexual allegations related to Huynh’s wrongful termination suit against her former employer. They claim that Huynh threatened to “kill [her former employer] and then herself” if he ever left her and “kept track of when [her former employer] was out with a new girlfriend,” according to the cross complaint filed by [her former employer] and his attorney in response to Huynh’s suit.

After being accused of creating it, Hassan admitted to launching the site, seeding it with links to articles written about his ex — and links to court documents from three embarrassing lawsuits that involve her.

When confronted, he purportedly admitted to The Post:

“I did, but I have taken it down. It came together in a moment of frustration, when I felt Allison and her attorney were telling one-sided stories to the press. I thought aggregating publicly available information without commenting or editorializing would help … It only ended up making our dispute more public and tense, which was never what I intended.”

According to sources, in 2018, their estate was valued at $1.8 billion and he wants to give her a minuscule fraction.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

However, when distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

In Florida, nonmarital assets include things such as assets acquired separately by either party by will or by devise, income from nonmarital assets, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement.

Importantly for this hi-tech divorce, non-marital assets would include assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party before the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities.

“I’m Feeling Wonderful”

Mr. Hassan was a research assistant at Stanford’s computer science department when he met Larry Page, then a Ph.D. candidate. When Larry and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, Hassan bought 160,000 shares for $800. In 2004, the shares were worth more than $200 million. The shares, now in Google’s parent company, Alphabet, would be valued at more than $13 billion today.

In 2001 they married in Las Vegas and there was no prenuptial agreement, and they barely discussed finances. Ms. Huynh says she supported the family financially in the early years but her husband denies that.

In 2006, during the marriage, the husband formed a limited liability company called Greenheart Investments. Greenheart was valued at more than $1 billion in 2015.

Huynh wants Greenheart to be considered community property because Hassan repeatedly muddied the line between his separate assets and their community property. But Hassan argues that the company should be considered his separate property because it was started with his pre-marital assets.

Hassan acknowledged during court proceedings that he had set up Greenheart as his own company to keep certain assets ‘completely separate’ from Allison.” She insists it is community property — which partners must, typically, divide equally under California law.

Hassan maintains “that the disputed assets are properly characterized as my separate property — this does not necessarily mean that the community, or Allison, will not be compensated,” Hassan said. “I already agreed to provide her with a significant amount of money every month.”

But Huynh purportedly told The New York Post:

“His miserly position is ludicrous. I pray that a Big Tech billionaire will not get away with his attempt to cheat his children and me while he walks away with everything.”

The New York Times article is here.

 

Equitable Distribution of Sports Memorabilia in Divorce

The Chicago Cubs’ Ben “Zorilla” Zobrist and his wife, singer Julianna Zobrist, are finally starting their divorce trial this week in Tennessee, and the equitable distribution of his sports memorabilia – jerseys, trophies, and rings – is taking center field.

Equitable Distribution Sports Memorabilia

Play Ball

On August 9th, proceedings will begin in the highly publicized divorce trial, and how the marital estate is to be distributed. For months, the duo’s fallout has captured national attention, with shocking details in the news.

Julianna wants an even split of all assets and primary custody of the children, with child support. But interestingly, she also wants an additional $4 million – essentially, the “amount of money he failed to preserve by abruptly and intentionally failing to satisfy his baseball contract.”

The return netted Ben $4.5m of his $12.5 million salary. In April, she was awarded $1.72m from the sale of the couple’s house in Chicago, as well as an additional $772,500 to “purchase a new home as her separate property.”

On the other hand, Ben alleges Julianna overspent from their marital estate— a court order limited her to spending $30,000 per month for living expenses due to exorbitant spending — he’s seeking 60% of the couple’s assets, and believes his sports memorabilia should not be part of the equitable distribution because it’s his separate property.

Worse, Ben argues Julianna’s motive in hiding her affair with their pastor/marriage counselor, was to trick him back into playing baseball so there would be more money for them to divide.

“One would be hard pressed to concoct a more deceitful, sinister, and otherwise inappropriate scheme than wife has devised in this divorce matter“

According to the Tribune, Ben estimates their marital estate is worth $24 million, while Julianna estimates it’s worth nearly $31 million

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

However, when distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

In Florida, nonmarital assets include things such as assets acquired before the marriage; assets acquired separately by either party by will or by devise, income from nonmarital assets, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement. Importantly for this baseball player’s divorce, non-marital assets would include sports memorabilia acquired separately by non-interspousal gift.

Foul Ball

The duo filed for divorce after Ben found out Julianna was cheating on him with their pastor Byron Yawn, who was also Ben’s business partner . . . and apparently their marriage counselor!

Ben filed a lawsuit claiming Yawn, who at the time was senior pastor and elder at Community Bible Church in Nashville, provided counseling to the couple before and during their marriage. He is seeking $6 million in damages from Yawn.

Julianna hired a sports memorabilia expert to assess the monetary value of many of the items Ben accumulated during his 14-year Major League Baseball career. The memorabilia includes uniforms, which were given to him by different teams, bats, balls and gloves, some of which were used in games, his World Series and All-Star Game rings, World Series trophies, and a 2016 World Series MVP Camaro gifted to him by General Motors.

The replica World Series trophies are valued at $2,000 each. The Camaro is valued at $30,000. Other items include gifts from teammates and friends such as a Roger Clemens-autographed baseball and a Ted Williams-signed bat.

The issue comes down to whether those items legally should be considered Ben’s “separate property” or part of the marital estate.

Zobrist does not consider sports memorabilia “marital assets” for a few reasons. First, he claims none of his contracts with major-league teams discussed baseball hats, gloves, jerseys, trophies or rings as being part of his compensation and because he has no intention of selling them or doing anything but keeping them as mementos for himself and his family.

He also argues that sports memorabilia are gifted keepsakes from other players during his baseball career. This is a customary practice in baseball and gifts are specifically set out as separate property under Tennessee code.

The Chicago Tribune article is here.

Equitable Distribution of Personal Injury Awards

Comedian Tracy Morgan is not amused a court may have to consider the equitable distribution of his multi-million-dollar personal injury award after his terrible accident. Less than a month before his fifth wedding anniversary, he and his Wife announced they filed for divorce.

personal injury

The Rock

“Sadly, after nearly five years of marriage, Megan and I are filing for divorce,” Morgan confirmed in a statement to E! News on Wednesday, July 29.”This is a challenging time for all involved, so I ask that you please respect our privacy.”

It’s also been three years since a Walmart truck slammed into the back of Morgan’s limo van on the New Jersey turnpike. His friend, comedian James McNair, was killed and two others were seriously injured.

Morgan suffered a broken leg, broken ribs and what his lawyer describes as a “traumatic brain injury.” One year after the crash, he talked about the long road to recovery.

The truck driver in the accident, Kevin Roper, later pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. Walmart took full responsibility for the crash and awarded Morgan and one of the other passengers a settlement that has been reported to be as high as $90 million.

Will Tracy’s wife be entitled to any of the personal injury settlement between Walmart and Tracy?

Florida Divorce Personal Injury Awards

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

What about a $90m personal injury award? The supreme court of Florida has held that in determining whether a worker’s compensation award is marital property, the trial court should use an analytical, rather than a mechanistic or unitary, approach.

The court should consider the purpose of the award and focus on the award’s “elements of damages.” Only that portion of damages paid to the injured spouse as compensation for past lost wages and loss of earning capacity is to be considered marital property and subject to equitable distribution.

Damages for future loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity and future medical expenses are considered to be the non-marital, separate property of the injured spouse.

Keep in mind that the award may be considered in fashioning alimony and support awards.

The Hard Place

Wollover, 33, made the request in her divorce filing. She also wants the “30 Rock” star to pay her alimony as agreed upon in their prenuptial agreement, which they signed on Aug. 5, 2015.

Morgan, 51, filed his response one day after Wollover and requested joint legal and shared residential custody of their daughter, according to docs. He also wants the court to allocate parenting time “in the best interests” of Maven.

“Sadly, after nearly five years of marriage, Megan and I are filing for divorce,” Morgan said in a statement to Page Six following Wollover’s divorce filing. “This is a challenging time for all involved, so I ask that you please respect our privacy.”

The news of Morgan’s split comes just a few months after he made comments about their sex life while in quarantine during a TV interview in April.

On a more serious note, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey after recovering from the car crash, he called Wollover “a strong woman” for how she oversaw his treatment in the hospital.

“I’m glad I’m here,” he told Winfrey during their sit-down at the time. “I’m glad my wife is over there.

The E online article is here.

Unequal Distribution in an Unequal World

There may be an unequal distribution in an unequal world, after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s wife filed for divorce. She is asking for the couple’s two homes in their divorce. She might just be able to walk away with them if he doesn’t contest her request pretty soon.

Unequal Distribution

Uncommon Loons

Kellie Chauvin came to the U.S. as a child refugee from Laos. The couple met at the hospital she used to work at when Chauvin brought a suspect in for a health check. They later married on June 12, 2010, in Washington County.

She filed for divorce two days after her husband was charged with murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd, who died after then-officer Chauvin planted his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd lay in handcuffs.

The homes are only one part of a marital estate, and without understanding what the other person is being awarded outside of the homes, [the divorce petition] is not actually telling you whether this person is asking for more than 50 percent.

Derek Chauvin, had 30 days from the date he received notice of the divorce petition to file an answer and counter-petition if he wanted to challenge any of his wife’s proposals. That expired Friday.

If no answer and counter-petition are filed by the 30-day deadline, a petitioner can wait a period of time and ask a judge to proceed by default, which could grant what was requested.

Florida Unequal Distribution

I have written about property division, called “equitable distribution” in Florida, before. Florida, like Minnesota, is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing houses and other marital properties in divorce.

That means that in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Work divorce, the court must base the unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

Additionally, courts can consider the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.

However, courts generally can’t base an unequal distribution on one spouse’s disproportionate financial contributions to the marriage unless there is a showing of some “extraordinary services over and above the normal marital duties.”

Land of Lakes

Kellie Chauvin, a former Realtor who was unemployed when she filed the petition, requested a “fair and equitable division” of personal property, vehicles and all bank, retirement and investment accounts. She neither sought nor offered alimony payments.

She asked for sole ownership of their primary home in Oakdale and a townhouse in Windermere, Fla., which were both bought after they married in 2010 and are listed in both of their names.

The Chauvins bought the Oakdale house in 2017 for $260,000. It is now valued at $273,800, according to Washington County property records. They bought the Florida townhouse in 2011 for $210,900; property records put the value last year as $226,282.

Outstanding mortgages and equity, which were not addressed in the divorce petition, are key in determining whether acquiring both homes would be a financial boon, but it’s not unusual for such petitions to be vague, and for exact property appraisals and financial accounting to be determined at a later date.

Derek Chauvin’s pension from his 19-year career at the police department could also factor in the division of assets. The pension was not specifically addressed in the petition. Chauvin, who was fired days after Floyd’s death, has not begun collecting his pension so its gross value has not yet been determined. Once it has, it will be public information.

Defaulting in a divorce is rare, but people do regularly miss the deadline to respond for a number of common reasons, including financial problems, mental health issues and other life events. And right now, Derek Chauvin has bigger things to worry about, and is due in court Sept. 11 for a hearing in the criminal case.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune article is here.

Photo credit John Picken from Chicago, USA / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

 

The Ultrawealthy Divorce Differently and there’s more Good News on Coronavirus

Locked out of your $88 million Manhattan condo? The rich are different when it comes to equitable distribution. As the Wall Street Journal reports, how ultrawealthy couples divorce is becoming much harder as financial portfolios become more complex. There’s also good news on the coronavirus.

Ultrawealthy Divorce

Enter the Badlands

Many ultrawealthy people in a divorce are having trouble finding assets, like the front door keys to their $22 million Hawaii home. A big reason for the complexity is the widespread use of trusts. Trusts can play a big role in divorce depending on your circumstances.

Setting up a trust may allow you to safely transfer ownership of your non-marital property into a separate trust. If you divorce, a trust like this may make the entire property, and its appreciation, out of equitable distribution.

South Dakota is becoming a hotspot for trusts, holding almost a trillion dollars in trust assets because state laws have made South Dakota more favorable for trusts. Generally, trust assets are managed by a Trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries.

A trust can be drafted with a variety of different provisions in order to accomplish a variety of different goals. In every trust, the Trustee must account to the beneficiaries about its actions, and it must be fair and prudent in dealing with the trust and beneficiaries.

So, what happens if one spouse is named as the beneficiary of a trust, and that spouse benefits from the trust during the marriage? The answer to questions like this is not always straightforward in every state.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about Florida equitable distribution during divorce before. In Florida, the legislature has created a statutory scheme to guide family courts in the equitable distribution of assets upon dissolution of a marriage.

Under Florida’s equitable distribution statute, marital assets include assets acquired during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them. Nonmarital assets include assets acquired by either party prior to the marriage, and assets acquired in exchange for such assets.

The equitable distribution statute also creates a rebuttable presumption that assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are presumed to be marital assets: “All assets acquired … by either spouse subsequent to the date of the marriage and not specifically established as nonmarital assets … are presumed to be marital assets …. Such presumption is overcome by a showing that the assets … are nonmarital assets ….”

That’s where trusts come in. Although your home became a marital asset when you purchased the home and jointly titled it in you and your spouse’s names, the home can cease in character to be a marital asset upon its transfer into a trust.

At that point, the home can become part of the assets of the Trust, an entity distinct from either a Husband and Wife. Transferring a home into a Trust has the possibility to place the home beyond a family court’s reach for purposes of equitable distribution in a divorce.

In South Dakota We Trust?

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Texas financier Wilbur Bosarge and his wife of 22 years, Marie Bosarge, conducted business affairs through various trusts. For instance, they used a trust to buy a $45 million dollar flat in London’s “Billionaire Square.”

After Marie flew back and forth between Texas and London decorating and hand selecting furnishings for the new London flat, she never got to see it finished.

By the time it was complete, her husband left her for a 20-something Russian mistress who moved into the flat instead.

Owning the flat through a complex network of trusts and limited liability companies, the husband is using the ownership structure to eliminate her stake in the property. The wife may be stuck, because a family court may not be able to decide property rights of a nonparty to a divorce, like a trust or limited liability company.

Good News on Coronavirus

Let’s face it, the media has a tendency to give extra coverage to bad news, because readers find negative stories more eye-catching.

But, from lower toxic fumes to more time spent with family, there is always good news to report during the high point of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

  • First, there are tentative signs of infection curves flattening. Concentrate on statistics about the tendency of curve flattening – not the rising death rates – as an early harbinger of the turning point.
  • Second, a major model has lowered its prediction for the death toll in the United States. The model predicts that some states will start to see fewer deaths from COVID-19 each day and some states may have even passed their peak.
  • Third, pharmaceutical firm Abbott Labs said it was launching a test for the SARS-COV-2 virus that could take as little as five minutes and “be run on a portable machine the size of a toaster”. German technology company Bosch says it has done the same. Johnson & Johnson said it had identified a vaccine candidate and the US government was investing $1 billion in its development.
  • Fourth, other groups are investigating ways to start human trials for vaccine candidates early, and are using brave and willing volunteers, who haven’t been at all hard to find.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

A Strange New World of Equitable Distribution

Divorce typically involves dividing up the marital property. Every case can be different in what there is for equitable distribution. Houses and retirement accounts are pretty common, and collectible cards and dolls are rarer, but actor William Shatner’s divorce involved something truly strange: horse semen.

Equitable Distrib Horse Semen

To Seek Out New Life

Actor, William Shatner, famous for his role as captain of the Star Trek Enterprise, was recently awarded horse breeding equipment in his divorce settlement with ex-wife Elizabeth Shatner.

The actor’s divorce was settled in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday, according to court records. They separated from one another in February 2019.

But the most interesting part of the former “Star Trek” actor’s divorce is what he wanted as equitable distribution. Shatner, who is a horse breeder, will get “all horse semen” as a part of the settlement.

Wine, pets, antique rifles, baseball cards, sports memorabilia are some of the more unique “assets” many of my cases involved. Like any important asset, horses can be a challenging asset to divide.

Valuation of horses can requires knowing their training, winnings, and earnings. Horse ownership also requires knowing the horse’s board, routine maintenance, insurance costs, breeding rights, showing rights, and cash earnings from breed organizations.

Interestingly, the horse’s frozen semen is often extremely valuable and must be spelled out in any divorce order or agreement along with rights to any potential offspring.

That’s because a horse’s DNA and cloning are big topics in the horse industry. The issue of equitable distribution is also complicated by the fact that it is not just the rights to a horse but also the rights to the horse’s DNA, and the rights to any cloning of the horse.

Florida Equitable Distribution

Does a family court have to distribute horse semen? I have written about property division, called “equitable distribution” in Florida, before. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing business assets in divorce.

That means that in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

Boldly Going Where Few Men Have Gone Before

As additional equitable distribution, the Shatners divided their four horses between them. The captain will get “Renaissance Man’s Medici” and “Powder River Shirley”, while his ex-wife will get “Belle Reve’s So Photogenic” and “Pebbles”.

This is not the first horse semen rodeo for Shatner. He was sued in 2003 by ex-wife Marcy Lafferty Shatner, who claimed he violated the equitable distribution settlement in their 1995 divorce that allowed her one breeding privilege per calendar year with their American saddlebred stallions.

William and Elizabeth Shatner also divided their homes, including a home in Versailles, Kentucky that Elizabeth will get. In 2018, Shatner tweeted that he only visits his Kentucky home “once or twice a year.” But perhaps now it’s his old Kentucky home.

William and Elizabeth Shatner raised and trained American saddlebreds at their Versailles farm. He had homes in Kentucky, including Lexington, since the mid-1980s.

The couple will not receive any financial support from one another as a part of the settlement. They were married for 18 years.

The Lexington Herald Leader article is here.

 

A Slice of Equitable Distribution and Alimony

The wife of Papa John’s founder John Schnatter filed for divorce, claiming her marriage with the unemployed pizza executive is “irretrievably broken,” according to court papers filed in Kentucky. If there is no prenuptial agreement, how big a slice of equitable distribution of the stock and any alimony is Annette entitled to?

Slice of Equitable Distribution

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

Papa John’s is an American pizza restaurant franchise. It runs the fourth largest pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.

Papa John’s was founded in 1984 when “Papa” John Schnatter knocked out a broom closet in the back of his father’s tavern, Mick’s Lounge, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He then sold his 1971 Camaro Z28 to purchase US$1,600 worth of used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to the tavern’s customers out of the converted closet.

John’s pizzas became so popular he moved into the adjoining space. The company went public in 1993 and a year later it had 500 stores. By 1997 it had 1,500 stores. And in 2009, John got his Camaro Z28 back after offering a $250,000 reward.

Schnatter and Annette Cox, 59, had been married since April 11, 1987, and separated on April 1 of this year, the wife’s attorney Melanie Straw-Boone writer in papers filed in Oldham Circuit Court. Cox called Schnatter a 57-year-old Louisville resident who “is not employed,” according to the boilerplate, three-page petition.

“The marriage between petitioner and respondent is irretrievably broken”.

The couple have two children and share unspecified real estate holdings, the filing said. Schnatter stepped down as CEO in late 2017 after reports surfaced that he uttered a racial slur during a conference call.

Alimony, Equitable Distribution, and the Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of marriage is an important topping in divorce cases. I’ve written about the types of alimony awards available in Florida before. For instance, Florida Statutes dealing with alimony specifically limit the type of alimony awards based on the duration of the marriage.

So, for determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage less than 7-years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7-years but less than 17-years, and long-term marriage is 17-years or greater.

Florida defines the duration of marriage as the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.

The duration of marriage can also be a large slice of the property division. When a court distributes the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court begins with the premise of an equal split.

However, there are times and cases which justify an unequal distribution based on several relevant factors. One of the factors a court can consider is the duration of marriage, in addition to other factors.

Dividing assets between spouses – especially large companies such as Papa John’s – is not as simple as taking a pizza cutter to a hot pie; even with agreements. Very often assets have appreciated over the course of several years. The longer the marriage is, the more a business interest can appreciate. When property appreciates, you need to distinguish between passive and active appreciation. A passive asset could be an investment account which is never traded.

A business, on the other hand, is an active investment, and the percentage a spouse is entitled to may depend on different things. Even with the most sophisticated couples, such as the Schnatter/Cox family, unless you clairvoyant, issues will arise that no one considered in earlier agreements, and are prime for negotiation.

Pizza Ready?

Separate from the divorce case, Schnatter filed a lawsuit Thursday against an advertising firm which was at the center of the racial slur incident.

Schnatter allegedly uttered the slur during a call with advertising firm Laundry Service, which the pizza executive accused of recording him without his consent. The lawsuit claims that Laundry Service leaked excerpts of the conference call, which broke a nondisclosure agreement.

Two weeks ago, Schnatter accused his former company of making substandard pizza. He said his former company has failed in keeping up with its long-time slogan: “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.”

“I’ve had over 40 pizzas in the last 30 days, and it’s not the same pizza,” Schnatter told WDRB, a Fox affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not the same product. It just doesn’t taste as good.

The NBC News article is here.

 

Enforcing a Gusher of an Equitable Distribution Award

After his divorce, Todd Kozel, a former oil executive, was ordered by a family court to transfer 23 million shares from his oil company to his wife as equitable distribution. When he didn’t, a $38 million judgment was entered against him. Why was that enforcement order overturned?

Equitable Distribution Oil

Striking Oil

Todd and Ashley married in 1992, and she filed for divorce in 2010. Todd is the chief executive officer of Gulf Keystone Petroleum, Ltd., an oil and gas exploration company.

When the parties divorced, much of their shared wealth consisted of Gulf Keystone stock, which is publicly traded in London. The parties settled after he agreed to transfer Gulf Keystone stock to Ashley as equitable distribution.

Under their Settlement Agreement, the husband was obligated to transfer twenty-three million shares of Gulf Keystone stock to his wife as equitable distribution on or before January 27, 2012. Upon delivery, the former wife would then be free to sell her stock to anyone at any time.

But Todd didn’t deliver his twenty-three-million shares by January 27, 2012. Instead, he transferred the stock to her in four batches at later dates: (1) 2,034,447 shares on January 30, 2012; (2) 3,798,886 shares on February 3, 2012; (3) 5,666,667 shares on February 21, 2012; and (4) 11,600,000 shares on March 1, 2012.

Invoking the trial court’s continuing jurisdiction to enforce the agreement, Ashley filed papers with the family court. Although her filings were styled as petitions to enforce the agreement, they alleged what amounted to claims for money damages for alleged breaches of their agreement.

After granting partial summary judgment on liability and holding a trial on damages, the family court found Todd in breach and awarded her: $34,611,702 as damages for his failure to deliver the stock on time and another $3,850,500 as damages for the breach to provide tax information.

Florida Equitable Distribution

Why was Ashley awarded so much of Todd’s Gulf Keystone stock? I have written about equitable distribution before. Florida is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing business assets in divorce.

In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

When distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

When the Oil Runs Out

While Todd was in default for his failure to timely deliver the Gulf Keystone stock, he made all of the additional equitable distribution payments required. On November 28, 2012 — eight months after the final transfer of stock — Ashley argued that Todd’s breach of the agreement caused her to suffer substantial damages because it denied her an opportunity to sell the stock at a time when market conditions were favorable.

But Todd argued that a family court lacks jurisdiction to consider Ashley’s claim because what she was asking for amounted to a claim for general damages for breach of contract.

So, Ashley amended her petition, styling it as one to “enforce” the agreement. She alleged that the court had jurisdiction to enforce the agreement through an award of damages for losses that she allegedly incurred as a result of the failure to deliver the stock timely.

The family judge awarded her $34,611,702 and another for the tax basis dispute $3,850,500, to be placed in escrow (presumably pending the outcome of a refund request to the IRS).

The question in a case like this is whether and to what extent a family court’s continuing jurisdiction to enforce a final judgment extends to claims for money damages for breaches of a settlement agreement.

When a court orders compliance with the terms of a settlement agreement – when it requires a party to perform an obligation in the agreement — it is engaged in proper post-judgment enforcement over which it has continuing jurisdiction. But when a court awards damages as a substitute for a party’s performance, it is not engaging in legitimate post-judgment enforcement but a separate claim for breach.

The former wife sought and the family court awarded general, benefit-of-the-bargain damages for the breach of the agreement that was not specified in the agreement. In reversing the judgement, the appellate court ruled that “couching these remedies as “enforcement” of the [agreement] does not change what their substance is: general damages for breach.”

The opinion is here.