Tag: Adultery Divorce

Da Vinci Code meets the Family Code: Setting Aside a Settlement Agreement

The Da Vinci Code meets the Family Code as popular author Dan Brown’s ex-wife has filed a claim to set aside their settlement agreement – after their divorce ended – and sued him for money damages. The inferno in New Hampshire will deal with fraudulent financial affidavits and other claims to set aside a marital settlement agreement.

Setting Aside Agreements

Deception Point

In a lawsuit filed this week, Blythe Brown is suing Dan Brown for misrepresenting the couple’s wealth in a sworn financial affidavit he signed as part of their divorce agreement, and for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Author Dan Brown, is a New Hampshire native. He is best known for his thriller novels, including the Robert Langdon novels Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, Inferno, and Origin. His novels are treasure hunts that usually take place over a period of 24 hours. They feature recurring themes of cryptography, art, and conspiracy theories.

Dan Brown’s books have been translated into 57 languages and, as of 2012, have sold over 200 million copies. Three of them, Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and Inferno, have been made into films.

He is being sued by his ex-wife, who now claims he engaged in “unlawful and egregious conduct” that amounted to a “proverbial life of lies” during the last several years of their marriage.

In the lawsuit filed in New Hampshire, Blythe Brown alleges that the 56-year-old author, to whom she was married from 1997 until last December, “secretly siphoned” off vast sums of money “to conduct sordid, extra-marital affairs” with women, including a Dutch horse trainer on whom he lavished extravagant gifts.

According to the former wife the lawsuit is about standing up for myself and asserting my self-worth. I have continually tried to absorb the shocking truth withheld during our divorce that Dan had been leading a double life for years during our marriage, all while coming home to me.

Florida Marital Settlement Agreements

I have written on the topic of agreements before. In Florida, different types of agreements are treated differently. A prenuptial agreement, for example would be covered under the Premarital Agreement Act.

An agreement reached, not before a marriage like a prenup, but after divorce case has already been filed, is treated with a different standard.

That’s because after a couple become involved in full-fledged litigation over divorce property and alimony rights, they are necessarily dealing at arm’s length and without any kind of special fiduciary relationship of un-estranged marital parties or single people.

In cases like the Brown case, which involved a stipulated settlement agreement made in the course of what was likely fierce divorce litigation, a former spouse challenging a litigated settlement agreement is limited to showing fraud, misrepresentation or coercion. Any kind of inquiry into the “unreasonableness” or “unfairness” of the settlement agreement to either party is usually not permitted.

Angels and Demons

Blythe also claimed credit for inspiring much of his work and coming up with the premise for “The Da Vinci Code.” She also alleged that Brown hid scores of future projects worth “millions” from her, including a television series as well as a children’s book due out in September.

The most explosive allegations, however, are the extramarital affairs. Describing Brown’s behavior as “unlawful and egregious,” Brown said she only learned about it after the pair divorced in 2019 after 21 years of marriage.

She accuses the best-selling author of secretly diverting funds to pay for gifts to an unnamed horse trainer, including several Friesian horses and financing for his lover’s horse training business. She alleges the “illegal behavior” took place in New Hampshire, Europe and the Caribbean.

“Dan has lived a proverbial life of lies for at least the past six years, seeming to be the epitome of a world-famous novelist leading a simple life in his home state of New Hampshire, while in reality he was something quite different,” the lawsuit claims.

For years, she alleges, that Dan has secretly removed substantial funds from his and Blythe’s hard-earned marital assets to conduct sordid, extra-marital affairs with women — one half his age — and to pursue a clandestine life.

Dan Brown, in a statement, said he was “stunned” by the allegations and called the complaint “written without regard for the truth.” He said he never misled his ex-wife on their finances during their divorce and that she ended up with half their holdings after they divorced.

“For reasons known only to her and possibly her lawyer, Blythe Brown has created through this suit a fictional and vindictive account of aspects of our marriage designed to hurt and embarrass me.”

Blythe Brown, a horse enthusiast who is involved in horse and carriage driving competitions, insisted she was only filing the lawsuit to stand up for herself and assert her “self-worth.”

In her lawsuit, Blythe Brown portrayed herself as inspiring Brown to give up songwriting after the pair met in 1990 and recognizing his “unlimited potential as a writer of fiction.” She also alleges she helped craft key themes and ideas for many of his books, “served as lead researcher, first-line editor, and critic, and was Dan’s literary partner in the fullest sense.”

“Indeed, Blythe and Dan formed a partnership in the literary world that was to last for nearly thirty years, taking them places that they could never have imagined,” according to the lawsuit, in which she seeks unspecified damages.

During a 2006 trial against the publisher of the “The Da Vinci Code,” the court heard how Blythe Brown was an essential contributor to his million-selling historical thriller.

Two authors unsuccessfully sued, claiming that Brown “appropriated the architecture” of their book in a high-profile London court case.

According to witness statements and court testimony, Blythe Brown led the massive research effort, supplied countless notes and suggestions and offered an invaluable “female perspective” for a book immersed in “the sacred feminine.”

In a statement, Dan Brown told the Globe he’s “stunned” that his ex-wife is “making false claims” and says he was fair and truthful in their divorce settlement. On the day that Blythe and I married, I never remotely thought that we eventually would grow so far apart.

The Boston Globe article is here.

 

Can Divorce Privacy Fly?

Singer R. Kelly no longer needs to wonder can divorce privacy fly in his case. We now know his legal name is Robert S. Kelly, and a lot of embarrassing information he wanted kept private. Although the files were initially sealed by the court in his divorce case, they have been opened to the public by an appellate court.

divorce privacy2

Surviving R. Kelly’s Divorce

In 2006, R. Kelly filed a petition to dissolve his marriage with wife Andrea. In June 2013, the family court entered an agreed order directing that the entire court file be sealed because of a “serious likelihood of the media culling through the record for the purpose of revealing painful, potentially scandalous, details.”

In 2019, radio station WBEZ and the Chicago Tribune filed a joint motion to access the sealed court files after a more than $160,000 in unpaid child support landed the singer in jail, and just three weeks after Kelly was jailed while gathering the cash to post bond on criminal sexual abuse charges tied to allegations by four women.

Kelly and his former wife have been battling over finances for more than a decade, with the embattled R&B singer and his reality TV star ex each claiming poverty at times, the unsealed divorce filings show.

Among other revelations, Kelly was repeatedly accused of falling behind on child support and he sought to reduce them, claiming he had seen a “steady decline in his popularity” due in part to his “age, drastic decline in record sales, increased album purchase prices …. and the overall economic downturn.”

In response, Andrea Kelly tried to have his child support payments increased, saying he had “gone to great extents” to hide his income and assets. She also noted in the filing that her pay from the reality TV show “Hollywood Exes” wasn’t sufficient to pay the bills.

Kelly’s attorneys revealed that the singer faced a tax liability of more than $7 million and that the mortgage on his house in suburban Olympia Fields — often mentioned as the site of his alleged improper sexual encounters with teenage girls — had been foreclosed.

As long-standing allegations of predatory sexual behavior against Kelly gained public attention, his former wife accused him of withholding payments as punishment for her speaking out about his alleged abuse. In turn, Kelly has said her public allegations have made it difficult for him to earn money.

Florida Divorce Privacy

I’ve written on divorce privacy issues before. Divorce privacy is an issue that comes up a lot. Divorces in generally, and court records themselves, 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 filing the appropriate motion in court. The closure of court proceedings or records should only 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.

In addition, Florida 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.

“When a Woman’s Fed Up”

Andrea hinted at the long legal tussle in comments for the Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which featured multiple women accusing Kelly of wrongdoing and amplified the wave of public backlash against the singer.

“People think that I’m living this great, lavish life, but they don’t understand,” she said. “… People just think oh, you know, she wants to come forward now because the checks stopped. … The checks have been over for a very long time.”

Originally, the family court order allowed public access “to the entire court file, including the redacted documents and noting the sealed documents” beginning on August 13, 2019.

But then the court clerk placed material in the public file that the court had ordered to be sealed and the court thereafter restricted further access in the best interest of the children.

WBEZ appealed and the appellate court reversed finding the right of the public to review court records is supported by constitutional guarantees and case law.

“Litigation is a public exercise; it consumes public resources. It follows that in all but the most extraordinary cases complaints must be public. Consequently, judicial proceedings in the United States are open to the public.

Access to judicial records is not absolute, and every court has supervisory power over its own records and files, so it may deny access at times. The party opposed to public access must establish both that there is a compelling interest favoring a closed file and that the protective order is drafted in the least restrictive manner possible.

One scenario in which a court may deny public access is where the court finds that a public hearing may be detrimental “to the child’s best interests.” In a dissolution of marriage case, the court may order the sealing of records of “any interview, report, investigation, or testimony.

Here, the appellate court found redacted documents that didn’t contain confidential information relating to the parties’ children’s medical care, nor otherwise support the court’s concern for the best interests of the children.

The documents also did not refer to a child of either party, and they didn’t provide sufficient information to identify any specific other child. At best, redaction merely protected R. Kelly from embarrassment, which is an impermissible basis to withhold material from the public.

In light of the strong public policy in favor of public disclosure of judicial proceedings, we therefore hold that the circuit court abused its discretion in redacting paragraphs 26-29 in the body of count II of the March 2014 motion, and the corresponding prayer for relief in count II.

The Reason article is here.

*Photo credit Andrew Steinmetz

 

Swinging into Divorce

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

Swinging into Divorce3

“Swinging Saved Our Marriage”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Grounds for Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

Do all good things come to an end?

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

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

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

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

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

The Vulture article is here.

 

Divorce During the Pandemic and Good Coronavirus Information

Law offices are open, and court hearings are being held, even contested and uncontested divorce cases, but all remotely. So, if you need help with any divorce or family law issue, the coronavirus is not stopping you. Lastly, there’s some good coronavirus information on taxes and pools to be shared.

Zoom pool

Reasons to Divorce

Yahoo has a recent article about all kinds of things that can lead to a split, from the token celebrity-cited “irreconcilable differences” to a messy affair, or the loss of anything remotely close to the spark you felt in the good old days.

While the reasons for a divorce are unique to the relationship, here are the issues that a divorce lawyer and psychologist say pop up most often:

Communication

You typically hear reasons for divorce like money disagreements, commitment issues and the other things but these problems are also rooted in a breakdown of communication.

Falling Out of Love

According to one study nearly half of recently divorced couples cited a lack of love or intimacy as the reason for their separation. Instead of one big betrayal, sometimes just growing apart and losing your romantic feelings can end a marriage.

Lack of Intimacy

There’s nothing shameful about a dry spell, but a total lack of physical affection —sexy times and long bear hugs included — can cause serious disconnect. People start telling themselves like, ‘Okay, well the lack of intimacy, I can handle that.’ But ultimately it just becomes too much for them.

Florida No Fault Divorce

I’ve written about no-fault divorces before. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

This often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010. Whether or not it is intimacy or communication, you do not need to list a reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable break in the marriage.

Other Common Reasons to Divorce

Not Ready For Marriage

While you want to be in it for the long haul, maybe you rushed down the aisle or weren’t fully in tune with yourself when you said “I do”. That’s when a crop of clashes—think: differing values, emotional baggage from past flings, and a lack of real trust—pop up and put you on the road to divorce.

Addiction

Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or another damaging vice, substance abuse is often a factor in divorces. If a partner doesn’t want to get help or they become a threat to their partner’s safety, it’s often a straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Financial Problems

Disagreements about finances make matters dicey, especially when it gets in the way of working together as a team. Someone might think their partner spends too much, another might be worried about their partner’s debt, and, in some cases, couples can’t compromise about what to spend their money on. Over time, the strain gets to be too much. What’s mine was once yours, but not anymore.

Lost Sense of Self

What you want can change over the course of a marriage. Very often in relationships, a partner has been sacrificing what they want and need for the sake of keeping the marriage together. Whether that’s passing up a job opportunity or getting lost in the role of “Mom,” the marriage could take you down a path you don’t identify with all that much anymore. It’s one thing to compromise, but it’s another to lose sight of your individuality completely. If you do, you might resent your partner and want out.

Good Coronavirus Information

Tax Day

Today would traditionally be tax day, but this year, the IRS is allowing Americans to wait to file until July 15. You can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.

Swimming Pool Hearings

Broward County Judge Dennis Bailey offers some coronavirus advice to us lawyers: Don’t appear for Zoom hearings shirtless or still in bed under the covers. Also, putting on a beach cover-up won’t hide from the judge that you’re poolside in a bathing suit.

The Yahoo article is here.

 

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.

 

This is Your Reno Divorce

In the 1950’s you had to prove grounds for divorce, with no guarantee that a court would grant one. States that granted divorce recognized grounds that were nearly impossible to prove, such as physical evidence of abuse. No wonder so many people opted to go to Reno instead: the “divorce capital of the world.”

Reno Divorce

The biggest little city in the world

In Reno, Nevada, local laws allowed people to establish residency in a mere six weeks, and then expect a rubber-stamp divorce decree no matter the circumstances of their split.

The practice of seeking divorce in Reno dates back to the early 20th century, when the city shrewdly built lodging and entertainment steps from its courthouse, drawing a steady flow of “divorce tourists” looking to escape the East Coast press.

By the 1950s, by which time Reno’s divorce laws had further loosened, a thriving economy had evolved for the sole purpose of meeting divorcees’ needs while they waited — and, indeed, Reno relied on the divorce trade to keep her coffers full.

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.

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 husband’s alleged infidelity with a congresswoman. 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.

Back in the Silver State

The first divorce boom occurred right after World War II, with rates decreasing in the 1950s before beginning to rise again. The reason for post-war divorces was women getting a taste of independence while their husbands were away fighting.

The decline of the divorce rate in the 1950s owes to the idealization of the nuclear family, with rigid gender roles assigning women responsibility for staying home and raising children.

That the majority of Reno divorce-seekers were women reflects the fact that men had jobs that kept them home, though many women found work in Reno, either by choice or necessity.

New arrivals found an atmosphere of relaxed morals, where they might try their hand in a card room or go to a tavern unaccompanied by a man. Hotels and ranches offered full calendars of entertainment including roulette lessons, singalongs, live music performances and even bawdy shows.

A crop of male “drivers” made themselves available to escort the well-to-do, often partying with them long into the night. Dancing and flirting were the norm in many establishments, liquor was readily available and women’s inhibitions often vanished, especially since the system itself seemed to run on a winking disregard for social and even legal censure.

By the early 1950s, the days of casual acceptance were numbered: The Cold War brought homophobia, transphobia and a police clampdown on suspect activities, including a ban on cross-dressing performances.

An early bill to change divorce law was penned by women and published in the Women Lawyers Journal in 1952, proposing that a divorce should be granted when a court finds:

“that there is no reasonable possibility of reconciliation … and that the welfare of [the husband, wife, and children, if any] will be promoted by the divorce.”

In the years that followed, no fault laws began to change across the country. Eventually, there was no need to go to Reno to end a marriage, and Reno’s reputation faded — but it hasn’t been very long since splitting from one’s spouse could most easily be accomplished by an adventure in Reno.

The Time article is here.

 

Will the Philippines Legalize Divorce

We sometimes take it for granted that a toxic marriage, which can destroy your life and the lives of your children, can be amicably resolved here. That’s not true everywhere. There’s a new bill to legalize divorce in the Philippines — the only remaining state aside from Vatican City that has no divorce law.

Legalize Divorce

‘Thrilla’ in Manila

Many in the Philippines have been advocating for the passage of a divorce bill.

“Divorce is not a monster that will destroy marriages and wreck marital relationships. Let us be clear about this — the monsters that lead to the demise of a marriage are infidelity, abuse, financial problems, lack of intimacy and communication, and inequality.”

Despite this development, religious groups, pro-family advocates who were present in the hearing, and even fellow lawmakers expressed their disapproval of the measure.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about attempts to criminalize divorce before. Divorce, of course, is legal in the United States. However, traditionally it was made difficult by having to prove “fault.” This required spouses to prove either adultery; abandonment for a certain length of time; prison confinement; a spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse; or that the other spouse has inflicted emotional or physical pain (cruelty).

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.”

After divorce became legal, the concept of proving fault gave way to no-fault laws 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. “Reduced” the need, not eliminated the need.

Dragged into the 21st Century

A Philippine church official has expressed surprise over the speedy acceptance of the bill in that would legalize divorce.

“I was surprised at the speed at which the committee accepted the bill. I was expecting exhaustive deliberations and discussions would be conducted on the measure.”

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon described the acceptance of the proposed measure as alarming. Earlier, the Catholic Council of the Laity of the Philippines issued a statement expressing opposition to the divorce bill.

The group said the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly provides that divorce is “immoral” because it introduces disorder into the family and into society.

The CNN article is here.

 

Divorce and Financial Infidelity

One in five people in a relationship say their partner is financially irresponsible, and that they’re 10 times more likely to divorce for financial reasons, according to a new survey released from insurance comparison website Policygenius. Will running up excessive debts and other forms of financial infidelity be an issue in your divorce?

Divorce and financial infidelity

Financial Survey

The survey polled 2,005 adults in relationships and asked them questions like “What financial information do you and your partner know about each other?” and how they deal with money as a couple. The findings revealed that only 50% of people know their partner’s credit score, and yet 78% of those surveyed manage joint finances.

“If you’re at all doubtful about transparency, get a credit check. If they don’t give you permission to get a credit check, you’re in trouble. Know everything about your own finances, your mate’s finances and have a plan for how you’re going to work together to budget effectively and save for the future.”

The reality is that most couples openly commit financial infidelity: 12% of people in a relationship have hidden a purchase from their partner; another 20% say they’d spend $500 without telling their significant other and what’s worse, 16% said they don’t know anything about their partner’s money situation, according to the survey.

Florida Divorce Debts

I have written about divorce debts and other forms of financial infidelity before. In Florida, liabilities such as credit card debts – even if it happened without your knowledge – may be treated as any other kind of debt.

Generally, in divorce proceedings the court has to set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and debts, and in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between spouses, courts have to begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the relevant factors for justifying an unequal distribution include the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage and the intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

A common complaint in divorce is that someone will steal or destroy assets once they learn that a divorce has been filed, or run up huge credit card bills. This could be found to be dissipation or waste.

Other forms of dissipation include:

  • Incurring major gambling losses;
  • Excessive spending on alcohol or drugs;
  • Conveying marital property to family members or friends below cost with the intent to reacquire the undervalued asset post-divorce;
  • Destroying big-ticket personal property; and
  • sustaining losses concerning a sham investment.

If a judge determines there was an intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets, the court can divide the remaining marital property and credit or debit accordingly.

Husband and Wife Money Summits

Financial infidelity and fights about them are increasingly a pain point in relationships, particularly when one person is tight with money and the other spends more liberally. People are twice as likely to describe themselves as savers and their partners as spenders, according to separate data from SunTrust Bank.

Because of these woes, some couples are enrolling in financial therapy to get on the same page about finances. Money summits have sprouted up around the country to help couples talk about daily budgets, divvying up financial responsibilities, debt and financial goals, like saving up for a baby, a new home, retirement or for vacation.

There are little things couples can do every day to maintain a financially healthy relationship, whether it’s carving out hour-long money dates to talk openly about what you’ve spent that week and why, or to plan ahead for future expenses.

“Decide in advance how you will handle major purchase decisions together,” said Brittney Castro, a certified financial planner. “For example, some couples agree to discuss every purchase over a certain amount of money. Hurt feelings may arise from the surprise of an expenditure, rather than simply that the money was spent,”

The Fox Business article is here.

 

New Divorce Fraud Case

A Texas man is wanted by authorities for divorcing his wife — apparently without her knowledge or consent. This new divorce fraud case is another example of how careful you need to be in this stressful area of law.

New Divorce Fraud

Divorce Fraud in the Lone Star State

Paul Nixon, 51, allegedly broke off his marriage from his wife using forged documents behind her back, authorities claimed. Nixon’s wife told investigators on May 14 that her husband:

“filed for divorce and completed the entire proceedings without her knowledge or consent and that the court had already completed all hearings and filed the final divorce decree.”

Nixon, of Harris County, submitted “several forged documents and false information” to a district court, “including a forged waiver of service” and a forged signature from a notary public in an effort to divorce his wife,” according to a press release posted on the constable’s Facebook page.

Mark Herman of Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said on Facebook that Paul Nixon committed aggravated perjury when he went through the divorce process without his wife’s consent.

According to Herman, authorities received a call on May 14 from a woman who said her husband had allegedly completed the divorce and that a court already filed the final decree.

Through the investigation, authorities found that Nixon forged documents and submitted false information to the court. He also allegedly submitted a waiver of service with a forged signature from a notary.

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud involving property. 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. In those cases, 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.

Texas Hold ‘Em

Back in Texas, Mr. Nixon, is wanted by police for aggravated perjury after he allegedly submitted forged documents, divorcing his wife without her knowledge, officials said.

Nixon’s wife “was very surprised,” Constable Mark Herman told the New York Post. “In this particular case, the gentleman decided to go through a divorce but the only problem is, he left his wife out of the process. And that’s a violation of the law here in Texas.”

The constable said Nixon’s wife “started finding things showing that he was spending money on jewelry, so she confronted him and he told her that they were actually divorced.”

Nixon and his wife were only married for a “couple of years” before he moved forward with their divorce, without her. Nixon now faces up to 10 years in prison if he is found and convicted. As far as his marriage goes, no new divorce proceedings have been filed.

The Fox News article is here.