Tag: alimony and custody

Florida Alimony Reform 2021

Florida Alimony Reform 2021 is back in the news as the Legislature once again takes up how alimony and child sharing are handled in family law courtrooms. This year’s bills in the House and Senate have many changes, including the elimination of permanent alimony and an equal timesharing presumption.

The Sausage Factory

As  WLRN reports:

“I was married for 17 years to a man who quit working the minute we were married. I supported about seven different businesses that he ran into the ground. He abused drugs and alcohol. And he was abusive to me and our two children.”

Shultz says she was ordered by the court to pay her ex-husband $5,250 per month for the rest of her life. I cannot retire because I have alimony payments to pay every 30 days,” Shultz says. House Bill 1559 would also allow payments to end when the person providing the alimony reaches full retirement age as determined by the U.S. Social Security Administration—with exceptions.

Under existing case law, someone paying alimony can apply to have their alimony adjusted or terminated upon reaching the normal retirement age for their job or profession.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida before. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. In determining the type, amount, duration, and later modification or termination of an alimony award, the court has broad discretion but may only award alimony after initially determining that one spouse needs alimony and the other spouse is able to pay alimony.

If a court awards or denies an alimony request, it must consider enumerated factors and may consider the adultery of either spouse or any other factor it finds necessary to achieve equity and justice between the parties. An alimony award may be modified or terminated when the circumstances or financial ability of either party changes, including changes due to a receiving spouse’s supportive relationship or a paying spouse’s retirement.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

Other factors, such as the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate are also considered.

No Time Like Equal Time?

A very strange component of the Florida alimony bills is that the bills deal with parenting time with children. The proposed bills would create a presumption that 50/50 time-sharing of children would be in the child’s best interest — meaning both parents would have equal time with their child.

Right now, timesharing is analyzed in detail. The existing law requires judges to evaluate several different factors in determining an appropriate parenting plan for a child. Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Delray Beach) questioned the change during a meeting on the bill:

“So, under your bill, if there is hypothetically one parent who is drug-addicted and another parent who has really been caring for the child—under your bill, this would create a presumption that 50/50 is in the best interest in the child.”

“Absolutely not,” bill sponsor Miami Republican Rep. Anthony Rodriguez (R-Miami) said in response. “I mean, you walk into the courtroom, and there is a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing, but, in that scenario, specifically in the scenario representative, it is obvious that the judge would not grant 50/50 time-sharing to a drug-addicted parent.”

“There is a clear nexus between alimony and time-sharing, and we believe that when you walk into the courtroom, the focus of the divorce should be the children. And there should be an equal time-sharing of such, and if for whatever reason that should not be the case, then the judge can decide that,” Rodriguez says. Rodriguez says his bill allows for the presumption of 50/50 time-sharing to be rebutted by a judge.

Obvious? Philip Schipani is a family law attorney who represents clients who have special needs children. He says judges don’t always have a full understanding of a family’s situation. He worries the presumption created under Rodriguez’s bill will put an extra burden on his clients.

“And right now, I have a pending case—a child with special needs—this presumption if they put a 50/50—the father hasn’t seen the child for four years. Not only [does] the child [have] severe special needs, the husband’s a recovering drug addict who hasn’t seen the child in years. So, then you slap this presumption on, and then I have an extra burden to overcome. Not only do I have to explain the child’s condition, explain the drug addiction, I have to overcome this presumption as well,” Schipani says.

The WLRN article is here.

 

Can Men Get Alimony?

Many spouses wonder whether men are entitled to alimony in a divorce. This is especially true for Dancing With the Stars’ Gleb Savchenko, who responded to his estranged wife, Elena Samodanova’s, alimony demand with an alimony request of his own.

Alimony Reform 2

Dancing with the Lawyers

According to news reports, in three court documents, the Dancing With the Stars pro, 37, asked for joint legal and physical custody of their children.

Additionally, he requested that his wife, Samodanova, 36, provide him with alimony and that she pays his attorney’s fees. He’s seeking to terminate the court’s ability to provide Samodanova with financial assistance as well.

Savchenko and Samodanova announced their separation in November 2020 after 14 years of marriage. Samodanova, the choreographer of So You Think You Can Dance, is seeking primary custody of their children and child support. She also requested that her estranged husband provide spousal support and take care of her legal fees.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife. Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or for the moment, permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first decide as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

As Savchenko and Samodanova will discover, proving the ability to pay is one of the central issues in their competing claims for alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony.

In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include things like: the standard of living established during the marriage; the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party and the financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

Paying to the Stars

More news reports show the parties attended mediation in an effort to resolve the issues prior to the filing of this action and reached an agreement on several issues.

The controversy, Samodanova believes her estranged husband is capable of paying her alimony because he earns approximately $406,614 a year.

The businesswoman claimed that she is unemployed and stated her only source of income comes from the dance studio she co-owns with the reality star, which brings in $37,250 annually — or $3,105 per month — but has been closed since February 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Samodanova stated that Savchenko’s financial assistance would allow for their children to continue having “a high standard of living.”

Florida Alimony Reform

Meanwhile, two new bills were introduced into the Florida Legislature this week which dramatically impact alimony in Florida.

The bills prioritize certain forms of alimony; bridge-the-gap alimony followed by rehabilitative alimony, over any other form of alimony. The court cannot grant permanent alimony unless, and only if, the parties enter into an agreement for permanent alimony.

The US article is here.

 

Divorce and Alimony Laws Changed in China

Divorce and alimony laws changed in China this year. Under the new Civil Code, a judge just ordered a man to pay thousands of dollars to his former wife for housework she did during their five-year marriage. In China, they call it a landmark ruling.

Divorce Alimony China

New Chinese Divorce Laws

The new Civil Code of China became effective on January 1, 2021. Both spouses are treated equally under the law and are equally entitled and obligated to take care of the children and support each other.

So, if parents do not sufficiently perform their duties caring for their children, the child may demand reasonable maintenance costs from the parents.

Children do not get off easy either. The new code makes children obligated to support their parents. Adult children are generally obligated to support their parents if they can no longer work or otherwise provide for their livelihood.

In the landmark ruling, the wife demanded $24,700 from her husband after he filed for divorce. The wife said she was left to take care of the couple’s child and do the housework alone, and her husband barely cared about or participated in any kind of domestic chores.

The family court ordered the husband to pay her $7,700 as “housework compensation,” after splitting their joint property equally. Wife was also awarded custody of their son and $300 per month in alimony.

The ruling is the first of its kind under China’s new civil code.

Florida Divorce and Alimony

Divorce and alimony are nothing new in Florida. I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which may include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate.

But, after establishing Hightower’s need for alimony, how much dinero is there to determine De Niro’s ability to pay?

Chinese Divorce Express

China’s new Civil Code provides two ways to divorce, either the simple official registration of the divorce with a joint application or divorce proceedings in court.

If everyone signs a marital settlement agreement, a divorce can be registered with the authorities if both spouses file a corresponding divorce application. A short cooling off period of 30 days applies.

In contested cases, the court initially acts as a family mediation court, tries to prevent the divorce or reach a settlement of the conflict. If unsuccessful, and the court considers the marriage to be irretrievably broken, the court orders the divorce.

Interestingly, a husband may not apply for divorce if his wife is pregnant or within one year of the birth, or within six months of the end of the pregnancy. The only exceptions are if the wife herself applies for divorce or if the court considers it necessary to grant the husband’s divorce application.

If the divorced spouses have a child under 2 years of age, the mother generally receives custody. In the case of a child between 2 and 8 years of age, if the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court can decide which parent will be given custody. If the child is older than 8 years, his or her preference must be taken into account.

The recent landmark ruling became a trending topic on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, viewed more than 500 million times. While some comments applauded the ruling as a recognition of the hard, unpaid labor at home, others said the amount awarded was too little to cover five years of housework and childcare.

Unequal gender roles in domestic life have been a topic of public debate in China in recent years amid a rising feminist movement. Despite increasing education levels and women’s growing economic status, gender norms and patriarchal traditions have not caught up with these changes, and women are still expected to carry out most of the childcare and housework after marriage.

Housework compensation is designed to offer additional protection to spouses who have undertaken more domestic chores — and sacrificed opportunities to advance their career or education, according to legal experts.

For the spouse who has been working quietly at home, they will have to face the problem of returning to work, which means that the homemaker has to pay a hidden cost in addition to the efforts they paid during the marriage.

The right to seek housework compensation in divorce proceedings is not a new concept in Chinese law. In 2001, housework compensation was added to a revision of China’s marriage law with the precondition that it only applied to couples who agreed to separation of property, in which each spouse retains exclusive ownership of property acquired during the marriage.

Divorce rates in China have climbed nearly five times in the past three decades. According to government statistics, there were 0.69 divorces per thousand people in 1990. By 2019, the latest figures available, that number stood at 3.36.

Now that the new civil code is in force, the judge said she expected more cases involving demands for housework compensation to be filed. But in practice, we still need to accumulate experience in how to meter out the amount of compensation.

The CNN article is here.

Religious Education, Child Custody & Stephens’ Squibs

Choosing between a secular and religious education is a common problem in child custody cases. When two Canadian parents couldn’t decide between a religious or secular school for their son, an Ontario family court judge decided the issue with the force of Niagra Falls.

Custody Educaton

Oh Canada

In one recent case, the father and the mother, who were married then separated, disagreed on the school that their three-year-old child would attend.

The father wanted the child to go to the Thornhill Nursery School and Kindergarten, a secular school, while the mother preferred for the child to go to the Associated Hebrew Schools, a private Jewish school. Both parents were Jewish and were raising their child in the Jewish faith.

The father argued that their son had previously attended the secular school and would benefit from the stability of returning there, that the cost of this school was significantly lower and that the child could have a separate Jewish education on Sundays.

Conversely, the mother argues that she has always remained steadfast in her belief that it is best for Joshua to attend AHS, a private Jewish school.  She alleged that their son is Jewish as are both parents and both sets of grandparents.

Their son was being raised in the Jewish faith. that requiring the child to have a separate Jewish education on Sundays would limit his time with his family and friends, and would result in additional costs.

Florida Education and Child Custody

I’ve written about custody and education issues before. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s education are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court. At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child.

Determining the best interests of a child is based on an evaluation of statutory factors, and one equitable catch-all factor, affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

The statute authorizes one parent to have ultimate responsibility for certain decisions. For example, education is an area of ultimate responsibility a court can award. When a decision on education goes to trial, the court grants one parent ultimate responsibility to make that decision.

A CN Tower-ing Decision

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice decided that it was in the child’s best interests for his parents to enroll him at the Associated Hebrew Schools.

The Court based its decision on the best interest of the child. The best interest is not merely a label, but required the Ontario family court to consider the child’s needs and circumstances, including, the emotional ties between the child and each family, people involved in the child’s care and upbringing; and the child’s preferences among others.

The family law judge found that both parents agreed that the child should be in school despite the risk of Covid-19 and should be raised as a member of the Jewish faith.

Both schools were adequate educational facilities which have adequately addressed Covid-19 risks.  In terms of geographical proximity neither requires extensive travel and the child will experience change whichever school he attends.

The civil family judge in Canada reasoned the religious school was in the child’s best interest because it offers an academic education, religious instruction and Hebrew during the week.

This was preferable to the father’s request he be enrolled in a supplemental Jewish Program in addition to his secular school. The supplemental Jewish Program would occur on Sundays and parenting time is precious and weekend times are crucial.

The judge also determined that the cost of religious school was not significantly more than the secular for junior kindergarten.  While religious school tuition is $14,185, and secular school is $8,530, the added cost of the weekend supplemental Jewish Program raised the cost goes to $9,530.  And, religious tuition is eligible for a charitable tax receipt making the after-tax cost of tuition considerably lower.

Even when the parents are more closely aligned in their religious beliefs, sharp conflict can still arise over the form that the child’s religious education is to take, regarding religion and co-parenting arrangements.

The Ontario family court decision is available here.

Speaking on Stephens’ Squibs

I always enjoy talking with Eddie Stephens. Not surprisingly, I had a great time on Stephens’ Squibs, his monthly family law continuing legal education seminar where we discussed our recent constitutional victory in the appellate court – one of the rare times a divorce and family law case can turn on a constitutional question.

Episode 4, will be available on demand beginning November 15, 2020.

Learn more here.

 

Upcoming Speaking Engagement on Parenting Plans

I look forward to speaking about child custody and timesharing parenting plans on December 4th at the Dade County Bar Association & Dade Legal Aid/Put Something Back “Nuts and Bolts of Family Law” Seminar. I will be speaking along with my colleagues, Hon. Samantha Ruiz Cohen, Michelle M. Gervais, Robert C. Josefsberg, Amber Kornreich, Paul R. Lipton and Jacqueline M. Valdespino.

Child Custody Parenting Plans

Dade Legal Aid/Put Something Back

Dade Legal Aid provides direct civil legal services for low-income residents of Miami-Dade County. Since 1949, we have been passionately committed to providing “Access to Justice” to those in need of legal representation, including low-income individuals and families impacted by the current health crisis.

Dade Legal Aid provides life-changing and often life-saving services in the areas of Family Law, Domestic Violence, Guardianship, Child & Teen Advocacy, Human Sex Trafficking, Guardian ad Litem and other areas of law.

Annually, the agency serves over 5,000 clients positively impacting the lives of over 10,000 residents utilizing a strategic mix of experienced staff attorneys, pro bono attorneys, law firm partnerships, law school stakeholders and dozens of collaborations with diverse organizations and groups with the aim of assisting vulnerable populations and families living in poverty

Child Custody and Timesharing

I will be discussing parenting plans, a topic I’ve written and spoken about before. Generally, a parenting plan is a document created by lawyers or the court to govern the relationship between parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding their minor children.

Parenting plans must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and children too. The issues concerning the minor children should also be included, and consist of issues such as the children’s education, their health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being.

When creating parenting plans, it is important to consider all of the circumstances between the parents, including the history of their relationship, whether there are any issues about domestic violence, and many other factors must be taken into consideration.

A parenting plan has to be either developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by a court; or in the alternative, a parenting plan must be established by the court – with or without the use of a court-ordered parenting plan recommendation – when the parents cannot agree to a parenting plan, or the parents agreed to a plan, but the court refuses to approve the parents’ plan.

Register here.

 

Calculating Alimony with De Niro’s Dinero

Calculating alimony with Robert DeNiro’s dinero is what is turning up the heat in his divorce. His wife, Grace Hightower, is seeking temporary alimony and has asked for an emergency order to raise her monthly credit card limit from $50,000 to $100,000 – which De Niro halved.

Alimony Calculation

Raging Bull?

In their response, De Niro’s lawyers claimed that the actor’s financial status had been significantly damaged by Covid-19 after restaurants Nobu and Greenwich Hotel, which he owns stakes in, were forced to close.

The judge was told that, as well as sushi restaurant Nobu losing $4.87m between April and May, De Niro had been forced to borrow from business partners to pay investors ($500,000) because “he doesn’t have the cash”.

The actor’s lawyers said: “He is going to be lucky if he makes $7.5m this year,” adding that he would likely make $2.5m in 2020 and 2021!

Addressing Hightower, they said: “These people, in spite of his robust earnings, have always spent more than he has earned so this 76-year-old robust man couldn’t retire even if he wanted to because he can’t afford to keep up with his lifestyle expense”.

Hightower’s lawyer is calling it raging bull: “I’m not a believer that a man who has an admitted worth of $500m and makes $30m a year, all of a sudden in March he needs to cut down by 50% and ban her from the house.

Florida Alimony

I’ve written about subject of alimony in Florida. In every Florida dissolution of marriage case, the court can grant alimony to either party – husband or wife.

Not many people realize there are several types of alimony in Florida: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony.

Florida courts can also award a combination of alimony types in a divorce. Alimony awards are normally paid in periodic payments, but sometimes the payments can be in a lump sum or both lump sum and periodic payments.

In determining whether to award alimony or not, the court has to first make a determination as to whether a wife or a husband, has an actual need for alimony, and whether the other party has the ability to pay alimony.

As DeNiro’s wife is discovering, proving the ability to pay is one of the central issues in her divorce right now because DeNiro’s income, it is claimed, dropped significantly due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Typically, courts consider any type of earned income or compensation — that is, income resulting from employment or other efforts — along with recurring passive income, such as dividends on your investments, in establishing the amount of support you will be responsible to pay.

In Florida, once a court determines there is a need and the income available to pay alimony – sometimes referred to as the ability to pay alimony – it has to decide the proper type and amount of alimony. In doing so, the court considers several factors, some of which can include:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  • The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate.

But, after establishing Hightower’s need for alimony, how much dinero is there to determine De Niro’s ability to pay?

Analyze This…

The Supreme Court justice ruled that De Niro should keep the lower credit card limit while paying Hightower $75,000 to find a summer home for their children. De Niro filed from divorce from Hightower in 2018.

Robert De Niro’s attorneys said that the actor’s finances have taken a huge hit over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The actor is battling a divorce case against Grace Hightower, his ex-wife who he was with for 21 years, in Manhattan Supreme Court.

De Niro appeared via Skype at an emergency hearing, which was called after De Niro cut Hightower’s American Express credit card limit from $100,000 to $50,000 a month.

According to the Daily Mail, Hightower’s lawyer told the judge that she and her two children with De Niro, Harvey (8) and Elliot (21), had been banned from his New York compound, which is where De Niro has been staying during the pandemic.

However, De Niro’s lawyer, Caroline Krauss, reportedly told the judge that De Niro was forced to make this cut to Hightower’s credit card limit because his finances have been so badly affected by the pandemic.

Krauss told the judge that Nobu and The Greenwich Hotel, the restaurant chain and hotel that De Niro owns, have both been badly hit by the pandemic as they have been closed or partially closed for months with next to no income.

Krauss said that the 2004 prenuptial agreement between De Niro and Hightower means that De Niro is only required to pay $1 million a year to Hightower as long as he is making at least $15 million a year. The terms, Krauss said, state that if his income falls, hers will proportionately fall too.

Krauss said that the money De Niro has earned from last year’s “The Irishman” has largely already been paid out, meaning he will only receive $2.5 million this year.

“These people, in spite of his robust earnings, have always spent more than he has earned so this 76-year-old robust man couldn’t retire even if he wanted to because he can’t afford to keep up with his lifestyle expense.

In response, Page Six reported that Hightower’s lawyer, Kevin McDonough, told the judge: “Mr. De Niro has used the COVID pandemic, my words would be, to stick it to his wife financially.

“I’m not a believer that a man who has an admitted worth of $500 million and makes $30 million a year, all of a sudden in March he needs to cut down [spousal support] by 50 percent and ban her from the house.”

McDonough said that “the idea that Mr. De Niro is tightening his belt is nonsense.” The judge issued a temporary ruling that the credit card limit is kept at $50,000 a month, but that De Niro pays Hightower a $75,000 lump sum so she can find a summer home for her and their two children, while De Niro stays in his compound with his other three children.

De Niro and Hightower were married in 1997 but filed for divorce two years later. However, their divorce never finalized, and they patched things up and renewed their vows in 2004. They officially separated in 2018.

The Insider article is here.

Photo credit: David Shankbone – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Greener Grass and the Marriage Length

Greener Grass and the marriage length come to mind now that country singer, Carly Pearce, filed for divorce from fellow country star Michael Ray after a startling eight-month marriage. What does the length of a marriage mean in a divorce?

Divorce Length Marriage

It Won’t Always Be Like This

Their wedding took place on a farm outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Located on 40 rolling acres, the venue features a 19th-century mansion, three barns and a pavilion. Though the couple had hoped for an outdoor wedding, the weather didn’t oblige. All-day rainstorms drove the ceremony into one of the farm’s barns.

While her whimsical wedding was nothing short of a fairytale, eight months later, the 30-year-old singer filed for divorce from Michael. Pearce is an American country music singer and songwriter. Her material contains elements of both traditional and contemporary country-pop music.

She began performing professionally in her teens, appearing on several albums of bluegrass material in the 2000s. After moving to Nashville, Tennessee, she began gaining more widespread notice.

She first gained major recognition in 2017 when her self-penned “Every Little Thing” found acclaim on satellite radio. The song helped her secure a major label recording contract and became a major hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

Her debut album of the same name debuted in the top five of the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Pearce has since released new material, including the 2019 single, “I Hope You’re Happy Now”.

Pearce released her second studio album, “Carly Pearce,” in February. Her duet with Lee Brice, “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” recently topped the Billboard country charts.

As recently as March, the couple appeared to be spending time together in quarantine. Pearce posted a selfie of her and her husband hanging out in lockdown.

Florida Marriage Length

I’ve written about divorce and the length of a marriage before. Florida Statutes actually define what the length of your marriage means. For example, in order to determine alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption in Florida that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years.

Florida Statutes define a moderate-term marriage as a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years. And, a long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater.

How do you measure the marriage term? In Florida, the length of your marriage is the period of time measured from the date of your marriage until the date of filing of an action to dissolve your marriage.

In the Pearce case, an eight-month marriage would be considered “short-term” under Florida law. Is there short-term alimony for a short-term marriage? The Length of the marriage is very important when it comes to determining the kind of duration of alimony payments.

For example, permanent alimony is generally for longer term marriages if the statutory criteria are met. In shorter term marriages and for moderate term marriages, permanent alimony may be considered, but the burden of proof is much higher.

Conversely, bridge-the-gap alimony is generally awarded to allow a person to transition from being married to being single. So, bridge-the-gap alimony is designed for short-term needs. In fact, the length of an award bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed 2 years.

Durational alimony helps provide a person with economic help for a set period of time after short or moderate length marriages or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.

The length of your marriage also factors in to property divisions. When a court divides the marital assets and debts, the court begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. One of the factors a court can look to in justifying an unequal distribution includes the duration of the marriage.

“Love Has No Heart”

In April, the pair exchanged sweet birthday messages on Instagram.

“Happy Birthday to this guy, who also happens to be celebrating a Top 20 single this week (PROUD)! Of all the photos I have, I chose this one because I miss getting these secret selfies from guitar solos during your shows. What a crazy time, but I’m thankful to have you to go through it with. I hope this year is your best yet and brings you happiness, fun & enjoyment in life. Love you.”

Ray also wished his wife a happy birthday in April on Instagram.

There is so much going on around us but today it gets put on hold to celebrate your heart and you as a beautiful human. You ended your 20s with Platinum and gold singles you’re an inspiration tink and what a way to close it out. Now 30 it’s gonna be a decade that elevates all of life even higher. Hope you feel all the love you deserve today because you deserve it!”

In recent months, though, photos of the couple together became less frequent on social media. Pearce and Ray have not commented publicly on the reason for their split.

The Tennessean article is here.

 

International Child Custody and a Washington Woman in Saudi Arabia

In an interesting case involving international child custody and a Washington woman in Saudi Arabia, the woman who previously lost custody of her daughter in Saudi Arabia for being “too western”, is back! She traveled home for Christmas and is trying to stay in Washington state with the child.

International Child Custody

Shifting Sands

I’ve written about the case of Bethany Vierra Alhaidari before. Bethany, a 32-year-old student and yoga teacher, moved to Saudi Arabia to teach at a university in 2011. She divorced her Saudi husband, and sought custody of their four-year-old daughter. But the Saudi court concluded that she would not be a good parent.

“The mother is new to Islam, is a foreigner in this country, and continues to definitively embrace the customs and traditions of her upbringing. We must avoid exposing (the child) to these customs and traditions, especially at this early age.”

She started sleeping with her ex-husband, Ghassan al-Haidari, in a bid to get him to allow her and their daughter to spend Christmas with her family, in Washington state. It worked, but she did not return from the Christmas vacation.

Bethany is now asking a family court in Washington to give her custody of her five-year-old daughter Zaina. She said the custody agreement with her Saudi ex-husband was signed under duress and that she was not given a fair hearing by Saudi courts.

In recent years Saudi Arabia has attempted to shake off its image as one of the most repressive countries in the world for women.

In 2018, the government lifted a long-standing ban on women driving and made changes to the male guardianship system last year, allowing women to apply for passports and travel independently without permission from a man.

However, women continue to face numerous restrictions on their lives, and several women’s rights activists who campaigned for the changes have been detained and put on trial. Some of them are alleged to have been tortured in prison.

Florida and the UCCJEA

I’ve spoken about international child custody cases under the Hague Convention and the UCCJEA before. The UCCJEA and the Hague Convention are similar. The Hague Convention seeks to deter abducting parents by depriving the abducting parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.

When a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another signatory country, the Hague Convention provides that the other country: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where:

it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and

at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

However, many countries, like Saudi Arabia, are not signatories or treaty partners with us in the Hague Convention. Fortunately, when a country is not a signatory country, the UCCJEA may provide relief.

Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA into law. The most fundamental aspect of the UCCJEA is the approach to the jurisdiction needed to start a case. In part, the UCCJEA requires a court have some jurisdiction vis-a-vis the child.

That jurisdiction is based on where the child is, and the significant connections the child has with the forum state, let’s say Washington. The ultimate determining factor in a Washington case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.

Alternatively, Washington could possibly hear the case if Washington was the Home State of the child within 6-months before filing or the children are in Washington and the court has emergency jurisdiction. In Bethany’s case, she is using a rarely used section of the UCCJEA.

A Washington Yogi in King Salman’s Court

Bethany appealed the Saudi ruling last August. But she said that it was ignored and that a Saudi judge forced her to reach a custody agreement. She went back to living with her ex-husband and at Christmas he allowed her to take Zaina to see her grandparents in Washington. They did not return.

She next filed a case with a court in Washington in January that cited a rarely-used clause in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Even though Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, the UCCJEA requires State courts to recognize and enforce custody determinations made by foreign courts as if they were State courts.

However, a court need not enforce a foreign court order or defer to a foreign court’s jurisdiction if the child-custody law of the foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights.

The UCCJEA language comes from article 20 of the Hague Convention. The “human rights, or fundamental freedoms defense, is invoked on the rare occasion that return of a child would utterly shock the conscience of the court or offend all notions of due process.

Washington has some experience with this clause. In 2015, a court in Washington ruled that the state should not enforce custody decrees from Egypt because there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Egyptian child custody laws violated fundamental principles of human rights.

Bethany’s husband has asked a Washington family court to enforce the custody agreement registered in Saudi Arabia, saying that his ex-wife was seeking more favorable terms.

Parents don’t get to just move the child to a foreign state and then start a custody case if they don’t like the parenting plan they had in the child’s home state.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

Coronavirus makes Child Custody Tricky and More Good Information

Home schooling and being quarantined for weeks, the coronavirus pandemic is causing chaos for everyone. But for parents who are divorced or separated, child custody is even more tricky. There’s also some good information about coronavirus.

Coronavirus Custody

Parenting in the time of the Coronavirus

Courts are open, our office is open (remotely), and we are handling new divorce cases and child custody matters. And what we’re seeing are recurring problems during the coronavirus crisis with alimony and support payments, and especially sharing the children.

Courts may be open, but there is definitely a backlog with remote courts, and courts are handling emergencies first. That means many parents may have to hammer out their differences largely without the help of a judge.

As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, across the country, many family courts are closed or considering only emergency cases, such as those involving domestic violence and restraining orders.

Some jurisdictions, like Texas, require that existing custody agreements be followed even when schools are closed. (Families can get help from marriage and family therapists and professional mediators.)

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 2008, Florida modified its child custody laws to get rid of outdated and negative terminology about divorcing parents and their children to reduce animosity.

Florida law did that by deleting the definitions of the terms “custodial parent” or “primary residential parent” and “noncustodial parent” and creating a definition for the terms “shared parental responsibility, “parenting plan”, and “time-sharing schedule.

Shared parental responsibility, is similar to joint physical and legal custody, and is a relationship in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.

In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

But the “best interest of the child” is not an empty slogan. In Florida, how you act during the coronavirus can impact a judge’s decision. In determining the best interest of the child, a court has to consider things like a parent’s facilitating and encouraging parent-child relationships, honoring the time-sharing schedule, and being reasonable when changes are required.

Coronavirus Custody Concerns

Do not be surprised if the parents who aren’t cooperating during the coronavirus crisis find that the other parent uses what happens in court at trial.

In a few weeks or months, family courts are going to re-open, and there will be some accountability for the actions parents are taking now.

Enhancing risk and damaging your co-parenting relationship, those are things that are relevant to how the court. views your parental status.

Coronavirus Good News and Information

Good information? How about social distancing tips from a hermit? Billy Barr is the only resident of Gothic, Colorado, and he has tips on social distancing:

  • Keep track of something. Each day, Barr tracks the weather for a number of groups including the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
  • Keep a routine. Barr wakes up around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m., and files weather reports to different agencies.
  • Celebrate the stuff that matters, rather than the stuff you’re supposed to celebrate. Barr has mostly ditched holidays and birthdays, but he does celebrate Jan. 17, when sunrise goes back to what it was on the solstice.
  • Use movies as a mood adjuster. When Barr is really stressed, he’ll might watch an animated movie, something cute and funny. Movies like “Pandemic” he passes on, but; The Princess Bride’ is a favorite.

The Minnesota Public Radio article is here.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

Florida Alimony Reform Sausage

It’s been said laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. If true, then it’s best you not read the two new Florida alimony reform bills recently introduced into the Florida House and Senate. For the unafraid, below are a few provisions of the House bill worth watching.

Alimony Reform

The Current Chorizo

In Florida, alimony is awarded to a spouse when there is a need for it, and the other spouse has the ability to pay for alimony. As I have written before, alimony can take various forms.

For example, alimony can be awarded to “bridge the gap” between married and single life. This is usually a short-term form of alimony, and in fact, can’t exceed two years.

Alimony can be rehabilitative – to help a party in establishing the capacity for self-support by developing skills or credentials; or acquiring education, training, or work experience.

Durational Alimony is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide you with economic assistance for a time after a short or moderate term marriage, or even long marriages, if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.

Permanent Alimony is awarded to provide for your needs and necessities of life as they were established during your marriage, if you lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities of life following a divorce.

The House Hot Dog

Alimony reform is a nationwide phenomenon.

Currently, there are two bills in Florida trying to be passed to amend our alimony statute and impact other statutes. However, many state bills, like Florida’s, are in progress, or are constantly evolving.

This year’s two bills fundamentally change many family law statutes and cases. Briefly, what we consider to be long and short marriages would change. This is an important measuring stick, because the types of alimony granted can change depending on the duration of a marriage.

Right now, for purposes of determining alimony, there is a presumption that a short-term marriage is less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and a long-term marriage is 17 years or more.

Under the new House bill, a long-term marriage would be 20 years or more, a mid-term marriage would be more than 11 years but less than 20 years, and a short-term marriage would be a marriage of less than 11 years.

Another proposed change concerns the type of alimony. Right now, when a court determines the type and amount of alimony, the court weighs several factors, including, the standard of living, the age and the physical and emotional condition of the parties and sources of income available to pay alimony.

Under the new House bill, a trial court awarding alimony would have to prioritize an award of bridge-the-gap alimony, followed by rehabilitative alimony, over any other forms of alimony. Additionally, the new bill eliminates permanent alimony.

The Equal Time-Sharing Bratwurst

Florida has a public policy that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce and tries to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.

However, there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying a parenting plan of the child.

The new House bill would dramatically alter the law. The proposed bill would make it Florida law that equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child unless the court finds one of the stated reasons not to.

The House bill is available here.