Tag: alimony and custody

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.