Tag: best divorce lawyer

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.

 

When World Leaders Divorce

Courts are open remotely, lawyers are practicing law, and if you are wondering whether you are able to get a divorce, know that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, was able to obtain his divorce during the quarantine. It’s not just world leaders like the Prime Minister who are now free to plan their future wedding. Now, anyone can start their future after the lockdown restrictions are eased.

World Leader Divorce

London Has Fallen

Boris Johnson, of course, is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The world leader is the head of government of the United Kingdom, and directs both the executive and the legislature, and together with their Cabinet is accountable to the queen, to Parliament, to their party, and ultimately to the electorate, for the government’s policies and actions.

Marina Wheeler, 55, shares four of the Prime Minister’s six children and applied for a decree absolute in February. It is understood that the divorce was granted before Ms Symonds gave birth to Mr Johnson’s sixth child Wilfred last week. Ms Wheeler, a leading barrister, started divorce proceedings last year after she and Mr Johnson separated in 2018.

Florida Divorce

I have written about when divorce impacts a world leader, CEO of a large company, and everyone else. Divorce can be stressful, and can have an impact on people going through it. With the coronavirus spreading throughout the world, and courts on lockdown, it is good to know that legal remedies are continuing despite the pandemic, and that people are still able to get a divorce.

Divorces in the United States are state government remedies. With the family court system prohibiting entry to lawyers and clients except for emergency cases, many think that they cannot get a divorce. The opposite is true.

With the widespread use of zoom, courts are regularly holding divorce and family law proceedings electronically.

British prime ministers, like U.S. presidents, have little connection to divorce. Ronald Reagan was the only president of the United States who was even divorced. Until now. President Elect Donald Trump has been divorced twice.

There are some very interesting statistics about divorce:

– In America, the divorce rate for a first marriage is around 41%.

– In England and Wales the divorce rate is about 42%.

– The divorce rate for a second marriage is 60%.

– The divorce rate for a third marriage is 73%.

– The average length of divorce proceedings in the United States is 1 year.

– Western states have the highest marriage and divorce rates, followed by the South. The Northeast has the lowest marriage and divorce rates.

– Nevada has the highest rate of divorce at 14.7%.

– Florida’s rate of divorce is around 13%

– If a spouse has gained more than 20% of his or her body weight, divorce is more likely.

Back in England

The Prime Minister also has a fifth child, an 11-year-old daughter Stephanie, with art consultant Helen McIntyre. He was previously married to socialite Allegra Mostyn-Owen from 1987 to 1993. Sonia Purnell, Mr Johnson’s former colleague at the Telegraph and author of his biography Just Boris, said his ex-wife played a pivotal role in his political career.

‘Marina was a very important and supportive figure in Boris’s career. She persuaded him to take the McPherson Report into institutional racism in the police seriously. She persuaded him, as Mayor of London, to be more liberal on issues like immigration. He does owe her an awful lot. She has been a real stabilising influence in his life.

Since Ms Wheeler and Mr Johnson separated two years ago, she has surgery for cervical cancer last year and her mother Dip Singh died in February at the age of 87. She said her cancer diagnosis made her appreciate the ‘value of holding close those who you love and trust.’

A source close to the family told the Mirror: ‘Marina has been through so much over the last two years. Fortunately her family have been very close and supportive, particularly her sister Shirin.

‘Marina was an equal in that marriage. There was a point where Boris seemed to have a sense of real regret that he had endangered his marriage with his affairs. ‘Although there is no doubt she was hugely hurt by all his betrayals she would have no interest in standing in his way. She will want to move on with the next part of her life.’

Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds announced they were engaged on February 29, while also announcing they were having a baby in early summer. The couple’s first child, a son, was born on April 29.

The PM and his partner revealed their new son’s full name as Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson last week, with the first name a tribute to Mr Johnson’s paternal grandfather, Osman Wilfred Kemal, and Lawrie a reference to Ms Symonds’ grandfather.

The Daily Mail article is here.

 

Divorce Waiting Periods

With quarantines loosening up around the state, there has been a constant stream of reports of couples filing for divorce. What if, after weeks in quarantine, you discovered you had to wait two years to divorce? Citizens of Pennsylvania are in for a surprise when their quarantine ends, as the governor has changed their waiting period.

PA Divorce 2

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a new state law that reduced the divorce waiting period time after a no-fault divorce from two years to one.

Law 102, which will enter into force by 60 days, reduces the waiting period for a one-way divorce without errors from two years to one.

Marriage in Pennsylvania is a traditional divorce and two types of divorce without errors: mutual consent and a two-year separation. Separation simply means that you and your spouse live separately and individually, either under one roof or otherwise.

It is important to note that a one-year divorce waiting period does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be completed in one year. Proponents of the new law believe that it will reduce emotional pressure on families, which seems to worsen the two-year waiting period.

This new rule can save your spouse time, money, and emotional trauma. There is also a delay for people whose spouses disagree with the divorce.

Florida Divorce Waiting Period

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 your rights before. Helping to expedite your divorce, the no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

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

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

Florida also has a divorce waiting period of sorts, although it’s not as long as Pennsylvania’s.

In Florida, no final judgment of dissolution of marriage may be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition for dissolution of marriage.

However, the court, on a showing that injustice would result from this delay, may enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date.

Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Back at The Office

From Pittsburgh to Scranton, residents across Pennsylvania will be heading back to the office. A shorter divorce waiting period makes life easier not only for those divorced couples, but also for their children. In a statement, however, Republican Tara Tohil from Lucerne County, who sponsored the bill, said the quickest solution was in everyone’s favor.

“A shorter waiting time helps solve the couple’s financial situation faster and at a lower cost so that they can take care of the well-being of their children,” she said.

Although Law 102 shortens the waiting period after separation from two years to one year, the actual date of separation is still an important factor that can determine many aspects of the divorce process.

The fact is that happy couples will not file for divorce using a simple procedure. After you file for a divorce in Pennsylvania without your fault, you and your spouse will have to wait 90 days from the date you filed the complaint about the divorce before you file 5a and 5b, declaring your consent to the divorce. Therefore, if both parties agree to a divorce and each of them submits an application to the court, the divorce process can be completed much earlier if neither side agrees.

Although an erroneous divorce is always possible, most Pennsylvania couples are perfectly divorced, which means that one spouse is not required to prove that the other has committed an offense. Both spouses must be available and ready to sign legal documents confirming that they agree to a divorce. Thus, the waiting time is only 90 days.

Lehigh Valley’s Morning Call article is here.

 

Divorce Stimulus Checks and More Good Coronavirus News

If you have not already received it (and spent it shopping), your Economic Impact Payment may be on its way. But if you’re separated or going through a divorce, your economic stimulus check may not be as stimulating as you had hoped. As always, there’s also some good coronavirus news.

Divorce Stimulus Checks

A Stimulating Divorce Issue

Since the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), the $2 trillion stimulus package to spur the economic recovery, millions of Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments and are busy shopping.

You may be eligible to receive a payment if you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or qualifying resident alien, cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, have a Social Security number and an adjusted gross income below a certain amount.

Qualifying single adults who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will receive $1,200. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less will receive a total payment of $2,400. Taxpayers filing as head of household will receive full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.

But will the stimulus funds be impacted because you are in a divorce or family law case?

Florida Divorce and Tax

I’ve written about divorce and taxes before. For example, after the new tax code changes became law, it eliminated the alimony deduction. Many people criticized the tax law change in general. For example, the decision to end the alimony deduction received a lot of criticism. Many argued it made divorce worse.

Since the change, we’ve seen that some people are not willing to pay as much in alimony. This reduction in alimony amounts being paid has disproportionately hurt women, who have tended to earn less, and are more likely to be on the receiving end of alimony payments.

Who CARES?

For everyone who has not received it, the stimulus payment checks are something being counted on every day. Fortunately, most people should expect to receive their one-time, $1,200 stimulus payment from the IRS in the next few weeks. However, some people may receive less than they expected.

For example, if you have not filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS will calculate your payment based on the adjusted gross income listed on your 2018 tax return.

Also, if you have a pending divorce case, the payment will be deposited into the bank account that was provided to the IRS on your previous tax return. So, if your last tax return was a joint return prepared with your spouse, you may have to consult an attorney to discuss your options for recovering your payment.

Don’t forget you may also receive an additional $500 stimulus payment for each qualifying child. For anyone who filed jointly with their spouse, and whose custody arrangement has changed since they last filed a tax return, the portion of the check allocated for qualified children may be impacted.

Finally, the rules for child support enforcement are still in effect. Federal law requires child support agencies to collect past due child support from federal tax refunds.

In passing the federal CARES Act, Congress did not exempt the stimulus payment checks from federal offsets for unpaid child support arrears. All or a partial amount of your stimulus check may be intercepted and used to pay unpaid child support.

Good Coronavirus News

As we enter summer, there is good coronavirus news. More and more cities have decided on timetables for reopening certain parks and recreational facilities as part of a phase of returning to normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • In Miami, parks, boat ramps, golf courses and other facilities will open with certain restrictions.
  • Face coverings must always be worn unless otherwise noted.
  • Social distancing must be observed, and there can’t be gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Sadly, swimming pools are not being opened for adult lap swimming. This critical policy misstep – to open swimming pools to adult lap swimming – is a major oversight mayors around the state seem to be making, and will need to be corrected in the future.

The IRS economic impact payments information page is here.

 

Divorce Planning During the Coronavirus and Some Good News

We have been experiencing a surge in divorce inquiries. Just about everyone has been ordered into quarantine, and living in such close proximity is taking a toll on some marriages and relationships. But there’s another reason: simple divorce planning. Also, for fans of ‘The Office’, Jim has “Some Good News” for us during the coronavirus.

Divorce Planning Coronavirus

Divorce Planning and Market Timing

For many, the divorce inquiries are taking place while the market has dropped and people are losing their jobs. If that sounds counter-intuitive, consider this: when you divorce and your assets are worth less and your debts are up, you may pay less, so now may be a great time to divorce . . . if that was your plan.

This opportunity to divorce is particularly attractive to those whose divorce was a matter of timing. Now may be a great opportunity to finalize a settlement agreement if businesses or shares of stock can be managed back to their former value after the crisis passes.

For others, the concern is about settlement terms they agreed to before the downturn and their ability to afford the settlement terms when they have less pay. Clients are viewing the current financial crisis as an opportunity to negotiate an advantageous divorce settlement.

In only days, we have increased calls from anxious and stressed clients who are confined to living in quarantine with their soon-to-be Ex and children who they have to home school.

Shelter in place orders are putting a huge strain on relationships, particularly if there was already tension and issues between couples. This is only being heightened by the financial impact of restrictions on people’s businesses and incomes and the uncertainty they face as a result.

Florida Divorce Planning during the Coronavirus

I have written about the phenomenon of divorce planning, and especially divorce filings at the beginning of the year, many times before.

The first few months of the year are known for divorce filings, January is even nicknamed the “Divorce Month” in Florida. Researchers recently did an analysis of American divorce filings and found that there is a spike in divorces in January.

The spike in divorce filings is followed by a peak in late March. What’s happening at the beginning of the new year that causes people to both marry and divorce?

According to some reports the beginning of the year and the holiday season are often a tricky time for couples whose relationships have been under pressure for a while.

Add in the intense time spent together, financial pressure, extended family critiques and unrealistic expectations (nothing worse than happy people’s Facebook posts) – and it can spell disaster for some relationships.

Planning Ahead for Divorce during the Coronavirus

For many couples, government shelter-in-place orders have thrown them into a completely different way of living, changing the dynamics of their relationship entirely, and introducing a whole new set of complications and concerns.

While some may find that working through the uncertainty brings them closer together, others are not as lucky, and have been forced to face underlying issues that may have been bubbling under the surface.

You should consider consulting a board certified marital and family lawyer to consider your options and discuss what to do while you’re in quarantine and once the crisis passes.

The vast majority of people inquiring are people who were already on the fence and thinking of filing for divorce, and now the harsh reality of being at home with their partners has pushed them to breaking point.

For those that were planning to leave, but now can’t, this is an extremely challenging time. There are also those who agreed to separate but haven’t yet done so or filed for divorce. Worse still, being locked down together is causing a lot of strain and pressure.

Some have stayed married due to the financial loss they would suffer if they broke up the family, but are seeing the financial crisis as their long-awaited opportunity to leave and take advantage of the dip in wealth for a divorce settlement,’ she explained.

Coronavirus: Some Good News

Fans of ‘The Office’ will be please that there is some good news to report from Jim. So, I’ll let actor John Krasinski talk about some good news on his home-made channel SGN.

His video is here, and includes an interview with Steve Carell to mark the 15th anniversary of ‘The Office.’

 

Trapped in a Quarantine Means a Baby Boom or Divorce Boom, and There’s More Good News about the Coronavirus

If you’re feeling trapped, you’re not alone. The forced quarantines and shelter-in-place orders mean couples are spending a lot of time together . . . +maybe too much. That could mean another baby boom, or if China is an example, divorce boom. Plus, there is more good news about the Coronavirus.

Coronavirus Divorce Baby Boom

Birth of the “Coronials”

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Sarah Bradburn’s coronavirus shopping list consists of two very important items: condoms and toilet paper.

“We are all emotional and clinging to our spouses. But when we’re stressed, we just become closer.”

During the first few surreal days of the coronavirus scare, there were predictions far and wide of a huge number of corona babies that would be born in nine months. Maybe they’ll be described as “coronials?”

In fact, Lori Sapio, a Chicago photographer, plans to post a CV19 newborn special in April similar to her Cubs newborn special that she announced after the team won the World Series. But is it really coming? Or will the social distancing and forced time together cause more divorces than babies?

In China — where the coronavirus hit long before it arrived here — the divorce rates rose, and couples formed a line outside a divorce registration office as soon as they were out of quarantine.

The Coronavirus and Divorce

I’ve written about the coronavirus and divorce before. Forced together due to a shelter-in-place order may be the reason for your divorce, but legally you don’t need one. That’s because Florida is a no-fault divorce state.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or annoying behavior in a government enforced quarantine.

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

What do you do if you are trapped in quarantine with someone you want to separate from?

To avoid problems during a quarantine, you may have to force yourself to work together – however difficult that may be.

Couples who are separating or separated already, and are parents, are being forced to work as a team and talk through problems that are making forced quarantine impossible. Reassure each other that you will make it through and work together.

The key if you’re living together is to strike the right balance between having quality intimate time together, or if you’re at the brink of your relationship, giving each other some space.

Good Coronavirus News

Some good news for all of us. The U.S. Senate passed the largest economic relief bill in American history Wednesday night. By a vote of 96-0, the bill gives help to big and small businesses, health care facilities, and folks who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

Some key provisions:

Stimulus to the Economy: The bill will pump some $2 trillion into the economy.

Direct payout to Americans: The bill would give one-time direct payments to Americans — $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year, and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child.

There is a phase-out for individuals who made more than $75,000, or married couples who filed jointly who made $150,000.

The checks will be directly deposited into bank accounts if you included direct deposit information on your tax form. If you did not, your check will be mailed to you.

Unemployment insurance help: Additional unemployment insurance benefits will be bolstered for four months by increasing the maximum unemployment benefit that a state gives to a person by $600 per week.

Funds for hospitals, equipment: The bill will provide $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients. Of the $150 billion, $100 billion will go to hospitals and $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service. The other $49 billion will be used to increase medical equipment capacity.

Aid to state and local governments: Around $150 billion will be allocated for state and local governments to pay for the cost of fighting the virus and providing services to those who have the virus.

The Chicago Tribune article is here.

 

Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus

A Chinese city has reached a peak in divorce filings as a result of the coronavirus COVID-19. Marriage registration offices in China’s Shaanxi Province report seeing an unprecedented number of divorce appointments since courts reopened this week.

divorce and coranavirus

El divorcio en los tiempos del coronavirus

No, not one of Gabriel García Márquez’s lesser known works. But what is happening around the world is impacting divorce. For example, a part of China’s coronavirus epidemic control efforts has been closing the marriage registration office, and adopting an appointment system on March 1. What they have discovered is interesting.

We started receiving some telephone appointments on March 2, and more appointments came in in the next future days an official of the registration office in Beilin district of Xi’an, told reporters. On March 5, the office received 14 divorce appointments, hitting the upper limit set by the office.

As a result of the epidemic, many couples have been bound with each other at home for over a month, which evoked the underlying conflicts, adding that the office had been closed for a month, therefore the office has seen an acutely increasing divorce appointment. Usually the office would see a wave of divorcemes after Spring Festival and the college entrance examination.

A similar situation also occurred in another marriage registration office in the city’s Yanta district, whose service limit is five appointments for divorce. An official of the office confirmed the office is also seeing a divorce peak.

There is no vacancy for divorce appointments until March 18. The official said that due to long-time staying at home, the underlying conflicts might emerge and result in impulsive divorces. “We received some divorce appointments and they regretted it later”.

Some young couples even decided to remarry when their divorce certificate is printing. The official suggested couples be serious and prudent toward their marriages and avoid regrets from impulsive decision-making.

A telephone appointment is required a day before the registration, and their visit time is scheduled down to minute. It usually takes 30 to 40 minutes for a couple to get a marriage or divorce certificate, and the office would be sanitized after receiving another couple.

Florida Vaccinations and Child Custody

The spread of Covid-19 brings to mind the frequent problem of parents not protecting their children against vaccine preventable diseases.

I’ve written on the relationship between vaccinations and child custody in Florida before. In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility. Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court 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.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, 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 no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

In Florida, a court can carve out an exception to shared parental responsibility, giving one parent “ultimate authority” to make decisions, such as the responsibility for deciding on vaccinations.

Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (the WHO) advises you to take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

Wash your hands frequently. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

  • Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.

Maintain social distancing. Maintain at least 1-meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

  • Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

  • Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene. Make sure you cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

  • Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

  • Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

Stay informed. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

  • Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Information from the WHO about the coronavirus Covid-19 is available here.

 

A Strange New World of Equitable Distribution

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

Equitable Distrib Horse Semen

To Seek Out New Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Equitable Distribution

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

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

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

Boldly Going Where Few Men Have Gone Before

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

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

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

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

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

The Lexington Herald Leader article is here.

 

Devil’s Tower: Return to a Fault Based Divorce

Is divorce too easy? Some South Dakota lawmakers are trying, but recently failed in their effort, to pass a bill that would have eliminated no fault divorce, removed a common reason used by married couples seeking divorce, and make the whole process more difficult.

Devils Tower Divorce

The Mt. Rushmore of Divorce Law

Under South Dakota law, a divorce may be granted for any of the following grounds: adultery, extreme cruelty (including bodily injury or grievous mental suffering), willful desertion, willful neglect, habitual intemperance, conviction of a felony, chronic mental illness or irreconcilable differences.

South Dakota, unlike Florida, recognizes both “fault” and “no fault” divorces. A “no fault” divorce cites irreconcilable differences as the reason for the divorce.

Irreconcilable differences are defined as those determined by the court to be substantial enough reasons for not continuing the marriage and make it appear as though the marriage should be dissolved.

According to South Dakota sources, a Rapid City legislator introduced a bill to remove the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” as a legal reason for couples to get divorced.

In divorce court, irreconcilable differences are the most common in South Dakota. Irreconcilable differences are a way to have a no-fault divorce, and allows a couple to decide that the marriage isn’t working and ask a judge to dissolve the union for no other fault.

But the politician behind the bill said that making divorce harder to get was the point of his legislation: Divorce has gotten to be too easy, and married couples are giving up on their matrimonial contracts.

The result, he said, is that people are throwing each other away, leading to poverty and depression among children whose parents divorce. “How is that helpful to society?”

Florida No-Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.

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.

Avoiding the Badlands

Opponents of the South Dakota bill to make divorce harder included Robert Riter, representing the South Dakota Bar Association, and Steve Siegel, representing the South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association.

Siegel noted that removing irreconcilable differences would require couples to cite one of the six remaining reasons. Those include adultery, extreme cruelty and habitual intemperance. Those reasons would require couples to go to trial, forcing costly and contentious showdowns.

It’s going to force parties to air their dirty laundry in a public forum.

Riter said that the system of divorce law that existed when he started practicing law was worse before irreconcilable differences was added by the Legislature in the 1980s. He noted that other states have similar provisions.

“We’re not an island on this at all,” Riter said. “Society has decided that there ought to be opportunities for parties to agree that the marriage cannot be preserved.”

Tony Monnens, a farmer from Hazel, testified that his wife of 43 years filed for divorce last year after a head injury caused memory loss, which resulted in him losing a job. He said that divorce is too easy.

This thing is the absolute destruction of the family unit as we know it today.

South Dakota’s Argus Leader article is here.