Tag: best divorce lawyer

Fault and Extreme Cruelty in Divorce

The South Dakota Supreme Court weighs in on when a divorce can be issued on fault based grounds of extreme cruelty. A father in a divorce case was awarded custody of his children, attorneys’ fees and sanctions the hard way.

Divorce Extreme Cruelty

Bad Marriages in the Badlands

Rachel Evens and Tim Evens were married in 2005 and have four children. Tim owned and operated a carpet cleaning business, known as Tim Evens Carpet Care. Rachel began working for Tim’s carpet cleaning business and Tim gave her a 90% ownership interest.

Then things went bad.

Rachel obtained a domestic violence injunction based on allegations that Tim physically and sexually assaulted her. She removed the children from their schools in Rapid City and took them to Montana. But after an evidentiary, the court found her testimony was not credible and denied the injunction.

When Tim traveled 750 miles to get the children, Rachel prevented Tim’s departure by taking the keys to his vehicle and physically engaging him by pushing and pulling him inside of her house and in front of the children.

Rachel was represented by four different attorneys, each of whom quickly moved to withdraw

Rachel physically and mentally abused Tim, loudly accusing Tim of extramarital affairs at a restaurant, causing patrons to take notice. After dinner, Rachel told Tim she was going out to find a man to satisfy her, only to return later to taunt him by advising him she had succeeded in her effort.

Rachel falsely accused Tim of raping her, failing to pay taxes and hunting without a license, all of which the court determined were unsupported by the evidence

Tim commenced a divorce alleging irreconcilable differences or, in the alternative, extreme cruelty. Tim also requested primary physical custody of the children, equitable division of the parties’ assets, and child support

Florida Fault and Extreme Cruelty

I’ve written about no fault divorce before. No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. In Florida 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.

Unlike South Dakota, Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or extreme cruelty.

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.

Supreme Court of the Black Hills

The Supreme Court of South Dakota found that the family judge had made detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law as part of its decision to grant Tim’s request for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

Specifically, the court found that Rachel had physically abused Tim, including hitting, slapping, and kneeing him, as well as spitting in his face. The court also found Rachel had mentally abused Tim by calling him several names, including “stupid, dumb” and a “prick of a man.”

Rachel also told Tim that she was going to find someone else to satisfy her while also accusing him of having extramarital affairs and leveling unsupported allegations that he had committed serious criminal misconduct.

The court credited testimony from several witnesses who relayed derogatory comments Rachel made about Tim to her family, the parties’ children, and their friends.

This behavior, the court found, had continued throughout the marriage with more frequent, escalating incidents over time. As a result, the court found that “Rachel’s conduct toward Tim during this marriage has caused Tim great pain, anxiety, stress, grievous mental and physical suffering and constitutes extreme cruelty.

The circuit court’s comprehensive custody analysis includes over 300 findings directed to determining the children’s best interests. These findings are supported by the record, and we conclude that the court did not abuse its discretion by granting primary custody to Tim.

The South Dakota Supreme Court opinion is here.

 

Swinging into Child Custody Co-parenting

Four years after Spiderman star Tobey Maguire separated from his estranged Wife Jennifer Meyer, the couple is swinging into a new life of child custody and co-parenting in a way many divorcing couples should stick to.

Spiderman coparenting

Spiderman Meets Divorce Court

The two are officially ending their marriage. Four years after splitting, Meyer filed for divorce from the actor. Jennifer Meyer announced their separation, but the issues that led to the end of their nine-year marriage are not new.

“They’ve been living separate lives for a while. They have completely different interests and haven’t seemed to be connecting.”

Part of the problem seems to be a personality clash. “He’s extremely private and prefers to stay home, and she’s very social and has tons of girlfriends,” the source explains.

“They haven’t been happy together for a long time. But they are great parents, and they love their children.” A family friend echoed the couple’s devotion to their children. “It’s a marriage that’s ending, but a bond and a family as strong as any I know. They’re remarkable people. And very supportive of each other.”

Florida Co-Parenting

The question about an award of custody of children frequently comes up and is a matter I’ve written about before. Many people are surprised to learn that the term “custody” is no longer recognized in Florida.

Florida replaced the “custody” term for the “parenting plan” concept in order to avoid labeling parents as “visiting parent” or “primary parent” in the hopes of making child custody issues less controversial, and encourage parents to co-parent more effectively.

Under Florida’s parenting plan concept, both parents enjoy shared parental responsibility and a time-sharing schedule. “Shared parental responsibility” means both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities and have to confer with each other so that major decisions affecting their child are made jointly.

A time-sharing schedule, as the name suggests, is simply a timetable that is included in the parenting plan that specifies the times, including overnights and holidays, that your child spends with each parent.

Florida’s parenting plan concept has changed sole custody into “sole parental responsibility.” The term means that only one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child, as opposed to the shared parental responsibility terms, where both parents make decisions jointly.

Spidey Sense

Maguire, 41, and Meyer, 39 met in early 2003 and were married four years later in an intimate wedding ceremony in Hawaii, witnessed by a small group of family and friends.

At the time Meyer, a jewelry designer, shared her feelings about the big moment, telling USA Today, “Let’s just say this is truly the best time of my life. I’m walking on air. I’m getting married, starting a family and have an amazing company.”

The actor, who has spoken out about having a rocky childhood, revealed that settling down was a big priority in his life.

“Growing up the way I did, I had a very serious ambition to make some money, to have some security and comfort in my life,” he told Parade magazine in 2007.

Maguire has been keeping a low profile in Hollywood since wrapping up Spider-Man 3 — his final outing with the franchise — in 2007, appearing only in a handful of carefully selected projects including 2013’s The Great Gatsby and 2015’s Pawn Sacrifice, his last film to date.

The actor has also been seen hanging with pal Leonardo DiCaprio and girlfriend Nina Agdal, mostly recently on a yacht in Ibiza.

Maguire and Meyer also attended Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux’s secret wedding last year (Meyer designed Aniston’s wedding ring), and eventually joined Aniston and Theroux on a group honeymoon trip to Bora Bora that included a slew of other friends.

“They have completely different interests and haven’t seemed to be connecting,” the insider said at the time. “He’s extremely private and prefers to stay home, and she’s very social and has tons of girlfriends.”

“They haven’t been happy together for a long time,” the source continued, “but they are great parents, and they love their children.”

Despite their separation, the duo seems to have remained on friendly terms. The Spider-Man star has shown up to support Meyer in the years since their split. In 2018, Maguire attended the opening of his ex’s jewelry store in Los Angeles and posed for photos with Meyer.

In June, Meyer wished Maguire a happy Father’s Day on Instagram, calling the actor her “best friend.”

“To the best baby daddy. All is can say is no matter what happens in life, to relationships etc…. choose a dad for your kids that you can count on forever. This one right here is my best friend and the greatest dad to our babies. I’m sorry Tobey, I know you hate Instagram, but every once in a while I like to brag to everyone about how special you are ❤️ Happy Father’s Day.”

The People article is here.

 

Marriage Penalties

Although Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, many people moving here from other states and seeking divorce, frequently ask whether our state has marriage penalties built into the tax code. The Tax Foundation has the answer.

marriage penalty

What is a Marriage Penalty?

A marriage penalty is when a household’s overall tax bill increases due to a couple marrying and filing taxes jointly. A marriage penalty typically occurs when two individuals with similar incomes marry; this is true for both high- and low-income couples.

In other words, a marriage penalty arises any time a married couple pays higher income taxes than they would have paid if they were un-married and filed individual tax returns.

At the federal level, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 definitely lowered the cost of being married for many couples. But being married can be more expensive than being two single tax filers on April 15th.

For example, if a couple has children and both spouses earn income, they can owe thousands of dollars every year just for being married.

Some states have their own income tax. Under a graduated-rate income tax system, a taxpayer’s marginal income is exposed to progressively higher tax rates.

A marriage penalty might exist when a state’s income brackets for married taxpayers filing jointly are less than double the bracket widths that apply to single filers.

Put differently, married couples who file jointly under this scenario face a higher effective tax rate than they would if they filed as two single individuals with the same amount of combined income.

Florida Divorce and Tax

I’ve written about divorce and taxes before. For example, in 2012 the American Taxpayer Relief Act made permanent the Bush-era expanded standard deduction, and the expanded 15% bracket for joint filers.

But for high income earners, the 2012 law raised taxes on couples making more than $450,000, and individuals making more than $400,000.

As it turns out, some couples found out they could save over $25,000 a year if they divorced.

State Marriage Penalties

While Florida doesn’t have a state income tax, fifteen states have a marriage penalty built into their bracket structure. Seven additional states (Arkansas, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, and West Virginia), as well as the District of Columbia, fail to double bracket widths, but offset the marriage penalty in their bracket structure by allowing married taxpayers to file separately on the same return to avoid losing credits and exemptions.

Ten states have a graduated-rate income tax but double their brackets to avoid a marriage penalty: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Nebraska, and Oregon.

The ability to file separately on the same return is important in states that do not double bracket widths, as is the ability to do so even if the couple files jointly for federal purposes.

While married couples have the option of filing separately—though some states only allow this if they do so on their federal forms as well—this normally creates a disadvantage, because it either disallows or reduces the value of deductions and credits available to the family jointly, which is also a form of marriage penalty.

Filing separately on the same return eliminates this problem, though at the cost of slightly greater complexity than doubling tax brackets for joint filers so that there is no penalty for filing jointly.

The Tax Foundation article is here.

 

Cardi B, Divorce, and Infidelity

Singer Cardi B has filed for divorce from rapper husband Offset because of his alleged infidelity. The divorce petition was filed in Georgia, and there is an initial hearing scheduled for November. Many have asked whether infidelity is grounds for a divorce.

Cardi B Divorce

No Longer Migos

Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, known professionally as Cardi B, became an Internet celebrity and her debut album was number one on the Billboard 200, broke several streaming records, was certified triple platinum and named by Billboard the top female rap album of the 2010s.

Kiari Kendrell Cephus, known professionally as Offset, is a member of the hip hop and trap music trio, Migos. The couple married in 2017 in a secret ceremony.

Our relationship was so new breaking up and making up and we had a lot of growing up to do but we was so in love we didn’t want to lose each other, was one morning in September we woke up and decided to get married … No dress no make up and no ring.

Their daughter, Kulture, was born in July 2018 – Cardi B’s first child and Offset’s fourth. Cardi B is reportedly seeking primary custody, and child support from Offset.

Florida Divorce and Infidelity

I’ve written about the impact of infidelity and divorce before. In practical terms, adultery as a crime poses very little threat of prosecution, but it could have other consequences.

“Cheating on your spouse can even be grounds for losing your job. This is particularly true in the military, where adultery has a maximum punishment of a dishonorable discharge.”

Chapter 61 discusses the “the moral fitness of the parents” as one of the factors the court considers in determining the best interests of a child. Adultery may impact the division of property. Proof that one spouse intentionally wasted marital assets could be seen as dissipation of assets. Adultery of either spouse could be a factor in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.

There are times when evidence of adultery comes into evidence. Most often it doesn’t. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that sexual activity between consenting adults is legal.

Bad and Boujee

Their relationship has had high-profile ructions. Following rumors of Offset’s infidelity in 2017, Cardi B said:

“No, it’s not right … But what you want me to do? Start all over again and get cheated on again? This shit happens to everyone.”

The couple stayed together but briefly split in December 2018, with Cardi B saying: “Things just haven’t been working out between us for a long time … we just grew out of love.”

Offset publicly pleaded for a resolution, saying:

“I was partaking in activity that I shouldn’t have been partaking in, and I apologize. For breaking your heart, for breaking our promise, for breaking God’s promise and being a selfish, messed up husband.”

They reconciled in January 2019. But could he “walk it like I talk it?” Their divorce ends one of the highest-profile celebrity relationships in the US. Cardi B is among the world’s most successful and respected rappers – after breaking through in 2017 with US No 1 hit Bodak Yellow she has had three other No 1 singles, more than any other female rapper.

They collaborated with Cardi B on the 2017 single MotorSport. Offset has also released a successful solo album, Father of 4, featuring a hit track, Clout, with Cardi B. He has also guested on US Top 10 hits with Kodak Black and Tyga.

The Guardian article is here.

Photo by Frank Schwichtenberg – Own work.

Strategy if Your Spouse Files for Divorce

There is some strategy for you to consider if your spouse asks you for a divorce. MSN discusses some things you could do immediately to protect your personal and financial interests. Obviously, it is difficult to focus on money when your marriage is ending, but you need to make sure that you reach a fair and equitable divorce settlement too.

divorce strategy

A Few Good Moves

You wouldn’t end a business partnership without first determining that all assets were divided fairly. The same holds true for dissolving a marriage. Focus on the following things immediately if you learn that your spouse is planning to end your union.

Hire a good attorney

According to MSN, hiring a lawyer is crucial. Your goal: Find an experienced advocate who will put your personal and financial interests first. Never share the lawyer with your spouse. Make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney.

Get referrals for attorneys from your trusted friends, family members and business associates, but keep in mind you want a lawyer who specializes in family law and divorce, preferably someone board certified as a specialist by your state’s Bar Association, and who is very involved in the legal community.

Monitor your credit reports

Protect yourself by preventing your spouse from running up large or unnecessary bills at this time. For now, at least, you may be responsible for half of any joint expenses.

“You know your spouse better than anyone else. If you know they’re not trustworthy, or they have a gambling problem, or you both are in a lot of debt, that tells you there are financial warning signs.”

Monitoring your credit score and credit reports before, during and after a divorce will ensure that your credit is safe and that no one else is using your name to borrow.

Florida Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce.  I’ve written about divorce before. In order to divorce in Florida, you need to file a petition for dissolution of marriage in the family court.

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.

But there is some additional strategy to protect yourself.

Consider Closing joint accounts

To protect your credit rating, you may want to consider closing credit accounts that your spouse has access to. The idea is to prevent your spouse from incurring large debts before the divorce is final.

With joint credit cards, you are liable for any debts taken on by your spouse, says Sarah Carlson, a certified financial planner in Spokane, Washington.

If your spouse can’t pay the debts he or she runs up on your joint accounts, you may be held responsible.

Determine how much money you’re entitled to

When people divorce, many financial issues are tied to the size of the marital estate. To help you determine which assets you’ll be entitled to in a divorce, you’ll need to understand how much you and your spouse are worth, separately.

“For example, identification of an income-producing asset may be helpful for determination of child support and maintenance issues, while also affecting the division of the marital estate”.

Your job: Find out which assets are in your name and which belong to your spouse.

Protect your savings

It is easy to use up your cash quickly in a divorce. Safeguard your joint assets by asking your financial institutions to require two signatures for withdrawals.

“We generally don’t advise doing this with a regular joint checking account that is continuing to be used for household expenses, because that can become cumbersome. But we do advise dual signatures for any savings or investment accounts.”

Keep things as friendly as possible

Starting your divorce on an amicable note will make the proceedings easier and less time-consuming. From the beginning, work to keep things civil.

When you spend time bickering over minor issues, the only people who benefit are attorneys billing you by the hour.

“If ever there was a time to pick your battles, this is it. If you fight over every detail of your divorce, the fights will be never-ending, and that will impact your emotional state and your wallet.”

Talk with your children

The needs of children sometimes can be overlooked when parents divorce.

The best way to break the news of a divorce to children is for both parents to explain that their relationship is changing, making it clear that both parents love the children and the parents respect each other, says David T. Pisarra, a family law attorney in Santa Monica, California.

The Mayo Clinic advises parents to spend time explaining to children what is happening. Let them know that the separation isn’t their fault and that you will continue to care for them.

The MSN article is here.

 

Enforcing or Modifying Your Marital Settlement Agreement

We scored another big appellate win which sheds light on the question: are you enforcing or modifying your marital settlement agreement when a family court requires the continuation of soccer and other extra-curriculars?

The Beautiful Game

In our recent appeal, the parents had three children. After less than a decade of marriage, they divorced in Portugal, but they never had a parenting plan for their children. After they both moved to Miami with the children, a family court ratified their agreed parenting plan.

Under their parenting plan, they agreed to certain extracurricular activities, including organized activities such as soccer, lessons and special training. However, the sports and activities had to be mutually agreed on by the parents in accordance with Florida’s shared parental responsibility statute.

All of the children’s current extracurricular activities, especially ‘the beautiful game,’ soccer, were agreed upon by both parents. Additionally, they agreed that the parent exercising time sharing with the children handle the transportation with the necessary equipment.

Although all three of the children were traditionally dedicated to sporting activities, their involvement in youth soccer travel teams had increased, requiring more of a time commitment because the children are expected to attend frequent practices, and regularly traveling outside of their local community for games and tournaments.

The father filed a motion to stop the soccer commitments of the children and to eliminate his obligation to transport the children to certain competitive events during his timesharing.

The family judge heard his motion, and, after considering the relative merits of the parties, along with the language reflected within the parenting plan, entreated the parties to reach an agreement as to enrollment and participation in the relevant activities.

When that failed, the court conducted another hearing and authorized the mother to re-enroll the children in their respective leagues and directing the father to transport the children to those competitive events scheduled during his timesharing.

He appealed.

Florida Marital Settlement Agreements

I’ve written about modifications and enforcement of marital settlement agreements before. Most family law cases are resolved by agreement, not by trial. A Marital Settlement Agreement is the method to resolving all of the issues, and is the final product of the negotiations.

A marital settlement agreement puts in writing all the aspects of the divorcing parties’ settlement. Topics covered in the Marital Settlement Agreement include the parenting plan and timesharing schedule, the division of the parties’ assets and liabilities, and often times: soccer and other extra-curricular activities to which the parties have agreed.

A marital settlement agreement entered into by the parties and ratified by a final judgment is a contract, subject to the laws of contract. The enforceability and modifications of contracts in Florida is a matter of importance in Florida public policy.

Because a marital settlement agreement is treated like any other contract, and is subject to interpretation like any other contract, they can be enforced by the court. Unique to marital settlement agreements though, they may be modified too.

But sometimes it is difficult to tell whether the court’s action is a modification of a contract or the enforcement of a contract. Our recent appellate goal hopefully sheds some light on that distinction.

Goal!

Ruling in our favor, the appellate court wrote an opinion stating that under the principle of shared parental responsibility, major decisions affecting the welfare of the child are to be made after the parents confer and reach an agreement.

However, in cases in which the parents cannot reach agreement on such a decision, the dispute should be presented to the trial court for resolution. In resolving the impasse, the lower tribunal must be guided by a consideration of the best interests of the child.

In our case, the parenting plan allows for shared decisions over extracurricular activities, but prohibited the unreasonable withholding of consent. So, the court was properly permitted to explore the facts and circumstances surrounding both continued participation and transportation.

At the time the parents signed the parenting plan, the children were already heavily involved in soccer. By including a provision that the “present extracurricular activities are agreed upon by both parents,” and allocating continuing enrollment expenses and other relevant allowances for league travel, the agreement clearly anticipated a continuation of such participation.

Further, as the trial court did not “change the status quo [or] alter the rights and obligations of the parties,” but merely rejected the unreasonable withholding of consent, we conclude the decision was grounded in enforcement of the existing 7 terms of the judgment, and affirmed.

The opinion is here.

 

Divorce Real Estate Problems: House Custody?

You can face many real estate problems in a divorce, but how about house custody? One unique case involves a couple which jointly owns a home, are both on the mortgage, and whose children left. She wants to be able to spend time living at their home alone. The husband disagrees and refuses to leave for any amount of time. Does she have the legal right to house custody half of the time?

House Custody

Brick and Mortar Issues

The New York Times article re-frames the issue as a case of a married couple, jointly owning a house, with equal rights to it. So, the article states both need to be in agreement about what to do with the property.

Neither of you can sell the house without the other’s consent, nor can you limit each other’s access to it. It’s as much his house as it is yours.

If they bought it together and maintained it together, it’s marital property and most likely it would be divided 50-50. Most likely, they would be both entitled to live there until the place is sold.

The article suggests that for the moment, set aside your immediate desire to share time at the house and, instead, figure out what you ultimately want for the house once your divorce is finalized.

Do you want to keep the house? If so, you may eventually need to buy out your husband when you divide your assets. Or do you want to move? In that case, your husband could either buy you out or you could sell the property and divide the assets.

Florida Divorce Real Estate Problems

I’ve written about real estate problems in divorce cases before. A big question frequently arises: should you move out of the house before the divorce is over?

Sometimes the arguing gets too intense, and the court must intervene. For one couple in Brooklyn, their arguing resulted in their being ordered to build a wall dividing their home so each could stay in the house peacefully.

This was not just a simple line on the floor as in the 1989 movie: War of the Roses, but an actual wall of plywood and sheetrock through the middle of their house (see picture above). Interestingly, the judge gave the wife the kitchen and the husband the dining room.

The marital home is a valuable asset, maybe your most valuable asset, but it is also a place for you to live in and it is an important, and possibly big part, of the final settlement. Consider the following:

Marital Asset

The home remains a marital asset, which is subject to equitable distribution, regardless of who lives there during the divorce process. If a home is marital then both parties have equal rights to buy–out the other’s share. Both may also be on the hook for liabilities.

Children’s Issues

Until a parenting plan in place, if you are interested in maintaining a meaningful relationship in your child’s life, leaving the home before a timesharing agreement is entered may show a lack of real interest in the child’s daily life. Moving out can create the appearance of a new ‘primary residential parent’ by default. Worse, if the process takes a long time, it creates a new status quo.

Cost

The person leaving may still have to contribute for the expenses of the home while also paying for a new home. It can be costly, and prohibitive expensive when you know that the process will take a long time.

Settlement

Staying in the same home could create an incentive to negotiate a final settlement because living with your soon to be ex-spouse is very uncomfortable. However, if someone moves out, the person remaining in the home is sitting pretty and may be less inclined to settle.

If you Leave

Before moving out, there should be some discussions about maintaining the home and who is paying for which expenses, an inventory should be made of the personal property, artwork, silverware etc., and the boundaries for when the ‘out-spouse’ can use and enjoy the home after vacation

The New York Times piece correctly suggests thinking about your long-term goals. Once you’ve done that, try to reach a temporary agreement for how to weather this transition period.

That may mean that you alternate time spent in the house, or it may mean that one of you moves out, or that you both continue to live there until you can sell the property and move on with your lives. Moving out will have financial ramifications for both of you and those need to be carefully considered.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Interstate Divorces and Foreign Judgments

Interstate divorces can become a serious constitutional problem when you are enforcing foreign judgments. We recently won an important constitutional victory on appeal after a Florida divorce court refused to enforce a Missouri foreign judgment.

Interstate Divorce

Gateway to a United Country

A couple married in Missouri. Then they asked to borrow money from the Husband’s mother to buy a marital home in Missouri. The mother-in-law agreed to lend them the money for the down payment after the couple agreed to repay her in full.

The couple then asked that the Mother-in-law pay their mortgage payments and lend them even more money to renovate their new home they bought, with the same arrangement that they would repay her from the sale of their previous home.

They didn’t pay back the mother-in-law. Instead, they moved to Florida and defaulted.

The Mother-in-law sued them, and won a final judgment awarding her money from on the unpaid loan in a Missouri Circuit Court.

The parties then filed for divorce in Florida. The mother-in law was concerned her judgment would never be repaid, so she intervened in their divorce as a foreign judgment creditor to enforce her Missouri final judgment.

The Florida divorce court allowed her to intervene and enforce the Missouri judgment, but entered a new divorce final judgment slashing the mother-in-law’s Missouri judgment in half so the couple didn’t have to pay her back what they owed.

The trial court’s actions violated the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, a constitutional clause which helps make us one country, not 50 independent countries.

Florida Interstate Divorce Issues

I’ve written and spoken about interstate divorce issues before. The typical interstate problems occur in cases in which two parents reside in one state, like Missouri for instance, then one or more of the parents and the children move across state lines to Florida, for instance.

Interstate problems can include enforcing foreign custody orders, enforcing or modifying family support orders (like alimony and child support), or enforcing foreign money judgments.

To help with confusion between different laws in different American states, the Uniform Law Commission is tasked with drafting laws on various subjects that attempt to bring uniformity across American state lines.

With respect to family law, different American states had adopted different approaches to issues related to interstate custody, interstate alimony, and child support. The results were that different states had conflicting resolutions to the same problems.

To seek harmony in this area, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA) and Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (the UIFSA), which Florida and almost all U.S. states passed into law.

A major problem arises when one state’s judgment conflicts with Florida’s public policy. For example, grandparent visitation is an area of law in which Florida does not really recognize a grandparent’s rights, but many other states do.

A few years ago, the Florida Supreme Court the Florida Supreme Court held that Florida is not allowed to elevate its own public policy over the policy behind a sister state’s judgment.

Accordingly, a Florida divorce court cannot refuse to enforce a Missouri judgment for money damages if one happened to be at issue in a Florida divorce. But that’s exactly what happened recently in a divorce court here.

Sunshine State Meets the Show Me State

After the Florida divorce court’s ruling, we asked an appellate court in Florida to reverse what the divorce court had done. On appeal, a panel of judges reviewed the case.

We explained that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution creates a constitutional duty that U.S. states must honor the laws and judgments of the other sister states.

That is an important aspect of American federalism because it changes the various U.S. states from being independent foreign countries, and making them integral parts of a single nation.

This form of federalism has traditionally meant that one state in the United States may not modify or alter the judgment of a sister state (excluding child support and custody cases which can be modified under very limited circumstances).

In our case, no one disputed the validity of the Missouri judgment. Everyone participated in a full trial on the merits in Missouri. In reversing, the appellate court held that a Florida divorce court was prevented from inquiring into the merits of the cause of action or the logic or consistency of the Missouri court’s decision.

Because the mother-in-law appropriately intervened in the divorce action and asserted her right to enforce the Missouri judgment, the divorce court did not have discretion to alter or reduce the Missouri judgment or it constituted a violation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The appellate opinion is here.

 

Divorce Causes in India

Divorce can have many causes, but in India there is a bizarre case going on in which a Muslim woman has sought divorce in an Islamic court from her husband on the grounds that he does not fight with her enough.

India Divorce

The Spice of Life

The unidentified woman in the Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh has sought a divorce from her husband after only 18-months of marital bliss. The woman approached the Sharia court in Sambhal to seek a divorce, leaving the court puzzled.

Why was the court so confused?

The chief complaint from the woman is that her husband loves her too much and does not fight with her. The woman claimed that her husband’s love was ‘suffocating’ her.

“He does not shout at me and neither has he upset me on any issue. He even cooks for me and also helps me in performing household chores.”

She further said, “Whenever I make a mistake, he always forgives me for that. I wanted to argue with him. I do not need a life where the husband agrees to anything.”

The Sharia court cleric, as expected, rejected her plea for divorce, terming it as frivolous. When the Sharia court refused to grant her divorce, the woman took up the matter with the local panchayat (the local self-government in villages in rural India), which also expressed its inability to decide the issue.

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. So, whether your husband is always forgiving of your mistakes, or worse, very agreeable to anything you want, you don’t need to allege that as a grounds 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 nice demeanor. 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 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.

Divorce Bollywood Style?

Back in India meanwhile, the nice husband has gone on record and stated that he loved his wife dearly and always wanted to keep her happy. He also asked the Sharia Court cleric to reject the divorce plea. Of course.

The court has now asked the couple to resolve the matter mutually.

The Tribune India article is here.

 

The Force of Bifurcation in Divorce

The force of bifurcation proceedings in divorce rises again as Star Wars actor, Ewan McGregor and his wife of 22 years, Eve Mavrakis, asked for bifurcation before finalizing their divorce last week. Being declared unmarried in the eyes of the state before signing the final divorce papers is becoming the hottest move in Hollywood.

Bifurcation

The Divorce Menace

The actor filed for divorce in January 2018. But in November 2019, McGregor asked a judge to declare himself and Mavrakis single before they’d finalized their divorce in a move known as bifurcation.

The court must not have kept the details of McGregor and Mavrakis’s proceedings under lock and key, as People magazine has obtained the settlement.

The settlement details obtained by People are pretty revealing: Mavrajus received roughly $14,934 per month in child support for their youngest child, the only one of the four who is under 18. Mavrakis also reportedly receives an alimony amount of $35,868 each month.

Florida Bifurcation

I’ve written about various family law issues before. One of those issues is bifurcation. Sometimes, people need a divorce, and like all members of the Jedi Order (which prohibits marriage), need a divorce fast. But can you get an immediate divorce?

Put another way, when can a family law judge enter a dissolution of marriage final judgment, but reserve jurisdiction to determine all of the other issues in a divorce relating to custody, support, and property rights for later?

In a highly unusual procedure, there’s also a trifurcated dissolution. The family law court first dissolves the marriage. Then separates the remainder of the financial issues, and reserves on timesharing and child support for the children.

The real issue is bifurcation, and it is a split procedure of entering a final judgment to divorce and keep power over the case to determine all the other issues. The practice is rare and limited to special cases.

In general, family law judges try to avoid this kind of split procedure. The law is designed for one final judgment and one appeal of divorce. Splitting the process can cause a lot of legal and procedural problems which result in delay and additional expense to people.

So, in Florida this split procedure is really only used when it is clearly necessary for the best interests of the parties or their children. The convenience of two law professors to remarry would not justify its use.

The Dark Side

McGregor and Mavrakis, who’s a French-born production designer, separated in 2017, so there was an argument that anything McGregor made after that point would not be subject to the division of assets. However, the judge designated his 2018 Disney film, Christopher Robin, for which he earned $3,000,000, community property—meaning that Mavrakis would be entitled to her share of the earnings.

in a judgement purportedly obtained by People, McGregor, 49, and Mavrakis’ divorce was finalized o with a judge appointing both of them joint legal and physical custody of their youngest child.

The two have agreed to continue to “have a flexible custodial schedule to accommodate” their daughter’s schedule, according to the documents.

The two have also split their assets, although any earned income from films or TV series McGregor has starred in the past — such as Fargo, the Star Wars prequels, the Trainspotting films, Big Fish, Moulin Rouge, Emma and Now You See It, among others — are considered community property and all residuals and royalties will be split with Mavrakis.

McGregor and Mavrakis met on the set of the British TV crime series Kavanagh QC, and they were married in 1995. Mavrakis is a production designer who was born in France and raised in China. She also served as a production interpreter on the Chinese set of Steven Spielberg’s 1987 movie Empire of the Sun.

A family source confirmed the two had separated in May 2017 amid news McGregor was spotted kissing his Fargo costar, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

After winning the Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a limited series or motion picture for television in 2018, McGregor thanked Mavrakis and Winstead, 35, in his acceptance speech, saying, “I’ve always loved being an actor and hanging out with actors and I got amazing actors to work with on this and it wouldn’t be any Emmett or Stassi without David, Michael, Carrie Coon and there would be no Rey without Mary Elizabeth Winstead so thank you very much.”

McGregor pointedly thanked his ex during his acceptance speech, saying, “I want to take a moment to thank Ev, who always stood beside me for 22 years and my four children, I love you.”

The Vanity Fair article is here.