Tag: celebrity divorce

Another Case of Fraud and Divorce

A 77-year old Tampa businessman filed to divorce his 26-year-old wife who may have tried to steal $1,000,000.00 from him. Is this yet another case of divorce fraud, and if so, what can be done? The Husband’s divorce attorneys at Sessums Black Caballero Ficarrotta will have to find out.

Divorce Fraud 3

A Tampa Bay Buccaneer

Court records show that 77-year old Richard Rappaport’s attorney filed an action for dissolution of marriage against his 26-year old wife, Lin Halfon, on Friday, Jan. 10. The couple was married in Sarasota in August.

Halfon won’t have an easy time getting to divorce court because she’s been incarcerated for a month at the Hillsborough County Jail on Falkenburg Road.

She is facing charges of money laundering, organized fraud, exploitation of the elderly and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

His wife, Ms. Halfon, has been charged with money-laundering, organized fraud and exploitation of an elderly person after being arrested at Tampa international airport in Florida.

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud before. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as bank accounts, between parties under the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include things like the financial situation the parties, the length of the marriage, whether someone has interrupted their career or an educational opportunity, or how much one spouse contributed to the other’s career or education.

Another important factor is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

Dissipation of marital assets, such as taking money from a joint bank account, happens a lot. Trying to cash a million dollar check at a payday loan store . . . less so. In both cases, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning the dissipated asset to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

Misconduct, for purposes of dissipation, does not mean mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

When it’s Friday and Payday!

This divorce fraud case may also get entered into the world’s dumbest criminal’s museum. She’ll join a trio of drug thieves who broke into a Florida home, snorted the contents of three jars – which were in fact urns – only to discovery they’d inhaled the remains of two cherished dogs.

The Wife went to a payday loan company called, Amscot, and tried to cash a $1 million check with both of their names on it. Court documents said Rappaport’s wife returned to the bank with three checks in the amount of $333,000. The police investigation began after an employee refused to cash the checks.

After being notified by investigators, Rappaport said he wanted to give his new wife the benefit of the doubt and did not want her to be deported. When asked later if he felt he was the victim of fraud, Rappaport told investigators, “yes.”.

The Wife’s defense attorney Todd Foster said he plans to file motions asking for bond and evidentiary hearings and asked:

“Can a wife steal from her husband? Is that a crime? We’re looking at that.”

Rappaport’s daughter said in an arrest affidavit that his family members were unaware of the marriage and believed Halfon was ‘conning’ Rappaport due to his age” according to the arrest affidavit.

The Wife’s attorney claims it “was a valid marriage” and that they loved each other.

Tampa’s Channel 8 article is here.

Did Your Promotion Cause Your Divorce?

Does a promotion to a top job increase your likelihood of divorce? Two Swedish professors researched that issue, and found that a promotion to a top job doubled the probability of divorce for women . . . but not so much for men.

Sweden Divorce

Divorce Stockholm Syndrome

The professors also found that there was a widening gender gap in divorce rates for men and women after being promoted to CEO. Their analysis of possible mechanisms may show that divorces are concentrated in more gender-traditional couples, while women in more gender-equal couples are unaffected.

No one doubts that the economic and social roles of men and women have been converging in recent decades. Women in Western democracies have largely caught up with men in terms of labor force participation, tertiary education, and career expectations.

But what lags behind is women’s realization of those career goals. In 2015, men accounted for 95% of CEOs in Forbes 500 firms and more than 75% of the world’s parliamentarians.

The professors argued that one potential reason for women’s slower career progressions is that a job promotion for a woman causes more stress and strain on the household than the job promotion of a man.

They also offer the first empirical analysis of how the promotion to a top job in the economy affects the marriage durability of men and women. They found that a promotion to a top job leads to an increased rate of divorce among women, but not among men.

Florida Divorce

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.

Divorce can be highly emotional for couples and their children. But was your promotion to CEO the cause of all of this trauma?

Relationship Fjords

The professors’ analysis was carried out using Swedish register data and targets promotions to three types of top jobs. Two of the jobs are top public sector jobs, and the third type was in the private sector: CEOs of companies with more than 100 employees.

The analysis linked the divorce impact of the promotion to couples for which the woman’s promotion to a top job conflicted with gender-traditional behavior in the household.

Divorces are more likely to occur when the wife is younger than her husband by a greater margin, and where she took a larger share of the couple’s total parental leave.

Another important finding was a large gender difference in the correlation between the probability of a divorce and experiencing a promotion that shifts earnings from dual-earner into the woman becoming the dominant earner.

Among women whose promotions make them the dominant earner, i.e. making more than 60% of household income, more than 15% divorced within three years after the promotion. In the corresponding group for men, only 3% had divorced.

Some of the problems with the study included the fact that there is no register for which spouse initiated the divorce, there is no good annual measure of the division of household work, and Sweden does not measure cohabitation accurately.

So, if job promotion causes divorce among women, is that a good thing or a bad thing? The professors argue that the implications for society are largely negative because human talent for top positions is evenly distributed among men and women and the vast majority of men and women put “family” at the top of their list of priorities for life satisfaction.

An abstract is available here.

 

Is January Really Divorce Month?

January is usually reserved for kicking bad habits and beginning work on those New Year’s resolutions. But some parts of the internet, this blog included, have suggested that January has earned it’s nickname as “divorce month.” Is there truth to it? The New York Times recently investigated.

divorce january

‘Tis the Season?

There is no doubt that divorce is a seasonal phenomenon. From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, lawyers’ offices can slow down with new filings because people have decided to put off until after the holidays their decisions to separate.

A Google trends search for “divorce last year returned that it was – ever so slightly – most popular from January 6th to January 12th. The term has peaked at various times though, from March and September too!

A 2016 study by the University of Washington analyzed divorce filings in Washington state from 2001 to 2015 and found they peaked in March and August, following the winter and summer holidays.

Florida No-fault Divorce

Divorce rates started to increase in the 1970s when baby boomers started divorcing at higher rates and the introduction of no-fault divorce laws.

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.

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

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.

Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? Since Florida became a no-fault state, the fact that, “she (or he) is sleeping with a co-worker” doesn’t hold much traction in court any more.

Some states still have fault-based divorce, and some of the common fault-based grounds for divorce are adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, incarceration for conviction of a crime, institutionalization for mental illness, and a spouse’s continued abuse of drugs or alcohol.

New Year’s Resolution?

Not everyone thinks January is divorce month. Some people think it is a perception of the end of the year slow-down, and that the comparison makes it appear to be a big month for filing.

However, divorce timelines can also be impacted by state. In Georgia, divorces can be granted in as little as one month, or could take years. In California, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period for a divorce to be finalized.

When you file for divorce, you may impact everything financial including taxes. Your marital status on the last day of the year can determine how you file your taxes. If a state has a rule regarding your filing status and separation, that could be a reason for a January filing.

Responsibilities for children, lack of romance, incompatibility and money problems are all big drivers of divorce. Many people feel there is an uptick in divorce filing around anniversaries and Valentine’s Day too. The answer to the question “is January really divorce month?” is, maybe.

The New York Times article is here.

 

An Interstate Custody Marriage Story

The new Netflix divorce drama, Marriage Story, is an excellent movie which has brought critics and audiences together – with divorce attorneys! Largely overlooked in the detail it deserves is the legal implications of Nicole and Charlie’s interstate child custody fight which develops when Nicole moves to California from New York with their son Henry.

interstate custody

Act 1: Whose Fault is It?

Nicole is the one who moves to Los Angeles with their son. She doesn’t have to – they are a New York family, despite her having been raised on the west coast. The movie makes a lot of their having married in Los Angeles and their son was born there, but for the past 10-years, they’ve lived and worked in New York.

The reason for Nicole’s relocation to Los Angeles is a job offer, she gets hired to be in a TV pilot. Job offers are a common source for needing to relocate interstate with a child. However, there is no indication that she can’t find acting work in New York. Surely there are other work opportunities she could have in New York, had she really looked.

Then she makes her husband’ efforts to see their son in Los Angeles difficult when he visits. She steered Charlie away from sleeping for the night on the day he’s arrived – even though he has no idea she filed for divorce. Worse yet, he’s served with divorce papers in her parent’s house. Then Halloween becomes a sad, lonely time.

Act 2: Interstate Custody

I’ve written and spoken about interstate custody cases before. Generally, when two parents reside in a state, like Florida for instance, Florida custody laws will apply. However, when one of the parents and the child move across state lines, you have an interstate custody problem.

That’s exactly the problem Charlie faced after Nicole moved with their son to California from New York. But which law applies? Historically, family law is a matter of state rather than federal law. So, you would look to state law in deciding an interstate case; not Federal law. As will be seen below, there are some conflicts with different state laws.

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

That jurisdiction is based on where the child is, and the significant connections the child has with the forum state, let’s say New York for the Nicole and Charlie example. The ultimate determining factor in a New York case then, is what is the “home state” of the child. New York has initial jurisdiction to hear Nicole and Charlie’s case, for example, if New York was the Home State of their son on the date Nicole filed her case.

Alternatively, New York could possibly hear their case if New York was the Home State of the child within 6-months before Nicole filed her case, and their son was absent from New York, but one of the parents still lives in New York. This usually happens when a parent takes a child across state lines.

There is a good reason for the ‘home state’ approach under the UCCJEA, which has been adopted by most state laws. That is that Florida, California and New York – and the other states – all have a strong public policy interest in protecting children in their states.

Act 3: The Big Decision

Charlie does face a serious interstate child custody problem, and has a few weaknesses too. Charlie cheated and feeling guilty, allowed Nicole and their son to move to California for at least a year. We don’t know how long after Nicole moved to California she filed for divorce. Nicole has always done more of the childcare and has extended family in California – a luxury that Charlie doesn’t enjoy.

The stakes in the movie are extremely high for interstate parents facing a custody problem. The big issue is whether Charlie will need to move to Los Angeles to keep up regular contact with his son or be able to force Nicole to return their son to New York so she can timeshare there.

I won’t give a spoiler as to how their interstate child custody case is finally resolved. Instead, know that the movie does an amazing job of portraying the high stakes and anxiety involved in an interstate child custody divorce.

The new Netflix movie, Marriage Story, is great, and stars Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Azhy Robertson, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever, and Wallace Shawn and basically follows a married couple going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

Highly recommended!

*Gage Skidmore photo credit

A Phaser-Proof Prenuptial Agreement?

William Shatner, who is best known for starring as Enterprise captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek, has reached the final frontier of his marriage: he has filed for divorce from his wife of 18 years. News reports suggest the Captain and his First Mate previously entered into a prenuptial agreement. But will it be phaser-proof?

Phaserproof Prenup

Beam Me Up Scotty

Transmission of the news was received this week about the divorce filing, but some sources believe the divorce process had already been in the works for a while. Importantly TMZ noted that there was a prenup in place, the couple never had children together, and neither party is asking for spousal support. Observers are predicting a smooth divorce will be transported down to court fairly soon.

I was attracted by her beauty first of all, which was an old syndrome for me … and I think I lucked out because she had so many other qualities as well. Elizabeth has a great sense of humor and a great sense of adventure and she’s very nurturing. That combination of beauty, style, intelligence, humor and loving horses and dogs and children and loving her home and making a home for us, is quite a combination.

This marriage is not the Captain’s first voyage. Shatner’s wife, Elizabeth, 61, is his fourth, er sequel, in movie parlance.

Florida Prenups

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just exploring the strange new world of marriage. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important for those who boldly go into fourth marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment. Many couples divorcing would prefer not to to explore the strange new worlds of family court.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce.

Prenups can be the best captain at the helm . . . if they’re done right.

There are a galaxy of problems with prenuptial agreements too. If a prenuptial agreement includes any provisions that violate the law or public policy, it may automatically be deemed invalid.

Additionally, a prenuptial agreement cannot waive child support, and can’t set an amount for child support. Courts have plenary power over support issues, so child support amounts are determined by courts based on our child support guidelines.

Also, a premarital agreement may not be enforceable in a family court case, for instance, if it was not signed voluntarily; or if it was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.

Warp Speed Ahead

The Shatners are still negotiating the financial terms, a source told the site TMZ.

‘Per the terms of the prenup, neither party will receive any support from the other.

The Captain has had a colorful love life previously that resulted in four marriages and three daughters. Shatner and Elizabeth Shatner married in February 2001. He was previously married to Gloria Rand, Marcy Lafferty and Nerine Kidd, and has three daughters, Melanie, Leslie and Lisabeth, with Rand. Elizabeth Shatner was previously wed to Michael Glenn Martin.

Sources said Shatner and Elizabeth are expected to soon submit their divorce documents for a final signature from a judge.

The TMZ article is here.

 

A Slice of Equitable Distribution and Alimony

The wife of Papa John’s founder John Schnatter filed for divorce, claiming her marriage with the unemployed pizza executive is “irretrievably broken,” according to court papers filed in Kentucky. If there is no prenuptial agreement, how big a slice of equitable distribution of the stock and any alimony is Annette entitled to?

Slice of Equitable Distribution

When the Moon Hits Your Eye

Papa John’s is an American pizza restaurant franchise. It runs the fourth largest pizza delivery restaurant chain in the United States, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.

Papa John’s was founded in 1984 when “Papa” John Schnatter knocked out a broom closet in the back of his father’s tavern, Mick’s Lounge, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He then sold his 1971 Camaro Z28 to purchase US$1,600 worth of used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to the tavern’s customers out of the converted closet.

John’s pizzas became so popular he moved into the adjoining space. The company went public in 1993 and a year later it had 500 stores. By 1997 it had 1,500 stores. And in 2009, John got his Camaro Z28 back after offering a $250,000 reward.

Schnatter and Annette Cox, 59, had been married since April 11, 1987, and separated on April 1 of this year, the wife’s attorney Melanie Straw-Boone writer in papers filed in Oldham Circuit Court. Cox called Schnatter a 57-year-old Louisville resident who “is not employed,” according to the boilerplate, three-page petition.

“The marriage between petitioner and respondent is irretrievably broken”.

The couple have two children and share unspecified real estate holdings, the filing said. Schnatter stepped down as CEO in late 2017 after reports surfaced that he uttered a racial slur during a conference call.

Alimony, Equitable Distribution, and the Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of marriage is an important topping in divorce cases. I’ve written about the types of alimony awards available in Florida before. For instance, Florida Statutes dealing with alimony specifically limit the type of alimony awards based on the duration of the marriage.

So, for determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage less than 7-years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7-years but less than 17-years, and long-term marriage is 17-years or greater.

Florida defines the duration of marriage as the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.

The duration of marriage can also be a large slice of the property division. When a court distributes the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court begins with the premise of an equal split.

However, there are times and cases which justify an unequal distribution based on several relevant factors. One of the factors a court can consider is the duration of marriage, in addition to other factors.

Dividing assets between spouses – especially large companies such as Papa John’s – is not as simple as taking a pizza cutter to a hot pie; even with agreements. Very often assets have appreciated over the course of several years. The longer the marriage is, the more a business interest can appreciate. When property appreciates, you need to distinguish between passive and active appreciation. A passive asset could be an investment account which is never traded.

A business, on the other hand, is an active investment, and the percentage a spouse is entitled to may depend on different things. Even with the most sophisticated couples, such as the Schnatter/Cox family, unless you clairvoyant, issues will arise that no one considered in earlier agreements, and are prime for negotiation.

Pizza Ready?

Separate from the divorce case, Schnatter filed a lawsuit Thursday against an advertising firm which was at the center of the racial slur incident.

Schnatter allegedly uttered the slur during a call with advertising firm Laundry Service, which the pizza executive accused of recording him without his consent. The lawsuit claims that Laundry Service leaked excerpts of the conference call, which broke a nondisclosure agreement.

Two weeks ago, Schnatter accused his former company of making substandard pizza. He said his former company has failed in keeping up with its long-time slogan: “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.”

“I’ve had over 40 pizzas in the last 30 days, and it’s not the same pizza,” Schnatter told WDRB, a Fox affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not the same product. It just doesn’t taste as good.

The NBC News article is here.

 

Your Social Media Divorce Farce

When your divorce becomes social media fodder because you yourself are posting things online about it, what are the risks? Lifestyle and mommy blogger Eva Amurri Martino – who has posted to her followers that she and her husband are going to “lovingly part ways as a couple” (aka divorce) – may find out the hard way.

Social Media Divorce

News Feed

Eva, the daughter of Susan Sarandon, and her husband who is a former soccer player, announced their split with simultaneous posts on both their Instagram and Twitter accounts. In the photo, they are beautiful and laughing on their porch with their two adorable young children, despite the somber message.

Eva is 23-weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child, making the beautiful laughing picture and self-described “lovingly parting ways” description seem like a total farce.

The couple also has been remodeling a home and both posted declarations of love on their anniversary less than a month ago. Her followers immediately began speculating what happened on various internet forums, and they have become tabloid fodder.

Florida Divorce and Social Media

Eva Amurri Martino’s decision to “lovingly part ways” and broadcast her divorce to the world is part of the recent phenomenon of the “divorce selfie” and other social media announcements.

I’ve written about the widespread use of social media in society, and how that impacts family court cases. Social media evidence is increasingly becoming important at trial – especially when it comes to authenticating exhibits in family court.

Some exhibits are so trustworthy they don’t even require a witness to authenticate. Evidence Rule 201 lists matters which a court must judicially notice, meaning a judge does not have discretion but to admit indisputable evidence.The list is short, and includes laws of the Congress and Florida Legislature; Florida statewide rules of court, rules of United States courts, and U.S. Supreme Court rules.

Rule 202 includes even more matters, but also provides judges leeway in deciding whether or not to take judicial notice. For example, the statute allows a court to take judicial notice of facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the court”, and facts that are not subject to dispute because they are “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned.”

With evidence of foreign governments using social media to spread disinformation and propaganda, and the widespread use of fake social media accounts, you have to wonder whether the genuineness assumption of evidence in family court still stands.

Create a Post

Eva and Kyle’s divorce raises an interesting question: when your brand is your life, how do you post divorce information? Influencers usually handle this in three ways: They ignore it and “keep it off the feed,” they offer an unfiltered look at their hardship, or they go dark until the storm passes.

Eva has kept up her usual posts and aesthetic, but mixed in the realities of her new situation. Her activity over the past week features her usual glam, well-lit Instagrams, but with divorce talk sprinkled in. For example, she hosted a “slumber party” for her girlfriends, complete with makeup, pearls, and matching silk pajamas. She also has been posting family shots, now missing a member.

For his part, Kyle posted this absolutely heartbreaking post the other day. Something about how peppy and lovely it looks kind of kills me?

If you’re considering divorce — even if you plan to file for divorce online and expect it to go amicably — take some precautions. Lockdown privacy settings for example, and be cognizant that your posts could be used against you.

Even if things are moving forward in an amicable fashion, you don’t want to turn your divorce into a contested legal battle. That may include keeping your divorce off Facebook and Twitter. If you have children, consider an agreement that child-related social media posts are limited especially photos and posts that give insight into children’s personal lives.

Influencers like Eva, who have used their children to create a family brand, may have little choice but to make glowing comments such as “lovingly parting ways” while 6-months pregnant and in the middle of a remodeling project.

The Buzzfeed article is here.

 

Five Ways to Improve Your Divorce

While your performance never faltered before, after you enter into a divorce, you can become overwhelmed by the competition for your attention. Forbes magazine reports on five way to improve your divorce and maintain your productivity.

Improve Divorce

1. Build an emotional support network outside of the office. From both an emotional and a practical standpoint, keeping conversations about your divorce out of the workplace is smart. Of course, you need to talk with those involved in collecting the requisite documents—an HR representative, for example—but those discussions should be factual in nature. Talking about the personal and emotional aspects of your divorce should be reserved for close friends or family members outside of work.

Don’t neglect your need for emotional comfort during this time. Divorce is stressful. In addition to having a strong support network, make sure you hire a lawyer who makes you feel empowered and comfortable, who helps you understand the divorce process and is accessible when you need counsel.

2. Be cooperative and realistic in your efforts to work with the other side. If you or your spouse take positions in your divorce that lead to additional court appearances, your productivity will be affected, because those appearances will take you away from your office. In fact, even preparing the paperwork with your lawyer can take you away from your job for hours at a time. You can minimize this time away by approaching your divorce pragmatically, organizing as much as you can in your off-hours, and being as straightforward and transparent as you can be in terms of the documents and information you produce. If everything becomes a tug of war, with subpoenas being issued and every aspect of the divorce litigated, you will be diverting precious time and energy from your career.

3. Allocate a certain amount of time each day to addressing divorce-related communications. As much as you might like to wait until you get home at night to handle divorce matters, reality sometimes dictates speedier replies. Divorce matters are generally handled during working hours, and if your lawyer has a question or information to share, your delayed response could mean a slowdown in the process. Set aside a block of time during the day when you can read and respond to related emails and place necessary phone calls. Keep a running list of to-do items and questions for your lawyer so that you can jot them down when they occur to you throughout the day and then put them out of your mind until later. Sending your lawyer just one comprehensive email a day with all of your questions and concerns will improve your productivity as well as your lawyer’s (which can also save you money!).

Florida Divorce

I’ve written on various divorce issues. In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida is also one of the many states that have 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.

Although no-fault divorce is Florida law, the process of going through a divorce can be grueling, and will eat into your productive time. Part of the stress comes from the fact that the divorce process can be very emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their kids.

4. Have separate work and personal email accounts. This is, of course, good advice whether you’re going through a divorce or not. Nothing can distract you faster than seeing personal emails popping into your inbox all day long. In fact, you may even want to create a new account specifically dedicated to divorce correspondence. Then, when “Divorce Management” pops up on your calendar, you can get straight to all divorce-related matters and take care of them during your allotted time slot.

Likewise, keep any divorce-related documents in their own secure folder on your computer so you can access them at a moment’s notice rather than having to spend time hunting them down.

5. Keep your lawyer apprised of any blackout dates on your calendar. If you travel for work or have certain must-attend meetings or events, make sure your lawyer is aware of these as soon as they are scheduled so you can avoid conflicts with any necessary court appearances or other important meetings related to your divorce. Being unable to meet key business obligations can not only set back your productivity but also damage your standing in the eyes of clients, your manager or your peers.

The Forbes article is here.

 

Divorce and the Date of Marriage

The date of your marriage should be an easy question to answer. But, for one same-sex couple in the midst of a messy divorce – who made national headlines fighting to have their same-sex relationship recognized – the answer is anything but easy.

Divorce and Date of marrage

Divorce in Hot Lanta

Lawrie Demorest, an Atlanta attorney and Lee Kyser, a retired psychologist, are making headlines again, but this time over how to end their more than 20-year relationship.

The couple fought very publicly to have their relationship recognized by the Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta as the same as heterosexual couples, giving them the same rights and benefits as others.

Demorest, who has fought for LGBTQ equality, in response to a divorce brought by her lesbian partner, the former co-chair of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign has tried to legally nullify a relationship she once said should be treated the same as a marriage.

The two officially broke up in December 2017, and Demorest wanted the couple to walk away with what was titled in their own names. Kyser said no because in part she said she gave up her job to raise the twins the couple adopted in 1999, and her only source of income right now is Social Security. She accused Demorest of “setting her up for an undignified retirement.”

Kyser is suing Demorest for a divorce using the unusual argument that Georgia’s common law marriage, which was banned in 1997, coupled with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision “retroactively date the start of Kyser and Demorest’s marriage to July 1996, when Kyser moved into Demorest’s home. [Kyser] shows that, but for the unconstitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage, the parties would have been married by common law in July 1996.

DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott denied Demorest’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Sept. 4. This means Kyser can further argue her claim that the couple should be considered common-law married due to the Obergefell ruling between July 1996, when they moved in together and January 1997, when the state banned common law marriage.

Florida Divorce

I have written about same-sex marriage and divorce issues before. Georgia, like Florida is among the states that do not recognize common law marriage. The Georgia case is important because same sex marriages were not recognized until 2014 and left an entire group of people “out in the cold” without the protections the law provides to heterosexual couples.

Florida law is similar in that no common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, is valid in Florida. The generally established principle is that the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the place where the marriage occurred. So, while Florida no longer recognizes common law marriages, nevertheless, it may to recognize the validity of common law marriages in other states.

Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to recognize same sex marriage, everything else from the marriage follows including rights of the parties, including marital property, alimony, divorce, and anything else. The rights and duties of marriage now apply to same sex couples.

This divorce is unusual, because one spouse is arguing they were never legally married under Georgia law.

Wisdom, Justice, Moderation

Kyser said her shock with Demorest seemingly so willing to write off nothing close to a legal marriage led to the divorce filings. She said Demorest’s longtime advocacy for marriage equality is counter to what she is doing with her own family as part of the couple’s split.

For example, Demorest served 13 years on the national Human Rights Campaign board of directors, including as co-chair between 2002-2005 during its heyday in the fight for marriage equality. She also formerly served on the board of directors of the National LGBT Bar Foundation.

However, now that her 20-year relationship with Kyser has ended, Demorest has argued in court filings that their extended union was never a marriage, was never intended to be a marriage, and that Demorest, a national leader for LGBTQ rights, “did not anticipate or have any expectation that marriage would ever become available to same-sex couples in Georgia.”

“I just can’t get over her blindness. How did she get to where she really talked herself into believing that she can advocate for equality and have this tremendous reputation, and then turn around and try to exit our relationship in this way, which is totally contradictory to fairness and equity. To have built up such a reputation professionally and politically, and to then turn and handle her own relationship and family like this just tears it down.”

In court documents, Demorest said although she and Kyser were together for two decades, including holding a commitment ceremony in 1998 and adopting and raising twins together, they never were legally married even as marriage became legal for same-sex couples.

“Up until recently when I decided that I could not wait any longer to end our relationship, I had always considered my relationship with Lee to be as my ‘significant other’ or domestic partner and co-parent of our two children, but never at any time as a legally wedded spouse,” Demorest said in an affidavit.

Demorest’s attorney said that “it’s a very murky thing to dive into and talk about the spirit of the relationship because each relationship has its own milieu. They had the opportunity to get married in 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 and they did not.

In ’15 [when Obergefell legalized same-sex marriage nationwide], they could’ve marched over to the probate court in DeKalb County like a thousand other people did and get a marriage license, but they chose not to do that.

The article is here.

 

New Divorce Fraud Case

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

New Divorce Fraud

Divorce Fraud in the Lone Star State

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud involving property. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as bank accounts, between parties under the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include things like the financial situation the parties, the length of the marriage, whether someone has interrupted their career or an educational opportunity, or how much one spouse contributed to the other’s career or education.

Another important factor is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

Dissipation of marital assets, such as taking money from a joint bank account, happens a lot. In those cases, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning the dissipated asset to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

Misconduct, for purposes of dissipation, does not mean mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

Texas Hold ‘Em

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

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

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

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

The Fox News article is here.