Tag: Divorce Agreements

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.

 

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.

 

New Article: Daubert House

My new article on the changes to our expert witness rules, which impact all family law and divorce cases, is now available at the Family Law Section website. Daubert House not only discusses Florida’s changes to the expert witness rules, it mixes in references to National Lampoon’s Animal House for reasons those familiar with the Florida Supreme Court’s recent opinion will understand.

family law daubert

Were the Changes Even Constitutional?

In amending the Florida Evidence Code, the Legislature bound Florida courts to the Daubert standard for the admission of expert testimony and opinions. However, those changes were short lived. The Florida Bar Board of Governors and several Florida Bar committees strongly opposed the changes.

Up until recently, there was also the controversy lingering about the constitutionality of what the Florida Legislature did. While the Legislature can enact substantive law, only the Supreme Court can regulate courtroom practice and procedure.

The trick is that the Evidence Code contains both substantive and procedural provisions. If the Legislative branch encroached on the judicial branch, the changes are subject to a strict separation of powers doctrine review.

In response, the Florida Supreme Court declined to adopt the Daubert Amendment to the extent that it is procedural, due to the constitutional concerns raised. The Florida Supreme Court instead left it for a proper case or controversy.

That case was DeLisle v. Crane. The Florida Supreme Court found that the Legislative amendments to Section 90.702 were not substantive because they did not “create, define, or regulate a right”, but was procedural rulemaking instead.

Additionally, the Court held that the Daubert amendment conflicted with the exiting Frye rule because Frye and Daubert were competing methods to determine the reliability of expert testimony. Once again, Frye was the appropriate test in Florida courts. Unknown to everyone, Frye was on “Double Secret Probation.”

Faber College

After our new governor was sworn into office, he appointed three new Florida Supreme Court justices. This year, the Florida Supreme Court, without re-addressing the correctness of its own ruling in DeLisle, chose to recede from its prior decision not to adopt the Legislature’s Daubert amendments.

The dissent, made reference to the movie Animal House:“Like the little-known codicil in the Faber College constitution . . .” in objecting to the manner in which the majority of the Florida Supreme Court re-adopted Daubert.

Effective immediately, the Florida Supreme Court adopted the Legislatures’ 2013 amendments to section 90.702 as procedural rules of evidence, and adopted the amendment to section 90.704 to the extent it is procedural.

The article is available on the Florida Bar’s Family Law Section website 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.

 

 

Wrestling over Attorney Fees in Divorce

Hulk Hogan, the famous professional wrestler who calls everybody “brother”, is now saying “uncle”. A family court judge in Tampa Florida has ordered that Hogan has 30-days to pay his ex-wife Linda Bollea more than $180,000 in attorney fees and costs in his post-judgment divorce case.

attorney fees divorce

Get Ready to Rumble

Hulk, whose real name is Terry Bollea, married Linda Bollea in 1983. Linda Bollea, 59, divorced the pro wrestler, whose real name Terry Gene Bollea, after 23 years of marriage when an alleged mistress went public in 2008. The parties entered into a marital settlement agreement in December 2009.

Linda alleges she’s had to fight Hogan, 65, to get what was agreed upon ever since. Hogan is taking Linda back to court in his attempt to block her from seeing the books on Intellectual Property that she may own half of.

“It has been nine years since our divorce and I have received nothing but frivolous legal battles meant to harass and drain any monies I received upfront from our original divorce agreement. He’s hidden money, transferred and diverted money, switched trademarks, cooked the books, everything he could to make sure I get as little as possible from the brand I helped him build and turn into a global success.”

In August 2019, Judge Peter Ramsberger ruled that the Hulkster was responsible for “the vast escalation of fees and costs,” surrounding their prolonged divorce and legal battle to which his ex-wife Linda said the former wrestling star has repeatedly failed to pay.

The initial 2009 marital settlement agreement entitled Linda Bollea to 70% of their liquid assets, properties and 40% of Hogan’s earnings from his $115 million Gawker settlement.

Hogan sued website, Gawker, after the gossip site published a sex tape of Hogan containing racial slurs muttered by the wrestler in 2012.

The one-time most famous wrestler in the world was then dropped by the WWE and admitted to being a “racist, to a point,” but also apologized saying the “language that is offensive and inconsistent with my own beliefs.”

Florida Attorney Fees in Divorce

Attorney fees and costs can be high in a Florida divorce case. One way to level the playing field of high divorce fees and costs in Florida is to ask one side to pay for attorneys’ fees.

In Florida attorney’s fees may be awarded in a divorce, including enforcement and modification proceedings, separate maintenance, custody and support proceedings and appellate proceedings.

The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding. The same is true in paternity actions under Chapter 742.

I’ve written about reducing attorneys’ fees through various means before. The purpose of awarding attorneys’ fees is to make certain that both parties in a divorce proceeding “will have similar ability to secure competent legal counsel.”

There are also fees for frivolous cases. A reasonable attorney’s fee can also be awarded to the prevailing party if the court finds that someone brought a claim that was not supported by the material facts the then existing law to those material facts.

Hulkamania is running wild, Brother

Judge Ramsberger ruled:

“His early compliance or good faith efforts to timely comply with petitioner’s discovery requests would have avoided a considerable amount of time having to be spent by petitioner’s counsel in doing what they have had to do in order to accomplish their rightful discovery requests, and properly represent his client.”

Hogan has one month to pay over $170,000 in attorney’s fees his former wife has spent while litigating their post-judgment proceedings, and an additional $10,260.25 in excess costs and legal fees.

Linda Bollea’s attorney shared his enthusiasm for the settlement:

“We were rightly awarded 100 percent of our fees, costs and travel expenses and fees requested incurred just to that point in combating Hulk Hogan and his controlled Entities obstructive and costly discovery prevention. Consistently, Hulk Hogan and his controlled Entities did all they can to prevent Linda from obtaining the discovery proving his failure to comply with their marital settlement agreement and diverting of money Linda should be receiving.”

The Fox Business article is here.

 

Separate Beds to Prevent Divorce

Separate bedrooms may not be the most romantic idea, but couples who sleep together in the same bed are more likely to suffer snoring, tossing, turning and other nocturnal disturbances. These sleep disruptions can lead to health problems, sexual dysfunction and even fights. The idea of separate beds to prevent divorce might be something to sleep on.

Sleep Divorce

Did Lucy and Ricky Have it Right?

Should we return to the “I Love Lucy” days of separate beds? The idea is gaining fans. The more secure partners feel in their relationship, the more comfortable they tend to be with the idea of sleeping separately.

“Happy, long-term couples are more inclined to have well-developed communication skills and patterns, which are key to making separate sleeping arrangements work.”

A 2016 Paracelsus Private Medical University in Nuremberg, Germany, showed that sleep issues and relationship problems tend to occur simultaneously and that a partner’s sleepless night caused by snorting and other disturbances can result in conflicts in the relationship the next day.

In fact, a 2012 survey by the Better Sleep Council showed that one in four couples sleeps separately for a better night’s sleep. Yet 46 percent of Americans polled last year said they wished they could sleep apart from their partner.

Florida No-Fault Divorce

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. 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. This means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like loud snoring. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

In Florida no fault laws have reduced the number of sleep-deprived couples who felt the need to resort to exaggerations about loud snoring, lies about nocturnal kicking, and other false allegations about husbands in trial testimony.

Separate Beds & Counting Sheep

Some say that gender also plays a role. “It’s usually the wife or girlfriend who favors the idea of separate beds. Women are more sensitive to their bed mate’s bad habits and pregnancy and hormonal changes or problems can cause them to want to sleep alone.

The his-and-her bedroom backdrop from “I Love Lucy,” in the 1950’s, might have been one of the first times many saw a married couple in separate beds, but it is not an unusual concept for happy sleeping.

“We started sleeping separately when I was pregnant with our first child. I would toss and turn and not get enough sleep, so on occasion I would sleep in the spare room,” said one 41-year-old woman from Brisbane.

“Once I was pregnant with our second baby, one of us would sleep in the spare room to ensure we both got a good night’s sleep,” she said. “My husband’s snoring and blanket-hogging frustrated me when I was very tired and I would sometimes wake him up to tell him to stop, which of course he didn’t appreciate. It wasn’t until years later that it became more routine.”

Separate sleeping arrangements can include pairing side by side beds of similar size, having a smaller plus a larger bed in the room that the couple could share when they want to be intimate, or designating nights in a spare room. Separate bedrooms are another option.

Being open and honest with your partner about why you want to sleep separately is essential. “What’s equally as important to why you want to sleep apart is how you plan to ensure intimacy is retained in the relationship.”

Healthy couples who sleep separately can be as happy as healthy couples who sleep together. “They seem to have as good a sex life as couples who share the same bed. They feel very close to their partner. Maybe it’s because they respect each other’s personal space.”

For couples not ready for separate sleeping domains, a happy medium could be met with the right sleep solution. Investing in an adjustable mattress that accommodates both partners sleeping needs or pushing together two separate mattresses can help solve conflicts while still allowing a couple to remain close.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Can a Prenup Protect De Niro’s Dinero

Robert De Niro’s estranged wife, Grace Hightower, is demanding half of the actor’s half-billion dollar fortune, despite signing a prenuptial agreement in 2004. Feeling the ‘Heat’, De Niro is wondering whether his prenup is valid and will survive court scrutiny.

Void Prenup

Analyze This

According to the New York Daily News, details about the Hollywood star’s finances emerged during a hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court that revealed the two are battling over how to interpret a 2004 pre-nuptial agreement signed after a previous divorce.

De Niro attorney Krauss-Browne said that under the terms of the pre-nup Hightower was entitled to a $6 million apartment, $500,000 cash, $1 million each year and half the value of their marital residence.

“Nope, I’m entitled to 50%.”

Hightower, 64, is arguing she is entitled to much more — and that De Niro, 75, has kept her in the dark about their money since 2008. She believes she is entitled to a cut of 38 movies and 35 new business ventures since 2004 that involved the Oscar-winning actor.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just resolving the ‘Casino’ like uncertainty in a 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 in second 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.

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 a reliable guide down rough rivers if they’re done right.

Great Expectations

Hightower attorney Allan Mantel put the couple’s revenue since their prenup at $300 million — $250 million of which came from movies. He estimated that De Niro’s net worth was $500 million.

In addition to De Niro’s work in Hollywood, much of their earnings came from his ownership of the Nobu chain of restaurants and Greenwich Hotel.

Hightower’s frustration that she was not considered an equal led to their previous divorce in 1999, Mantel said.

“That’s what caused the first divorce — we want a partnership. She enhances his goodwill. She enhances his career. I agree you’re going to be my 50% partner’ — it’s in the agreement.”

Hightower says that part of the deal is void due to De Niro’s alleged shady accounting practices. The judge then joked:

His income will fall now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is out of the picture — less ‘Saturday Night Live,’” the judge remarked, referencing De Niro’s appearances on the sketch show.”

De Niro sat stone-faced.

The judge made a more serious observation as the hearing concluded.

After the hearing, De Niro, as is his custom, held a newspaper over, his face and became aggravated while struggling to find his driver waiting for him outside the courthouse.

Meet the Parents

De Niro filed for divorce from Hightower in December. They are also battling over custody of their 7-year-old daughter, who they had through a surrogate. They also have a 21-year-old son.

The New York Daily News article is here.

*Photo courtesy Georges Baird

 

5 Essential Divorce Tips

USA Today reports the statistic that half of all marriages will end in divorce is not accurate. Divorce is declining, and a big reason is that marriage — with all of its advantages, from survivor benefits, healthier kids, and a lower risk of heart attack – is becoming more selective and the people getting married have more advantages. There are 5 essential tips if you are thinking about divorce.

divorce tips

Florida Divorce

I’ve written on many divorce issues. In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida is 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.

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.

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.

The divorce process can be very emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their kids. Spouses often do not know their legal rights and obligations. Court clerks and judges can answer some basic questions but cannot give legal advice.

Only an attorney can provide legal advice. Statutory requirements and court rules must be strictly followed, or you may lose certain rights permanently.

It’s important to only take legal and financial advice from a lawyer and a trusted financial professional. They will be able to objectively help you through your particular situation with the most effective and beneficial advice and strategies.

Below are USA Today’s 5 essential tips for divorcing from their recent report:

Focus on finances

A lawyer can help you through the legalities of things like separation agreements and child visitation, but when it comes to finances and managing joint debts, it’s best to work with someone who specializes in finances.

If you don’t know where to start, ask your divorce lawyer or mediator to recommend a financial planner they trust or have worked with in the past.

Close joint credit accounts

Once you have filed for divorce, it’s important to cease accruing debt in both of your names. By continuing to rack up joint debt you could end up doing more damage to your credit scores and credit reports and subsequently complicating the divorce process.

Keep track of income and expenses

This is always a smart idea, but particularly during the stress and chaos of a divorce, it can be helpful to track and document financial details including child support and alimony payments, and shared medical and other expenses.

There are many personal finance apps available that can help you keep track of these details.

Create a budget

Going from a two-income household to a single income is a major transition. If you haven’t adhered to a budget in the past, a divorce is a compelling reason to start doing so immediately.

Make sure to outline everything, including both daily and monthly expenses (groceries, utilities, mortgage and car payments, scheduled maintenance on appliances and vehicles), and long-term expenses including retirement and tuition funds. This will help you avoid overspending as you adjust to your new financial norm.

Update your records

Once your divorce is final you will need to change your marital status on things including tax records, utility bills, health insurance, and property titles (homes and cars, etc.).

Non-essential Tip

How about a non-essential tip? The satirical website, The Onion, has its own take on divorce tips. Fans of Dennis Quaid in the movie “The Parent Trap” will appreciate this advice:

“Keep the lines of communication between you and your ex open in order to avoid your twin daughters reconnecting at sleepaway camp and hatching a plan to make you two fall in love all over again.”

The USA Today money article on divorce is here.

 

New American Divorce Statistics

When a couple gets married, they expect it to last forever. Yet a study recently published has some new American divorce statistics that has made some interesting findings. For instance, every state has at least one city in which the divorced population exceeds the U.S. average.

divorce statistics

The reasons we divorce

Couples get divorced any number of reasons. But, there are several relatively common causes. A study published in the journal Couple Family Psychology found the following

lack of commitment was the most often cited reasons for divorce, listed by 75% of individual participants.

This was followed by infidelity at 59.6%, too much arguing at 57.73%, and marrying too young at 45.1% as the most common causes of divorce. Money problems, substance abuse and domestic violence were also cited as common reasons for divorce.

Florida Divorce

This is not the first study done about which state has the highest divorce rates, or which jobs are the most likely to divorce. I’ve written about the reasons for divorce before.

From a legal perspective, the reasons for the divorce are not always relevant. Florida is a no-fault state. 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.

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.

Divorce by the Numbers

Divorces happen all across the country, but the percentage of the population that is divorced can vary from city to city. In some places, more than 20% of residents 15 and older are divorced.

Every state has at least one city in which the share of the population that is divorced exceeds the U.S. divorce percentage.

In one state’s capital, just 13.3% of people 15 and over are divorced. Yet in another of the state’s cities, the divorce rate is more than double: 26.8%.

Those struggling with money are more likely to split up, while people in difficult relationships may be more reluctant to leave if they have a level of financial security that could be jeopardized by a divorce.

Some of the highest divorce population percentages included:

Arkansas: Newport
• Divorced population: 24.1 percent
• Married population: 28.7 percent
• Never married: 32.9 percent
• Median household income: $28,872

Indiana: Rochester
• Divorced population: 24.3 percent
• Married population: 42.1 percent
• Never married: 24.8 percent
• Median household income: $40,451

Colorado: Aspen
• Divorced population: 22.9 percent
• Married population: 31.4 percent
• Never married: 43.3 percent
• Median household income: $64,594

Florida: Southgate
• Divorced population: 22.3 percent
• Married population: 43.8 percent
• Never married: 24.5 percent
• Median household income: $48,508

New Mexico: Truth or Consequences
• Divorced population: 26.8 percent
• Married population: 37.9 percent
• Never married: 23.7 percent
• Median household income: $27,350

Some of the lowest are:

Hawaii: Hawaiian Paradise Park
• Divorced population: 16.9 percent
• Married population: 48.2 percent
• Never married: 26.4 percent
• Median household income: $51,908

Idaho: Sandpoint
• Divorced population: 17.8 percent
• Married population: 46.4 percent
• Never married: 24.7 percent
• Median household income: $36,706

Iowa: Knoxville
• Divorced population: 16.5 percent
• Married population: 46.7 percent
• Never married: 26.5 percent
• Median household income: $43,986

Nebraska: Ralston
• Divorced population: 16.1 percent
• Married population: 45.8 percent
• Never married: 29.7 percent
• Median household income: $55,837

North Dakota: Devils Lake
• Divorced population: 13.3 percent
• Married population: 40.2 percent
• Never married: 37.1 percent
• Median household income: $43,791

The Coloradoan article is here.

 

 

World Emoji Day ????

Incredibly, I overlooked World Emoji Day. Although late, in honor of yesterday’s World Emoji Day, it’s worth pointing out that my new article on emojis and legal ambiguity in agreements, which was recently published in the Florida Bar Family Law Section Commentator, will make anyone ????.

Ambiguous Divorce Agreements

Emojis

I’ve written about emojis before. Originating in Japan in 1998, emojis are small digital images used to express an idea or an emotion in electronic communications.

Today, roughly 70 percent of the public uses some type of social media.  Social media has changed many of the ways in which we communicate. For one thing, social media has increased our use of emojis.

One report found more than 92 percent of people use emojis on social media. Emojis have spread to the business world, where nearly half of workers add emojis to professional communications, and companies use them to increase sales and brand awareness.

Emojis in Court ????‍⚖️

Emojis are increasingly turning up in court, especially in agreements, and ignoring them would be like calling a witness to the stand and ignoring their facial expressions.

Emojis fail the ‘duck test’: if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it is probably a duck. That’s because emoji meanings can be so puzzling, a “duck” emoji, may mean anything but a duck.

For example, a U.S. federal court recently held that a “Smiley” emoticon =) converted an email into a joke, the email meant the opposite of what it said, and a criminal defendant’s lawyer did not violate the Sixth Amendment by sending the prosecutor an email joking: “stipulate that my client is guilty. :)”

An Israeli court awarded damages based on emojis after a prospective tenant sent a landlord a text about a lease agreement saying: “Good morning ???? we want the house???????? ????‍ ✌ ☄ ???? ???? just need to go over the details. . .” The landlord removed his ad, then the tenant disappeared. The court awarded the landlord 8,000 shekels.

Ambiguity: What does ???? Mean?

There are unique issues with emojis, rendering them hard to interpret. For one thing, there’s no definitive source as to what emojis mean.

That unknown can make agreements in an email, a text or an actual marital contract, ambiguous. Marital agreements are interpreted like any other contract. Basic interpretation begins with the plain language of the contract, because the contract language is the best evidence of intent.

Courts are not supposed to rewrite terms of an agreement if they are clear and unambiguous. Anyone seeking to show a court any evidence outside a fully integrated contract, must first establish that a contract is ambiguous.

A contract is ambiguous when its language is reasonably susceptible to more than one interpretation. That’s where emojis come in, they can be very ambiguous. Emojis are also small, making them hard to read. Interpreting an emoji can depend on what kind of device they appear in. For example, a 24-inch computer monitor displays thing differently than a 4-inch phone screen.

Emojis don’t always mean the same thing universally, so there can be many different meanings depending on which country you are in. For example:

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The “Folded Hands” emoji symbolize “please” and “thank you” in Asia. However, in the U.S. it means: “I’m praying,” and frequently, “high-five”!

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The “Pile of Poo” emoji is a pun on the Japanese word for excrement (unko), which starts with the same “oon” sound as the word for “luck” and is complimentary in Japan. But, in the U.S. the emoji is used to express contempt. Strangely, Canadians use the emoji the most.

Information on World Emoji Day is available here.