Tag: Divorce Fraud

Love, Divorce, and Fraud

Love has flourished during the COVID pandemic. So has divorce and fraud, as more consumers than ever report being scammed, according to new Federal Trade Commission data showing a record $304 million lost to love scams last year.

Divorce Fraud

Fraud is in the Air

The COVID pandemic has resulted in people staying physically distant, providing ample time and reason for unsuspecting people to look for relationships online and providing a lot of new reasons why scammers can’t meet you in person.

Downloading pictures stolen from the internet, your potential, future romantic partner has been building a false persona that seems just real enough to be true, but always having a reason never to meet in person.

They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States because they’re working on an oil rig, or are in the military, or they are a doctor with an international organization.

Eventually, your love interest will ask for money. The impact can be big, with the median loss reported to the FTC being $2,500 — more than ten times higher than the median loss across all other frauds.

Why does your online romantic partners need the money? Some claim they need to pay for a plane ticket. Others to pay for surgery or other medical expenses, or to pay for a visa or other official travel documents.

Romance scams started on dating sites and apps, but many report that the scams originated through social media. Interestingly, some people are saying their biggest losses occurred when they believed the scammer had sent them money! What happened was these instances turned out to be elaborate money laundering schemes, such as for fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits.

Florida Divorce Fraud

Not unlike an online romance scam, 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. Less common are scams like trying to cash stolen checks. 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.

“And I don’t know if I’m being foolish”

Social distancing has complicated in-person dating. People are spending more time online. There is a general increase in the use of dating apps. And the pandemic has heightened the perceived credibility of requests for money—for, say, medical bills or car repairs to get to a vaccine appointment.

Protecting yourself can also be easy. Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”

Preventing fishy transactions has become easier in recent years as financial institutions and money-transfer companies have beefed up data analytics tools. As fraudsters change tactics, companies can adjust systems to adapt to new patterns, enabling quicker detection of suspicious activity or dubious customers.

That in part is how Western Union Co. has managed to stay abreast of fraudsters’ evolving tactics. Improvements in the company’s monitoring technology have led to a decrease in the number of romance scams reported at the company.

One thing that can’t be fixed by an algorithm: human gullibility in the face of possible romance. Which is why Western Union and competitor MoneyGram International Inc. say customer outreach and education is also key.

In addition to improved technology, MoneyGram also has a process to talk with customers flagged as potential fraud victims, which has helped reduce romance scams using the company’s services. If a requested money transfer is flagged as suspicious, MoneyGram might inquire whether the sender has actually met the intended recipient before completing the transfer. The company might also tell the customer that he or she could be the victim of fraud.

The reality is fraudsters are very good at identifying the kinds of psychological aspects that they can connect with their victims. They exploit those and become very practiced at it.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

FTC consumer tips on spotting romance scams is here.

Kelly Clarkson and Divorce Fraud

Kelly Clarkson’s divorce from husband Brandon Blackstock, who was also her manager, is heating up after she filed a fraud claim against Blackstock’s management company with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.

Kelly Clarkson Divorce Fraud

Never Again

If you thought Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock’s divorce couldn’t get any messier, well, you were wrong. Though Clarkson has declined to share many details about why they’re divorcing a lot has been made public throughout a series of court documents.

In September, when the couple filed for divorce, Blackstock’s father Narvel sued his son’s ex-wife for $1.4 million, stating that she owed his company, Starstruck Management Group, for unpaid management fees.

Clarkson made the recent filing in October, in which she called her oral agreement with Starstruck Management Group a “fraudulent and subterfuge device” and accused Blackstock and his father, Narvel Blackstock, of being unlicensed talent agents in California.

Clarkson’s filing not only attempts to void her agreement with Starstruck and the Blackstocks, but it also seeks the money she paid for their services from 2007–20, arguing that Clarkson paid “unconscionable fees” for “illegal services.”

The petition, set to be ruled on in February, could also dismiss a separate lawsuit that Starstruck filed against Clarkson in September. That suit claimed Clarkson already owes an additional $1.4 million in commissions from The Kelly Clarkson Show and The Voice along with millions of dollars from future payments.

“Starstruck developed Clarkson into a mega superstar,” that filing claimed. Clarkson’s filing, meanwhile, argues she should not have to make those payments either.

If successful, Clarkson could see up to tens of millions of dollars back in her pocket come February, given her touring and TV success over the past 13 years..

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.

The Trouble with Love is

Clarkson has filed a Petition to Determine Controversy with the Labor Commissioner’s Office claiming that Starstruck and the Blackstocks had violated Section 1700 of the California Labor Code.

That is also known as the Talent Agencies Act, a controversial California regulation that requires any individual who is acting as an agent in the state to be licensed. The difference being that a manager handles talent’s day-to-day operations while they are on the job while an agent is tasked with booking those jobs.

Agents are also required to provide a surety bond of $50,000, which Clarkson claims Starstruck failed to do while operating as an agent. They also failed to obtain her written approval to act as an agent, failed to work in a manner that served her best interests.

What they did do, claims Clarkson, is demand “unconscionable fees” and give “false information,” make “false representations,” and conceal “material information from [Clarkson] concerning certain matters relating to [Starstruck’s] … violation of the Labor Code.”

Clarkson and her attorney Edwin McPherson argue in the filing that:

“based on the wrongful acts and conduct of [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks] … all agreements between the parties, should be declared void and unenforceable, no monies should be paid by [Clarkson] to [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks], and all monies previously paid by [Clarkson] to [Starstruck Management and the Blackstocks] should be disgorged forthwith.”

The Yahoo article is here.

 

Divorce Fraud in Minnesota

Divorce fraud may be the reason a Minnesota judge rejected a proposed marital settlement agreement between Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, and his estranged wife.

Divorce Fraud Minnesota

Fraud and Loathing in Minneapolis

Washington County Judge Juanita Freeman issued the order in late October declining the agreement, writing that a transfer of “substantially all” of one’s assets to the other in an uncontested marriage dissolution is a badge of fraud.

The Chauvin’s agreement apparently sought to transfer the majority of Derek Chauvin’s assets to Kellie Chauvin. The order said the couple’s agreement would transfer all the equity in their homes, funds in their bank and investment accounts, and all of Derek Chauvin’s pension and retirement accounts “except for the nonmarital portion of two specific accounts” to Kellie Chauvin.

State law encourages divorces to be settled without additional court involvement, but:

The court has a duty to ensure that marriage dissolution agreements are fair and equitable and says judges can deny an uncontested agreement between a couple if the transfer features badges of fraud.

She did not accuse them of fraud or provide any other details or motives for her decision. She did write the Chauvins’ can submit a revised agreement to be considered by the court, adding it must indicate which portion of Derek Chauvin’s pension and retirement accounts are nonmarital and “include a balance sheet specifically indicating the total dollar value of the debts and assets that are assigned to each party”.

Florida Agreements and Fraud

I’ve written about the Chauvin divorce before, and also about enforcing marital settlement agreements. 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.

A marital settlement agreement, entered into by the parties and ratified by a final judgment, is a contract subject to the laws of contract. In Florida, parenting plans and matters relating to the children must be approved by the family law judge. In addition, the judge is obligated to make sure child support is consistent with Florida’s child support guidelines.

Something is rotten in the state of Minnesota

Calling the judge’s ruling “rare,” local divorce attorneys in Minnesota said it adds to suspicions that Derek and Kellie Chauvin are trying to protect their assets.

This is just speculation, but it’s possible that the [agreement] was intentionally drafted to get assets out of Chauvin’s name in anticipation of a civil judgment against him from the estate of George Floyd. That may be what the court is getting at when it references ‘badges of fraud.

Other sources report that court documents highlight varied sources of incomes between the couple with Chauvin, 46, making between $52,000 and $72,000 per year as an officer. He worked as an off-duty security guard on the weekends at El Nuevo Rodeo dance club, Cub Foods, Midtown Global Marker, and EME Antro Bar.

However, Freeman wrote that under the agreement, Kellie Chauvin would have received all the equity in their two homes, all the money in their bank and investment accounts and all the money from Derek Chauvin’s pension and retirement accounts.

Funds from two of Derek Chauvin’s accounts that were earned before the couple’s 2010 marriage would have been exempt. Chauvin was a Minneapolis officer from 2001 until his firing this year. It’s unknown if the monetary amounts were listed in the agreement due to the heavy redaction. Chauvin has not begun drawing his pension, so that amount is not yet public information.

Several tax-related felony charges filed in Washington County this summer against the couple allege that they failed to claim $464,433 in joint income dating back to 2014. Derek Chauvin earned $52,000 to $72,000 annually between 2014 and 2019 as an officer. He also earned nearly $96,000 working security at businesses while off duty.

Divorces of convenience aren’t unheard of. They’re sometimes filed to protect assets when someone enters assisted living or is dealing with health problems that could result in exorbitant bills. Judges are compelled by law to ensure that divorces are equitable, but state law also encourages settlement agreements without additional court involvement.

It may be unusual that a judge would reject a stipulated agreement. Judges are happy to know that litigants have avoided any more administration of this case and a trial, which is really time-consuming.

The Chauvins could submit a revised agreement. If no revised agreement is reached and approved, the case could be tried in court. Theoretically, Judge Freeman could also divide the assets as she deems fit and is empowered to do through state law.

The Star Tribune article is here.

 

Dr. Dre, Divorce, and Dissipation

Rapper, Dr. Dre, and his wife Nicole Young’s divorce is in the news again as she is alleging dissipation in court documents, that Dre “secretly” transferred “valuable trademarks” they jointly owned — both the name “Dr. Dre” as well as his hit album The Chronic— after allegedly kicking her out of their home in April.

Dissipation

What’s the Difference?

Some couples divorce amicably, recognizing that a divorce is best concluded when they come to a quick and fair resolution as soon as possible so they can get on with their lives.

For other couples, divorcing is a lot more difficult. In high conflict cases, greed, anger, and spite are overwhelming, and the process can quickly spiral into all-out war fought over every dollar.

A common dirty trick in divorce is to “dissipate,” or waste, marital assets. When a person tries to dissipate assets, it means they are intentionally squandering marital property to prevent his wife from getting her fair share of it in the divorce settlement.

In the lawsuit, Young alleges that shortly after being “forced to leave their family home,” Dre, 55, registered a new holding company and then began transferring “highly valuable trademarks,” misrepresenting himself as the sole owner.

“Andre’s plan all along was to deny Nicole’s ownership rights,” the lawsuit alleges, claiming that the transfers were made before Dre threatened to file for divorce on June 27. Young went on to initiate proceedings two days later, on June 29.

Although Young claims she has “demanded return of the trademarks,” Dre has “failed and refused to do so. It is inequitable and unjust to retain ownership of the trademarks, and the value they hold, without paying Nicole or allowing her to maintain her equal ownership,” the lawsuit alleges.

Young is seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial and wants the trademarks in question to be transferred to a trust.

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce and 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, and transferring money and assets into separate accounts. 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 way the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

Big Egos

Young, who filed for divorce in June after 24 years of marriage, is asking for nearly $2 million in monthly temporary spousal support and is also seeking $5 million in legal fees, according to court documents previously obtained by People.

Young has claimed that her husband’s “net worth is estimated to be in the ballpark of $1 billion” in the filing, adding that he earned much of that sum during their marriage.

The rapper previously filed a response, revealing that the couple had a prenuptial agreement — despite initial reports that said they did not have one. Young, however, has disputed the validity of that agreement, claiming that she was forced to sign it and that Dre ripped it up, rendering it invalid after they were married.

The People article is here.

 

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.

The Great Chinese Divorce Fraud

Divorce rates are rising in China for many reasons, but one recently uncovered reason is found in a family which divorced 23-times in one month! The new Chinese divorce fraud is the hot ploy to avoid Chinese property laws and make money.

Chinese Divorce Fraud

23rd Time is a Charm

Unlike older generations who may have settled for an unhappy marriage, divorce is no longer socially taboo in China. That may have led to one family in the city of Lishui to take the new divorce fraud to extreme lengths, churning through 23 divorces and weddings in a month.

Divorce is becoming simpler in China. Couples can either register a divorce with the civil affairs authority, indicating they have agreed to go their separate ways, or they can sue for divorce through the courts, which can rule on custody of children and how to dispose of any assets.

In the first six months of this year, 1.85 million couples registered for divorce with the civil affairs authority alone, an increase of more than 10 per cent compared with the same period last year. Three decades ago, in 1986, 460,000 couples registered their divorces with the civil affairs authority. By 2016, that annual number had risen to 4.15 million.

However, the Lishui family was not divorcing for typical reasons. The Chinese government has limited each household to a maximum of two apartments. Other notable policies allow potential home buyers who don’t already own property to make much lower down payments as well as enjoy lower tax and mortgage rates.

The new divorce fraud was aimed at getting more money from the government and developers when the Lishui family house was demolished for a new development. Under the system, each member of the household would be entitled to 40 square meters of space in the new development.

In China though, the preponderance of fake divorces in any given city may indicate the failure of real estate policy at the local level.

Florida 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. 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.

The Great Fraud of China

It all started with Mr. Pan, who lived in the house, remarrying his ex-wife, and allowing her to qualify for the compensation plan. Two weeks later, he divorced her and married his sister-in-law, adding her to the plan. On it went, with each new family member enlarging the amount of space to be awarded as compensation, until government authorities discovered the house suddenly was home to 13 people, and promptly arrested 11 of them.

While it’s an extreme case in property-obsessed China – where would-be home buyers have to navigate a shifting array of property curbs – it’s probably more understandable given home prices in Lishui have surged as much as 31% in the past two years.

According to the compensation policy, people living in the village slated for renovation — even those who were not property owners — would be given minimum compensation of one 40-square-meter apartment as long as their household registration, or hukou, had been filed within the village by April 10.

When interrogated by police, Pan’s father — who had been party to the sham marriages and divorces himself — said he had assumed the family’s actions were legitimate since they had not violated China’s marriage law. “In doing this, we were just trying to get more compensation.”

According to the chief marriage lawyer at Beijing Yingke Law Firm:

Just because a person is following one law doesn’t mean they’re not breaking another. The family used a legal avenue to achieve an illegal end. The marriage law doesn’t forbid marriages and divorces — but in this case, the family used marriages and divorces as a means of committing fraud. While they didn’t violate the marriage law, they acted against the criminal law.

In April of this year, home buying policies in select urban areas were further tightened. Now, regardless of whether a divorced person is buying their first or second property, banks will evaluate them based on both their property ownership status and mortgage records — meaning even if they have no property registered in their name, an apartment they’re hoping to purchase can still be considered a second home, subject to a higher down payment and mortgage rate, if they have made previous mortgage payments.

The Bloomberg 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.

 

 

Divorce Fraud: Student Loans

This is kind of scary for Halloween. Market Watch has an interesting article about a husband who paid off his wife’s student loans during their very short marriage, and his wife thanked him by filing for divorce after a mere 24 months of marriage. Was the husband the victim of divorce fraud, and tricked into paying off his wife’s student loans?

divorce fraud

Tricked or Treated?

As the Market Watch article reports: “[b]efore I married my wife two years ago, she had huge amounts of debt to her name, including large amounts of student loans. After we married, we diligently almost paid everything off, helped by my salary being three times that of my wife.”

She recently asked for a divorce, saying she was taking the house and my retirement. My question is: Does the fact we paid off her debts she held before get spread evenly? Had I not paid all of her debts our net worth would be near the same with a better outcome for me.

We’ve only been married a few years, and frankly I can’t help feeling taken advantage of. The only advice I can find discusses whose responsibility the student loans would be, but now it just seems that she got me to pay all of her debts, and got some new stuff, while I threw away years of my life.

Please tell me there’s hope.

Florida Divorce and Student Loans

Is there hope for Market Watch’s husband?

I’ve written about student loans in the past. Florida is an equitable distribution state. The initial premise behind an equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities – such as student loans – is equal distribution.

However, when proper justification is shown, a family court judge may make an unequal distribution.  The burden is difficult. A distribution of marital debts, whether equal or unequal, must be supported by factual findings and based on substantial competent evidence. The rationale for the distribution also has to be disclosed by the judge.

As a general proposition, student loan debt incurred during the marriage is a marital liability. So, in the absence of findings supporting the unequal distribution of a student loan debt, marital student loan debts must be equitably distributed between the parties.

The fact that the husband will not receive any benefit from his ex-wife’s education because of the divorce is not a factor to be considered when allocating a marital debt for student loans.

In sum, absent some other justification for an unequal distribution, controlling case law in Florida will usually prohibit a family court judge from awarding student loan debt incurred during the marriage solely to one party or the other.

Out of Luck?

As Market Watch reports, divorce after two years is a tough break, “especially given all the help you gave your wife with her student debt. That’s a particularly unusual kind of debt, in that it’s virtually impossible to discharge.”

The article concludes by noting that “[t]he best thing you have going for you right now is your honest intentions going into this marriage and your (good) behavior throughout. Having examined all the details, the judge may not be able to say the same thing about your wife.

The Market Watch article is here.

 

Divorce Surprises

According to a recent survey, 46% of divorced women reported their divorce brought unexpected financial problems. What are some of the divorce surprises you can run into if you find yourself in family court?

Divorce Surpises

In the study, 1,785 adult women were surveyed across three stages: those with divorce “on the horizon,” those in the midst of divorce, and those who described themselves as “divorced and determined.”

Divorce Tricks

Slightly related, I recently wrote about dirty divorce tricks which were in the news. These tricks should serve as a warning, not as a “how-to course”, because they can seriously backfire. A couple of common tricks to watch out for include:

  • Refusing to pay household bills until a court forces you to in an attempt to “Starve Out the Other Spouse”.
  • Waiting until the latest possible day to pay support money, even if you’ve got the money to send. Never mind the children.
  • Asking the court for sole custody of the children when you only want to share custody.

These tricks are not the kind of divorce surprises reported in the survey though. The above tricks are the result of planning to harm the other side.

Divorce Surprises

The surprises from the survey are very different. The divorce surprises have nothing to do with fraud, or the other side failing to disclose assets. So what are they?

  • Not knowing the size of your debt, including the first mortgage, home equity line of credit, the credit card debt, 501(k) loans, and student loans.
  • Not anticipating you may have to return to the workforce
  • Assuming your child support and/or alimony would be higher or last longer
  • Assuming you could keep the marital home
  • The staggering cost of health care insurance
  • Underestimating the emotional and financial cost of getting a divorce

In general, the study found that many women find themselves in a financially vulnerable position post-divorce due to a lack of financial knowledge and planning. The study claims a solution is twofold:

  • Reinvent careers to become self-sufficient and
  • Invest to avoid outliving your money.

The Forbes article is here.