Tag: divorce news

Child Support and Losing Your Guns

Few people know that failing to pay child support can mean losing your guns. One father went before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to argue that his lifetime ban on owning a firearm was unconstitutional because his conviction for failure to pay child support didn’t justify such a ban.

Child support and guns

Brewing a Constitutional Challenge

In 2003, a child’s Father, Leevan Roundtree, failed to pay his child support for 120 days almost 13-years ago. As a result, he was convicted of multiple felony counts for failure to support a child. He wasn’t sent to prison, he made full restitution by paying what he owed and never reoffended. He’s never been convicted of a violent crime and there was no evidence he posed a danger to society.

One day, Milwaukee police executing a search warrant at Roundtree’s home found a revolver and ammunition under his mattress. A record check of the recovered gun revealed that it had been stolen in Texas.

Roundtree claimed that “he purchased the firearm from a kid on the street about a year ago, but that he did not know it was stolen.” The State charged Roundtree with a single count of possession of a firearm by a felon. He pleaded guilty and was subsequently sentenced to 18 months of initial confinement and 18 months of extended supervision.

As a consequence of his felony convictions, Roundtree was, and continues to be, permanently prohibited from possessing a firearm. Roundtree moved for relief, arguing that the felon-in-possession statute, which prohibits felons from owning a firearm, was unconstitutional as applied to him.

Florida Child Support

I’ve written about child support issues in Florida before. Calculating child support in Florida used to be entirely at the judge’s discretion, based on a parent’s ability to pay, and the child’s needs.

Florida established child support guidelines which follows the income shares model. The guidelines provide the amount you pay can be adjusted upward or downward after considering relevant factors.

Additionally, the statute authorizes deviations by more than 5 percent, pursuant to a list of 10 enumerated factors, and one equitable factor. Finally, the statue mandates use of a gross-up calculation of support for substantial time-sharing.

In Florida, parents are allowed a gross-up calculation because when exercising substantial time-sharing, they incur their own child care expenses, and may duplicate payment for items already included in their child support.

High income parents have special problems in determining child support. Courts are reluctant to award child support that is deemed “excessive,” but the courts are bound by child support guidelines which set a presumptive amount of support.

Like Wisconsin, Florida makes it unlawful for any person to own or to have in his or her care, custody, possession, or control any firearm, ammunition, or electric weapon or device, or to carry a concealed weapon, including a tear gas gun or chemical weapon or device, if that person has been convicted of a felony in the courts of this state

Badgering the Wisconsin Supreme Court

In determining the constitutionality of the felony possession statute, the Wisconsin Supreme Court applied an intermediate scrutiny test, reasoning:

“felon dispossession statutes are ‘presumptively lawful,’ and upholds the flat ban on gun possession by all felons on the grounds that someone with a felony conviction on his record is more likely than a non-felon to engage in illegal and violent gun use.”

So, even if Roundtree didn’t exhibit signs of violence, the Wisconsin Supreme Court felt it was reasonable to keep guns out of the hands of people who have shown a willingness to commit a felony. Also, other courts have observed that nonviolent offenders have a higher recidivism rate and a large percentage of the crimes nonviolent recidivists later commit are violent.

But there were also dissenting opinions. One justice reasoned that the ban on firearm possession by non-dangerous felons were categorically invalid as applied to persons entitled to Second Amendment protection.

Another justice complained that the “correlation-centric reasoning” — that there is a correlation between past non-violent crime of any sort and future violent crime — does not meet the mark.

One dissenter asked:

What about the correlation between people who previously declared bankruptcy? Are they more likely to commit violent crime in the future? How about people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 25? How about those who were born out of wedlock, or who fall below the poverty line?

The Reason article is here.

The Covid-19 Vaccine and Child Custody

The Covid-19 vaccine is here, but big child custody questions are presenting themselves when parents disagree about vaccinating their children. As countries around the world start administering the vaccinations against COVID-19 on a massive scale, many parents are wondering what happens if one of the parents objects to vaccinating their child.

covid vaccine child custody

Point of Contention

In a recent English case, the parents objected to their child receiving various vaccinations which are routinely administered to babies. The father was driven by the fundamental belief that neither the court nor the State has any jurisdiction to take decisions in relation to his children.

The judge found:

It is self-evident that for a healthy, young infant, the risks contingent upon not vaccinating him significantly outweigh the benefits. The conditions identified include potential for catastrophic consequences which, as illustrated, involve paralysis, seizure, learning disabilities, visual loss and cancer.

The Court then ruled that the vaccinations should not be characterized as “medical treatment” but as “a facet of public preventative healthcare intending to protect both individual children and society more generally.”

Florida COVID-19 Vaccinations and Child Custody

I wrote an article on the relationship between vaccinations and child custody in Florida before.  In Florida, the prevailing standard for determining “custody” is a concept call shared parental responsibility, or sole parental responsibility. Generally, shared parental responsibility is a relationship ordered by a court in which both parents retain their full parental rights and responsibilities.

Under shared parental responsibility, parents are required to confer with each other and jointly make major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. In Florida, shared parental responsibility is the preferred relationship between parents when a marriage or a relationship ends. In fact, courts are instructed to order parents to share parental responsibility of a child unless it would be detrimental to the child.

Issues relating to a child’s physical health and medical treatment, including the decision to vaccinate, are major decisions affecting the welfare of a child. When parents cannot agree, the dispute is resolved in court.

At the trial, the test applied is the best interests of the child. Determining the best interests of a child is no longer entirely subjective. Instead, the decision is based on an evaluation of certain factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the child’s family.

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

The decision to vaccinate raises interesting family law issues. It is important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in Florida.

Parting Shots

In re B, was another case in Britain which involved another English vaccination case, only this time it was a private matter between parents, as opposed to the state requiring a vaccination.

The case concerned a 5-year-old girl, B, whose parents were separated and unable to agree as to her immunization. Before the parents separated, B had received all the recommended vaccinations. Under the recommendations of Public Health England, she was now due (or overdue) 3 further vaccinations.

The father, though lacking relevant medical expertise, had carried out extensive research and exhibited over 300 pages of material in support of his position. The judge extrapolated the father’s 7 key points and Dr Elliman addressed the medical issues. The court dismissed the father’s proposition that where parents disagree on a child being vaccinated, then the status quo should be preserved as wrong in law.

Dr Elliman acknowledged that no vaccination is 100% risk free, but that vaccination has greatly reduced the burden of infectious disease.

The judge noted the paramountcy principle and the principle that delay in determining the matter may be prejudicial to B’s welfare. In respect to the no order principle, the judge recorded that the court should decide the matter as the parents’ views were polarized. With regard to Article 8 of the European Convention, His Honor Judge Bellamy stated that any order made by the court must be proportionate and in B’s best welfare interests.

Having considered the case law, the judge then determined that Dr Elliman’s opinions were ‘mainstream’ whilst the father’s views were biased and unreliable. In conclusion, the judge granted the specific issue order and made a declaration that it was in B’s best welfare interests to receive the vaccinations.

The article on the British cases by Sarah Williams is here.

 

Enforcing Your Multi-Million Dollar Property Division Award

Enforcing your property division award is world news when it arises in the divorce of Russian billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov and Tatiana Akhmedova taking place in a London courtroom. In a twist, Ms. Akhmedova is now suing her son for nearly $100 million in cash and assets to collect.

Property Division

From Russia with Love

Suing her son is a part of Ms. Akhmedova’s ongoing efforts to claim a portion of a $615 million divorce judgment, believed to be the largest in Britain’s history after a trial in 2016.

Her ex-husband has refused to hand over a single ruble and has kept his money, and himself, far away from Britain and the reach of its courts.

A new approach, enforce the award against her son, Temur, the older of the couple’s two sons, who is a U.K. resident who has plenty to seize.

His father gave his son a three-bedroom apartment next to Hyde Park worth about $40 million, when he was still in college, he is also the “registered keeper” of a $460,000 Rolls-Royce S.U.V., and is being sued under a theory that he is helping hide millions into trusts and tax havens around the world to frustrate his mother’s equitable distribution.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about this case and the subject of property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Akhmedov divorce, the court has the authority.

However, the court must base an unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

It has been a long-standing rule in Florida that an unequal distribution of marital assets may be justified to compensate for one spouse’s “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after filing of the petition….”

Moscow on Thames

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, London has been the place where rich and safety-minded Russians have parked their families, and at least some of their money.

The sons and daughters of these billionaires are now grown up, and Temur is part of a generation known for driving flashy cars and running up big tabs at posh restaurants in Knightsbridge and Mayfair.

In addition to mansions, a private jet, helicopters and masterpieces by artists like Rothko and Warhol, he bought a $500 million yacht, the Luna, from his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich.

“It is 380 feet of floating luxury, with nine decks, space for 18 guests, a crew of 50 and — just in case — a missile detection system and bombproof doors.”

Allegations of infidelity made by both husband and wife led to divorce, but Mr. Akhmedov refused to even send a lawyer to the 2016 proceedings, arguing that the couple was already divorced. A court in Moscow dissolved the marriage in 2000, he said.

Temur is described in court as his father’s “lieutenant,” but he says he was more of a secretary than a second in command. When he lived and traveled with his father, he typed dictated messages, which he sent to Mr. Akhmedov’s team of advisers, bankers and lawyers. These were often instructions, adamant and profane, on how to evade Ms. Akhmedova and her financial backers.

One of Temur’s texts included a message about a plan to transfer about $100 million worth of art in Mr. Akhmedov’s collection from a storage facility in Liechtenstein to the Luna. The point of moving the works, Temur testified, was to make them readily viewable by his father.

“I don’t want to sound boasting or anything,” Temur replied, “but on a $500 million boat, $100 million paintings isn’t really something crazy. It’s nice to look at the paintings.”

Ms. Akhmedova testified first, and her tone reflected more sorrow than enmity. She’d helped her son decorate that deluxe apartment given to him by his father. But at some point she started to believe that Temur was part of an effort to thwart her pursuit of her divorce settlement.

Temur’s own time on the stand was far more tumultuous, once he actually showed up. On opening day, Dec. 2, he was in Moscow and said in open court, via video call, that he’d been advised that his mother’s lawyers might try to win a restraining order that could strip him of his passport.

Temur denounced his mother as opportunistic and greedy. She filed for divorce, he said, right after her now ex-husband sold Northgas. He said that she’d declined an out-of-court settlement of $100 million offered by his father, a sum the younger Mr. Akhmedov considered exceptionally generous given his mother’s history of infidelity.

The New York Times article is here.

 

National Divorce Day

National Divorce Day arrives at every new year, and after the stress of 2020, this year is not likely to be different. But is there a way to avoid the surge in new year divorce filings?

National Divorce Day

New Year, New You

National Divorce Day is the first working Monday of the New Year when legal firms see a surge in consultation requests from people seeking a divorce and separation.

Lawyers typically see the number of inquiries double around this time and then in late January it tails off. Over the last two or three years people even inquire a little bit earlier between Christmas and New Year.

Legal statistics have shown that marital dissolution filings can jump as much as 27-30 percent during the first month of the year. In 2019, searches for divorce peaked between January 6-12 according to Google. This year, that Monday is January 4.

It’s thought the surge is due to a breakdown in relationships nearing the festive period, with couples halting divorce proceedings until after Christmas and New Year so as not to spoil the fun.

Relationships can also break down in January because of New Year’s resolutions or stress over the holiday period. Clients can wait until after the holiday season to start divorce proceedings, and these folks have been contemplating divorce for months, if not years.

Many of them have actually held out until the holidays were over to leave so as to spare their children from connecting Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years divorce.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about the rise in new years divorce filings, and many times the holiday season can highlight problems. What should you do? Whatever the reason for your problems, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process.

Prioritize

Line up your priorities for life after the divorce. Is it finding a home? Is it retiring? Getting a job? Managing your special-needs child? Consider writing down your most important goals.

Consult

Even if you aren’t certain you need to hire an attorney, or filing for divorce at all, it is a good idea to meet with an expert in Florida’s divorce and family laws. Who better than someone certified by Florida as an expert in marital and family law? We offer free consultations, but even when there is a charge, it is well worth the fee to get accurate information.

Alternatives

Litigation is something to avoid. It’s time-consuming, contentious and expensive. The majority of divorces end up settling. There are many forms of alternative dispute resolution out there, including collaborative divorce, mediation, and informal settlement conferences.

2021 National Divorce Day

The events of 2020 have led many to believe that there are more reasons than ever to really take stock before making one of the most consequential decisions of your life. COVID-19 has been a game-changer in many ways for all of us, not the least of which has been in relationships.

If there was already stress and strain in the marriage, the pandemic has been like gas on the fire, magnifying all the nooks and crannies of pain and resentment between partners. If things were fine before COVID-19 hit, they might not be so great nine or 10 months in. Many of us are stressed and edgy.

The fallout from 2020 will leave a large wake of destruction and loss. It’s never a good idea to make any decision—let alone perhaps the most major decision of your life—when you’re on rocky terrain. So, there are some important and obvious reasons why this January might be the worst year ever to take the divorce leap.

Some helpful advice from Newsweek:

Consider whether you need a temporary or permanent break

Just about everyone in a long-term relationship has thought on occasion about what life would be like if they were free, single, and didn’t have to answer to anyone. It seems we humans often want what we don’t have. But, having worked with enough divorcing folks, I’ve heard plenty say, “If I had known how hard divorce would be (or how lonely I would be), I would’ve stayed in my marriage.”

 Evaluate the kind of hit your finances could take

Between 2007 and 2009, 18 percent of my private practice population was homeless as a result of getting a divorce at the exactly the wrong financial time. These homeless people included what we’d normally call “successful” people: an attorney, an accountant and a social worker.

Hard times compounded by the divorce, they ended up with nowhere to live and not enough money to rent a place. With 2020 having decimated businesses and many economies around the world, it’s important to think long and hard about how you’ll get basic needs met if the bottom falls out.

The Newsweek article is here.

 

90-Day Fiancé and International Child Custody

A 90 Day Fiancé star, Jihoon Lee, may soon become involved in an international child custody case after his estranged wife moved from South Korea to Utah with their son and a child from another relationship.

International Child Custody

Seoul to Soul

According to reports, Jihoon hasn’t reached out to estranged wife, Deavan Clegg in months amid their divorce, an insider exclusively reveals to In Touch.

“Things are very messy with the divorce right now. The papers have been filed, but Jihoon is currently on the run from trying to be served them,” the source continues. “Deavan’s lawyer is taking every step possible to make sure he is served and the divorce can be finalized soon so she can officially move on from their relationship.”

Jihoon is not taking his son’s removal to the United States well:

Being alone is so painful. I miss [my son] so much and I want to hug him. I felt broken without [my son] after not being together for a year. But now another man is pretending to be [my son’s] father and my wife’s husband. On paper, Deavan and I are still married.

While there has not been a report of a court action to return any child to South Korea, what are the remedies available if he wanted to do something about returning his child to South Korea?

Florida and International Child Abduction

I’ve written about international child custody cases under the Hague Convention and the UCCJEA before. The UCCJEA and the Hague Convention are similar. The Hague Convention seeks to deter abducting parents by depriving the abducting parent’s actions of any practical or juridical consequences.

When a child under 16 who was habitually residing in one signatory country is wrongfully removed to, or retained in, another signatory country, the Hague Convention provides that the other country: “order the return of the child forthwith” and “shall not decide on the merits of rights of custody.”

The removal or the retention of a child is to be considered wrongful where:

  • it is in breach of rights of custody attributed to a person, an institution or any other body, either jointly or alone, under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention; and
  • at the time of removal or retention those rights were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

However, many countries, unlike South Korea and the United States, are either not signatories or treaty partners with us in the Hague Convention. Fortunately, when a country is not a signatory country, the UCCJEA may provide relief.

Florida and almost all U.S. states passed the UCCJEA 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 Utah. The ultimate determining factor in a Utah case then, is what is the “home state” of the child.

90-Day Divorce?

Jihoon, 31, confirmed the separation from Deavan, 24, in August while their story line on season 2 of 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way was still playing out on TV. Deavan then confirmed she moved back to America from the former couple’s marital home in South Korea with their son and her daughter from a previous relationship.

Since Deavan left Jihoon in South Korea, the couple have not been in communication. He reportedly blocked Deavan for five months now so it’s been hard to get a hold of him or even reached out to their son since he’s been back in America, so it’s nice to see Topher step in as a father figure.

Jihoon previously spoke out against Deavan’s claims, defending himself and explaining the reason why he blocked the mother of his son on all platforms.

“The reality is terrible. I know all this s–t. Like he’s going to have a new father. Do you know how it feels? My heart is always breaking. It happened without my knowledge,” Jihoon wrote in a statement via Instagram on September 3, revealing Deavan had not yet filed for divorce at the time. “And I don’t want to get involved in their lives. So I blocked them all. So extreme. But that’s how I organize my mind-set. I will never forget my son and love him forever.”

The In Touch article is here.

 

Divorce and Theft

If you thought someone might be hesitant to sue for damages for the theft or conversion of their adult film and magazine collection, you’d be wrong. One person made a federal case out of it. A U.S. District Court now has to decide the value of one Michigan man’s destroyed pornography collection following his own divorce.

Divorce and Theft

Law Hub

David Werking lived at his parent’s Grand Haven, Michigan home for ten months starting in October 2016 after a divorce before moving to Muncie, Indiana.

He moved out of his parent’s home in 2017, leaving some of his possessions in the basement. Those possessions included a trove of pornography and an array of sex toys which David values at nearly $30,000.

In November, he asked his parents to return his property, and they did so — in part. The pornography and sex toys were not among the possessions returned to David. Instead, David’s parents told him that “the items were destroyed.”

On New Year’s Day 2018, his father wrote in an email:

“I do not possess your pornography. It is gone. It has been either destroyed or disposed of. I may well have missed a few items that are now in your possession, but at this point, if you don’t have it, it is gone. Ditto for your sex toys and smutty magazines.”

The next month, Werking reported the case to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, and a sheriff’s deputy spoke with David’s mother, who acknowledged the couple had disposed of his pornography, the suit says.

David sued his parents in federal court, claiming that the value of his pornography collect was $25,557.89. To prevail on his claim, he must establish that the Defendants converted his property for their own use.

If David wins, the statute allows allows him to recover triple damages against his parents.

Florida Divorce and Theft

Although David’s case involves his third party claim for treble damages, and is un-related to his divorce, the issue of dissipation and civil theft claims arise frequently in divorce.

I’ve written before about various aspects of property division, the non-pornographic kind. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as collectibles, jewelry, and unique art, 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 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.

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.

Michigan Mishugas

As the federal judge remarked:

Getting to the heart of the coconut now, the legal issue before the Court is whether the parents converted their son’s pornography “to their own use” by destroying it.

The parent’s emails to their son, made clear that they were motivated to destroy the pornography “from a belief in its deleterious effects.” The father could not have been clearer on this point; he told his son that he was motivated to destroy the pornography out of concern for David’s mental and emotional health.

The federal court found that David pleaded a plausible claim for relief against his parents on his statutory conversion claim because he has alleged that his parents were motivated to destroy the pornography because of his deleterious effects on his mental and emotional health.

Only the issue of how much he can recover in damages remain to be resolved. That will involve a valuation of David’s pornography collection and sex toys.

For reasons obscure, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney does not want to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the value of David’s adult film, magazine and sex toy collection. The court ordered both parties to file written submissions on the issue of damages.

The U.S. District Court opinion is here.

Divorce and Crime

Divorce and crime are in the news after the estranged wife of former San Diego congressman, Duncan Hunter, filed for divorce after more than a year of separation amid a corruption prosecution that netted them both felony convictions.

Divorce and Crime

Trouble in America’s Finest City

Margaret Hunter is seeking a divorce because of “irreconcilable differences,” and requests joint legal custody of their two daughters according to court records filed in San Diego Superior Court. She seeks physical custody of their daughters and reasonable visitation with their father. She also asked the court to award her spousal support and attorney’s fees and costs.

The divorce filings do not include any details about the “irreconcilable differences” that ended the marriage. An attorney for Margaret said she had no comment. A spokesman for Duncan did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Duncan Hunter has been living with his mother and father, Former Rep. Duncan Lee Hunter. The divorce records say Margaret and their daughters have lived in La Mesa since the couple separated in August 2019.

Duncan Hunter served as a U.S. Representative from 2013 to 2020 and succeeded his father, Republican Duncan Lee Hunter, a member of Congress from 1981 to 2009.

In 2017, the Department of Justice began a criminal investigation into Hunter and his campaign manager and wife Margaret Jankowski, for alleged campaign finance violations. The couple was indicted in federal court in August 2018 for allegedly using more than $250,000 in his campaign funds for personal purposes.

Margaret had been Duncan’s campaign manager. Both initially pleaded not guilty then separately changed their pleas last year, with each admitting to one felony count of conspiring to illegally convert campaign money to personal use.

Florida Property Division and Dissipation

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

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

One of the factors to consider is the “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

As a general rule, when misconduct during the divorce results in the dissipation of a marital asset, the misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning dissipated assets to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

The question is whether a spouse used marital funds for his or her own benefit and for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time when the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.

Thrown Under the Bus

In a Fox News interview, the congressman firmly put the blame for his campaign shenanigans where it belongs . . . on his wife:

“I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time, I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two. She was also the campaign manager. So, whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure. But I didn’t do it.”

Duncan told a Fox News reporter shortly after the indictment that he had given his wife power of attorney when he was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps in 2003, and she handled his finances after that.

The indictment and other court records prosecutors filed in Duncan Hunter’s case before he pleaded guilty last year suggested Duncan carried on extramarital affairs with at least five women — three lobbyists, a staff member and a congressional aid — and used his campaign money to pay for weekend getaways and other outings with them, starting in 2009.

Margaret cooperated with prosecutors during their investigation, and they agreed to seek a lighter sentence. She was sentenced in August to three years of probation and eight months of house arrest, which she began serving immediately.

Duncan was sentenced in March to 11 months in prison, which he is scheduled to begin serving Jan. 4. His lawyer said he will do his time at the Federal Correctional Institute La Tuna in Anthony, Texas. Duncan resigned from his seat representing the 50th District in Congress in January.

The San Diego Tribune article 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.

 

Speaking at the 2020 Case Law Update

For anyone interested who hasn’t already registered, I will be speaking at the 2020 Case Law Update on December 10, 2020. Join me and fellow board certified Marital & Family Law attorney, Reuben Doupé, for an interactive discussion on some of the major Florida family law decisions that helped make 2020 a memorable year.

case law

Sponsored by the Florida Bar Family Law Section, attendees will be eligible for 2 CLE credits – 0.5 of which may be applied towards Ethics.

Topics will include the latest decisions from Florida appellate courts on modifications, parenting plans, alimony, equitable distribution, child support, relocation, enforcement, contempt, paternity, attorney’s fees, and disciplinary and ethical considerations.

Registration is here.

Coronavirus and the World Divorce Crisis

The BBC reports on the seldom talked about impact of the coronavirus pandemic around the world: the divorce crisis. Divorce filings, applications and break-ups are skyrocketing across the UK and around the world.

Pox and Pax

Pox Britannica

Leading British law firms reported a 122% increase in inquiries between July and October, compared with the same period last year. Charity Citizen’s Advice reported a spike in searches for online advice on ending a relationship.

Here at home in the US, a major legal contract-creation site recently announced a 34% rise in sales of its basic divorce agreement, with newlyweds who’d got married in the previous five months making up 20% of sales.

There’s been a similar pattern in China, which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns at the start of the pandemic. The same is true in Sweden, which, until recently, largely relied on voluntary guidelines to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.

It’s old news that the pandemic is affecting many of our core relationships. But lawyers, therapists and academics are starting to get a clearer understanding of the multiple factors feeding into the Covid-19 break-up boom – and why it looks set to continue into 2021.

Some describe the pandemic as “the perfect storm” for couples, with lockdowns and social distancing causing them to spend increased amounts of time together. This has, in many cases, acted as a catalyst for break-ups that may already have been on the cards, especially if previous separate routines had served to mask problems.

What’s been different is the significant increase in the number of women initiating divorces, with 76% of new cases coming from female clients, compared with 60% a year ago. This trend ties in with the findings of numerous studies of working parents’ lives during Covid-19, which suggest that a disproportionate share of housework and childcare is still falling on women, even in heterosexual couples where the male partner also works from home.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about no-fault divorces before. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

This often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was.

In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

Over time, the “no-fault” movement expanded to other states, although interestingly it only reached the typically progressive state of New York in 2010. Whether or not it is intimacy or communication, you do not need to list a reason for a divorce other than an irretrievable break in the marriage.

Pax Britannica

For other couples, the increase in mental health problems linked to the pandemic is playing a role in break-ups. Some relationship experts believe that even strong couples who weren’t facing problems before the pandemic, and avoided major shifts in household health or dynamics may also be susceptible to break-ups.

This is because the pandemic has taken away well-established routines that offered comfort, stability and rhythm. Without these, this leaves partners with limited opportunities to “seek other forms of support or stimulation” beyond their relationship, which can put them under strain.

“More people are finding themselves trapped in a situation where they are struggling to cope with what is going on for them as well as what is going on between them. Like a pressure cooker that does not let any pressure out, the lid can eventually pop and the relationship breaks down.”

The pandemic is likely to be one of the first major life challenges young couples face together, which might partly explain the rise in divorce applications from newlyweds in some countries, including the US and Canada.

Newlyweds and couples relatively early on in their relationship might not have been tested in the way the marriages of 30-years have been over the years with different trials and tribulations. The stripped-back lifestyle that the crisis has created is the opposite of many new couples’ visions of “wedded bliss about how perfect life is going to be”.

Additionally, relationship experts say the financial impact of Covid-19 is also likely to be playing a major role in break-ups, as people find themselves unemployed, furloughed or taking home lower pay checks.

The number of divorces has tended to increase without exception during economic downturns at least since the Second World War. Given that we are now experiencing a severe crisis especially economically, we expect that the end result will be an increase in marital instability.

Decreased income increases the potential for strain on the relationship due to conflicts on how to prioritize different types of consumption, and psychological strain increases that in turn, resulting in reduced relationship quality due to worries of how to make ends meet.

The pandemic has disproportionately hit those who were already working in insecure employment in low-income industries such as hospitality, leisure, retail and tourism – sectors in which women, young people and ethnic minorities are overrepresented.

Interestingly, some believe that improved economic fortunes could actually trigger divorces, because some spouses currently experiencing marital problems may be putting off splitting up for practical reasons.

This new wave of break-ups might also include partners who are currently staying together because they are nervous about being alone, beginning to date again in an era of social distancing or, conversely, worried about the logistics of starting divorce proceedings while still cohabiting during lockdowns. They don’t want to have to say, ‘I want a divorce’ and then have to spend 24 hours a day with them.

Psychotherapists argue that the pandemic is also prompting more existential re-evaluations of what, and whom, people want in their lives. This is clear from evidence showing that people are looking to move house and have a different lifestyle, such as moving to the country with less time spent commuting.

Such re-evaluation is also taking place in marriages, with couples reassessing their life choices and their emotional needs. The pressures of the pandemic have reminded us all that life might be short and we are tasked to assess how, and with whom, we are spending our precious time.

The BBC article is here.