Tag: divorce news

The Rap on Joint Custody

Many are wondering what the rap is on joint custody after Kanye West requested joint legal and physical custody of his four children with Kim Kardashian. According to news reports, neither party is seeking spousal support.

Rap Custody

Famous

According to a legal response filed by the rapper’s attorney West, 43, requests joint legal and physical custody of their children. It should be no surprise that neither party is seeking spousal support.

The 43-year-old rapper’s sneaker and clothing business — now bolstered by Adidas AG and Gap Inc. — is valued between $3.2 billion and $4.7 billion by UBS Group AG, according to Bloomberg. A report published by the outlet on Wednesday, March 17, revealed that West’s total worth has skyrocketed to $6.6 billion. (Forbes previously declared West a billionaire in April 2020.)

Yeezy’s collaboration with Gap is set to hit stores this summer and “could be worth as much as $970 million” of the brand’s value, per Bloomberg. Last year, the Grammy winner signed a 10-year agreement to design and sell apparel under the Yeezy Gap label. West still holds total ownership and creative power within the company.

Along with the income from his Yeezy line, the “Gold Digger” artist has also accrued $122 million in cash and stock. He’s raked in an additional $110 million from his extensive catalog of music and has another $1.7 billion in other assets.

Forbes estimates that Kardashian West is now worth $1 billion, up from $780 million in October, thanks to two lucrative businesses—KKW Beauty and Skims—as well as cash from reality television and endorsement deals, and a number of smaller investments

Florida Shared Parental Responsibility

The question about an award of custody of children frequently comes up, especially now in Florida as the Legislature is considering a massive change to how timesharing is decided in family court.

Although Kanye is seeking “joint physical and legal custody, the term “custody” is no longer recognized in Florida. Florida replaced the “custody” term for the “parenting plan” concept in order to avoid labeling parents as “visiting parent” or “primary parent” in the hopes of making child custody issues less controversial, and encourage parents to co-parent more effectively.

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

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

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

Go West

Amid the divorce, Kardashian has continued to live in the $60 million Hidden Hills mansion she shared with West, while the Yeezy designer Kanye has headed west, staying on his ranch in Wyoming.

I’ve written about the Kanye West Kardashian divorce problems before. Last year, after a series of tweets, Kanye claimed Kardashian and her mother, Kris Jenner, were trying to lock him up for medical reasons because of comments made during a rally in South Carolina.

West told the crowd during the Charleston event that he and his wife considered an abortion when she became pregnant with their first child. Kardashian emphasized in a past statement that “living with bipolar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas, no matter how big they feel to some.”

“I understand Kanye is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressure of being an artist and Black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bipolar disorder.”

West also asks for the court’s right to award spousal support for either person to be terminated, the filing says. In the document, West’s counsel lists irreconcilable differences as the couple’s reason for divorce, though a date of separation is not given.

West and Kardashian, 40, started dating in 2012 and tied the knot on May 24, 2014. Kardashian filed for divorce in February after nearly seven years of marriage.

The split between West and Kardashian came after a tumultuous period for the pair, who appeared to be on the brink of divorce last summer before reconnecting and spending private time together with their children.

In January, however, multiple sources confirmed that Kardashian had been working with a high-profile divorce attorney and planned to file for divorce. “They are just not on the same page when it comes to their future as a family,” one insider said at the time. “And Kim is okay with it.”

“Kim plans on staying at the Hidden Hills house with the kids. This is their home and Kim doesn’t want to move right now at least,” one insider previously told PEOPLE. “They both agree that the less stress the kids experience, the better. Kanye loves his kids. He wants them to be happy,” the source added. “He doesn’t want to fight with Kim about anything.”

The CNN article is here.

 

Divorce and Paternity

Divorce and paternity are in the news after the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves star Malik Beasley has decided to question his son’s paternity during his divorce from his model wife, Montana Yao.

disestablishment paternity

Technical Foul

Beasley, 24, is contesting the paternity of his two year old son, Makai, who was born in March 2019, according to court documents obtained by Page Six on Wednesday.

A paternity test was conducted, but the results were unknown leading up to Beasley and Yao’s March 29 court date.

The Timberwolves player’s attorney, Steven A. Hanley, told Us Weekly that the test was “taken last week.” While the results are pending, a court granted Yao’s request for $6,500 per month in child support, but a judge denied Yao’s request for $5,300 per month in spousal maintenance and for him to pay $20,000 for her attorney’s fees.

Florida Disestablishment of Paternity

I’ve written on paternity and disestablishment of paternity before. Paternity refers to a man who has the rights and responsibilities of a parent, regardless of whether he is the biological father or not.

Through legal paternity, the father is responsible for the child’s upbringing, has a parental relationship with the child, and has an obligation to support the child.

In Florida, there are a few ways to determine paternity, including marriage (such as when the mother and father are married at the time of the birth or Court order that determines legal paternity paperwork. For example, the father voluntarily signs the child’s birth certificate or affidavit of paternity.

You can also disestablish paternity in Florida to avoid these responsibilities. A father needs to demonstrate proof that he is not the father of the child in order to disestablish paternity in Florida.

For example, an affidavit signed by the Father explaining that newly discovered evidence regarding paternity has come to his attention since the time that legal paternity was first established. The evidence must have been discovered after the finding of legal paternity. It cannot have been known prior.

Another important factor to include is the result of a DNA test showing that the legal father is probably not the biological father of the child, or an additional sworn statement stating that he was not able to obtain a DNA sample from the child. The father can also request the court to order the DNA test.

The father’s child support payments also have to be current, or at least, substantially complied with and making child support payments on time. In the event there are any past-due payments owed, the father’s affidavit has to state why the payments are past due.

Finally, a court has to determine that the legal father has not adopted the child. The child cannot have been conceived by artificial insemination while the legal father and mother were married. The legal father must not have prevented the biological father from asserting his rights. Also, the child must have been under 18 years old when the petition for disestablishment of paternity was filed.

However, even if a father properly files a petition for disestablishment and follows all the necessary steps in the statute, a judge can still deny the petition.

Double Dribble

Beasley and Yao were married on March 20, 2020 but Yao filed for divorce on Dec. 8 of the same year shortly after cuddly pics surfaced of Beasley holding hands with Larsa Pippen.

Yao, 22, claimed earlier this month that Beasley kicked her and their son out of their joint home. She alleged on social media that the duo was bouncing around “hotels and Airbnb’s even moving states” until her parents agreed to help them.

The model also denied she cheated on Beasley, who began dating Pippen while they were still married. Pippen, 46, insisted that she met Beasley after he was separated from Yao, but photos of them in Miami suggest otherwise.

“It had nothing to do with me, so I wasn’t thinking anything about it,” Pippen said in February. “If you spent a minute Googling their situation, it wasn’t the ideal situation way before me.”

The article is here.

Good Causes of Divorce

In a never-ending series, we look at good causes of divorce. In this edition, a police detective from Pennsylvania filed for divorce from his wife after he noticed she was photographed with another man during the January 6th Capitol riot.

Causes of Divorce

Stopping the Steal

Jennifer — the wife of Detective Michael of a Pennsylvania township police department and part of the FBI Pittsburgh office’s Violent Crimes Task Force — is accused of taking part in the January 6 riots at the Capitol building.

Jennifer was charged with several crimes after the riot, including disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, court documents show.

The FBI said in court documents filed last week that it identified Jennifer through her association with a man identified as Kenneth , and shared a photo of the two together that it said was obtained from Kenneth’s iPad.

The detective filed for divorce in February, records filed at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas show, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Florida No Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, whether your Wife is out in the streets demonstrating, or worse, demonstrating with another man, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce and infidelity issues before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s political views. Instead, you just need to state under oath that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Before the no-fault divorce era, people who wanted to get divorce either had to reach agreement in advance with the other spouse that the marriage was over, or throw mud at each other and prove wrongdoing like adultery or abuse.

No-fault laws were the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. No fault laws have reduced the number of feuding couples who felt the need to resort to distorted facts, lies, and the need to focus the trial on who did what to whom.

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. 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.

No Collusion

He is not part of the investigation. Sean Frank, the chief of the township’s police department, said earlier this month that the detective had asked his wife not to go to the pro-Trump rally that preceded the riots.

The FBI said Jennifer was seen on restricted Capitol grounds, and inside the Capitol rotunda while wearing a red long-sleeve jersey bearing “Trump 20” on the back. It reviewed security-camera footage and police bodycam footage; court documents show.

The FBI said that it also looked at Facebook Messenger exchanges between Jennifer and Kenneth, where they discussed their plans to travel to Washington, DC, including renting a vehicle and a hotel.

She later told the FBI that she did not enter the Capitol building. But the FBI said that its evidence shows there is probable cause to believe that she was present inside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, during the riot and related offenses that occurred at the US Capitol Building.

She said she had traveled to Washington on January 5 and returned the next day, court documents said. She said that she and Kenneth then fell out of touch — that she had travelled to the rally alone and stayed in a separate hotel from Kenneth — but that she saw him at the pro-Trump rally.

In its arrest affidavit, the FBI includes a photo that it says shows Jennifer wearing a camo-colored Trump hat while Kenneth is seen wearing a Q-Anon sweater and an American flag-themed balaclava around his face.

In late January, Kenneth was also charged in Pittsburgh federal court for knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building; disorderly conduct impeding government business; disruptive conduct in the Capitol building; parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol; and obstructing an official proceeding.

According to an FBI affidavit, Kenneth live-streamed video of himself on Facebook showing him and others inside the Capitol building. Facebook users who watched the live-stream contacted the FBI and identified Kenneth, it is alleged.

In the affidavit, photos alleged to be of Kenneth in Washington, DC show him wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt with an American flag patch on the arm, the letter ‘Q’ on one lapel, a ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag on another lapel, and a black Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap.

Jennifer works as a web and graphic designer for a distributor of nuts in Western Pennsylvania, according to her LinkedIn bio. Michael’s boss, the Police Chief Sean, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Michael pleaded with his wife not to go to Washington, DC on January 6.

The Business Insider article is here.

 

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.

Cooling Off Divorce in China

A new law in China, which makes it harder for couples to divorce because of the cooling off period, has sent husbands and wives rushing to file applications to dissolve their marriages.

China Divorce

Divorce Express

Under the new Chinese law, which was implemented on January 1st, couples who agree to dissolve their marriage must complete a month-long “cooling-off” period to reconsider their positions. After the 30 days have passed, couples can go to their local civil affairs bureau to apply a second time for their official divorce documents.

Divorce lawyers have been inundated with requests from couples to file for divorce once their 30 days are up.

In some cities, the demand for consultations with divorce lawyers is so high that scalpers are charging premium prices online to help couples secure appointments.

A lawyer based in Sichuan province who specializes in divorce, says he has already received numerous phone calls from anxious clients concerned that the new law complicates their divorce and compromises their freedom to split.

If one party withdraws from the agreement to divorce before the 30 days are up, the application is cancelled, leaving the other party to apply again and restart the 30-day clock, or to sue for a divorce – a costly and lengthy process.

One client was a rubber stamp away from having her divorce finalized when her husband changed his mind. Even before the cooling-off period was introduced, it was easy for one party to a mutually agreed divorce to change their mind. Now, with the 30-day period, the divorce process is too unpredictable.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written on divorce issues and divorce planning. 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.

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused a spike in divorce filings in Florida, there have not been reports of scalpers yet. 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.

The Mediation Exception

When the Chinese law was passed last year, Chinese citizens criticized the central government for interfering in private matters. More than 600 million comments were posted online using the hashtag “oppose divorce cooling-off period”. It became the top trending topic online, with internet users demanding to know if Chinese people no longer had the freedom to divorce as they chose.

Officials believed the legislation would lower the divorce rate in China, which has risen rapidly, and prevent “impulsive divorces” among young people. Lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus have coincided with a spike in the divorce rate.

Couples may be able to avoid delays in settling their affairs by applying for mediation instead of filing for divorce.

Mediation is a process that helps separating and divorcing couples find amicable solutions to their disputes. The process uses an impartial third party, a family mediator, who is trained in mediation. In mediation, if both parties reach an agreement, the court issues a document that carries the same weight as a divorce decree.

The new law also does not apply if a spouse files for divorce on the grounds that they are a victim of domestic violence. However, the law would still disadvantage women, particularly those without an independent source of income.

That’s because men can decide whether they want to divorce or retract their application. If a woman wants to and the man doesn’t, the woman will then have to sue, hiring a lawyer at great personal and financial cost. Many women – particularly full-time housewives – aren’t in a position to do this.

Another way around the new law is for couples to sign a prenuptial contract on childcare arrangements and the division of property in the event of a split. That way if, during the month-long cooling-off period, one party changed their mind, the contract already in place would streamline the process.

The rights of Chinese citizens to marry and divorce has long been a matter for public debate. In December, weeks before the law brought in the cooling-off period for divorcing couples, a woman in Shaanxi province, northwest China, filed for divorce after “being beaten by my husband for 40 years”, according to public court documents on the website Chinese Judgements Online.

The judge refused to grant a divorce, saying the couple had been together for 40 years and would need each other in their later years. “She should cherish her hard-earned happiness in her later years,” the judge wrote on the case file.

The South China Morning Post article is here.

 

Divorce Financial Mistakes

Avoid making costly divorce financial mistakes because money matters are often at the heart of divorce disputes, for better or worse. Since divorce is on the rise during the pandemic, be aware that aside from the cost of divorce, other parts of the process can end up costing you.

Divorce Mistake

No Mistake About It

For starters, some assets appear as if they have equal values. But, once you start to factor in the tax impacts, the assets can look very different. For example:

A hundred dollars in cash is different from shares of GameStop valued (at the time) at $100. Holding onto that stock can lead to appreciation (or depreciation) and selling the stock can have a tax impact.

Basically, the profit made on any given assets — the difference between the cost basis (generally, what you paid) and the sale price — ends up getting taxed as either a long-term or short-term capital gain once sold, depending on whether the asset was held for under or over a year.

Even if two assets have the same value right now, the cost basis for them may be different, and one will have more or less taxes than the other. Subtract those taxes from the value if you’re really going to do an equitable division.

So if the asset in question is, say, a traditional 401(k) account, withdrawals will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates.

Florida Divorce Mistakes

I’ve written on divorce issues and divorce planning. 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.

Everybody Makes Mistakes

If you have a 401(k) or other retirement account and your soon-to-be-ex is entitled to a percentage of the distribution, be careful how you arrange the split. If you take the money out of you 401(k) and then give it to your soon to be ex, there will be a 20% tax withholding. Additionally, if the account holder is younger than age 59½, a 10% penalty for early withdrawal could apply.

Instead, you may need an a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. This is a separate order from the divorce agreement which gets approved by the court and sent to the plan administrator – who also must approve it.

Sometimes, divorcing couples sell the family home and divide the proceeds as dictated in their agreement. Other times, one of the spouses remains in the house. In this situation, depending on the specifics, there are a few things to watch for.

For starters, assuming your ex will no longer be a joint owner or responsible for any mortgage on the home, you would need to refinance the loan and qualify for it on your own. Otherwise the ex spouse would still be liable for the unsatisfied mortgage.

The CNBC article is here.

 

Virtual Divorce Court

Since we have moved to a virtual divorce court system, there have been a surge of people filing for divorce in the United States. This is a pattern also seen in China, Britain and Sweden. But as the New York Times reports, there are also problems with the reopening of virtual court, for expected reasons, and less obvious ones.

divorce surge

Old Problems and New

National statistics are not yet available, but there seems to be more work for lawyers and mediators across the board. Consultations are up significantly, but at the same time, some clients are frozen. Many people do not want to initiate the divorce process when their spouse is earning less or business values are down.

Every divorce comes laden with its own issues, but there are some pandemic-era problems facing those wondering whether to stay or get divorce. The pandemic hasn’t just heightened the tension in marriages. It’s also heightened the tension in divorces.

Lawyers acknowledge that although there is rarely travel time or time spent waiting around court for clients to pay for these days because almost everything is virtual and by appointment. However, this convenience can be offset by other costs, like waiting for hours outside courthouses to file something the electronic system won’t accept.

Then there’s the problem of documents which need to be notarized. Something once so simple a lawyer could do it while waiting with a client at court is a problem. Now, if clients don’t want to notarize something in person, it may require video calls along with the document being sent back and forth via snail mail or delivery service.

Florida Problem Free 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.

Virtual Divorce Court

Further complicating things in virtual court is how difficult it can be to get on a judge’s calendar for a non-urgent matter. Besides the backlog in many courts, the video hearings in some virtual courtrooms mean that judges are able to get through fewer cases than in the pre-COVID world, when everyone was crowded into the same courtroom and cases went one after another.

The crush of cases means there is even more of a push to settle — pre-pandemic, some 90 percent of divorce cases didn’t go to trial. Some lawyers say that during the pandemic that figure is closer to 98 percent.

In addition to mediation, there has also been an uptick in couples using the collaborative divorce process. Collaborative divorce is a voluntary process in which couples work toward  a settlement  without the financial and emotional cost of litigation.

It may also be harder for clients to feel they have gotten a fair hearing via a zoom hearing. Virtual backgrounds can be frowned upon, because a judge needs to be able to see who else might be in the room.

In addition to the problem of how you appear before the court, there’s the added problem of how to consult with therapists, lawyers, and real estate agents, because there’s so little privacy with everyone at home.

There is also the more significant problem that judges can’t see body language, and nor can clients, who in the past could use it to glean information about the judge’s reaction to their position as presented by their lawyer. This can make clients wonder if the judge has fully heard them.

The New York Times article is here.

 

Divorce Rates in Italy

Divorce rates in Italy appear to be skyrocketing, along with the divorce rates in the rest of the world, fueled by the coronavirus, the quarantine, financial stress and many other factors. The news out of Italy is consistent with what is happening in Florida too, as more people begin filing for divorce.

Divorce Rates Italy

Arrivederci

According to Italy’s National Divorce Association (l’Associazione nazionale divorzisti italiani) the divorce rate increased by 60% in 2020. The requests for separation have increased a lot, mainly due to forced coexistence,” the association’s president, family lawyer Matteo Santini, told Sky TG24.

In 40 percent of cases, the divorces were due to the fact that lockdown made it more difficult to hide infidelity and “double lives”.

Another 30 percent of separations were due to domestic violence, and the remaining 30 percent were listed as being down to other causes.

“It’s one thing to share weekends and evenings but another to share the whole day, with all the problems related to the health emergency: health stress due to illness, lack of work, living with children with difficulties related to distance learning. This causes an emotional explosion that leads to the desire for separation and the request for separation.

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.

Divorce Law Change

As with many sets of statistics in Italy, there was a marked difference between the north and south of the country. There were more than twice as many separations recorded in the north in 2020, with 450 per thousand couples in the north, and 200 in southern Italy.

Italy, where more than 80 percent of people describe themselves as Catholic, has long had one of Europe’s lowest divorce rates, with only Ireland, Slovenia, and Malta reporting lower figures.

Divorce numbers in the country however surged in 2015 after the enactment of legislation making it easier and quicker to end failed marriages.

The 2015, “fast divorce law”, which the lower house approved with an overwhelming vote of 398 for and 28 against, cuts the time Italians have to wait for a divorce to six months in uncontested cases and a year in contested ones.

Several Italian studies have confirmed that the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis is having a major impact on families, with national statistics agency Istat finding that Italy’s already record-low birth rate was plunging even further due to “the climate of fear and uncertainty and the growing difficulties linked to employment and income generated by recent events.”

The Local Italian article is here.

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.