Tag: Divorce Planning

Strategy if Your Spouse Files for Divorce

There is some strategy for you to consider if your spouse asks you for a divorce. MSN discusses some things you could do immediately to protect your personal and financial interests. Obviously, it is difficult to focus on money when your marriage is ending, but you need to make sure that you reach a fair and equitable divorce settlement too.

divorce strategy

A Few Good Moves

You wouldn’t end a business partnership without first determining that all assets were divided fairly. The same holds true for dissolving a marriage. Focus on the following things immediately if you learn that your spouse is planning to end your union.

Hire a good attorney

According to MSN, hiring a lawyer is crucial. Your goal: Find an experienced advocate who will put your personal and financial interests first. Never share the lawyer with your spouse. Make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney.

Get referrals for attorneys from your trusted friends, family members and business associates, but keep in mind you want a lawyer who specializes in family law and divorce, preferably someone board certified as a specialist by your state’s Bar Association, and who is very involved in the legal community.

Monitor your credit reports

Protect yourself by preventing your spouse from running up large or unnecessary bills at this time. For now, at least, you may be responsible for half of any joint expenses.

“You know your spouse better than anyone else. If you know they’re not trustworthy, or they have a gambling problem, or you both are in a lot of debt, that tells you there are financial warning signs.”

Monitoring your credit score and credit reports before, during and after a divorce will ensure that your credit is safe and that no one else is using your name to borrow.

Florida 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.  I’ve written about divorce before. In order to divorce in Florida, you need to file a petition for dissolution of marriage in the family court.

The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce. 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.

But there is some additional strategy to protect yourself.

Consider Closing joint accounts

To protect your credit rating, you may want to consider closing credit accounts that your spouse has access to. The idea is to prevent your spouse from incurring large debts before the divorce is final.

With joint credit cards, you are liable for any debts taken on by your spouse, says Sarah Carlson, a certified financial planner in Spokane, Washington.

If your spouse can’t pay the debts he or she runs up on your joint accounts, you may be held responsible.

Determine how much money you’re entitled to

When people divorce, many financial issues are tied to the size of the marital estate. To help you determine which assets you’ll be entitled to in a divorce, you’ll need to understand how much you and your spouse are worth, separately.

“For example, identification of an income-producing asset may be helpful for determination of child support and maintenance issues, while also affecting the division of the marital estate”.

Your job: Find out which assets are in your name and which belong to your spouse.

Protect your savings

It is easy to use up your cash quickly in a divorce. Safeguard your joint assets by asking your financial institutions to require two signatures for withdrawals.

“We generally don’t advise doing this with a regular joint checking account that is continuing to be used for household expenses, because that can become cumbersome. But we do advise dual signatures for any savings or investment accounts.”

Keep things as friendly as possible

Starting your divorce on an amicable note will make the proceedings easier and less time-consuming. From the beginning, work to keep things civil.

When you spend time bickering over minor issues, the only people who benefit are attorneys billing you by the hour.

“If ever there was a time to pick your battles, this is it. If you fight over every detail of your divorce, the fights will be never-ending, and that will impact your emotional state and your wallet.”

Talk with your children

The needs of children sometimes can be overlooked when parents divorce.

The best way to break the news of a divorce to children is for both parents to explain that their relationship is changing, making it clear that both parents love the children and the parents respect each other, says David T. Pisarra, a family law attorney in Santa Monica, California.

The Mayo Clinic advises parents to spend time explaining to children what is happening. Let them know that the separation isn’t their fault and that you will continue to care for them.

The MSN article is here.

 

Divorce Planning During the Coronavirus and Some Good News

We have been experiencing a surge in divorce inquiries. Just about everyone has been ordered into quarantine, and living in such close proximity is taking a toll on some marriages and relationships. But there’s another reason: simple divorce planning. Also, for fans of ‘The Office’, Jim has “Some Good News” for us during the coronavirus.

Divorce Planning Coronavirus

Divorce Planning and Market Timing

For many, the divorce inquiries are taking place while the market has dropped and people are losing their jobs. If that sounds counter-intuitive, consider this: when you divorce and your assets are worth less and your debts are up, you may pay less, so now may be a great time to divorce . . . if that was your plan.

This opportunity to divorce is particularly attractive to those whose divorce was a matter of timing. Now may be a great opportunity to finalize a settlement agreement if businesses or shares of stock can be managed back to their former value after the crisis passes.

For others, the concern is about settlement terms they agreed to before the downturn and their ability to afford the settlement terms when they have less pay. Clients are viewing the current financial crisis as an opportunity to negotiate an advantageous divorce settlement.

In only days, we have increased calls from anxious and stressed clients who are confined to living in quarantine with their soon-to-be Ex and children who they have to home school.

Shelter in place orders are putting a huge strain on relationships, particularly if there was already tension and issues between couples. This is only being heightened by the financial impact of restrictions on people’s businesses and incomes and the uncertainty they face as a result.

Florida Divorce Planning during the Coronavirus

I have written about the phenomenon of divorce planning, and especially divorce filings at the beginning of the year, many times before.

The first few months of the year are known for divorce filings, January is even nicknamed the “Divorce Month” in Florida. Researchers recently did an analysis of American divorce filings and found that there is a spike in divorces in January.

The spike in divorce filings is followed by a peak in late March. What’s happening at the beginning of the new year that causes people to both marry and divorce?

According to some reports the beginning of the year and the holiday season are often a tricky time for couples whose relationships have been under pressure for a while.

Add in the intense time spent together, financial pressure, extended family critiques and unrealistic expectations (nothing worse than happy people’s Facebook posts) – and it can spell disaster for some relationships.

Planning Ahead for Divorce during the Coronavirus

For many couples, government shelter-in-place orders have thrown them into a completely different way of living, changing the dynamics of their relationship entirely, and introducing a whole new set of complications and concerns.

While some may find that working through the uncertainty brings them closer together, others are not as lucky, and have been forced to face underlying issues that may have been bubbling under the surface.

You should consider consulting a board certified marital and family lawyer to consider your options and discuss what to do while you’re in quarantine and once the crisis passes.

The vast majority of people inquiring are people who were already on the fence and thinking of filing for divorce, and now the harsh reality of being at home with their partners has pushed them to breaking point.

For those that were planning to leave, but now can’t, this is an extremely challenging time. There are also those who agreed to separate but haven’t yet done so or filed for divorce. Worse still, being locked down together is causing a lot of strain and pressure.

Some have stayed married due to the financial loss they would suffer if they broke up the family, but are seeing the financial crisis as their long-awaited opportunity to leave and take advantage of the dip in wealth for a divorce settlement,’ she explained.

Coronavirus: Some Good News

Fans of ‘The Office’ will be please that there is some good news to report from Jim. So, I’ll let actor John Krasinski talk about some good news on his home-made channel SGN.

His video is here, and includes an interview with Steve Carell to mark the 15th anniversary of ‘The Office.’

 

Four Essential Divorce Tips You Might be Missing

Many know that January is a popular month for couples to start consulting with divorce attorneys about dissolutions of marriage. This January is turning out to be no different than in the past. In New Jersey, an online magazine is offering up some essential divorce tips you might be missing.

Divorce Courts

Divorce Planning

Divorce is one of the most consequential decisions you will ever make — in both emotional and financial terms — it’s essential your interests are protected. New Jersey’s online magazine has four essential tips you may be missing if you’re planning a divorce and have already started the research.

Don’t compare yourself to everyone else

One of the biggest mistakes people make when pursuing a divorce is seeking information about the divorce process — or the likely outcome of their own divorce — by comparing themselves to divorced family members and friends.

Even worse, many people look online and compare themselves to what they read from anonymous online sources. It is often difficult to undo the preliminary `research’ clients conduct, as each divorce is different from the outcome of that of a friend.

Comparing your divorce to your friend’s divorce can result in a skewed perception of how a divorce matter will proceed and could result in unrealistic expectations.

Don’t wait to get a lawyer

People often become their own worst enemies, especially if they decide to count on their online research skills or do it yourself divorce experts.

There is no limit to the information you can learn about divorce, custody, alimony and support on the internet. Be aware that some of this information can be sound, and some is just plain wrong.

One of the hardest situations any divorce attorney has seen is that potential client who has scheduled a consultation after they already signed a marital settlement agreement resolving all issues, and it is clear that they signed a terrible deal.

Although not always the case, many of these unfortunate people are then faced with some tough advice that what they did may not be able to be undone.

Make sure your rights are protected and hire an attorney to guide you through the process.

Florida Divorce Planning

I’ve written on many 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.

Only an attorney can provide legal advice. Statutory requirements and court rules must be strictly followed, or you may lose certain rights permanently. Be careful to seek expert advice early in the process and hopefully not after you signed an agreement or went to court on your own.

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

Consider other professionals, too

While a family law attorney is essential to protect your interests, other professionals can help with the process.

Consider bringing in a forensic accountant who is familiar with Florida divorces, property divisions, how alimony is arrived at, and how child support is calculated. Also consider that many people use financial advisers in addition to forensic accountants.

Knowing both the financial and tax implications of divorce are extremely important as the decisions you make can impact your financial goals for a lifetime. Financial professionals aren’t the only ones who can help.

In collaborative family law cases we always use a neutral divorce facilitator who is a trained psychologist, and I encourage clients to work with a therapist to get through an emotional process.

Don’t let emotions take over

Resolving a divorce can be an important business decision and emotions can ruin the best deal. Indeed, it’s easy to make emotional decisions during the divorce process.

Clients should try hard to put their emotions aside, which can sometimes be easier said than done, and view the choices they have to make as part of the divorce process as business decisions.

Seeing divorce as a business transaction is a good strategy, but if someone is consumed by anger, guilt or other emotions, they can’t focus on the numbers and is not prepared to negotiate.

The New Jersey article is here.

 

This is your Medicaid Divorce

Sometimes more income isn’t good news. People suffering from major illness worry they could lose their Medicaid eligibility because of changes to Medicaid rules. More and more people are discussing the “Medicaid divorce” as a planning tool, but is it something to consider?

Medicaid Divorce

To Your Health!

Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans, including eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Medicaid is administered by states, according to federal requirements. The program is funded jointly by states and the federal government.

According to online media company Ozy, Susan was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 4, and has lived with chronic pain. She didn’t have private insurance at the time of her diagnosis, so Medicaid was critical to manage her disability.

Susan’s husband’s seasonal income fluctuated, leaving Susan hovering near the Medicaid eligibility cap. She had briefly lost coverage during their marriage because her eligibility was based on household income.

Since Susan’s husband’s pay increase Susan worried she could lose Medicaid eligibility again, just when her medical bills were about to skyrocket. Divorce, they decided, would eliminate the month-to-month possibility of losing coverage — and the fear that came with it.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about divorce planning before. For example, there is a marriage penalty which people have planned for to avoid the situation where a married couple pays higher income taxes than they would pay if they were un-married and filed individual tax returns.

Medicaid divorces are similar but a rarely talked about type of divorce planning. Some people are forced to think about divorcing when the medical costs for their spouse can lead a couple to deplete their assets, leaving the healthy spouse impoverished.

Medicaid is a federal needs-based assistance program and your eligibility is determined by the total income and assets of you and your spouse which are pooled and totaled and may require that assets are spent down to qualify for Medicaid.

In a Medicaid divorce the goal is to transfer assets to the healthy spouse to minimize the spend-down requirement, maintain the quality of life while qualifying the Medicaid spouse for assistance so that the couple’s assets won’t be depleted.

The Risky Medicaid Divorce

There are huge risks involved in divorce planning for taxes and Medicaid issues. First, there is the impact on your relationship. There is no fake divorce. Once the court signs the final judgment of divorce, you are divorced.

Florida, like all no-fault states, have minimum requirements for getting a divorce. In Florida, for instance, we require that at a minimum your marriage be irretrievably broken before you can get a divorce.

Be aware that the divorce itself could have an impact on other benefits that you or an individual spouse may already be receiving or expect to receive in the future.

Divorce can impact the amount of supplemental security income, Social Security retirement benefits and survivor’s benefits and veteran’s benefits.

Before you even consider a Medicaid Divorce, if you are dealing with a sick spouse, know that there are many planning strategies to help spouses get their loved ones onto Medicaid that do not include divorce.

Susan recalls listening to a doctor tell her parents when she was 15 that she’d never marry or give them grandchildren. She knows that her partner’s income and assets mean she could lose Medicaid and SSI, but her health had felt manageable back then. Cancer, however, changed the equation,

The Ozy article is here.

 

New Norse Divorce Course

Although Denmark has a reputation as one of the happiest countries in the world, it also has the highest divorce rate in western Europe. A new law enacted in Denmark will require citizens to take a divorce course in order to legally dissolve their marriage.

Divorce Course

Denmark is not alone. Many countries are struggling with high divorce rates. Statistics from Denmark show that in 2017, almost half of all marriages in the country ended in divorce. That statistic may change because, from today, Danish couples seeking a divorce will be required to study up on the process by taking a divorce course.

Professor Gert Martin Hald, from the University of Copenhagen, helped develop the course, told Euronews: “The course, which is available on an app, gives advice on communication with your former partner and how to help your children.

Florida Divorce

Although Florida has a lower divorce rate than Denmark, it is not only because a divorce course is required in Florida. Importantly. the beginning of the year is the highest time for divorce filings. The spike in divorce filings peaks in late March. I have written about divorce planning and especially the phenomenon of divorce filings at the beginning of the year before.

The first few months of the year are known for divorce filings, and January is nicknamed the “Divorce Month” in Florida. Researchers recently did an analysis of all American divorce filings and found that there is a spike in divorces in January.

There are many reasons for what’s happening at the beginning of the new year that causes people to divorce. The holidays are often a tricky time for couples whose relationships have been under pressure for a while.

Add in the intense time spent together, financial pressure, extended family critiques and unrealistic expectations (nothing worse than happy people’s Facebook posts) – and it can spell disaster for some relationships.

In Florida, the legislature has found that a large number of children experience the separation or divorce of their parents. Parental conflict related to divorce is a major concern because children suffer potential short-term and long-term detrimental economic, emotional, and educational effects during this difficult period of family transition.

This harm can be particularly true when parents engage in lengthy legal conflict. So, Florida requires a divorce course called the “Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course” and may include several topics relating to custody, care, time-sharing, and support of children.

Danish Divorces

Florida does not have any type of cooling off period before you can file for divorce, but Florida’s Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course sounds very similar to the Danish divorce course. In Denmark, many believe some divorces can be premature, now they will have to have a three-month reflective period.

According to proponents of the new law in Denmark, the course is really aimed at countering the well-known adverse effects of divorce, it’s not necessarily to discourage divorce, but put people in a better position to deal with it.

“What we’ve done is target areas of the divorce process which are difficult, such as how to communicate with ex-partners and also understanding your own reactions and the reactions of any child.”

The Danish group studied two and a half thousand divorces to see if this is beneficial in reducing depression and improving the physical health of divorcees and it’s been shown that over a twelve-month period, it has a positive effect.

This new divorce course, only for couples with children, is designed to help both parties reflect on what life will be like apart.

The Euronews Report is here.

 

Residency for Divorce

Ireland is currently working on the wording of what the Irish electorate will be asked to vote on in the upcoming divorce referendum. Residency for divorce is an issue about the amount of time a person has to live in a state, and in some cases, live apart from their spouse, before they can file for divorce.

residency for divorce

Luck of the Irish

If the luck of the Irish holds out and the referendum is passed, the government would introduce primary legislation on the time period before you can get a divorce, rather than having it in the Constitution which must be put to a public vote when changes are proposed.

Under the current system, married couples need to have lived apart for at least four years during the previous five years. The new proposals would see that reduced to two years, with the Irish Legislature, the Oireachtas, providing the legislation for this.

The referendum is due to take place on 24 May, the same day as the local and European elections.

Florida Divorce Residency Requirement

Ireland is not alone in having a residency for divorce requirement before spouses can file a case. Most U.S. states for example, have some kind of a durational residency requirement for the plaintiff in a divorce and others add to that a requirement you live apart first.

I’ve written about things to consider when planning for divorce before. Residency for divorce is a very important jurisdictional requirement in every case.

Generally, the non-filing party need not be a resident in the state in order for the court to divorce the parties under the divisible divorce doctrine. The court’s personal jurisdiction over the non-filing spouse is necessary only if the court enters personal orders regarding the spouse.

The durational domicile or residency requirement goes to the heart of the court’s ability to divorce the parties, because the residency of a party to a divorce creates a relationship with the state to justify its exercise of power over the marriage.

What are some of the time limits in the United States? For example, Florida has a six-month requirement for residency before you can file for divorce here.

By contrast, Iowa has a one-year residency requirement for all spouses filing in the state. The same is true for Maryland, which requires that at least one spouse be a Maryland resident for at least one-year before filing for divorce. Maryland law also requires the couple to live apart for at least 12-months before filing for divorce.

The rule sounds easy enough, but failure to adhere to the rule may cause the court to enter a divorce decree without having the proper jurisdiction. In that event the divorce decree could be called into question.

The Irish Journal article is here.

 

The 2018 Divorce Rush?

Experts predict a surge in divorce cases this year. Why is this year different from all other years? Because in all other years, alimony is deductible to the spouse paying alimony, and next year that deduction will be eliminated.

What’s Happening to Alimony?

Currently, there is a tax deduction for people paying alimony. The tax deduction can substantially reduce the cost of alimony payments. So, for people in some tax brackets, every dollar you pay in alimony to your former spouse really could only cost you a little more than 60 cents.

The alimony deduction has been in the tax code since 1942. But, because of the new tax law, people paying alimony may not be able to deduct their alimony payments, and anyone receiving alimony will no longer report it as income.

According to the ABA, lawyers are advising you divorce now, before the 76-year-old deduction for alimony payments is wiped out in 2019 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

If you’re going to get a divorce, get it now. Potential divorcees have all of 2018 to use the alimony deduction as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with estranged spouses.

Divorce and Taxes

The new tax code changes will impact your divorce, but it isn’t the only tax which causes people to make the decision to divorce. I’ve written about the area of divorce and taxes before.

For example, the 2012 American Taxpayer Relief Act raised taxes on couples making more than $450,000, and individuals making more than $400,000. As it turns out, some couples found out they could save over $25,000 a year if they divorced.

The New Tax Law

Many divorce lawyers criticize the new law to end the alimony deduction, saying it will make divorces worse.

People won’t be willing to pay as much in alimony, which will disproportionately hurt women who tend to earn less and are more likely to be on the receiving end of alimony payments.

Conversely, the alimony deduction has also been criticized. For example, the government argues the deduction is a burden on the IRS because, if the alimony amounts ex-spouses report paying and receiving don’t match, it can force the agency to audit two people who may already be feuding.

Why it Matters

Spouses negotiating alimony payments may try to pay less when the change takes effect because there will be no tax savings.

In many cases, women are more likely to be hurt by the change as they negotiate divorce terms. U.S. Census Bureau statistics showing that 98 percent of the 243,000 people who received alimony payments last year were women.

The deduction is a big deal to couples negotiating their divorce because if someone who earns, say, $250,000 agrees to pay $4,000 per month in alimony, it really costs the person about $3,000 after taking the deduction into account.

Without the break, many people will agree to pay only what would have been their after-tax amount. It is feared that more couples will end up fighting in court because they won’t be able to agree on alimony.

2019 Deadline

The alimony deduction repeal doesn’t take effect immediately and won’t kick in until 2019. That is why lawyers are advising clients to file for divorce now.

However, meeting the 2019 deadline won’t be easy.

Some states have mandatory “cooling-off” periods, others states have residency requirements. So, you can’t just file for a divorce today, and expect that you’re going to be divorced tomorrow.

The ABA article is here.

 

Divorce Planning

A cold wind blows across the Northern Hemisphere the first few months of the new year, and relationships start to feel a bit of a chill. The latest Eurostat numbers – which are in line with American statistics – show that divorce filings increase at the start of the year in Europe and the U.S.

This is Your Euro Divorce

People in the UK have reportedly dubbed the first working Monday in January “Divorce Day” in recognition of an apparent spike in couples considering dissolving their marriages.

More than 40,500 people in the U.K. are expected to search “divorce” online in January – a rate that is nearly 25 percent higher than the usual traffic generated by the term.

Florida Divorce Statistics

I have written about the phenomenon of divorce filings at the beginning of the year before.

Although Florida was a British colony, that may not explain why the beginning of the year was the most popular time to file for a divorce here in Florida too.

The first few months of the year are known for divorce filings, and January is nicknamed the “Divorce Month” in Florida.

Researchers recently did an analysis of all American divorce filings and found that there is a spike in divorces in January.

The spike in divorce filings is followed by a peak in late March.

What’s happening at the beginning of the new year that causes people to both marry and divorce?

According to the report:

“The holidays are often a tricky time for couples whose relationships have been under pressure for a while.

Add in the intense time spent together, financial pressure, extended family critiques and unrealistic expectations (nothing worse than happy people’s Facebook posts) – and it can spell disaster for some relationships.

Back in Europe

Amazingly, the same statistics hold true of our European cousins.

Below are the European countries with the Highest crude divorce rates – the ratio of the number of divorces during the year to the average population that year per 1,000 persons – according to Eurostat.

 

Country

Divorce Rank

Divorce Rate

Lithuania 1 3.2
Denmark 2 2.9
Estonia 3 (tie) 2.6
Latvia 3 (tie) 2.6
Czech Republic 5 (tie) 2.5
Finland 5 (tie) 2.5
Sweden 5 (tie) 2.5

 

The U.S News and World Report article is here.

 

Spouses and Spies

Can you spy on your spouse? GPS trackers, spyware, key logger programs, and hidden cameras are changing divorce, making it easy to become an amateur spy, and making it even easier to land you in trouble.

The CIA Home Kit

As NPR reports, couples are turning to the latest technology to spy on each other as their marriages fall apart.

New digital spy tools are cheap and easy to use — from something as simple as the Find My iPhone feature to spyware that can be installed in a spouse’s computer, phone, or even a car.

Welcome to divorce in the 21st century — how much privacy you’re entitled to is an open question. Cases involving domestic spying are not unique, and are becoming more common as the technology gets cheaper and easier to use.

Digital spying is changing divorce as we know it.

The tools are abundant. Clients use it in an effort to stay in control after a separation or to gather evidence of extra-marital affairs or drug abuse. But the laws can be murky.

Cyberstalking

There may be problems with becoming your own James Bond type spy. I’ve written about domestic violence issues before. Many people are unfamiliar with cyberstalking statutes in Florida, and that cyberstalking is grounds for an injunction.

In Florida, cyberstalking is also a crime, and it means conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.

Cyberstalking can involve communications over the Internet like: email, instant messages, text messaging, blogging, website or online forum postings, and social media posts.

Florida also has an aggravated cyberstalking law for protection against people who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking.

Spyware

Partners in breakups sometimes install spyware on computers or phones in order to spy on their soon-to-be ex. Once installed, people can see every incoming and outgoing message from the target’s phone, Web searches, even keystrokes and passwords.

The legality of tracking technology is messy. For example, parents can put spyware on a child’s phone or a home computer. But, putting it on a spouse’s or a partner’s computer or iPhone without consent is generally illegal.

Florida has a strong Constitutional right to privacy. Florida enacted laws to ensure each party to a conversation has an expectation of privacy from interception by another party to the conversation.

Be careful about becoming your own spy. Florida has made it illegal for a person to intercept wire, oral, or electronic communications. And, trial courts can and do exclude from evidence electronic communications illegally intercepted.

Back at Langley

As the NPR article reports, the messages from an ex-husband to his ex-wife can be unsettling:

“I know all of the ways you’ve described me to your friend.”

Unfortunately, the ex-wife went to an Apple store, but didn’t look for the spyware; instead they got her a brand-new phone. That meant that the evidence went along with the phone.

In 2012, the last time the Justice Department attempted to quantify stalking, it estimated that 1.5% of all adults in the U.S. were victims.

That figure more than doubled — to 3.3 percent — for people who were divorced or separated.

The NPR article is here.

 

Getting a Religious Divorce

Just in time for the holidays is the problem of religious divorce. Many women are stuck in their former marriages because their secular divorce was not enough to allow them to remarry in their religion. This post looks at the problems and solutions for getting a religious divorce.

The Religious Problem

I’ve written about the issue of religious divorce many times. The religious nature of divorces for many couples, particularly for Muslim and Jewish women, complicates settlement.

That’s because religious courts have no enforcement authority in the United States, and the First Amendment of the Constitution prevents secular courts from intervening in purely religious disputes.

Also, religious authorities are very critical about the secular enforcement of divorce as it can contravene religious law. Among religious people, there’s also a reluctance on using secular courts against their coreligionists, which discourages people from getting help in state court.

Islamic Divorce

The Economist recently reported on Shirin Musa, and her bitter religious divorce experience which ultimately inspired her to help women caught between legal and cultural worlds.

A resident in the Netherlands, Shirin was unhappily married to a man from her native Pakistan. In 2009 a Dutch judge divorced them, but her husband would not grant an Islamic divorce.

Although she lived in secular Europe, her husband’s refusal to grant a religious divorce mattered. If she remarried without a religious divorce, she could be considered an adulteress under Islamic law. She also risked religious punishment if she ever tried to return to Pakistan.

So, Shirin sued her former spouse through the Dutch secular courts. In 2010 she received a landmark judgment: her ex-husband would be fined $295 a day, up to a maximum of $11,795 as long as he refused to cooperate.

The sanction had the desired effect on her ex-husband She then persuaded the Dutch parliament to make holding women in such “marital captivity” a criminal offence, in theory punishable by jail.

Jewish Divorce

Jewish women share a similar problem to Muslim women. Under the strict interpretations of Jewish law, only the husband can grant a divorce document, called a “get.” Without a get, the woman is still religiously married, regardless of how long it’s been since the civil divorce.

Without a get, a Jewish woman can’t remarry and have more children, lest she be declared an adulterer and her children from the second marriage shunned by the community.

Women in this situation can be trapped for years as their childbearing years fade away. In Hebrew, many call them agunot, or “chained women.”

Solutions

First, you may want to secure a religious divorce before even filing a secular divorce. This prevents the husband from using the religious divorce as a bargaining chip.

Securing a religious divorce before filing a civil divorce also prevents another common problem: imams and rabbis stepping in to negotiate large cash payments in exchange for a religious divorce.

Another civil legal remedy is a prenuptial agreement. Under a prenuptial agreement, the spouses could agree to arbitrate the marital dispute, and the husband agrees to pay the wife a set amount per day until he grants a religious divorce.

The Economist article is available here.