Tag: Divorce Same Sex

Divorce Politics and Privacy

Connecticut State Senator Alex Kasser’s resignation is a very public reminder about the intersection of divorce, politics and privacy. The hard won seat for Democrats is now up for grabs by state Republicans in Greenwich.

Divorce Privacy Politics

Heartless in Hartford

Last week Connecticut state senator Kasser announced she is resigning, saying her ability to do her job has been harmed by a bitter divorce battle being waged by her husband, Seth Bergstein, a top Morgan Stanley executive. In her resignation statement posted on Medium, the Democrat from Greenwich wrote:

“Seth uses his powerful position at Morgan Stanley to enable his conduct, so I must work even harder to fight for my freedom.”

The stunning move comes two years after Kasser went public with her romantic relationship with a woman who had previously run her first Senate campaign and then briefly worked in her legislative office.

Kasser told her husband more than a decade ago told she is a lesbian, according to an op-ed she wrote in The Stamford Advocate newspaper last fall. Kasser, 54, charged on Tuesday that Bergstein “has tried to destroy” that same-sex partner, Nichola Samponaro, “with lies about our relationship and harassing court motions that mention her 56 times for no relevant reason — she had nothing to do with ending my marriage. I will not stay silent as a homophobic, entitled man attacks my partner.”

Bergstein, 55, is a senior managing director and head of global services at Morgan Stanley.

Florida Divorce Privacy

I’ve written on divorce privacy issues before. Divorce privacy is an issue that comes up a lot. Divorces in court are public events, and the filed records of court proceedings are public records available for public examination.

Both the public and the media can challenge any closure order by a divorce court. The closure of court proceedings or records should only really occur when it’s necessary to comply with established public policy, to protect trade secrets; or to protect children in a divorce among other reasons.

Florida also has new rules protecting sensitive data from public view. This includes protecting Social Security, Bank Account, Debit, and Credit Card Numbers because if those numbers are included in a document, they may become part of the public record.

If information is absolutely required, there is a rule with procedures for sealing and unsealing of court records. Also, the Clerk of Court has the authority to redact or make confidential only specific information.

If sensitive information has already been filed in Court Records, you must complete and submit a “Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing” in order to remove or seal it.

Divorce Power Politics

It is difficult to know where the balance of power in a relationship is when a powerful state senator admits to CNBC she no longer has contact with her three children with Bergstein.

Kasser made a splash in 2018 when she became the first Democrat in nearly 90 years to win the 36th District Senate seat, which includes Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan. Her narrow victory helped Democrats end two years of splitting control of the state Senate with Republicans. Last November, she doubled her margin of victory to 2.6% to win reelection to another two-year term. Kasser said a special election would determine her successor.

“I can no longer live or work in Greenwich as it is loaded with memories of the 20 years I spent raising my children here. It is too painful to be in Greenwich now that I’ve been erased from their lives, just as their father promised would happen if I ever left him.”

The senator’s surprise announcement also comes as she prepares for her divorce trial, set to begin in September in Stamford Superior Court, where her lawyers have sought to depose three Morgan Stanley employees over what they have suggested were improper efforts by the investment bank to obtain personal financial information from her.

“It is with deep sadness that I announce my resignation as State Senator. Serving the residents of Connecticut’s 36th Senate district has been a profound honor and a great joy. However, due to personal circumstances, I cannot continue. For nearly three years, I’ve been trying to divorce Seth Bergstein. As all survivors of domestic abuse know, emancipating ourselves is an epic struggle that takes years, requires unflinching courage and all our resources — mental, physical, and financial.”

Bergstein did not immediately return a request for comment. But his matrimonial lawyer, Janet Battey, in an email response to CNBC said, “Ms. Kasser’s outrageous allegations and narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“Ms. Kasser sadly continues to wage a public battle in the press while simultaneously dragging out the court proceedings,” Battey said. “Throughout the marriage, Ms. Kasser described Seth as a devoted father and patient and loving husband. Seth and his three children sought to keep this matter private, but Ms. Kasser continues to make blatantly false public statements in furtherance of her own agenda.”

“Mr. Bergstein trusts the legal system and family court and that the upcoming trial will reveal Ms. Kasser’s narrative for what it is.”

The CNBC article is here.

 

Same Sex, Common Law Marriages

Florida deems common law marriages void. What about a common law marriage from another state? In many same-sex relationships, which were not legal until recently, that is now an issue.

Groundbreaking New Case

In South Carolina, Debra Parks wanted to be treated the same as anybody else. She wanted her relationship, which ended last year, to be considered a common-law marriage under South Carolina law. Parks is gay. But until 2014, same-sex marriage was illegal.

In a groundbreaking case for South Carolina, a Family Court judge has ruled that Parks and her former partner had a common-law marriage under state law. And the state must recognize that their common-law marriage has been legal for almost 30 years, the judge ruled.

The ruling means same-sex couples now have the same retroactive rights as heterosexual married couples, experts say. Those rights include alimony, health insurance, taxes, the division of property and others.

I’ve written about same-sex relationships before. The South Carolina ruling immediately becomes a legal precedent, and has the potential to impact thousands of people in same sex relationships because it backdates the period of effect to the beginning of the common-law marriage.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’” the judge wrote. “The law established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell should be applied retroactively in South Carolina.”

Florida Common Law Marriages

South Carolina is one of eight states that recognize common law marriage. The case is important because same sex marriages were not recognized until 2014 and left an entire group of people “out in the cold” without the protections the law provides to heterosexual couples.

Florida law is different. No common-law marriage entered into after January 1, 1968, is valid in Florida.

The South Carolina case could create a conflict between Florida Statutes – which makes common law marriages in Florida void as of 1968, the Parks case, which recognizes the creation of same-sex, common law marriages in South Carolina.

The order states that Parks’ common law marriage is retroactive to the time when Parks divorced her husband while already living with her same sex partner. The larger question for interstate actions is whether Florida would give full faith and credit to the South Carolina judgment.

Interstate Problems

The generally established principle is that the validity of a marriage is determined by the law of the place where the marriage occurred. So, while Florida no longer recognizes common law marriages, nevertheless, it may to recognize the validity of common law marriages in other states.

Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to recognize same sex marriage, everything else from the marriage follows including rights of the parties, including marital property, alimony, divorce, and anything else. The rights and duties of marriage now apply to same sex couples.

The South Carolina Herald article is here.

Unseen Problems with DOMA

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Monday, June 24, 2013.

Because many people are familiar with divorce, either through their own divorce or living through their friend’s divorce, it can be a prism to understanding legal controversies.

I was involved in a case on behalf of a client who was in a 9 year relationship, and this client has a 2 year old. There is a house and a rental apartment, and two 401(k)s to distribute. We are also going back and forth about the amount of child support and alimony to be paid.

In other words, this is a typical divorce. Except for one thing, both of the parties are women. Under the federal Defense of Marriage Act (otherwise known as DOMA), the law we apply in every other divorce doesn’t apply to this relationship. This form of discrimination can lead to unfairness which directly impacts your bank account.

In a typical divorce, one party might have to pay alimony to the other. Under our tax code, alimony when paid pursuant to a court order or written agreement, is tax deductible to the paying spouse, and is included in the taxable income of the payee spouse.

The tax-deductibility of alimony allows divorce lawyers to use the tax deductibility in ways to maximize the dollars available to everyone. Sometimes the payor spouse may actually want to pay more alimony because the overall payment for both child support and alimony could be less after you tax effect the payment.

However, under DOMA any support payment paid cannot be construed as alimony in Florida, and would not be deductible under our Federal tax code, because the couple is homosexual. Under DOMA certain tax advantages available to every heterosexual married couple are not available to homosexual couples by law.

Many people have different views about same-sex marriage, but there are a few far-reaching effects of DOMA that many people may not be aware of. Sometimes, putting it into perspective of a divorce, which many people are familiar with, can give people a better understanding why people oppose DOMA.

In the next week or so, the U.S. Supreme Court will announce its decision in the federal DOMA case. The name of the case is United States v. Windsor, and can be followed here.