Tag: divorce trends

Family Law Mediation During the Coronavirus

With most of the country in quarantine, many people are discovering that family law courts are open, but mostly for zoom hearings. Now, family law mediation has gone virtual too. Mediations join such other legal proceedings as depositions, motions, hearings, arbitrations as part of the zoom world.

meeting

Mediation During the Quarantine

Mediation is generally a requirement in divorce and family law cases if you want to ever proceed forward with trial. It is customary for parties, their lawyers and experts to meet in-person at the mediator’s office, or one of the law firms involved.

Meeting together is an advantage in that it gets parties and their counsel together with one objective in mind — settle the case. There is an unspoken “dance” that occurs in that parties engage in substantive discussions for a period of time.

Many times, a mediation does not settle until after dinner is ordered. When the mediator is in the other room spending time with one side, the other side is left to talk about the case (or often whatever else is on their minds). There is a lot of downtime.

With social distancing amid the coronavirus, family law cases and divorces have to do their mediations virtually. They have become successful, and perhaps it will have some lasting impacts afterwards.

Florida Family Law Mediations

I’ve written about mediation before. Under Florida law, the parties to a divorce and most other family law cases must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial. In many cases, mediation can be used earlier in the process to resolve all outstanding disputes before either party has filed for divorce.

In divorce mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional, in a confidential setting. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator.

Tips for A Virtual Mediation

Before starting the mediation is the best opportunity to perform a test run of the zoom app, webex, gotomeeting, google meet, or other apps you have, to test for connectivity issues for your virtual mediation. The mediator should identify the protocol and policies regarding virtual mediation.

Given the complexities of family law cases, it is common to have separate confidential caucus meetings between the mediator and the parties. In some cases, we have meetings with the mediator and the two lawyers and experts in advance of the mediation.

One of the good things about virtual mediations is the lack of having to travel to mediation, park your car, and find restaurants. Because of that, there can be a substantial cost savings associated with virtual mediations.

It is easy to present exhibits and documents in a mediation on zoom. Each attendee has the ability to share their screen to show documents and walk through any presentation.

Usually, the mediator puts each party into a virtual break-out room where the parties wait for the mediator to come to them to talk about their case. There is usually a lot of downtime for the other side at that point.

If you settle your case, the mediator will want everyone to sign an agreement or some type of term sheet of the conditions of settlement. In very complex cases, the mediator may have asked your counsel to make drafts.

How do you sign electronically? In virtual mediations, electronic signatures may be applied to the document through docusign, adobe e-sign or a similar product.

Despite the coronavirus, courts and law offices are open virtually, and cases are being settled at mediation every day.

The National Law Review article is here.

 

When World Leaders Divorce

Courts are open remotely, lawyers are practicing law, and if you are wondering whether you are able to get a divorce, know that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, was able to obtain his divorce during the quarantine. It’s not just world leaders like the Prime Minister who are now free to plan their future wedding. Now, anyone can start their future after the lockdown restrictions are eased.

World Leader Divorce

London Has Fallen

Boris Johnson, of course, is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The world leader is the head of government of the United Kingdom, and directs both the executive and the legislature, and together with their Cabinet is accountable to the queen, to Parliament, to their party, and ultimately to the electorate, for the government’s policies and actions.

Marina Wheeler, 55, shares four of the Prime Minister’s six children and applied for a decree absolute in February. It is understood that the divorce was granted before Ms Symonds gave birth to Mr Johnson’s sixth child Wilfred last week. Ms Wheeler, a leading barrister, started divorce proceedings last year after she and Mr Johnson separated in 2018.

Florida Divorce

I have written about when divorce impacts a world leader, CEO of a large company, and everyone else. Divorce can be stressful, and can have an impact on people going through it. With the coronavirus spreading throughout the world, and courts on lockdown, it is good to know that legal remedies are continuing despite the pandemic, and that people are still able to get a divorce.

Divorces in the United States are state government remedies. With the family court system prohibiting entry to lawyers and clients except for emergency cases, many think that they cannot get a divorce. The opposite is true.

With the widespread use of zoom, courts are regularly holding divorce and family law proceedings electronically.

British prime ministers, like U.S. presidents, have little connection to divorce. Ronald Reagan was the only president of the United States who was even divorced. Until now. President Elect Donald Trump has been divorced twice.

There are some very interesting statistics about divorce:

– In America, the divorce rate for a first marriage is around 41%.

– In England and Wales the divorce rate is about 42%.

– The divorce rate for a second marriage is 60%.

– The divorce rate for a third marriage is 73%.

– The average length of divorce proceedings in the United States is 1 year.

– Western states have the highest marriage and divorce rates, followed by the South. The Northeast has the lowest marriage and divorce rates.

– Nevada has the highest rate of divorce at 14.7%.

– Florida’s rate of divorce is around 13%

– If a spouse has gained more than 20% of his or her body weight, divorce is more likely.

Back in England

The Prime Minister also has a fifth child, an 11-year-old daughter Stephanie, with art consultant Helen McIntyre. He was previously married to socialite Allegra Mostyn-Owen from 1987 to 1993. Sonia Purnell, Mr Johnson’s former colleague at the Telegraph and author of his biography Just Boris, said his ex-wife played a pivotal role in his political career.

‘Marina was a very important and supportive figure in Boris’s career. She persuaded him to take the McPherson Report into institutional racism in the police seriously. She persuaded him, as Mayor of London, to be more liberal on issues like immigration. He does owe her an awful lot. She has been a real stabilising influence in his life.

Since Ms Wheeler and Mr Johnson separated two years ago, she has surgery for cervical cancer last year and her mother Dip Singh died in February at the age of 87. She said her cancer diagnosis made her appreciate the ‘value of holding close those who you love and trust.’

A source close to the family told the Mirror: ‘Marina has been through so much over the last two years. Fortunately her family have been very close and supportive, particularly her sister Shirin.

‘Marina was an equal in that marriage. There was a point where Boris seemed to have a sense of real regret that he had endangered his marriage with his affairs. ‘Although there is no doubt she was hugely hurt by all his betrayals she would have no interest in standing in his way. She will want to move on with the next part of her life.’

Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds announced they were engaged on February 29, while also announcing they were having a baby in early summer. The couple’s first child, a son, was born on April 29.

The PM and his partner revealed their new son’s full name as Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson last week, with the first name a tribute to Mr Johnson’s paternal grandfather, Osman Wilfred Kemal, and Lawrie a reference to Ms Symonds’ grandfather.

The Daily Mail article is here.

 

Divorce Waiting Periods

With quarantines loosening up around the state, there has been a constant stream of reports of couples filing for divorce. What if, after weeks in quarantine, you discovered you had to wait two years to divorce? Citizens of Pennsylvania are in for a surprise when their quarantine ends, as the governor has changed their waiting period.

PA Divorce 2

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a new state law that reduced the divorce waiting period time after a no-fault divorce from two years to one.

Law 102, which will enter into force by 60 days, reduces the waiting period for a one-way divorce without errors from two years to one.

Marriage in Pennsylvania is a traditional divorce and two types of divorce without errors: mutual consent and a two-year separation. Separation simply means that you and your spouse live separately and individually, either under one roof or otherwise.

It is important to note that a one-year divorce waiting period does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be completed in one year. Proponents of the new law believe that it will reduce emotional pressure on families, which seems to worsen the two-year waiting period.

This new rule can save your spouse time, money, and emotional trauma. There is also a delay for people whose spouses disagree with the divorce.

Florida Divorce Waiting Period

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 and your rights before. Helping to expedite your divorce, 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.

Florida also has a divorce waiting period of sorts, although it’s not as long as Pennsylvania’s.

In Florida, no final judgment of dissolution of marriage may be entered until at least 20 days have elapsed from the date of filing the original petition for dissolution of marriage.

However, the court, on a showing that injustice would result from this delay, may enter a final judgment of dissolution of marriage at an earlier date.

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.

Back at The Office

From Pittsburgh to Scranton, residents across Pennsylvania will be heading back to the office. A shorter divorce waiting period makes life easier not only for those divorced couples, but also for their children. In a statement, however, Republican Tara Tohil from Lucerne County, who sponsored the bill, said the quickest solution was in everyone’s favor.

“A shorter waiting time helps solve the couple’s financial situation faster and at a lower cost so that they can take care of the well-being of their children,” she said.

Although Law 102 shortens the waiting period after separation from two years to one year, the actual date of separation is still an important factor that can determine many aspects of the divorce process.

The fact is that happy couples will not file for divorce using a simple procedure. After you file for a divorce in Pennsylvania without your fault, you and your spouse will have to wait 90 days from the date you filed the complaint about the divorce before you file 5a and 5b, declaring your consent to the divorce. Therefore, if both parties agree to a divorce and each of them submits an application to the court, the divorce process can be completed much earlier if neither side agrees.

Although an erroneous divorce is always possible, most Pennsylvania couples are perfectly divorced, which means that one spouse is not required to prove that the other has committed an offense. Both spouses must be available and ready to sign legal documents confirming that they agree to a divorce. Thus, the waiting time is only 90 days.

Lehigh Valley’s Morning Call article is here.

 

Divorce Stimulus Checks and More Good Coronavirus News

If you have not already received it (and spent it shopping), your Economic Impact Payment may be on its way. But if you’re separated or going through a divorce, your economic stimulus check may not be as stimulating as you had hoped. As always, there’s also some good coronavirus news.

Divorce Stimulus Checks

A Stimulating Divorce Issue

Since the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”), the $2 trillion stimulus package to spur the economic recovery, millions of Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments and are busy shopping.

You may be eligible to receive a payment if you are a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or qualifying resident alien, cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, have a Social Security number and an adjusted gross income below a certain amount.

Qualifying single adults who have an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less will receive $1,200. Married couples with no children earning $150,000 or less will receive a total payment of $2,400. Taxpayers filing as head of household will receive full payment if they earned $112,500 or less.

But will the stimulus funds be impacted because you are in a divorce or family law case?

Florida Divorce and Tax

I’ve written about divorce and taxes before. For example, after the new tax code changes became law, it eliminated the alimony deduction. Many people criticized the tax law change in general. For example, the decision to end the alimony deduction received a lot of criticism. Many argued it made divorce worse.

Since the change, we’ve seen that some people are not willing to pay as much in alimony. This reduction in alimony amounts being paid has disproportionately hurt women, who have tended to earn less, and are more likely to be on the receiving end of alimony payments.

Who CARES?

For everyone who has not received it, the stimulus payment checks are something being counted on every day. Fortunately, most people should expect to receive their one-time, $1,200 stimulus payment from the IRS in the next few weeks. However, some people may receive less than they expected.

For example, if you have not filed your 2019 tax return, the IRS will calculate your payment based on the adjusted gross income listed on your 2018 tax return.

Also, if you have a pending divorce case, the payment will be deposited into the bank account that was provided to the IRS on your previous tax return. So, if your last tax return was a joint return prepared with your spouse, you may have to consult an attorney to discuss your options for recovering your payment.

Don’t forget you may also receive an additional $500 stimulus payment for each qualifying child. For anyone who filed jointly with their spouse, and whose custody arrangement has changed since they last filed a tax return, the portion of the check allocated for qualified children may be impacted.

Finally, the rules for child support enforcement are still in effect. Federal law requires child support agencies to collect past due child support from federal tax refunds.

In passing the federal CARES Act, Congress did not exempt the stimulus payment checks from federal offsets for unpaid child support arrears. All or a partial amount of your stimulus check may be intercepted and used to pay unpaid child support.

Good Coronavirus News

As we enter summer, there is good coronavirus news. More and more cities have decided on timetables for reopening certain parks and recreational facilities as part of a phase of returning to normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • In Miami, parks, boat ramps, golf courses and other facilities will open with certain restrictions.
  • Face coverings must always be worn unless otherwise noted.
  • Social distancing must be observed, and there can’t be gatherings of 10 or more people.
  • Sadly, swimming pools are not being opened for adult lap swimming. This critical policy misstep – to open swimming pools to adult lap swimming – is a major oversight mayors around the state seem to be making, and will need to be corrected in the future.

The IRS economic impact payments information page is here.

 

Can Working Parents Get Child Custody over a Stay Home Parent and There’s Good Coronavirus Information

Roughly 18% percent of parents in America stay home to raise their children, and a majority of parents are working outside the home. Does working outside the home weaken your chances to be awarded child custody over the stay-at-home parent? A Michigan court just answered that question. There’s also some good coronavirus information.

Working Child Custody

Custody in the Mitten State

In a recent Michigan case, a family judge found that a child had an established custodial environment only with the mother, Sarah, largely because Sarah “was the stay at home mom while the parties were together” and the child “is with her the majority of the time.” The other mother, Bridget, had her timesharing reduced because she worked outside the home.

Bridget and Sarah married in April 2014. They had a child using Bridget’s egg fertilized with a sperm donor and implanted in Sarah. Bridget and Sarah agreed that Sarah would stay home to raise their child while Bridget worked as a canine officer with the Eastern Michigan University Police Department.

Bridget and Sarah’s relationship began to deteriorate after the child’s birth. Money was tight and Bridget claimed that Sarah rejected Bridget’s requests that she return to work. Sarah, on the other hand, accused Bridget of belittling her role as a stay-at-home parent.

Bridget worked overtime when possible and was sometimes required to travel for work events. Bridget’s absence put a strain on the relationship. Eventually, the couple’s arguments, suspicions, and verbal mistreatment of each other took its toll and Bridget filed for divorce.

Bridget testified that during their marriage, both she and Sarah served as “primary caretaker[s]”. Bridget asserted that she “picked [her] shift at work to make it so that [she] could have the most amount of hours with the child during the day as possible.

Ultimately, the court awarded sole legal and physical custody to Sarah, with “reasonable rights parenting time” to Bridget. The court considered the best-interest factors in favor of Sarah.

In the best interest analysis, the court expressed a decided preference for Sarah as the stay-at-home caretaker because Sarah “has closer parental and emotional ties to AB than does Bridget by virtue of being able to spend significantly more time with her.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody before – most recently about problems with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike Michigan for example, Florida does not use the term “custody” anymore, we have the parenting plan concept. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.

Similar to Michigan’s statute, in Florida, the best interests of the child are determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including the mental and physical health of the parents.

Some of those factors include similar language, The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity, and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

Bingo Bango

The family court in Michigan held that changing primary physical custody to the working parent would destroy the established custodial environment with the non-working parent. Conversely reducing the working parent’s time sharing was not such a drastic change that it would destroy the established custodial environment.

The appeals court reversed, finding that the family judge erroneously weighed the best interest factors  in the stay at home parent’s favor by finding she “has closer parental and emotional ties to [AB] than does the working parent by virtue of being able to spend significantly more time with her.”

The court also reversed because the judge concluded the non-working parent will enable her to be far better able to provide her with love, affection and guidance than the working parent, who spends much of her days at work.

The fact that the parties agreed before conceiving that one parent would stay at home to raise the child while the other would financially support the family does not equate with one parent loving the child more or having more affection for the child.

Despite treating Bridget as a less viable parent because she chose to work outside the home, the court declined to credit Bridget for her ability and willingness to earn an income and provide health insurance for her child.

Good Coronavirus Information

The practice of quarantine began during the 14th century to protect coastal cities from the plague. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.

After more than 40-days in quarantine, Florida and other states are ready to disembark and dip their toes into re-openings. Re-openings will happen mostly in stages in line with recommendations from many health experts and economists.

The big concern at this point is, as we creep back to normal, are which activities create the risk of a rebound?

Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated that the country is conducting approximately 1.5 million to 2 million Covid-19 tests per week, and it is likely the testing capacity could be doubled within the next several weeks.

Careful planning to manage the virus is crucial because it will likely still be one to two years before a coronavirus vaccine is developed and ready for large-scale production.

The Michigan appellate opinion is here.

 

Emergency Child Custody and Good Coronavirus Info

For one Miami emergency room physician, who was told to decide between her job or her daughter, the coronavirus has been a nightmare. That’s because family judges are having to make emergency child custody decisions – sometimes against our first-responders. There’s also some good coronavirus information.

ER Custody

ER Court

The coronavirus is a global pandemic. State of emergencies have been declared around the country. Currently, there are over 800,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and roughly 47,00 deaths according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

In Miami, an ER doctor had to leave her 5 year old child indefinitely with a man she alleges repeatedly physically beat her during the marriage. Yet, a Miami judge granted the father’s motion to temporarily modify timesharing due to the mother’s heightened exposure to COVID-19 and award her equivalent makeup time when the emergency is lifted.

Due to the mother’s employment as an emergency room physician, this Court is concerned with her exposure to COVID-19 while exercising timesharing with the minor child.

In order to protect the best interests of the minor child, including but not limited to the minor child’s safety and welfare, the Court temporarily suspended her timesharing until further Order of Court. That means the father will exercise 100% timesharing.

The court also ordered that the mother is entitled to equivalent make up timesharing for each day lost as a result of this temporary suspension of timesharing, and to daily Skype, FaceTime, and/or telephonic communication with the minor child.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody before – especially as it relates to spanking and punishment. Florida does not use the term “custody” anymore, we have the parenting plan concept. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.

The best interests of the child are determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including the mental and physical health of the parents. What about emergencies?

Florida courts have long recognized that there can be extraordinary circumstances, and trial courts have to enter emergency temporary orders modifying custody of a child. Sometimes the court has to do so without even giving prior notice to the other side.

However, such an order requires a true emergency situation, such as where a child is threatened with physical harm or is about to be improperly removed from the state.

But trial courts have to make every reasonable effort to allow both parties to be heard before issuing an emergency modification order. When prior notice isn’t possible, an opportunity to be heard should be made as soon thereafter as possible.

If an order doesn’t make such a showing they are consistently overturned unless there is evidence of a sufficient emergency.

The Good Doctor

Back in Miami, the ER doctor’s lawyers argued that if the Court’s ruling stands, the doctor would not be able to see her child until May 31st, when the Courts may reopen and leave this child for 60 consecutive days with the father without any access to the mother.

As the mother argued:

Is she to presume that she will not see her child for an unknown period beyond May 31st? How could this possibly be in the best interest of the minor child? Is it the stance of the Family Court that any medical professional who may come into contact with Covid-19 patients should have their timesharing suspended indefinitely?

An extraordinary writ was filed with the Third District Court of appeal, and temporarily, the doctor will continue to split custody time with her ex-husband after an appeals court ruled in favor of her motion to stay the order while the appellate court continues to decide on the judge’s initial order.

Good Coronavirus Information

While there is no game plan, here’s some information on when we can return to work:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently predicted a gradual reopening of parts of the country, perhaps starting as soon as May 2020. However, that depends on the virus and mitigation efforts.
  • Reopening the economy will happen gradually, with ongoing monitoring for renewed outbreaks.
  • In the coming weeks, a drop in COVID-19 cases is expected across the US.
  • Once that happens, public health experts and national, state, and local leaders will likely give the go-ahead for employers across many industries to gradually reopen, and employees will return to work.

The NBC Miami article is here.

 

Unorthodox: Religion, Divorce and More Good Coronavirus Info

Religion and courts don’t mix. However, judges are sometimes asked to order a parent to enforce religious issues when timesharing. That just happened in Brooklyn, and the case involves ordering an atheist father to follow religious laws. There’s also some good coronavirus information out there.

Divorce Religion

Brooklyn 2020

During any relationship, a parent is free to choose how strictly to enforce the other parent’s religion. Sure, feeding your Jewish child Cuban croquetas may lead to a divorce, but your spouse can’t report you to the police for not eating kosher.

But how about after a couple files for divorce? When the parents have divorced and entered into a settlement agreement about religious matters, for example, some religious restrictions may be enforceable in court despite the separation between church and state.

Recently in Brooklyn, a couple practiced Satmar Hasidic Judaism, the same sect in the Netflix series “Unorthodox.” In the Brooklyn case, the Father went “unorthodox”, but continued to dress as a Hasidic Jew. After the divorce, a family court awarded the mother sole custody with the father getting parental access.

The father was ordered to give the children kosher food and make “all reasonable efforts to ensure that the children’s appearance and conduct comply with the Hasidic’ religious requirements of the mother and of the children’s schools as they were raised while the children were in his custody.

Florida Religion and Divorce

I’ve written about the intersection of religion and divorce – especially as it relates to vaccinations. Religion, religious beliefs, and religious practices are not statutory factors Florida courts consider when determining parental responsibility.

Nor is religion an area in which a parent may be granted ultimate responsibility over a child. Instead, the weight religion plays in custody disputes grew over time in various cases.

One of the earliest Florida case in which religion was a factor in deciding parental responsibility restricted one parent from exposing the children to that parent’s religion.

The Mother was a member of The Way International, and the Father introduced evidence that The Way made the Mother an unfit parent. He alleged The Way psychologically brainwashed her, that she had become obsessed, and was neglecting the children. The trial judge awarded custody to the Mother provided that she sever all connections, meetings, tapes, visits, communications, or financial support with The Way, and not subject the children to any of its dogmas.

The Mother appealed the restrictions as a violation of her free exercise of religion. The appellate court agreed, and held the restrictions were unconstitutionally overbroad and expressly restricted the Mother’s free exercise of her religious beliefs and practices.

Following that, and other decisions, Florida courts will not stop a parent from practicing their religion or from influencing the religious training of their child inconsistent with that of the other parent.

When the matter involves the religious training and beliefs of the child, the court generally does not make a decision in favor of a specific religion over the objection of the other parent. The court should also avoid interference with the right of a parent to practice their own religion and avoid imposing an obligation to enforce the religious beliefs of the other parent.

Do the Right Thing

The Brooklyn case went back to the family court, and after a hearing was held, the mother conceded that the father was not really preventing the children from practicing their Judaism during his timesharing.

Instead, the mother’s complaint was that the father himself was not complying with Hasidic religious requirements in the presence of the children while he was timesharing with them, and that didn’t comply with the religious clause.

After the hearing, the family court attempted to enforce the religious upbringing provision of the judgment by ordering the father – during his timesharing – to “conduct himself in accordance with the cultural norms” of Hasidic Judaism established by the parents during the marriage.

The court then directed that the father’s behavior and conduct when in the presence of the children “must and should be consistent with the cultural norm . . . established by the parents.”

The father appealed from that part of the order directing him to comply with the cultural norms of Hasidic Judaism during his timesharing. The appellate court reversed.

By directing him to comply with the “cultural norms” of Hasidic Judaism during his timesharing, the family court ran afoul of constitution by compelling the father to himself practice a religion, rather than merely directing him to provide the children with a religious upbringing.

While the court referred to the “cultural norms” by which the children were raised, the testimony at the hearing made clear that the “cultural norms” were really the religious requirements of Hasidic Judaism, which was unconstitutional.

Good Coronavirus Information

Green spaces, parks, and boardwalks are too crowded — making it impossible to maintain the minimum 6 feet of social distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without exposing yourself or your family to the coronavirus.

Tech can help avoid those areas and crowds if you absolutely must leave your shelter. Here are some tools that can help:

  • Strava, the activity-tracking app, can help you find alternative routes for running, walking and riding.
  • AllTrails identifies lightly treaded trails nearby.
  • Before your next grocery run, consult Google’s popular times to see if it’s crowded. A pink “Live” indicator is a good representation of how many people are there right now.
  • If you aren’t sure what 6 feet looks like, bust out the Measure app on your iPhone or Android device.

The Reason article is here.

 

Divorce During the Pandemic and Good Coronavirus Information

Law offices are open, and court hearings are being held, even contested and uncontested divorce cases, but all remotely. So, if you need help with any divorce or family law issue, the coronavirus is not stopping you. Lastly, there’s some good coronavirus information on taxes and pools to be shared.

Zoom pool

Reasons to Divorce

Yahoo has a recent article about all kinds of things that can lead to a split, from the token celebrity-cited “irreconcilable differences” to a messy affair, or the loss of anything remotely close to the spark you felt in the good old days.

While the reasons for a divorce are unique to the relationship, here are the issues that a divorce lawyer and psychologist say pop up most often:

Communication

You typically hear reasons for divorce like money disagreements, commitment issues and the other things but these problems are also rooted in a breakdown of communication.

Falling Out of Love

According to one study nearly half of recently divorced couples cited a lack of love or intimacy as the reason for their separation. Instead of one big betrayal, sometimes just growing apart and losing your romantic feelings can end a marriage.

Lack of Intimacy

There’s nothing shameful about a dry spell, but a total lack of physical affection —sexy times and long bear hugs included — can cause serious disconnect. People start telling themselves like, ‘Okay, well the lack of intimacy, I can handle that.’ But ultimately it just becomes too much for them.

Florida No Fault 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.

Other Common Reasons to Divorce

Not Ready For Marriage

While you want to be in it for the long haul, maybe you rushed down the aisle or weren’t fully in tune with yourself when you said “I do”. That’s when a crop of clashes—think: differing values, emotional baggage from past flings, and a lack of real trust—pop up and put you on the road to divorce.

Addiction

Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or another damaging vice, substance abuse is often a factor in divorces. If a partner doesn’t want to get help or they become a threat to their partner’s safety, it’s often a straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Financial Problems

Disagreements about finances make matters dicey, especially when it gets in the way of working together as a team. Someone might think their partner spends too much, another might be worried about their partner’s debt, and, in some cases, couples can’t compromise about what to spend their money on. Over time, the strain gets to be too much. What’s mine was once yours, but not anymore.

Lost Sense of Self

What you want can change over the course of a marriage. Very often in relationships, a partner has been sacrificing what they want and need for the sake of keeping the marriage together. Whether that’s passing up a job opportunity or getting lost in the role of “Mom,” the marriage could take you down a path you don’t identify with all that much anymore. It’s one thing to compromise, but it’s another to lose sight of your individuality completely. If you do, you might resent your partner and want out.

Good Coronavirus Information

Tax Day

Today would traditionally be tax day, but this year, the IRS is allowing Americans to wait to file until July 15. You can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.

Swimming Pool Hearings

Broward County Judge Dennis Bailey offers some coronavirus advice to us lawyers: Don’t appear for Zoom hearings shirtless or still in bed under the covers. Also, putting on a beach cover-up won’t hide from the judge that you’re poolside in a bathing suit.

The Yahoo article is here.

 

The Ultrawealthy Divorce Differently and there’s more Good News on Coronavirus

Locked out of your $88 million Manhattan condo? The rich are different when it comes to equitable distribution. As the Wall Street Journal reports, how ultrawealthy couples divorce is becoming much harder as financial portfolios become more complex. There’s also good news on the coronavirus.

Ultrawealthy Divorce

Enter the Badlands

Many ultrawealthy people in a divorce are having trouble finding assets, like the front door keys to their $22 million Hawaii home. A big reason for the complexity is the widespread use of trusts. Trusts can play a big role in divorce depending on your circumstances.

Setting up a trust may allow you to safely transfer ownership of your non-marital property into a separate trust. If you divorce, a trust like this may make the entire property, and its appreciation, out of equitable distribution.

South Dakota is becoming a hotspot for trusts, holding almost a trillion dollars in trust assets because state laws have made South Dakota more favorable for trusts. Generally, trust assets are managed by a Trustee for the benefit of beneficiaries.

A trust can be drafted with a variety of different provisions in order to accomplish a variety of different goals. In every trust, the Trustee must account to the beneficiaries about its actions, and it must be fair and prudent in dealing with the trust and beneficiaries.

So, what happens if one spouse is named as the beneficiary of a trust, and that spouse benefits from the trust during the marriage? The answer to questions like this is not always straightforward in every state.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about Florida equitable distribution during divorce before. In Florida, the legislature has created a statutory scheme to guide family courts in the equitable distribution of assets upon dissolution of a marriage.

Under Florida’s equitable distribution statute, marital assets include assets acquired during the marriage, individually by either spouse or jointly by them. Nonmarital assets include assets acquired by either party prior to the marriage, and assets acquired in exchange for such assets.

The equitable distribution statute also creates a rebuttable presumption that assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage are presumed to be marital assets: “All assets acquired … by either spouse subsequent to the date of the marriage and not specifically established as nonmarital assets … are presumed to be marital assets …. Such presumption is overcome by a showing that the assets … are nonmarital assets ….”

That’s where trusts come in. Although your home became a marital asset when you purchased the home and jointly titled it in you and your spouse’s names, the home can cease in character to be a marital asset upon its transfer into a trust.

At that point, the home can become part of the assets of the Trust, an entity distinct from either a Husband and Wife. Transferring a home into a Trust has the possibility to place the home beyond a family court’s reach for purposes of equitable distribution in a divorce.

In South Dakota We Trust?

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Texas financier Wilbur Bosarge and his wife of 22 years, Marie Bosarge, conducted business affairs through various trusts. For instance, they used a trust to buy a $45 million dollar flat in London’s “Billionaire Square.”

After Marie flew back and forth between Texas and London decorating and hand selecting furnishings for the new London flat, she never got to see it finished.

By the time it was complete, her husband left her for a 20-something Russian mistress who moved into the flat instead.

Owning the flat through a complex network of trusts and limited liability companies, the husband is using the ownership structure to eliminate her stake in the property. The wife may be stuck, because a family court may not be able to decide property rights of a nonparty to a divorce, like a trust or limited liability company.

Good News on Coronavirus

Let’s face it, the media has a tendency to give extra coverage to bad news, because readers find negative stories more eye-catching.

But, from lower toxic fumes to more time spent with family, there is always good news to report during the high point of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

  • First, there are tentative signs of infection curves flattening. Concentrate on statistics about the tendency of curve flattening – not the rising death rates – as an early harbinger of the turning point.
  • Second, a major model has lowered its prediction for the death toll in the United States. The model predicts that some states will start to see fewer deaths from COVID-19 each day and some states may have even passed their peak.
  • Third, pharmaceutical firm Abbott Labs said it was launching a test for the SARS-COV-2 virus that could take as little as five minutes and “be run on a portable machine the size of a toaster”. German technology company Bosch says it has done the same. Johnson & Johnson said it had identified a vaccine candidate and the US government was investing $1 billion in its development.
  • Fourth, other groups are investigating ways to start human trials for vaccine candidates early, and are using brave and willing volunteers, who haven’t been at all hard to find.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

 

Indecent Proposal on Child Custody During the Quarantine, and there’s Good Coronavirus News

For divorced parents, child custody can be challenging. Child exchanges these days risk violating local shelter-in-place orders, or worse, exposing a child to the coronavirus. Displaying a Sixth Sense, actors Bruce Willis and Demi Moore have developed a work-around: they quarantine together! And there’s more good news on the coronavirus.

Child Custody Coronavirs

Pulp Fiction or Armageddon?

A big part of child custody and timesharing challenges is logistical. Many divorced parents do their exchanges at schools, but schools are closed. Florida, like many states, have cities issuing shelter-in-place orders prohibiting all child timesharing exchanges.

Parents are faced with a stark choice this Passover/Easter season: not have any holiday timesharing with the children, or timeshare with a vengeance:

It may have been almost 20 years since Bruce Willis and Demi Moore divorced, but the pair are as happy as 12 Monkeys and clearly still on good terms. Willis and Moore seem unbreakable, as they spend the coronavirus quarantine together with their daughters.

Ok, it is not for every divorced couple. But, Bruce is proving he is not Expendable, and may even be the Last Boy Scout, by hunkering down with his ex-wife during a quarantine. Demi and Bruce’s daughter Tallulah shared a photo on Instagram of her parents wearing goofy, matching, striped pajamas.

The divorced couple have remained on good terms, so much so they’re even pictured hugging each other while giving the camera a thumbs up.

It’s not known if Willis’ current wife Emma Hemming Willis, 41, is staying with the Willis-Moore family, too. Earlier this month, Moore wished her former husband a happy birthday on Instagram, thanking the actor for her three daughters.

Moore and Willis were married from 1987 until their divorce in 2000. They announced their separation in June 1998. The actress opened up about their split in her memoir Inside Out, writing:

It’s a funny thing to say, but I’m very proud of our divorce. I think Bruce was fearful at the beginning that I was going to make our split difficult, and that I would express my anger and whatever baggage that I had from our marriage by obstructing his access to the kids — that I’d turn to all of those ploys divorcing couples use as weapons. But I didn’t, and neither did he.

The Ghost star went on to admit that the couple felt more connected than we did before the divorce.

Florida Child Custody

I’ve written about child custody issues before. In 2008, Florida modified its child custody laws to get rid of outdated and negative terminology about divorcing parents and their children to reduce animosity.

Florida law did that by deleting the definitions of the terms “custodial parent” or “primary residential parent” and “noncustodial parent” and creating a definition for the terms “shared parental responsibility, “parenting plan”, and “time-sharing schedule.

Shared parental responsibility, is similar to joint physical and legal custody, and is a relationship 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.

But the “best interest of the child” is not an empty slogan. In Florida, how you act during mandatory quarantines and municipal ‘shelter-in-place’ orders can impact a judge’s decision.

In determining the best interest of the child, a court has to consider things like a parent’s facilitating and encouraging parent-child relationships, honoring the time-sharing schedule, and being reasonable when changes are required.

Good Coronavirus News

Some of us are depressed about the coronavirus, but millions of people are rising to the occasion, and there’s a lot of good news mixed in with the bad. The website 80,000 Hours has a listing of some of the positive things we’ve learned:

  • Some countries are turning COVID-19 away at the door, while others are turning the tide of the pandemic. COVID-19 remains mostly controlled in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. Taiwan was barely touched.
  • Italy, Spain and countries that engage in national lockdowns are seeing the rate of new cases level off or decline as we hoped and expected.
  • Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine just estimated that the reproductive rate of the coronavirus in the UK is now below 1, thanks to people mostly staying at home. If that’s correct the number of new cases will level off and then decrease over the next 6 weeks.
  • Testing is increasing rapidly in most countries. The US has gone from testing 350 people on the 7th of March, to 30,000 people on the 19th of March, up to 101,000 on the 1st of April.

It is inspiring to see the world come together to help fight this pandemic, whether they are biologists, statisticians, engineers, civil servants, medics, supermarket staff, logistics managers, manufacturers, or one of countless other roles.

The Yahoo article is here.