Tag: divorce trends

The Simpsons and Benefits of Divorce

The Guardian reports on The Simpsons animated sitcom, its longevity, and its influence on western culture. But most importantly, what the Guardian finds really astonishing about The Simpsons is that Marge has not filed to divorce Homer yet.

Trouble in Springfield

If The Simpsons was rooted in any form of real life, and didn’t reset itself sitcom-style after every episode, it would be a harrowing drama about a woman trapped in an impossibly unhappy marriage.

In The Simpsons Movie there is a quiet moment where Marge sits on the bed, silently absorbing yet another energy-draining screed from her feckless husband, before admitting that her marriage has “aged me horribly”. What else would motivate her to divorce?

For starters, in 1992 Homer was actively considering an affair. In 1994 he deliberately revealed all of his wife’s innermost secrets to the whole town. Then in 1999 he got blackout drunk in Las Vegas and married a cocktail waitress. Worse, in 2004 he drove a car drunk, crashed it, and framed his wife.

Conversely, before marriage Marge was a brilliant, resourceful, academic young woman. She joined the police. She wrote novels. She briefly became mayor of Springfield. Unshackled from her awful marriage, there would be no stopping Marge.

Florida Divorce Benefits

I’ve written before that divorce comes at a high price. You walk away from your marriage with significantly fewer assets and retirement savings by virtue of the property division.

You can lose more if you have to pay support or alimony. Then there’s the emotional toll. But there may be a silver lining, some divorce benefits you were not aware of.

The Guardian suspects Marge may be better off after divorce, and there may be some truth to that theory. Divorce may have a few silver linings, some unknown or hidden benefits to take some of the sting away from an otherwise painful process.

The end of a marriage can mean the end of fights over money. That is a divorce benefit. There is no more struggle over which categories get priority in the budget; no more evenings spent fighting or pleading with a spouse to rein in spending.

Another benefit is that a divorce is one of the few times you can pull money out of your retirement account early and not pay an early withdrawal penalty. When the court enters a QDRO (a Qualified Domestic Relations Order) as part of a divorce, it allows for an early withdrawal from the account.

This money may be exempt from the typical penalty assessed, although income tax still needs to be paid if the money is not rolled into an IRA. Cashing out part of your retirement account can be very risky, but it gives you some benefit to your money you may not otherwise have.

Divorce could mean better investment returns. After a divorce, you have the opportunity to take over your own retirement planning and investments. Being the captain of your own financial ship could be a financial benefit in the long run. I have also written about there being some tax issues in divorce which may benefit you.

Sometimes you can structure your marital settlement agreement so that the lower-earning parent becomes the custodial parent, giving your student the best chance of qualifying for the most financial aid.

D’oh!

How would the Simpson children fair after divorce? Bart may be forced into taking on more responsibilities, which could curb his delinquent behavior. Lisa would see that there is a path in life that doesn’t involve being crushed by the weight of patriarchal expectations.

Lost in the Guardian article (as reported in the Los Angeles Times) is the fact that the Simpsons have been divorced before – for 12 whole seasons — according to various summaries of “Simpsons” episodes. In Season 8, Homer secretly divorced Marge because he believed she deserved better but then quickly remarries her at the end of the episode in a proper ceremony in front of all her friends.

Twelve seasons later, at the time of their second wedding, the Rev. Lovejoy’s license to officiate weddings had expired. So, unbeknown to them, the couple had apparently been divorced that whole time. It was an error they rectified, of course, by the end of the episode.

The Guardian article is here.

 

Chris Rock and the Four Percent Rule

Chris Rock offers some interesting advice he learned from his famously bitter 2016 divorce. The comedian said there was one piece of wisdom his divorce lawyer shared that helped him get through the two-year legal battle with his ex-wife.

Rock Advice

The Four Percent Rule

Rock told Business Insider in a recent interview that his former divorce attorney, Robert Cohen, was a capable, intelligent, and realistic lawyer who helped the comedian see the bigger picture. The advice: That most of his divorce had already been resolved, and the most contentious parts composed a tiny fraction of what was at stake.

“Put it this way. People get divorced. People fight. Things take sometimes years. At the end of the day, you’re only talking 4%, one way or the other,” Rock said. “[Cohen] said that to me. I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And that put it in perspective.”

Divorce lawyer, Cohen, told Business Insider that his ‘4% rule’ holds up in most divorces he handles. He’s one of the most prominent divorce lawyers in the country, and has represented a number of other high-profile clients, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the actors Uma Thurman and James Gandolfini, both of Donald Trump’s ex-wives, Ivana Trump and Marla Maples, and most recently, Belinda Gates.

“At the end of the day, the differences are usually a small percentage. Both with respect to money, and with respect to custody issues,” Cohen said.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written about the Chris Rock’s divorce saga before. Whatever the reason for your marital problems, there are a few things that anyone looking into divorce for the first time needs to know to help them through the process.

Prioritize

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

Consult

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

Alternatives

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

Grown Ups

Rock’s turbulent divorce was highly publicized, and he’s since opened up about his flaws as a husband — in particular, his numerous infidelities. But he said Cohen remained cool-headed throughout the process, particularly when it came to disputes over child custody.

“I had some issues,” Rock said. “It’s like, when you’re a guy, some people don’t even think you want to see your kids. [Cohen] was very understanding about all of that.”

Rock opened up and admitted his divorce lawyer got him through a very tough time in Rock’s life. Then again, Chris Rock joked that fellow comedian John Mulaney, on a recent episode of “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” should hire Rock’s ex-wife’s lawyer instead: “You should get this guy — he’ll get you your money”

The Business Insider article is here.

Chris Rock – Orpheum Theatre Minneapolis 3/17 by Andy Witchger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

Divorce and Will Power

There is a new law in Florida dealing with divorce and the power of your will. The new law tries to correct the situation where you create a will giving your property to your fiancée, then marry, but divorce without changing your will. Many families discovered a will had no power to exclude an ex-spouse due to a loophole. The Florida legislature just addressed the situation.

Divorce and Will

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way?

One of the many consequences of divorce is that it is supposed to be the end of the marriage, and the benefits of being married. But that is not always the case. For example, one of the financial benefits of marriage is inheriting from your deceased spouse. However, an ex-spouse usually can’t inherit from their ex-spouse. Usually.

The problem is that many people who divorce forget to change the terms of their wills, trusts, or other financial instruments, and forget to omit their now Ex-Spouse from inheriting. As a result, the Ex-Spouse can become a beneficiary.

This common omission has led to unexpected windfalls for ex-spouses’ years after divorce, to the detriment of a current spouse, children, parents, and other family members who expected to be heirs of an estate.

A law protected these expected heirs from this oversight. The law protected new spouses and children by creating the legal fiction that, for purposes of inheritance, revocable trusts, and certain beneficiary designations, a past divorce is treated in the distribution as if the surviving former spouse had died on the date of divorce.

But this legal fiction does not apply where the divorce judgment specifically requires that the Ex-spouse remain as a beneficiary of the will, trust, or other financial instrument, or where the beneficiary designation is reaffirmed after divorce.

A Florida case exposed a loophole in this area. Ron Priever executed a will devising property to his then fiancée, Ms. Gordon. Some two years later, Mr. Priever and Ms. Gordon married. They divorced in July 2013. Mr. Priever died two years later. He left no children or spouse.

In April 2015, the guardian asked to treat Mr. Priever’s estate as an intestate estate as if there were no will. Allegedly, Mr. Priever told several of his family members that he destroyed or revoked his will because of a premarital agreement and subsequent divorce from Ms. Gordon.

The guardian asked the court for an order determining beneficiaries. He argued that, under Florida law, the will was to be construed under a legal fiction: as if Ms. Gordon had died before Mr. Priever.

But Ms. Gordon objected. First, she argued that she was very much alive. Second, that Florida law did not apply in her case because she was not married to Mr. Priever when he signed his will – she was only engaged. The trial court disagreed with her and she appealed.

Florida Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”. I’ve written about divorce many times before. There are a lot of issues concerning divorce when a death of a spouse or former spouse occurs.

In divorce, the issue of benefits if you survive your spouse or ex-spouse is a frequent question. For example, eligibility for social security benefits. If you are 62 or older, have a previous marriage that lasted at least 10 years and have not remarried, you may be eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings record.

If you are considering divorce, or just starting the process, you should review your estate plan to make sure it reflects your divorce plans. That is because it doesn’t matter how far along the divorce case is taking, or how long you are separated, you are legally married until the judge signs the final judgment in.

If you die or become disabled before the final decree of divorce, your estranged spouse may still have legal control over you and your estate and may be entitled to most, if not all, of your estate. This may not be what you intended.

Through proper estate planning documents, you can provide that someone other than your former spouse will have control over you and your estate, and you can limit your estranged spouse’s rights as a beneficiary of your estate.

Willpower

The appellate court found the plain and unambiguous language of Florida law revokes provisions of a will executed by a “married person” and therefore it did not apply in Mr. Priever’s case.

The legislature has finally closed this loophole for divorced people whose will leaves everything behind to their ex-spouses.

The bill amends the Probate Code to provide that a former spouse is considered, for estate purposes, to have died on the date of the divorce. Once the law becomes effective, the date a will was signed will not affect this legal fiction.

The new bill amends the Trust Code to clarify the same result applies to a revocable trust. These changes apply to estates and trusts of decedents who die on or after the effective date of the bill, regardless of when the trust or will was signed.

The effective date of the bill for purposes of the changes to these two sections is upon becoming law.

The Senate Bill is here.

 

Politics and Reasons to Divorce

Given the current divisiveness in our country, it should not surprise us that politics can be one of many reasons to divorce in other parts of the world. This is especially true for a Palestinian peace activist who claims he was offered an unconventional proposition by his Hamas captors: divorce your wife and you are free to leave prison.

divorce reasons

A Saga in Gaza

According to reports, Gaza resident Aman had signed a marriage contract with the daughter of an exiled Hamas official right before the pandemic started. Hamas, is an acronym of Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamah al-Islāmiyyah, which in English translates to Islamic Resistance Movement, and is the government ruling the Gaza Strip.

Two months after the marriage, Aman did not think he was doing anything subversive when he joined a Zoom call with Israeli peace activists. During the widespread closures at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Aman wanted to discuss the “double lockdown” he experienced in Gaza, which has endured 14 years of a tight Israeli-Egyptian blockade against Hamas.

“I wanted to let people know more how it is when you live under Israeli occupation and siege, deprived of the rights the rest of the world enjoys.”

For over two hours, Aman and his group of peace activists, the Gaza Youth Committee, talked about coexistence with dozens of Israelis peace activists. As word of the Zoom meeting leaked out, social media filled with angry comments branding him a traitor.

Some urged Hamas to act. It did, and the Zoom meeting landed him in a prison cell known as “the bus,” and ultimately ended his marriage.

Florida No Fault Divorce

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage”, and you don’t need fault as a ground for divorce. Florida abolished fault as a ground for divorce. So, if your spouse is either out in the streets demonstrating, or worse, attending a Zoom call with peace activists, you don’t need to allege that as grounds for divorce.

I’ve written about divorce reasons before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your spouse’s political activism. 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 collaboration or weakening the revolutionary spirit.

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

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

Searching for Reconciliation

Aman said that after his Zoom meeting, he and seven members of his group were summoned to Internal Security, the agency that deals with dissidents and people accused of spying for Israel. The questions focused on the Zoom meeting and who might have been behind it. Aman was accused of collaborating with Israel — a crime punishable by death.

Then the questioning took a strange new turn. Just two months earlier, Aman had signed a marriage contract with the daughter of an exiled Hamas official based in Egypt.

The couple did not have time to celebrate their wedding with a formal ceremony due to the coronavirus lockdown, but they were considered married under Islamic law.

Aman said she believed in the message of peace and joined his team in several discussions with Israelis. He asked not to publish her name, fearing it could bring her harm. Aman said his new wife was arrested with him, but they were quickly separated. “She doesn’t want you,” an officer told him. “It’s better you both divorce.”

For two months, he said, he resisted the pressure to break up. On June 28, she finally visited, telling him she had been released on bail.

“This was not the woman I knew. It was clear she was under heavy pressure.”

In mid-August, he said he finally signed the divorce papers after he was promised he would be released the next day. Yet he remained in captivity for two more months. On October 25, Egypt opened its border with Gaza to allow a Hamas delegation to travel to Cairo.

The next day, a Hamas court convicted Aman on the vague charge of “weakening the revolutionary spirit.” He was released on a suspended sentence. Only then did Aman learn his wife had been taken with the Hamas delegation to Egypt and turned over to her family. The Associated Press contacted the woman, who confirmed she was forced into the divorce and wanted her husband back.

“Now I have my personal battle: return to my wife.”

The ABC news article is here.

 

Good Causes of Divorce

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

Causes of Divorce

Stopping the Steal

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

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

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

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

Florida No Fault Divorce

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

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

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

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

Florida abolished fault as grounds for filing a divorce. The only ground you need to file for divorce in Florida is to prove your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Additionally, the mental incapacity of one of the parties, where the party was adjudged incapacitated for the prior three year, is another avenue.

No Collusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Business Insider article is here.

 

Love, Divorce, and Fraud

Love has flourished during the COVID pandemic. So has divorce and fraud, as more consumers than ever report being scammed, according to new Federal Trade Commission data showing a record $304 million lost to love scams last year.

Divorce Fraud

Fraud is in the Air

The COVID pandemic has resulted in people staying physically distant, providing ample time and reason for unsuspecting people to look for relationships online and providing a lot of new reasons why scammers can’t meet you in person.

Downloading pictures stolen from the internet, your potential, future romantic partner has been building a false persona that seems just real enough to be true, but always having a reason never to meet in person.

They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States because they’re working on an oil rig, or are in the military, or they are a doctor with an international organization.

Eventually, your love interest will ask for money. The impact can be big, with the median loss reported to the FTC being $2,500 — more than ten times higher than the median loss across all other frauds.

Why does your online romantic partners need the money? Some claim they need to pay for a plane ticket. Others to pay for surgery or other medical expenses, or to pay for a visa or other official travel documents.

Romance scams started on dating sites and apps, but many report that the scams originated through social media. Interestingly, some people are saying their biggest losses occurred when they believed the scammer had sent them money! What happened was these instances turned out to be elaborate money laundering schemes, such as for fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits.

Florida Divorce Fraud

Not unlike an online romance scam, I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud before. In Florida, courts distribute the marital assets, such as bank accounts, between parties under the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution.

Some of the factors to justify an unequal distribution of the property include things like the financial situation the parties, the length of the marriage, whether someone has interrupted their career or an educational opportunity, or how much one spouse contributed to the other’s career or education.

Another important factor is whether one of the parties intentionally dissipated, wasted, depleted, or destroyed any of the marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.

Dissipation of marital assets, such as taking money from a joint bank account, happens a lot. Less common are scams like trying to cash stolen checks. The misconduct may serve as a basis for assigning the dissipated asset to the spending spouse when calculating equitable distribution.

Misconduct, for purposes of dissipation, does not mean mismanagement or simple squandering of marital assets in a manner of which the other spouse disapproves. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

“And I don’t know if I’m being foolish”

Social distancing has complicated in-person dating. People are spending more time online. There is a general increase in the use of dating apps. And the pandemic has heightened the perceived credibility of requests for money—for, say, medical bills or car repairs to get to a vaccine appointment.

Protecting yourself can also be easy. Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”

Preventing fishy transactions has become easier in recent years as financial institutions and money-transfer companies have beefed up data analytics tools. As fraudsters change tactics, companies can adjust systems to adapt to new patterns, enabling quicker detection of suspicious activity or dubious customers.

That in part is how Western Union Co. has managed to stay abreast of fraudsters’ evolving tactics. Improvements in the company’s monitoring technology have led to a decrease in the number of romance scams reported at the company.

One thing that can’t be fixed by an algorithm: human gullibility in the face of possible romance. Which is why Western Union and competitor MoneyGram International Inc. say customer outreach and education is also key.

In addition to improved technology, MoneyGram also has a process to talk with customers flagged as potential fraud victims, which has helped reduce romance scams using the company’s services. If a requested money transfer is flagged as suspicious, MoneyGram might inquire whether the sender has actually met the intended recipient before completing the transfer. The company might also tell the customer that he or she could be the victim of fraud.

The reality is fraudsters are very good at identifying the kinds of psychological aspects that they can connect with their victims. They exploit those and become very practiced at it.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

FTC consumer tips on spotting romance scams is here.

Cooling Off Divorce in China

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

China Divorce

Divorce Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Divorce

I’ve written on divorce issues and divorce planning. In Florida, a divorce is called a “dissolution of marriage.” Florida is one of the many states that have abolished fault as a ground for dissolution of marriage.

The only requirement to dissolve a marriage is for one of the parties to prove that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage.

You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The reason for the irretrievable breakdown, however, may be considered under certain limited circumstances in the determination of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and debts, and the development of the parenting plan.

While the coronavirus pandemic has caused a spike in divorce filings in Florida, there have not been reports of scalpers yet. The divorce process can be very emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their kids. Spouses often do not know their legal rights and obligations. Court clerks and judges can answer some basic questions but cannot give legal advice.

The Mediation Exception

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The South China Morning Post article is here.

 

Virtual Divorce Court

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

divorce surge

Old Problems and New

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

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

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

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

Florida Problem Free Divorce

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

This often required additional expenses on behalf of the aggrieved party, only serving to make the divorce process more expensive and cumbersome than it already was. In the years leading up to the enactment of “no-fault” divorce, courts often granted divorces on bases that were easier to prove, the most common being “mental cruelty.”

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

Virtual Divorce Court

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

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

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

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

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

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

The New York Times article is here.

 

Divorce Rates in Italy

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

Divorce Rates Italy

Arrivederci

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

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

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

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

Florida Divorce

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

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

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

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

Divorce Law Change

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

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

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

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

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

The Local Italian article is here.

Child Support and Losing Your Guns

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

Child support and guns

Brewing a Constitutional Challenge

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

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

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

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

Florida Child Support

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badgering the Wisconsin Supreme Court

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

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

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

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

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

One dissenter asked:

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

The Reason article is here.