Tag: Divorce

Settling Britain’s Largest Property Division Award

Billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov and his ex-wife Tatiana Akhmedova are settling Britain’s largest property division award of 450 million pounds. He will be paying her around 135 million pounds in cash and other assets to settle. The announcement ends the largest financial dispute that Britain’s divorce courts have ever seen.

International Divorce Rates

From Russia with Love

Tatiana Akhmedova, who is originally from Russia, decided to accept the cash and art settlement, which represents about one-third of the property division award she obtained in 2016. The parties’ settlement agreement ends a very bitter and long-running legal dispute.

The fight for assets has spanned at least nine jurisdictions since a London judge awarded Tatiana some 450 million pounds — amounting to 41% of Farkhad’s assets — in 2016. The Former Wife’s litigation budget in pursuing her settlement was expensive too. According to reports she had to borrow fund from a litigation finance group called Burford Capital Ltd., which stated it will receive $103 million.

“I will burn this moneys rather then will give her”

Farkhad said in a WhatsApp message to his son in March that year.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about this case in the past along with the subject of property division in Florida many times before. Property division, or equitable distribution as it is called in Florida, is governed by statute and case law.

Generally, courts set apart to each spouse their nonmarital assets and debts, and then distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties.

In dividing the marital assets and debts though, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, if there is a justification for an unequal distribution, as in the Akhmedov divorce, the court has the authority.

However, the court must base an unequal distribution on certain factors, including: the contribution to the marriage by each spouse; the economic circumstances of the parties, the duration of the marriage, or any interrupting of personal careers or education.

It has been a long-standing rule in Florida that an unequal distribution of marital assets may be justified to compensate for one spouse’s “intentional dissipation, waste, depletion or destruction of marital assets after filing of the petition….”

Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

The couple met in 1989, marrying four years later and moved to London. The marriage formally ended in late 2014.

A spokesman for her ex-husband Farkhad Akhmedov said:

The intervention in a case over which the English Court should have had no jurisdiction and the involvement of Burford ultimately achieved nothing for Tatiana. Burford and she spent years and millions of pounds on a costly global tour of various jurisdictions in their attempts to seize Luna. Every one of them failed and the yacht remains and will remain in the ownership of Farkhad and the family trusts. Tatiana has ended up with not a penny more than she was offered by her ex-husband six years ago. Farkhad has provided no payment to Burford. Those monies will have to be paid by Tatiana, thus reducing further to her the benefit of a settlement she could have had before the lawyers and financiers got involved.

The Former Wife was awarded a 41.5% share of her ex-husband’s £1 billion-plus fortune in late 2016. But he did not pay and she has spent years in courts in Britain and abroad in a bid to trace and seize his assets.

At one point she hired a team to try to secure her ex-husband’s enormous yacht, Luna, from a Dubai dock, led by former members of the British Special Boat Service – the naval version of the SAS.
Assets separately seized had included the yacht’s private £5million Eurocopter and its £1.5million Torpedo speed boat, customized with a 1965 Ferrari GTO steering wheel. A £40million global express jet had also been taken.

The Luna was sold to Farkhad in 2014 for £225million, has nine decks, space for 52 crew, two helipads, a vast swimming pool and a mini submarine. They are capable of acting as VIP transport and being lifeboats at the same time. Luna also has one of only two multipurpose custom made lifeboat-limousines in the world at a cost of over £2.8m each.

The Daily Mail article is here.

A Fast and Furious Divorce Property Division

Jordana Brewster’s divorce got expensive. The Fast and Furious star’s property division comes at a steep price as she has to buy out her ex-husband from their Los Angeles former marital home.

Fast & Furious 5,000,000

According to news reports, Brewster, 41, agreed to pay her ex-husband, Andrew Form, $5 million as part of their divorce settlement, The figure represents his half of their marital home in Los Angeles, which she will keep.

Additional details of the divorce settlement include that any income Brewster makes from the latest “Fast and Furious” movie is her separate, non-community property.

Her producer ex-husband also agreed that any income either earns “as a result of their personal and professional effort” from May 13, 2020 and beyond “shall be the separate property of the earning party.”

Neither Brewster nor Form will receive or pay spousal support. While a judge still needs to sign off on their agreement, Brewster and Form are legally single and co-parenting their two sons.

Florida Divorce and Property Division

I’ve written about houses and property divisions before. California is a community property state, but Florida is an equitable distribution state. In Florida, every divorce requires the court has to set apart nonmarital property, and distribute the marital property.

Florida judges always begin with the premise that the property distribution should be equal, unless there is a reason for an unequal distribution based on several factors.

One of the factors the court has to consider is the desirability of keeping the home for the kids or a spouse, if it’s equitable to do so, if it’s in the best interest of the child, and financially feasible.

Some spouses decide to sell but schedule the sale months or years into the future. This happens when a couple has kids, and both parents agree that the house shouldn’t be sold to preserve the school district or allow for easier timesharing.

There are other problems in a keeping a house in which your name is still on title. In the even that your ex-spouse does not pay the mortgage timely, your own credit will suffer the late notices.

And, if someone invited to your old home is hurt, that person will sue the record title owners for their damages. If your name is on title as an owner, that’s you! Making sure you have decent insurance on the house may be in order.

Many communities are experiencing a red hot real estate market. If you can’t wait for years, and need to sell immediately, there’s a silver lining in addition to this being a seller’s market. A fresh start and new beginning after a complete division of all of the assets tying you together with your Ex is the best way to go forward for some people.

However, there’s a cost of sale. When you sell your house, you pay a commission, and other expenses, like taxes, title expenses, repairs which can average about 10 percent of the sale price.

The California Marriage Massacre

Brewster and Form met while working on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.” Form was a producer on the film.

“We started dating in secret — you know, hanging out in my trailer — because it would have been unprofessional otherwise,” she previously told InStyle Weddings (via People). “But every day, Andrew wore these work boots to the set, and if I was lying down in the shot or there was equipment in the way, I’d look for his shoes. It was comfortable just to know he was nearby.”

They called it quits after 13 years of marriage in June 2020, and the actress filed for divorce the following month. In a deeply personal essay she wrote for Glamour, Jordana says she was compelled to divorce Andrew due to their vastly different schedules.

‘Most of why my marriage didn’t work was not my ex-husband’s fault,’ she said. ‘He loves work. He loves being on set, on location. I knew this from ages 27 to 32, but it became a problem for me once the kids were older. I wanted a partner.’

‘So, toward the beginning of the pandemic, Andrew and I decided to separate. The combination of being apart for most of the year for many years and growing apart emotionally took its toll.’

Just days after their separation, Jordana would reconnect with her current boyfriend Mason Morfit, whom she first met a few years earlier when they were both still married to other people.

‘Four days after I separated from Andrew, I was on a plane to San Francisco to visit this man I had met only once but who had stayed on my mind. I knew he’d been separated for two years. I wanted to see him, to confirm whether the image I’d built up in my mind matched reality. What I got was far more than I expected.’

During a time when the world avoided all contact, when it was mandated that everyone stay six feet apart, Mason and I blended into each other.’

The couple shared a five-minute long embrace and a kiss when they reunited at the airport. As far as Andrew, the movie producer has since moved on with actress Alexandra Daddario, who debuted their romance in May 2021 with a kissing snap.

‘I love you . . . and even that is an understatement,’ she captioned the photo.

The Fox News article is here.

Divorce Politics and Privacy

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

Divorce Privacy Politics

Heartless in Hartford

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

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

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

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

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

Florida Divorce Privacy

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce Power Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CNBC article is here.

 

Enforcing Interstate Child Custody Orders

An important aspect of child custody involves enforcing interstate orders in different states because parents move around the country all the time. If you have a child custody order from say, North Carolina, and you want to enforce or modify it in another state, you must register it the right way.

Interstate Custody

Carolina in My Mind

One interstate case showed the problems that can result if the rules are not followed. A father with a daughter was divorced in Florida in 2016. The parties lived for a while in North Carolina too, and the Father had obtained a North Carolina custody order. When they divorced in Florida, they domesticated their 2014 North Carolina order in Florida. The North Carolina order awarded full legal custody of the daughter to the father, and the mother was given visitation.

Fast forward to 2020, and the mother filed her own ex parte emergency petition in Florida to domesticate a new North Carolina custody order in Florida. This new order was completely different, and awarded the mother emergency custody of the daughter.

However, even though the petition was ex parte and titled an “emergency”, the mother’s petition did not allege any kind of emergency situation. But mistakes happen. That same day, a Florida family judge entered an order granting the mother’s petition and domesticating the January 2020 North Carolina custody order in Florida.

The new Florida order did not list any emergency situation and was never served on the father, so the father didn’t have any notice of it. To his shock, the police showed up one night and the child was taken from him. Afterwards, the father filed a motion to vacate and set aside the Florida ex parte order, but the family judge in Florida denied it.

The Father appealed.

Florida Interstate Child Custody

I’ve written and spoken about interstate child custody issues before. The typical interstate problems occur in cases in which two parents reside in one state, like North Carolina for instance, then one or more of the parents and the children move across state lines to Florida.

Interstate problems can include enforcing foreign custody orders, enforcing or modifying family support orders (like alimony and child support), or enforcing foreign money judgments.

To help with confusion between different laws in different American states, the Uniform Law Commission is tasked with drafting laws on various subjects that attempt to bring uniformity across American state lines.

With respect to family law, different American states had previously adopted different approaches to issues related to interstate custody, interstate alimony, and child support. The results were that different states had conflicting resolutions to the same problems.

To seek harmony in this area, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA) and Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (the UIFSA), which Florida and almost all U.S. states passed into law.

A major problem arises when a foreign or out of state final judgment is not properly registered or domesticated in Florida. When that happens, a serious due process violation can occur, because people are entitled to notice.

Registration is not too complicated. Briefly, registration involves sending to the new state a letter requesting registration along with two copies of the order sought to be registered, a statement that the order has not been modified, the name and address of the person seeking registration, and any parent who has been awarded custody or visitation in the child custody determination sought to be registered.

Hit Me from Behind

On appeal, the Father complained that the family judge in Florida didn’t properly follow the registration requirements in the UCCJEA. The Act required the Mother to provide “the name and address of the person seeking registration and any parent or person acting as a parent who has been awarded custody or visitation in the child custody determination sought to be registered.”

The UCCJEA also requires the Florida family court to actually “[s]erve notice upon the persons named … and provide them with an opportunity to contest the registration in accordance with this section.”

On appeal, it was clear that the Florida court didn’t comply with the registration requirements of the UCCJEA. The Mother had failed to file the North Carolina final judgment or the accompanying documents as required.

In addition, the family court never provided the father with notice of the petition to domesticate the North Carolina order, thereby depriving the father of an opportunity to contest the validity of the North Carolina order – which is his right under the UCCJEA.

Because the Florida court failed to comply with the registration requirements of the UCCJEA and deprived the father with an opportunity to be heard, the resulting Florida order was declared void.

The case is here.

 

Modern Family Problems Divorce and the Home

Divorce and what to do with the home is in the news now that Modern Family actress, Julie Bowen, has listed her home for sale. Although she finalized her divorce from ex-husband Scott Phillips a few years ago, her case raises the issue of housing again.

Home Divorce

Hollywood Hills Home

According to many reports, the couple reached an agreement to split their assets of $25.3 million directly down the middle. In the divorce agreement, Bowen, who first filed for divorce in February, will receive more than $13 million while the real estate investor will receive $12.3 million.

In their marital settlement agreement, Bowen got to keep the Hollywood Hills house, worth $3.1 million at the time. Bowen had purchased the property after the separation.

Phillips, on the other hand, got to keep the couple’s $5.4 million marital home. Details of custody, child support and spousal support were filed in a private settlement agreement.

House and Divorce

I’ve written about the marital house during a divorce before. Generally, the home remains a marital asset, which is subject to equitable distribution, regardless of who lives there during the divorce process.

If a home is marital then both parties have equal rights to buy – out the other’s share. Both may also be on the hook for liabilities.

Until a divorce parenting plan in place, if you are interested in maintaining a meaningful relationship in your child’s life, leaving the home before a timesharing agreement is entered may show a lack of real interest in the child’s daily life.

Moving out can create the appearance of a new ‘primary residential parent’ by default. Worse, if the process takes a long time, it creates a new status quo.

The person leaving during a divorce may still have to contribute for the expenses of the home while also paying for a new home. It can be costly, and prohibitive expensive when you know that the process will take a long time.

Staying in the same home could create an incentive to negotiate a final settlement because living with your soon to be ex-spouse is very uncomfortable. However, if someone moves out, the person remaining in the home is sitting pretty and may be less inclined to settle.

Before moving out, there should be some discussions about maintaining the home and who is paying for which expenses, an inventory should be made of the personal property, artwork, silverware etc., and the boundaries for when the ‘out-spouse’ can use and enjoy the home after vacation

A Modern Family Home

The designer Hollywood Hills pad she purchased in 2017 shortly after splitting from her ex-husband was reportedly worth $3.1 million during the divorce because that was what she paid for it. The mid-century modern time capsule home just off iconic Mulholland Drive is now on the market for $3.85 million.

Designed by architect Thornton Abell, the glass-walled structure is made up of four bedrooms and three baths and spans over 3,200 square feet. Built in 1959 for prominent heart surgeon Augustus Bakos, the home was later acquired by the son of Beach Boys co-founder and guitarist Carl Wilson, who renovated the home and expanded it.

Pegged as “exceedingly private,” the property sits on a long, gated driveway and boasts pastoral canyon and treetop views. Interior features include floor-to-ceiling walls of glass, which are complemented by Palos Verdes stonework, terrazzo floors, custom divider screens and teak cabinetry.

Other interior finishes include a granite and stainless steel kitchen, an expansive master suite with a fireplace, a large walk-in closet and a terrazzo master bath with a glass ceiling.

It also boasts separate guest quarters, a small detached gym in the backyard, a poolside living room and a lush garden atrium. Bowen, 51, had been married to Phillips, a real estate investor, for over 13 years before calling it quits. They share 14-year-old Oliver and 12-year-old twins John and Gustav.

The New York Post article is here.

 

Bill Gates’s Divorce and Cheating

Bill Gates’s divorce and cheating is news again as more reports about him are emerging. Former employees are claiming they put up with inappropriate workplace behavior, romantic relationships with subordinates, and the demands of a boss who was painted as a nerdy tech savior.

Divorce Cheating

Blue Screen of Death

There was a time before his charitable works when Bill Gates was seen as the embodiment of corporate evil – and not just because of the blue screen of death when Windows 95 crashed. Simply typing “Bill Gates” into Ask Jeeves or Netscape on your Macintosh or Gateway 2000 desktop computer returned results like “antichrist”.

People cheered during the Microsoft antitrust case after Bill Gates himself was cross examined by attorney David Boies. But since then, Gates has embarked on a 20-year public relations effort to frame himself as a good-guy geek deeply excited by new technologies and leading the effort to fix the ills of the world.

He’s given away billions to fight malaria, climate change, world hunger. He led the effort to warn of a potential global pandemic and then, when his vision became reality and COVID-19 obliterated the global economy and killed millions, there he was at the forefront of vaccine research efforts.

In the wake of his divorce, however, it has become increasingly clear that there is a duality to Bill Gates. The stories about him have been largely suppressed by nondisclosure agreements to keep more damning details under wraps, a former employee said. “For such a long time you were told, ‘You have an NDA. You can’t talk,’” said the former employee, who signed such an agreement.

The current wave of reporting around Gates’s behavior encouraged this person to open up, but they are keenly aware that Gates has lawyers at the ready. “And these are not nice lawyers,” they added.

Florida Divorce and Cheating

I have written about divorce and cheating before. Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? There is still a statutory basis for infidelity to be an issue in your divorce proceedings, but not in the way most people think.

Adultery may impact the division of property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, and it is presumed that property should be evenly divided. This presumption may be overcome by proof that one spouse intentionally wasted marital assets.

This waste is sometimes known as dissipation. Paying for expensive jewelry, foreign trips, rent, car payments, and dinners for girlfriends and boyfriends is considered wasting marital assets. The court has the power to reduce an adulterer’s equitable distribution to credit the marital estate for waste.

Florida law specifically provides that a court may consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded. However, courts have struggled to reconcile the “fault” of adultery with the concept of “no fault” divorce. The result is a mix of weak opinions.

Chapter 61 discusses the “the moral fitness of the parents” as one of the factors the court considers in determining the best interests of a child.

So, if one parent can prove that the other parent’s adultery had, or is reasonably likely to have, an adverse impact on the child, the judge can consider adultery in evaluating what’s in the best interest of the child. However, it would be extremely unusual for an issue to be decided on those grounds.

C:\>Defrag

Vanity Fair also reports that, like most tech company leaders, Gates was reported to be often impatient and demanding—behavior that was commonplace given the rapid speed of the industry. A former partner who worked directly with Gates at Microsoft explained that if a deadline was missed, the party responsible would answer directly to Gates.

The former employee who signed an NDA called him “unrelenting” and “condescending,” adding, “He would ask you a question, and when you answered, he’d look at you and go, ‘That is NOT the right answer.’”

For years there have been whispers about inappropriate extramarital relationships. None of it was entirely shocking, despite the seeming contrast with his public persona. Bill and Melinda’s relationship began as an office romance, with Bill as the boss and Melinda as the younger employee.

For the people who worked for him, Bill’s behavior was something of an open secret. The former employee who signed an NDA said there were times when Bill came into the office driving a Mercedes, and an hour later, one of his security personnel showed up with a golden brown Porsche that Bill drove away in.

 “We all assumed that it was when he was with women. I knew there were many offsite meetings that were not on his calendar.”

Yet another source close to Bill disputed that he would disappear from the office, saying he was “one of the most intensely scheduled people on the planet.”

It’s not clear how much Melinda knew about her husband’s behavior or these rumors, or how much they factored into her decision to file for divorce. People close to the couple said there had been tension for some time, that they had been living separate lives for years, and that the decision to separate had been delayed until their youngest daughter graduated from high school.

The Times reported that in 2018, Melinda was unhappy with how Bill dealt with a sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, insisting on bringing in outside investigators. And then in 2019, when the relationship between her husband and Jeffrey Epstein became public knowledge, she hired divorce lawyers, setting a plan into motion.

The Vanity Fair 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

 

Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Child Testimony

The tumultuous marriage and ugly divorce of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, aka Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, has taken a turn for the worse, if that’s possible. Angelina is requesting to have their children testify against their father which raises the issue in family law cases of when children can be used as witnesses.

Child Testimony

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Jolie, who has sought to disqualify Judge John Ouderkirk from the divorce case, said in the filing Monday that he declined to hear evidence she says is relevant to the children’s safety and well-being before issuing a tentative ruling. The documents don’t elaborate on what that evidence may be.

“Judge Ouderkirk denied Ms. Jolie a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case,” according to the filing in California’s Second District Court of Appeal.

The actress also said the judge “has failed to adequately consider” a section of the California courts code, which says it is detrimental to the best interest of the child if custody is awarded to a person with a history of domestic violence. Her filing did not give details about what it was referring to, but her lawyers submitted a document under seal in March that purportedly offers additional information.

Jolie sought a divorce in 2016, days after a disagreement broke out on private flight ferrying the actors and their children from France to Los Angeles. Pitt was accused of being abusive toward his then-15-year-old son during the flight, but investigations by child welfare officials and the FBI were closed with no charges being filed against the actor. Jolie’s attorney said at the time that she sought a divorce “for the health of the family.”

Her new filing says the judge has “refused to hear the minor teenagers’ input as to their experiences, needs, or wishes as to their custody fate,” citing a California code that says a child 14 or over should be allowed to testify if they want to.

Three of Jolie and Pitt’s six children are teenagers, a 17-year-old, 16-year-old, and 14-year-old. The oldest is 19 and not subject to the custody decision. They also have 12-year-old twins.

Florida Child Testimony

The issue of putting your child on the stand to testify in a divorce or family law proceeding comes up a lot. I’ve written and spoken publicly about family law issues such as expert testimony and evidence before.

Florida courts take child testimony extremely seriously. The goal, in the minds of judges, is to prevent children from being too involved with or exposed to the stress of a divorce or custody proceeding to the extent possible.

In Florida, unless otherwise provided by law or another rule of procedure, children who are witnesses, potential witnesses, or related to a family law case, are prohibited from being deposed or brought to a deposition, from being subpoenaed to appear at any family law proceeding, or from attending any family law proceedings without prior order of the court based on good cause shown.

Accordingly, before being required to testify in court, a Florida judge must determine that a child’s testimony is both relevant and necessary to resolve the issues before the court.

Fight Club

In response to Jolie’s request to have their children testify, Pitt’s attorneys said, “Ouderkirk has conducted an extensive proceeding over the past six months in a thorough, fair manner and reached a tentative ruling and order after hearing from experts and percipient witnesses.”

Pitt’s filing said the judge found Jolie’s testimony “lacked credibility in many important areas, and the existing custody order between the parties must be modified, per Mr. Pitt’s request, in the best interests of the children.”

It says Jolie’s objections and further delays in reaching an arrangement would “work grave harm upon the children, who will be further denied permanence and stability.”

It’s not clear what the current custody arrangement is because the court seals most files. When the divorce process began, Pitt sought joint custody and Jolie sought primary physical custody — meaning the children would live more than half the time with her. But changes have been made that have not been made public.

Peter Harvey, a lawyer for Jolie who is close to the case but not directly involved, said the actress “supports joint custody” but the situation is complicated and he can’t go into detail because the court proceedings are under seal.

Divorce lawyers for both sides declined to comment on the new filings. Harvey told The Associated Press that Jolie’s family struggles have prompted her to take a more active role in changing the law’s approach to custody issues.

“Ms. Jolie has been working privately for four and a half years to both heal her family and to fight for improvements to the system to ensure that other families do not experience what hers has endured,” said Harvey, a former attorney general of New Jersey who has been working with Jolie on policy issues.

Jolie has sought to disqualify Ouderkirk, a private judge she and Pitt chose to maintain their privacy, arguing that he has an improper business relationship with one of Pitt’s attorneys.

She said in Monday’s filing that if the tentative custody decision is made final by Ouderkirk, she will appeal it. Jolie, 45, and Pitt, 57, were among Hollywood’s most prominent couples for 12 years. They had been married for two years when Jolie filed for divorce.

The couple was declared divorced in April 2019, after their lawyers asked for a judgment that allowed a married couple to be declared single while other issues remained, including finances and child custody.

The AP article is here.

 

 

Biden’s Tax Plan and Divorce

President Joe Biden’s latest tax proposal may require any couple thinking about filing for divorce to do some planning. Biden wants higher taxes on the wealthiest 1% to help fund education, paid leave, childcare and other social programs, and there are other other changes which may impact your divorce.

Divorce taxes

Taxes and Doughnuts

In 2017, President Trump signed the the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) into law. The TCJA generally reduced tax rates overall, and reduced the highest individual income tax rate from 39.6% to 37%. Almost all of the individual tax cuts expire at the end of 2025 unless Congress extends them.

However, there is a new president, a new Congress, and there is little doubt president Biden’s proposal will increase your taxes and impact your divorce. For instance, the Biden Plan would revert the top individual income tax rate for taxable incomes above $400,000 to 39.6%.

Even still, the proposal could still affect people earning under $400,000 too. There’s also social security taxes. Right now, a Social Security tax is imposed on wages up to $142,800. Wages above the $142,800 ‘wage cap’ are not subject to Social Security tax.

But Biden is proposing a shrinking doughnut hole for Social Security. Earnings between $142,800 and $400,000 wouldn’t be taxed, but that doughnut hole would shrink each year as the $142,800 wage cap increases.

The Biden Plan also taxes long-term capital gains and qualified dividends at the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6 percent on income above $1 million instead of at the current top capital gain rate of 20%.

Itemized deductions are also impacted under the Biden Plan. His plan caps the tax benefit of itemized deductions to 28 percent of value for those earning more than $400,000, and restores the Pease limitation on itemized deductions. The Pease limitation capped how much you could deduct.  The Pease limitation was repealed under TCJA.

Divorce and Tax

I’ve written about divorce and tax changes before. The impact president Trump’s TCJA changes took on divorce was huge. Most notably, Trump’s tax changes eliminated the alimony deduction. People become less willing to pay as much in alimony because of the loss of the deduction.

That change, it was claimed, disproportionately hurt women who tend to earn less and are more likely to be on the receiving end of alimony payments.

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

Divorce Taxes and Child Credits

The Biden Plan also includes two significant proposals concerning tax credits related to children. These proposals, if passed, could cause couples to spend more time arguing over who will claim the children to maximize tax benefits.

Under the TCJA, the dependency exemption was eliminated altogether, and was replaced by an expanded Child Tax Credit. If you have kids under the age of 17, you likely qualify for the CTC.  The CTC provides a tax credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17. The CTC begins to phase out for single taxpayers with an adjusted gross income over $200,000 and married taxpayers over $400,000.

The Biden Plan increases the CTC from a maximum credit of $2,000 to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17, and $3,600 for children under age The CTC would also be made fully refundable, removing the $2,500 reimbursement threshold and 15 percent phase-in rate.

In the corporate world, the TCJA reduced corporate tax rates from a maximum rate of 35% to a flat 21% tax rate on taxable income. The Biden Plan would increase the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%.

At this point, no one knows what part of President Biden’s tax proposals will become law, or what the final law would look like. But any couples considering divorce should keep an eye on these proposals and how they could impact your after-tax income and assets after separation.

The CNBC article is here.

 

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.