Tag: Divorce

Is January Divorce Month?

The BBC reports that the first Monday of the New Year has long been known among U.K. solicitors and counsellors (in the U.S. lawyers) as “Divorce Day”. However, in Wales and increasingly around the world, it appears this divorce phenomenon is turning January into “Divorce Month”.

Divorce New Years

New Year, New You

One law firm in the U.K. has reported to the BBC that enquiries in January have spiked at about 150% of the November, December and February average. A relationship counselling charity also said it had seen an increase in couple’s asking for help.

“In terms of stressors on a relationship, Christmas can be right up there with moving house or having a child. There’s the pressure of being cooped up at home with your extended family, or at the other end of the spectrum, not seeing as much of them as you’d like because of work commitments.”

The phenomenon on divorce filings in January is not unique to Wales either. In general, many family lawyers in North America report a rise of nearly one-third in business in the New Year. In fact The president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (the AAML), says he typically sees a spike of 25% to 30% every year in January.

Being cooped up in a house for several days when a marriage is experiencing serious problems — while dealing with the pressure to put on a happy face for the kids and visiting relatives — takes its toll on the most stoic of couples.

Holiday time is usually a time when U.S. lawyers (in the U.K. solicitors and counsellors) get a spike in consultations and in being retained by clients. Holiday time is usually fraught with a lot of tension, emotion and financial issues, which is usually the trigger.

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.

I’ve written about divorce and statistics – such as the the new year phenomenon – before. The no-fault concept in Florida means you no longer have to prove a reason for the divorce, like your husband’s alleged infidelity with a congresswoman. 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.

Wailing in Wales

In Wales, one lawyer reports rising inflation and costs for good is having an impact on filing for divorce this year. He is finding that there is increasing anxiety over the rise of prices, and wailing about how to heat the home, never mind finding money for Christmas presents. He also reported the Christmas break was a snapshot of what couples experienced during the height of the Covid pandemic.

One charity said many couples expected their relationships to come under increased strain over the coming months, with financial worries, mental health problems and the pressure to create the perfect Christmas cited as reasons.

The pressure seems to be universal, across all ages, married or cohabiting, and straight or same-sex relationships, though the causes do vary according to their age. For the under 35s money worries account for about half the problems identified, with the difficulties of having to live with parents if you can’t afford your own home, and the increase in prices.

However for older couples other factors come into play, such as parenting, and the toll of caring for elderly relatives in an aging population. Communication is vital at any stage of a relationship, but especially so in the early days. Often counselling can help them to understand what has gone wrong, to part as amicably as possible, and avoid making the same mistakes in future relationships.

In Florida, you can file for divorce, and then you have a period of time before you have to serve the papers. Most unhappy spouses wait until after the turkey has been carved, the gifts have been unwrapped, and the new year has started.

The BBC article is here.

Equitable Distribution of the Marital Home

My hometown newspaper, The Miami Herald, weighs in on the problems couples face with the equitable distribution of their home during a divorce. The view is from the perspective of real estate agents around the country. In a perfect world, couples sit down together, and figure out the best time and price to sell their house. But of course, divorce is not a perfect world.

selling marital home divorce

Miami Vices

During a divorce, people react differently, sometimes badly, when it comes time to sell their homes. According to many real estate agents, in an attempt at a power play, one spouse simply disappears. And in rare cases, both spouses can vanish before the home is sold.

Divorce is an emotionally charged event, and often one spouse will take a hike when they believe the other one is exerting too much control over the situation. Sometimes, they disappear before an agreement is reached on how to sell the house. But once in a while, a soon-to-be ex takes off after the place is sold but before the deal goes to closing. If they never come back, the transaction can easily fall apart.

But some real estate agents think that it is better to take off and cool off, than act out in an aggressive manner. One real estate agent reported that one of her colleagues was once threatened with a machete. In another instance, emotions were so high that and agent had to sit between warring spouses at a closing.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I’ve written about equitable distribution of the marital home during a divorce before. In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, a court must set apart to each spouse that spouse’s non-marital assets and liabilities.

However, when distributing the marital assets between spouses, a family court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors.

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 opportunities to buy the other spouse’s share. Both may also be on the hook for liabilities.

Until a parenting plan for the children is 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 create problems, and it can be costly, and prohibitive expensive to rent a new place if the process takes 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, there are also a multitude of problems with selling the marital home during a divorce, as many real estate agents will tell you.

Love It or List It!

One way agents have dealt with angry spouses is not to allow them to be in the same room together. Some suggest interact with clients separately. Another way is for the couple to hire a skilled team in real estate sales and divorce. But many say that the best way is to sit down together and discuss the situation as calmly as possible.

While the joy of living under one roof may have been lost during a divorce, couples could be living together as housemates until the home is sold – if it is sold at all. Whether the house is sold or not, it’s better to negotiate calmly about who will get what, or how the expenses will be handled. If the home is sold, couples must decide: How to divide the proceeds, and how utilities and other household expenses will be handled.

If addressed early on, before tempers flare, it will go a long way toward making your remaining time together as bearable as possible. Actually, you have to keep your cool until the day after you have sat down at the closing table. You can blow off steam after the closing, but don’t let your pent-up anger scuttle the deal at the closing.

One agent reportedly was working with a client seeking to buy a house from a couple who was in the middle of a divorce. When it came time to close, the wife refused to sign the documents until her soon-to-be ex-husband agreed to pay off a “very large” credit card bill that had nothing to do with the house. He didn’t pay. She refused to sign. The buyers didn’t get the house. A lawsuit could result.

The Miami Herald article is here.

Divorce Planning and Residency

As cold winds begin to blow, marriages start to feel the chill. Recent statistics show divorce rates rising by nearly 10 percent in some places. This means divorce planning. Your residency, the state where you file your divorce, can have a big impact on the outcome.

Divorce Residency

 

Florida Divorce and Taxes

The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act increased the tax incentives for people to move to Florida, both for older and younger taxpayers. One reason is because Florida is one of only a few U.S. states with no state income tax. Another reason is the dolphins.

New York, unlike Florida, has income tax rates exceeding eight percent. In New York, there is also an additional income tax levied within New York City. Similarly, California has a state income tax. The rates in California can reach up to 12.3 percent, in addition to a one percent mental health services tax applied to incomes exceeding $1m.

However, the tax implications aren’t the only impacts to consider when deciding to change your residency. Residency and domicile are the terms often used around the country in different states to describe the location of a person’s home, the place to which a person intends to return and remain, even if they reside elsewhere.

Because a lot of interest has developed in changing residence and domicile – primarily for the best tax savings – the question remains: do you qualify? States examine many factors to determine your permanent home.

The residency analysis can include how much time is spent in a state, where your car is registered, where you bank, what state you vote in, what you declare on your tax returns, and where your dentist or doctor is.

State and local tax laws differ from state to state, and they are enforced based on your place of residence. While there are major tax implications of changing your home, there are some important divorce issues to consider on top of the tax savings.

Florida Divorce and Residency

I have written about divorce planning in the past. In Florida, divorce is called “dissolution of marriage”. In order to file for dissolution of marriage in Florida, at least one of the spouses to the marriage must reside six months in the state before the filing of the petition.

Residency under Florida law usually means an actual presence in Florida coupled with an intention at that time to make Florida the residence.

In Florida, there is a difference between domicile and residence. A person’s domicile in Florida, involves the subjective intent of the person. Residence, on the other hand, is a matter of objective fact.

Although the state residency requirement has been construed to mean you must reside in Florida for the six months immediately preceding the divorce filing, courts have recognized exceptions. For example, Florida allows military and government personnel to file for divorce – without proving their actual presence in the state during the six-month statutory period – prior to the filing of their petitions of dissolution.

Under this exception, when a Florida resident is stationed outside the state by the military, the person did not lose their Florida residency, and could file for divorce – even though she had not been physically present in the state for the immediately preceding six-month period.

Moving to the Sunshine State

Before picking up and moving your residence or domicile to Florida to save on state income taxes, there are other things you may want to consider that can impact your legal rights and your savings.

For one, there’s a difference between equitable distribution states and community property states. The effect of moving from an equitable distribution state to a state with community property ownership, may have a huge impact on your property rights.

Many western states are community property states. In California, a community property state, marriage makes two people one legal “community.” Any property or debt acquired by one person during the marriage belongs to the community. In a divorce proceeding, community property is generally split equally by the court.

Conversely, Florida is an equitable distribution state.  In a divorce proceeding the court distributes the marital assets and liabilities with only the premise that the distribution should be equal. However, there may be a justification for an unequal distribution based on certain statutory factors.

The differences between states are not limited to property division. Each state has different local laws to deal with alimony, child support, child custody, and even prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

Changing the state you live in can be complex, and there are factors besides the tax savings to consider before making any change.

The Crain’s Chicago article is here.

Divorce Rates in the Arab World

The increase in international divorce rates, due in part to changes in the nature of family and family life, can be seen thoughout the Arab world. Lebanon, in particular, is reporting a marked jump in divorces as more statistics become available.

Arab Divorce Rates

As the Simoom Blows

The Arab world is not insulated from the profound socio-economic changes around the world, and this is evident from the rise in the number of couples choosing to separate in several Middle Eastern and North African countries.

A recent study by the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center found that Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the Arab countries with the highest divorce rates.

In Kuwait, 48 percent of all marriages end in divorce, 40 percent in Egypt, 37.2 percent in Jordan, 37 percent in Qatar, and 34 percent in both the UAE and Lebanon.

Sheikh Wassim Yousef Al-Falah, a Shariah judge at Beirut’s religious court, told Arab News recently:

“On some days, we have up to 16 divorce cases in this court alone. The increasing divorce rate is a phenomenon that we have not seen before, although we do not favor divorce and focus on reconciliation.”

Experts believe this trend has been driven by a combination of economic pressures, evolving societal norms, legal reforms and, above all, the changing role of women.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written international divorce rates before. In the United States, many complained that no-fault divorce led to an increase in divorce rates here. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

Proving fault 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.

Like the Cedars of Lebanon

Through much of history, especially among the more conservative cultures of the Arab world, a woman’s place was long considered to be in the home, handling the needs of the family, while male relatives studied and went to work.

Now, as Arab nations modernize their economies and reform their legal systems, women are becoming more independent, increasingly pursuing higher education, progressing in their careers, and choosing to marry and have children later in life.

As a result, Arab women have developed a keener awareness of their civil rights, personal ambitions and self-respect. They increasingly refuse to tolerate domestic violence and are capable of supporting themselves financially.

“The current statistics compiled by the religious courts that handle the personal status of Lebanese citizens and foreigners residing in Lebanon reflect an increase in divorce requests, especially those submitted by women.”

In Lebanon, where a large segment of the population has moved abroad to find jobs with better salaries, the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationship also appears to play a part in marriage breakdown.

Reforms to the legal status of women in Lebanon have drawn particular attention in recent years, with the introduction of a slew of legislation designed to protect them from sexual harassment and domestic abuse. However, human rights monitors say the reforms do not go far enough.

Lebanon’s 2019 financial collapse and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have piled further pressure on relationships as living standards plummeted, people lost their jobs and households were forced into long periods of constant close proximity under lockdown.

Several countries around the world reported spikes in domestic violence during the pandemic and Lebanon is no exception. The nation’s economic woes and disruption to court procedures during the health crisis appear to be making matters worse.

The figures for divorce in Lebanon might be somewhat skewed by the growing use of marriage as a means of gaining citizenship in another country, as waves of young people move abroad in search of better opportunities.

In Lebanon, where a large segment of the population has moved abroad to find jobs with better salaries, the difficulty of maintaining a long-distance relationships also appears to play a part in marriage breakdown.

Lebanese citizens will often move between sects to facilitate a divorce. Couples from the Maronite sect, for instance, the courts of which forbid the annulment of marriage in all but the most extreme circumstances, might turn instead to the Catholic or Orthodox sects, which allow the annulment of marriages.

They might even turn to the Sunni sect to access divorce procedures before converting back to their original sect. According to Shariah, divorce — known as khula — has been permitted since the time of Prophet Muhammad.

Obtaining a divorce in a Sunni religious court is considered easier than in a Shiite religious court, after these courts developed new rules that raised the age for child custody, amended the dowry and banned underage marriage.

Family values are cherished in Arab culture, and authorities — both religious and secular — tend to prefer that parents stay together for the sake of their children. Experts believe marriage counseling, better education for young couples, more open discussions about relationships, and even a relaxation of the social taboos surrounding premarital social interaction between men and women could help reduce overall divorce rates.

The Arab News article is here.

Is A Telephone Marriage Valid

After a Husband challenged the validity of his Bangladesh telephone marriage, many brides should be concerned whether their religious marriage is valid. A family judge in Ohio, presiding over the parties’ divorce, recently ruled that their Bangladesh telephone marriage was valid. But, how would an appellate court view it?

Marriage Valid

A Fairy Tale Telephone Wedding

On August 22, 2005, a couple got married during a telephone marriage ceremony, which was conducted over a speaker phone.

At the time of the wedding, husband resided in the United States, wife resided in Bangladesh, and both were citizens of Bangladesh. The Husband traveled to New York and was with friends and relatives during the ceremony. Wife was in Bangladesh with friends and family members and husband’s father.

Also present in Bangladesh was a person who solemnized the marriage and identified himself as an assistant marriage registrar, and a community leader who appeared to sign the marriage register on husband’s behalf as his “pleader.”

Pictures of the marriage ceremony were provided and witnesses said the solemnization was according to Sharia law.

On July 15, 2019, after wife filed for divorce in Ohio, the Husband countered arguing that their marriage was invalid under Bangladesh law. The Husband reasoned that because the marriage was unlawfully registered in violation of the Muslim Marriages & Divorces Registration Act, the marriage was invalid and his Wife was not entitled to spousal support or property rights.

But the Wife countered that under Bangladesh law, an invalid registration would not render an otherwise valid marriage invalid. That’s because it is purely a civil contract, and further, that neither writing nor any religious ceremony is essential to validate a marriage under Bangladesh law.

The trial court disagreed with the Husband, and entered summary judgment and then a divorce. The Husband appealed.

Florida Marriage Validity

I’ve written about marriage validity, and the intersection between religious marriage and civil marriage before. First off, in order to be validly married in Florida, you need a license from the government.

Getting a marriage license may seem like a trivial obligation, but if you want your religious marriage recognized in court, you must get a marriage license.

There is a fee for getting a marriage license, and that fee is reduced for attending pre-marital counseling. The license is valid for 60 days. The officiant at the ceremony must certify that the marriage was solemnized.

The certified marriage license must be returned to the clerk or an issuing judge within 10 days, and the clerk or judge is required to keep a correct record of certified marriage licenses.

Florida courts have repeatedly warned people that they cannot depart from the requirement of the Florida Statutes to have a license, otherwise the courts would be creating common-law marriages, which are not recognized here.

If you only have the religious marriage, but do not file for a marriage license, your marriage will not likely be recognized, and you cannot divorce, and cannot make claims for equitable distribution, or ask a court for alimony.

The Mesh in Bangladesh

The Husband appealed after the trial court concluded his Nikah Nama marriage was valid. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred because of the lack of a validly executed contract and an invalid registration under Bangladesh law.

The appellate court found that the parties’ marriage in Bangladesh was valid. Wife demonstrated that their telephone marriage met the essentials of a valid Mohammedan and Bangladeshi marriage, and that registration of the marriage is not an essential element in order to establish the validity of a marriage.

The evidence also showed that the parties had a prolonged and relatively continuous cohabitation for over 12-years, held themselves out as husband and wife, they consummated the marriage, and they had a child together.

In a concurrence, one judge expressed his incredulity with the Husband’s position that there was no legal marriage. After all, the Husband entered into this country for his spouse, filed joint U.S. tax returns with her, and also took advantage of his employer’s generosity by getting a tuition benefit for the spouse of an employee.

The appellate opinion is here.

 

Arab Divorce Rates

Much like divorce rates around the world, according to recent studies, Arab divorce rates throughout the Middle East and North Africa have been increasing in recent years. Many are openly discussing the reasons why.

Arab divorce rates

Riddle of the Sphinx

A study by the Egyptian Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center found that Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan and Qatar are the four countries in the Arab world with the highest divorce rate, which rose to 48% of all marriages in Kuwait, 40% in Egypt, 37.2% in Jordan and 37% in Qatar.

Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates follow with 34%. A licensed psychologist and family therapist at the American Hospital in Dubai told The Media Line that the majority of people seeking out couples therapy are females who sometimes manage to convince their male partners to join afterward.

“Arab females have gained a lot of self-awareness and are thriving toward their self- actualization, so sometimes these clashes with the Arab image of the woman being a homemaker”.

Mahmood Al Oraibi, an attorney in Bahrain said that many different aspects of the Arab community have changed, and divorce is just one of those changes. Women now are independent, they are educated, they have some power, they have some demands.

The Arab community is still struggling between the past. Women were just housewives, and they handled the needs of the entire family, taking care of their husbands as well as his parents, cousins and their own children. In the modern world there are working women who are independent, and who come home late after spending 8 hours to 10 hours away from home.

Florida Divorce

I’ve written international divorce rates before. In the United States, many complained that no-fault divorce led to an increase in divorce rates here. Historically in Florida, in order to obtain a divorce one had to prove the existence of legal grounds such as adultery.

Proving fault 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.

Arab World Divorce Rates

An Egyptian sociology teacher living in Kuwait, believes that divorce has increased due to women having the freedom to speak their minds and make their own decisions, unlike in years past.

“Women are educated now and have their own careers, so when they decide to get a divorce, they will not have financial worries since they can now support themselves”.

According to some analysts, the increased divorce rate has also changed women. High levels of divorce have forced women to depend on themselves, which have made women grow stronger and forced men to learn to respect women.

The Arab community is considered very conservative. Pre-marital relations are not permissible socially, religiously – and in some cases – by law. So, people who are newly married get into relationships with no experience. On top of that, the community is very reluctant to sit and talk in a transparent way about all the pros and cons in marriage.

Al Oraibi believes that the best way to lower the divorce rate is for couples to try to interact with each other before marriage, or to take time to get to know each other better after they get married and before having children.

As a lawyer in Bahrain, Al Oraibi explained that divorce is a right for both men and women. Despite that, he noted that men can choose to divorce women without the need for proving justification. Women, on the other hand, have to provide proof of a justification for ending the marriage.

Islamic laws concerning divorce can also differ between the Shia and the Sunni courts. For instance, said Al Oraibi, according to Sunni law, the man has the right to divorce without any witness; while in the Shia court, at least two witnesses are required.

The Media Line article is here.

Google Divorce and Prenups

If you google divorce and prenups, you will find different results based on which state you are in. One thing is for sure, Elon Musk’s brief affair with the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will get you much different search results, and may even call into question an expensive prenup.

Divorce Prenups

I’m Feeling Lucky

Elon Musk is the richest person in the world, with an estimated fortune of $240 billion. While Sergey Brin is no slouch himself, he is clearly struggling to catch up in the rankings with a meager $95 billion.

Despite their competitiveness, Brin provided Musk with about $500,000 for Tesla during the 2008 financial crisis, when Tesla was struggling to increase production. In 2015, Musk gave Brin one of Tesla’s first all-electric sport-utility vehicles.

But in recent months, there has been growing tension between the two. Reportedly, Brin ordered his financial advisers to sell his personal investments in Musk’s companies

Brin filed for divorce from Nicole Shanahan in January of this year, citing “irreconcilable differences,” according to records filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court. The divorce filing was made several weeks after Brin learned of the brief affair, people have said.

At the time of the alleged liaison in early December, Brin and his wife were separated but still living together, according to a person close to Shanahan. In the divorce filing, Brin cited Dec. 15, 2021, as the date of the couple’s separation.

But Shanahan’s side is arguing that the prenuptial agreement they entered was signed under duress, while pregnant.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are not just for computer programmers and awesome car makers, and they are about much more than just resolving expensive millions of Tesla stock acquired during a marriage.

Any couple who brings any personal or business assets into their marriage can benefit from a prenuptial agreement. Prenups are important to have in place before a couple starts investing in start-up, electric car companies, DNA ancestry search companies, and other investments.

But prenups are frequently challenged in court.

Florida has both case law and a statute to help lawyers, judges, and the parties determine if a prenuptial agreement is enforceable. For example, Florida adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. The Act requires that all premarital agreements be in writing and signed by both parties. It is enforceable without consideration other than the marriage itself.

Couples wanting to sign one can enter into a premarital agreement with respect to their rights and obligations in any of their property, whenever and wherever acquired or located; their right to buy, sell, use, transfer, or otherwise manage and control their property and the disposition of their property if they separate, divorce, die, or any other event.

Prenuptial agreements may be challenged in court, as Shanahan may be attempting using the duress defense. When ruling on the validity of a prenup, Florida courts must consider things such as fraud, coercion, in addition to the unfairness of the agreement, whether there was any financial disclosure, and of course, duress.

Ludicrous Mode

About 11 hours after the Wall Street Journal article about the affair was published online, Musk tweeted:

This is total bs. Sergey and I are friends and were at a party together last night!”

Over the past two months, Musk’s personal life has drawn considerable attention. He has been accused of exposing himself to a flight attendant at SpaceX, which he denied. He also reportedly had two children late last year with a female executive at another company he co-founded, Neuralink. One of his 10 children has publicly disavowed him.

Then there’s Twitter. Earlier this month, Musk sought to back out of an agreement to buy Twitter, saying the company hasn’t provided the necessary information to assess the prevalence of fake or spam accounts. Twitter has sued Musk to force him to honor the deal, and a Delaware court has agreed to an expedited trial in October.

Brin and Shanahan already were facing problems in their marriage in the fall of 2021, primarily because of Covid pandemic shutdowns and the care of their 3-year-old daughter.

The liaison with Musk took place in early December 2021, at the Art Basel event in Miami. The alleged affair happened after Musk had broken up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, the singer Grimes, in September.

Brin and Shanahan are now involved in divorce mediation, with Shanahan seeking more than $1 billion. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement, with Brin’s side claiming that Shanahan is asking for much more than her prenuptial agreement entitles her to.

The Wall Street Journal article is here.

Spare the Rod: Family Law and Spanking

Family law and spanking are in the news. Newly released documents show that a religious candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives holds some controversial views on divorce and child discipline which go back to his own divorce.

Custody Spanking

You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!

A candidate is running for the Oklahoma House of Representatives with some interesting views on divorce and punishment. He advanced from the Republican primary on June 28, 2022.

According to local media reports, he has been on record saying people would be in the right to stone homosexuals. Demonstrating diplomacy and good governance, he reportedly told Oklahoma’s KFOR that if elected, he would not try to make homosexuality a capital offense.

Interestingly, he wants to make divorces harder to get in Oklahoma. Recently released documents found the candidate harassed his pastor and an elder of his Church in Oklahoma City. Records show the case stemmed from his own divorce “because of his physical and emotional abuse towards her and the boys.”

According to a court order from the Court of Civil Appeals of the State of Oklahoma, while trying to get standard visitation with his kids, the candidate allegedly told the judge:

“I respectfully declare that there’s nothing I did that should have led to what they did wrong. I was deprived of my God-given right to apply corporal discipline to my children.”

The court replied:

“So we are here because you haven’t had an opportunity to spank your boys enough. Is that what you’re telling me?”

The candidate replied, “I think that’s a big factor, sir.” The candidate reportedly acknowledged certain actions he took towards his wife and sons, he would not admit that they were abusive actions.

Florida Divorce and Discipline

I’ve written about divorce and child discipline before. Florida no longer uses the term “custody” after the parenting plan concept was created. For purposes of establishing a parenting plan during a divorce, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration.

The best interest of the child is determined by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

Historically, parents have always had a right to discipline their child in a ‘reasonable manner.’ Florida laws recognize that corporal discipline of a child by a parent for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Harm does not mean just bruises or welts for instance. Harm also can include that the discipline is likely to result in physical injury, mental injury, or emotional injury. Even if the child is not physically harmed, a parent’s discipline could be criminal.

Florida’s parental privilege to use corporal discipline does not give absolute immunity either. A run-of-the-mill spanking may be protected from charges of child abuse, but punching a child, pushing a child onto the floor and kicking him is not.

Many people involved in custody disputes forget that lawyers, guardians, investigators, and judges are watching what transpires during the divorce process, and disciplinary methods can become an issue in any custody case.

Oklahoma O.K.

KFOR also reports the religious candidate’s wife allegedly blames the divorce on, not just his discipline, but adultery. While the candidate denied adultery, he then “set out on a mission to get them to ‘repent’ of their part in this ‘sin’ of a divorce” and to “have them removed as church members.”

The candidate began a crusade of weekly e-mails, replete with accusations against the pastor. A church elder complained the candidate rode his bicycle by his home, shouting “‘Repent!’”

Ultimately, he was banned from his church, while his wife and the pastor filed Victim Protection Orders against him. According to his campaign efforts on different social media, changing divorce laws is one of his goals.

“those who are getting married will know from the get go that they are to remain in their marriage ’til death do they part.”

KFOR reached out to his political opponent for House District 87, Gloria Banister, who said “the court records are public documents, and they speak for themselves. There’s really nothing for me to add.”

Oklahoma’s KFOR article is here.

Catastrophic Fraud After Divorce

Fraud can lurk in every divorce case. After the divorce ends, lawyers, professionals, experts, and judges have all moved on to other cases. That is the time many clients and their divorce settlements can be exposed to catastrophic fraud – as one Tennessee woman is reported to have discovered.

divorce fraud

Beale Street Blues

Lawyers act as fiduciaries to their clients during a family law case. Accountants, financial planners, and others can become fiduciaries after the divorce. In a fiduciary relationship, the  duties involved need not be strictly legal; they can also be moral, social, domestic or personal.

In 2003, Ms. Loveland received approximately $1.3 million dollars in connection with her divorce. Knowing that these funds would be vital to her future retirement, she sought out an investment advisor who could manage her assets as she claims she had no knowledge or experience with investments, securities, or financial markets.

Ms. Loveland met with her long-time accountant, who referred her to his friend, Mr. Lentz. She then agreed to allow Lentz to manage her assets. She alleges she informed him that she knew nothing about finance or securities, and that she was relying entirely on his discretion and judgment to manage her investments for her.

Mr. Lentz reassured her that he would take good care of her and would manage her assets in a reasonable and responsible manner, ensuring that she would enjoy some return on her investments while protecting her principal asset base.

However, Ms. Loveland discovered to her shock that Mr. Lentz filled out an Options Account Request Form, purportedly on her behalf, in which he allegedly indicated that her investment objective was “Growth” and that her trading experience was “Extensive.”

According to the lawsuit, Lentz allegedly used “DocuSign” to forge Ms. Loveland’s signature to the Options Account Request, and is also alleged to have cut and pasted customer’s signatures onto forms without their authorization, and arranged to receive Loveland’s financial statements on her behalf.

Last summer, after discussing employment prospects for roughly an hour, Lentz told her:

“now for the bad news . . . you have no money left, it’s all gone.

Loveland’s divorce settlement of around $1.3 million is now worth around $7,000 and she has filed a lawsuit in a Tennessee federal court against Lentz and his companies.

Florida Divorce Fraud

I’ve written about various aspects of divorce fraud before. Interestingly, Ms. Loveland’s case is not about fraud against her ex-husband, but misconduct which occurred after her divorce, involving the loss of her $1.3 million divorce settlement.

What happens if the fraud is caused by a spouse? 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 forging names and diverting financial statements. 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, such as day trading stocks. There has to be evidence of intentional dissipation or destruction.

However, if the fraud is not from a spouse during divorce, but mismanagement of your divorce settlement by anyone who is not your spouse, you are limited to civil causes of action in civil court, as opposed to family court.

Going to Graceland

Ms. Loveland’s lawsuit alleges a lot of damages. She was forced to surrender a Long-Term Care policy that she paid premiums on since 2004 and surrender a $250,000 Life Insurance Policy in which she had invested over $18,000.00 because she can’t pay the nearly $5,000 premiums.

Loveland alleges that as a result of Lentz’ actions:

“now, at the age of sixty-four, forced to work long hours for Uber and DoorDash merely to make ends meet.”

Ms. Loveland has sued in civil court for violation of the Tennessee Securities Act, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, among other causes of action, and is seeking punitive damages.

The Wealth Professional article is here.

Divorce and Sex

It is a well-established fact that when it comes to divorce, one sex is responsible for initiating the overwhelming percentage of the cases filed. While the decision to divorce is hard, there’s a clear pattern that women file a statistically high proportion of divorce cases. The trend of women filing most divorces is true in other Western countries as well.

divorce sex

Calling it quits

The most recent U.S. data show roughly two thirds of divorces are filed by women. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number is actually closer to 80%

This trend is not only true in the U.S., but in Europe too. And, as the BBC recently reported, the Office of National Statistics showed women petitioned for 62% of divorces in England and Wales in 2019.

In some Western countries, divorce is becoming easier. In the U.S., no-fault divorce ushered in a period of increased divorce filings. In the UK, which recently legalized no-fault divorces, couples can have a quicker break up. Some anticipate the UK’s change in the law could lead to more women – who might have been hesitant before – to file for divorce.

But why do women disproportionately file for divorce in the first place?

Florida No Fault Divorce

I’ve written about divorce statistics, and especially no fault divorces, before. No-fault laws are the result of trying to change the way divorces played out in court. In Florida 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. Gone are the days when you had to prove adultery, desertion or unreasonable behavior.

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.

There is also a residency requirement in Florida. Believe it or not, the residency requirement can be a major impediment to divorcing for many people. Almost all states require you to be a resident before you can file for divorce. However, the amount of time you have to reside there can vary from state to state.

Why Women Divorce

In many societies, divorce has been a relatively recent phenomenon. In the UK, divorce was extremely uncommon before 1914, with just one divorce in every 450 marriages in the first decade of the 20th Century. Now, more than 100,000 couples in the UK get divorced every year, and in the US, around half of marriages end in divorce.

Research is showing a few theories as to why women were more likely than men to file for divorce. Heidi Kar, a psychologist and expert on domestic violence at the US-based Education Development Center, explains, it’s no coincidence that the rise of divorce has coincided with women’s liberation.

“Because economic independence is an imperative before a woman can attempt to leave a marriage, either alone or with children to support, it’s extremely difficult for women to leave a marriage unless they have some way to make money on their own,” she says. “Also, because gender roles become more complicated as women start to gain financial independence, more marital conflict naturally arises.”

For many women, the expectations they have when they enter marriage may fail to match up to reality. Experts say that they often have a higher expectation of how a partner will meet their emotional needs than men, which can lead to disappointment post-wedding.

Some have argued that heterosexual marriage is not only gendered, but fundamentally asymmetric and inegalitarian as well. Jessie Bernard famously wrote: “There are two marriages, then, in every marital union, his and hers. And his…is better than hers.”

The feminist critique of heterosexual marriage may have less direct application to nonmarital heterosexual relationships. Nonmarital heterosexual relationships generally involve lower levels of commitment, fewer children, and nonmarital unions are less influenced by the legal and cultural history of marriage as a gendered institution.

Women also tend to have more close friends than men, meaning they have a better support system both to discuss any marital issues as well as to ease the transition back into single life. It’s also possible these friendships make divorce seem like a more plausible option – research suggests that if a close friend gets divorced, people’s own chances of divorcing rise by 75%.

Of course, filing for divorce isn’t the same as ending a marriage. While research shows women in heterosexual marriages are more likely to initiate the break-up, there are also women who didn’t choose to end their relationship, but want or need to formalize the split nonetheless.

The BBC article is here.