Tag: Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution of Boudoir Photos in Divorce

How a family court decides the equitable distribution of boudoir photos, complete with intimate inscriptions and nude photographs, is never easy. A Utah family court recently ordered a woman to hand over her most intimate photographs to her ex-husband and a third-party photographer he chose.

Equitable distribution Boudoir

‘Utah: Life Elevated’

A former wife was married for 25 years and together for 27. As expected, the process of splitting their assets would be complex in a long marriage. The issue became so complex, negotiations failed and a one-day bench trial had to be held.

After the trial, the family judge ordered the former wife to surrender her most intimate photographs of herself to a third-party photographer for editing, and then ordered that the edited photos be given to her ex-husband for his viewing pleasure.

“You don’t know where to turn because you don’t know the law and you have not only your ex-husband who you were married to for years (thinking) that forcing you to distribute basically porn is OK … you have his attorney that also thinks that’s OK. And then you bring it in front of a judge, and he thinks it’s OK.”

The family court’s finding of facts dated July 7th — the day the divorce was finalized — found that the nude photos were given as gifts to the former husband earlier in their marriage, and therefore he “has the right to retain them and the memories they provide.”

The court also found the former wife has a right for her intimate photos to not be in her ex-husband’s possession. So how did the family judge decide the steamy issue? The judge ordered her to turn the images over to the original photographer for editing.

That person is then to do whatever it takes to modify the pages of the pictures so that any photographs of the former wife in lingerie or that sort of thing or even without clothing are obscured and taken out, but the (photo inscriptions) are maintained for the memory’s sake.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida 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.

In Florida, nonmarital assets which are not divided include things such as assets acquired before the marriage; assets you acquired separately by non-interspousal gift, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement.

Conversely, marital assets which are subject to division, generally include things like assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage, the enhancement in value of some nonmarital assets – and for anyone giving their spouse a gift of sensual boudoir photographs – interspousal gifts during the marriage.

Wisdom of Solomon

Despite the ruling, the original photographer refused to edit the images over a concern about ethics and legal repercussions to her photography business. Being a boudoir photographer, her clients trust her with their images and privacy, and the photographer took that responsibility seriously.

The judge then made a second ruling, and ordered the former wife to give the images to a different photographer for editing. She was also ordered to retain the original photos for 90-days before destroying them, in case her ex-husband wasn’t satisfied with the edits.

The former wife said her ex-husband isn’t happy with the edited photos, though she feels that she has complied with the court’s order, and she feels that her ex-husband’s demand for the photos was an attempt to control and hurt her.

“If all he was truly interested in was the inscriptions, he got those. I’ve complied with the court’s order, even though I believe strongly that (the) order (is) violating on many levels and has affected my emotional and mental health. I can’t imagine doing this to someone else.”

The ex-husband said his former wife’s description of the situation is her perspective. This is not my perspective nor the perspective of an impartial judge. It appears that she has intentionally misrepresented and sensationalized several aspects of a fair proceeding to manipulate the opinions of others for attention and validation of victimhood.

One attorney was quoted as saying equitable distribution in a divorce always involves a balancing of interests but the judge here has just made a mistake in the balancing of interests and has tipped things much too far in one direction.

The Salt Lake Tribune article is here.

Divorce and Digital Accounts

Many couples are not only tied together in matrimony, but in their digital accounts too. If roughly half of marriages end in divorce, how do courts manage an equitable distribution of digital accounts such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple (and with House of the Dragon underway) HBO?

Digital Divorce

Stranger Things

The Washington Post reports that the average American has upwards of 150 digital accounts, according to password-management company Dashlane. That’s a decades-long record of an autonomous life lived online.

If a breakup is going to be an ugly one, a vindictive ex-spouse can cause a lot of digital damage. For instance, if you share cloud storage, or an Apple ID with your ex-spouse, there is a risk everything – from your photos and documents to your browsing and email history can be revealed.

Moving out of the marital home is already a hard and emotional decision. But, now you are faced with taking precautions when you are about to leave your digital home.

As soon as divorce becomes a reality, you need to decide if it’s time to change all the passwords to the accounts you plan on keeping after separation. This is especially true if you share devices like a computer or tablet. Many sources tell you to remember your passwords and create new ones for each account.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida 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.

In Florida, nonmarital assets include things such as assets acquired separately by either party by will or by devise, income from nonmarital assets, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement.

Importantly for a hi-tech divorce, non-marital assets would include assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party before the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities.

Netflix and Chill?

In some cases, a couple can divide, close, or even trade digital assets and decide which of the two households will keep an account. Sharing a Netflix account within your household, for example, may save money. But after divorce keep in mind that account sharing is only permitted for users within the same household. Netflix has announced it will crack down on illegal account sharing.

Putting aside the streaming services, like Netflix, which can easily be closed or limited, many couples may need to continue to share access to certain online accounts, even after a divorce or separation.

It is not hard to see why some accounts might need to stay active. For example, a couple’s joint checking account and credit card account may need to remain active so that certain bills during the divorce can be timely paid. Electronic access to statements and transactions; automatic bill payment services, medical insurance and cloud storage and document sites for photos and important documents and other files may be necessary too.

The law has not caught up with the digital divorce. There are no specific statutes for sharing accounts or establishing consequences should an ex-spouse or spouse change a password to lock out shared accounts.

Depending on the account, you may need to share a single login, set up separate logins to access the same account, or create a new, separate account in your own name. Anyone considering divorce has to secure their online identity, protect their passwords, protect their privacy, and most likely divide or close the shared streaming services.

The Washington Post article is here.

Pet Custody Gets Approval in Spain

A new ruling out of a family court in Madrid, Spain gives the judicial stamp of approval to pet custody. After a recently separated Spanish couple went to court to determine which “parent” the family’s pet dog should live with, the judge made a ruling which may signal that pet custody is in our future.

Pet Custody

El Perro Caliente

After a hotly contested custody trial, a Madrid court this month awarded joint custody of an estranged couple’s pet border collie named “Panda.” The separated couple, who filed this action, apparently only went to trial on the issue of determining who the dog should live with.

The Spanish court, in its recent ruling, and after verifying an “affective bond” between the animal and the plaintiff, ruled on both the issue of parental responsibility and a timesharing schedule (physical and legal custody) of the pet dog!

The Spanish court ruled that both parties were “jointly responsible” and “co-caretakers” of the pet dog. The judge also ruled Panda will live in both parties’ homes on a monthly rotating timesharing schedule:
Shared ownership of Panda for each of parties, and for other people responsible for pets shows that the affection a person may have over their pet is similar to the same affection from other people.

“The mere formal ownership of the animal, whether as owner or adopter, cannot prevail over the affection of the applicant.”

The Court’s resolution of this pet custody case represents a further step towards the “de-objectification” of animals, on the path marked by the imminent reform of the Civil Code. Spain is currently drafting new legislation so that animals are no longer considered objects and are legally recognized as living beings, according to the Spanish article translated in Google Translate.

Florida Pet Custody

I’ve written on the development of pet custody cases and statutes before. Pet custody cases are becoming more and more prevalent around the world. That is because lawmakers and advocacy groups are promoting the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of animals.

Pets are becoming a recognized part of the family. About 15 years ago, states began to allow people to leave their estates to care for their pets. Recently, courts have gone so far as to award shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners.

Florida doesn’t have pet custody or visitation laws. Florida courts are already overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of children.
Accordingly, Florida courts have not or cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.

Not all states have ruled out a visitation schedule for dogs like Florida. For instance, while Texas also views dogs as personal property, in one case a Texas court authorized visitation.

Pet custody cases are becoming more and more prevalent around the country. That is because state lawmakers and advocacy groups are promoting the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of animals.

About 15 years ago, states began to allow people to leave their estates to care for their pets. Recently, courts have gone so far as to award shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners.
According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, about 30% of attorneys have seen a decrease over the past three years in pet custody cases in front of a judge.

Over the last decade, the question of pet custody has become more prevalent, particularly when it involves a two-income couple with no children who shared responsibility for and are both attached to the pet, she said.

Loco por Animales

The lawyer for the plaintiff, Lola García, from the Law & Animals law firm, explained that in her arguments for joint custody she resorted to the European Convention and not exclusively the Spanish Civil Code because the amendment on pet custody had not been made effective.

The plaintiff relied on the 1987 European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which was ratified by Spain in 2017. The Convention seeks to promote the welfare of pet animals and ensure minimum standards for their treatment and protection.

Using 1987 European Convention allowed the plaintiff to declare herself as “co-responsible” and a “co-carer” of Panda, instead of a “co-owner.”

The language was considered important because it meant not treating the dog as chattel, and may open the door for lawyers to use the Convention instead of the Civil Code.

An earlier case in 2019, in Spain’s Court of First Instance number 9 of Valladolid, declared “co-ownership” of ‘Cachas” the dog after the parties’ separation, and allowed each of the owners a timesharing schedule of alternating six-month terms each year.

That ruling was seen as “a great advance” in the public’s awareness of the importance of pets, but pets were still referred to as property. The ruling also mentions different judgments that are based on similar cases and alludes to a judicial decision from 20 years ago which provided an approach that can be described as ahead of its time.

In the US and UK, pets are legally seen as inanimate objects akin to cars, houses or other personal items. Custody cases come down to determining who the sole owner is. In Australia, there is no legislation as to how to courts should navigate living arrangements for pets after a breakup.

France changed its law in 2014 so that pets were considered “living and feeling beings” rather than “movable goods”. The new status meant that couples could fight for shared custody in divorce cases.

The article from Spain’s RTVE is here.

Equitable Distribution of Google Stock

Scott Hassan, known by some as the third Google founder, is finally headed to his divorce trial after nearly seven years battling over the equitable distribution of Google stock, real estate, and other technology stock – estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Equitable Distribution Google

“I’m Feeling Lucky”

As the divorces of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos show, technology billionaires are trying to divorce quietly, behind closed doors. For example, when Google co-founder, Sergey Brin divorced his ex-wife, he hired a private judge to hash out the details.

A quick Google search shows that Hassan and Huynh’s divorce is anything but quiet. Huynh accuses her husband of engaging in “divorce terrorism,” such as creating a negative website called AllisonHuynh.com.

The site contains documents posted of sexual allegations related to Huynh’s wrongful termination suit against her former employer. They claim that Huynh threatened to “kill [her former employer] and then herself” if he ever left her and “kept track of when [her former employer] was out with a new girlfriend,” according to the cross complaint filed by [her former employer] and his attorney in response to Huynh’s suit.

After being accused of creating it, Hassan admitted to launching the site, seeding it with links to articles written about his ex — and links to court documents from three embarrassing lawsuits that involve her.

When confronted, he purportedly admitted to The Post:

“I did, but I have taken it down. It came together in a moment of frustration, when I felt Allison and her attorney were telling one-sided stories to the press. I thought aggregating publicly available information without commenting or editorializing would help … It only ended up making our dispute more public and tense, which was never what I intended.”

According to sources, in 2018, their estate was valued at $1.8 billion and he wants to give her a minuscule fraction.

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida 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.

In Florida, nonmarital assets include things such as assets acquired separately by either party by will or by devise, income from nonmarital assets, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement.

Importantly for this hi-tech divorce, non-marital assets would include assets acquired and liabilities incurred by either party before the marriage, and assets acquired and liabilities incurred in exchange for such assets and liabilities.

“I’m Feeling Wonderful”

Mr. Hassan was a research assistant at Stanford’s computer science department when he met Larry Page, then a Ph.D. candidate. When Larry and Sergey Brin founded Google in 1998, Hassan bought 160,000 shares for $800. In 2004, the shares were worth more than $200 million. The shares, now in Google’s parent company, Alphabet, would be valued at more than $13 billion today.

In 2001 they married in Las Vegas and there was no prenuptial agreement, and they barely discussed finances. Ms. Huynh says she supported the family financially in the early years but her husband denies that.

In 2006, during the marriage, the husband formed a limited liability company called Greenheart Investments. Greenheart was valued at more than $1 billion in 2015.

Huynh wants Greenheart to be considered community property because Hassan repeatedly muddied the line between his separate assets and their community property. But Hassan argues that the company should be considered his separate property because it was started with his pre-marital assets.

Hassan acknowledged during court proceedings that he had set up Greenheart as his own company to keep certain assets ‘completely separate’ from Allison.” She insists it is community property — which partners must, typically, divide equally under California law.

Hassan maintains “that the disputed assets are properly characterized as my separate property — this does not necessarily mean that the community, or Allison, will not be compensated,” Hassan said. “I already agreed to provide her with a significant amount of money every month.”

But Huynh purportedly told The New York Post:

“His miserly position is ludicrous. I pray that a Big Tech billionaire will not get away with his attempt to cheat his children and me while he walks away with everything.”

The New York Times article is here.

 

Equitable Distribution of Sports Memorabilia in Divorce

The Chicago Cubs’ Ben “Zorilla” Zobrist and his wife, singer Julianna Zobrist, are finally starting their divorce trial this week in Tennessee, and the equitable distribution of his sports memorabilia – jerseys, trophies, and rings – is taking center field.

Equitable Distribution Sports Memorabilia

Play Ball

On August 9th, proceedings will begin in the highly publicized divorce trial, and how the marital estate is to be distributed. For months, the duo’s fallout has captured national attention, with shocking details in the news.

Julianna wants an even split of all assets and primary custody of the children, with child support. But interestingly, she also wants an additional $4 million – essentially, the “amount of money he failed to preserve by abruptly and intentionally failing to satisfy his baseball contract.”

The return netted Ben $4.5m of his $12.5 million salary. In April, she was awarded $1.72m from the sale of the couple’s house in Chicago, as well as an additional $772,500 to “purchase a new home as her separate property.”

On the other hand, Ben alleges Julianna overspent from their marital estate— a court order limited her to spending $30,000 per month for living expenses due to exorbitant spending — he’s seeking 60% of the couple’s assets, and believes his sports memorabilia should not be part of the equitable distribution because it’s his separate property.

Worse, Ben argues Julianna’s motive in hiding her affair with their pastor/marriage counselor, was to trick him back into playing baseball so there would be more money for them to divide.

“One would be hard pressed to concoct a more deceitful, sinister, and otherwise inappropriate scheme than wife has devised in this divorce matter“

According to the Tribune, Ben estimates their marital estate is worth $24 million, while Julianna estimates it’s worth nearly $31 million

Florida Equitable Distribution

I have written about equitable distribution in Florida 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.

In Florida, nonmarital assets include things such as assets acquired before the marriage; assets acquired separately by either party by will or by devise, income from nonmarital assets, and assets excluded as marital in a valid written agreement. Importantly for this baseball player’s divorce, non-marital assets would include sports memorabilia acquired separately by non-interspousal gift.

Foul Ball

The duo filed for divorce after Ben found out Julianna was cheating on him with their pastor Byron Yawn, who was also Ben’s business partner . . . and apparently their marriage counselor!

Ben filed a lawsuit claiming Yawn, who at the time was senior pastor and elder at Community Bible Church in Nashville, provided counseling to the couple before and during their marriage. He is seeking $6 million in damages from Yawn.

Julianna hired a sports memorabilia expert to assess the monetary value of many of the items Ben accumulated during his 14-year Major League Baseball career. The memorabilia includes uniforms, which were given to him by different teams, bats, balls and gloves, some of which were used in games, his World Series and All-Star Game rings, World Series trophies, and a 2016 World Series MVP Camaro gifted to him by General Motors.

The replica World Series trophies are valued at $2,000 each. The Camaro is valued at $30,000. Other items include gifts from teammates and friends such as a Roger Clemens-autographed baseball and a Ted Williams-signed bat.

The issue comes down to whether those items legally should be considered Ben’s “separate property” or part of the marital estate.

Zobrist does not consider sports memorabilia “marital assets” for a few reasons. First, he claims none of his contracts with major-league teams discussed baseball hats, gloves, jerseys, trophies or rings as being part of his compensation and because he has no intention of selling them or doing anything but keeping them as mementos for himself and his family.

He also argues that sports memorabilia are gifted keepsakes from other players during his baseball career. This is a customary practice in baseball and gifts are specifically set out as separate property under Tennessee code.

The Chicago Tribune article is here.

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.

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.

 

Property Division and Embryos

Property division of a couple’s embryos is back in the news again, and will increasingly be an important part of any divorce case, as more couples seek In Vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technology.

property division embryo

Modern Family

Many people recall that Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara was in a dispute with her former partner Nick Loeb over frozen embryos. They ended their engagement in May 2014, the year after they underwent in vitro fertilization treatment together, and he tried to gain full custody of the fertilized eggs to have them implanted in a surrogate.

In February a court granted Sofia a permanent injunction which would stop her former partner from being able to use the fertilized eggs to “create a child without the explicit written permission of the other person”.

Do agreements matter? When Peter Goldin, a 44-year-old communications director, and his husband decided to start a family through in vitro fertilization, they faced mounds of paperwork at the fertility clinic deciding what should happen to any remaining embryos in the case of divorce or separation?

The couple, who used one embryo to have a daughter, decided that if they broke up, Mr. Goldin would be the one who decided what to do with their one remaining embryo, since it was created with his sperm and a donor egg.

But Mr. Goldin said that when he and his husband separated last year, his husband no longer wanted him to have sole authority to determine what would happen to the embryo. “He had forgotten what he had signed at the clinic,” said Mr. Goldin, who, with the help of a lawyer, ultimately gained custody after a month of back and forth.

Florida Property Division

I’ve written about the Vergara case and 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.

Anyone who has been divorced knows the painful process well: disentangling finances, dividing possessions and mapping out custody arrangements for any children. And in recent years, with the use of artificial reproductive technologies on the rise, more couples have been confronting the even stickier question of what to do with frozen embryos.

In some states, consent agreements signed in fertility clinics, which can provide that embryos would be destroyed if the couple were to divorce have been determined to valid and enforceable contracts.

In New York, after a husband requested sole custody of the one remaining cryopreserved embryo and revoked his consent to use any of his genetic material, a court has narrowly read consent provisions and found such agreements permitted either party to withdraw consent to participation in the entire IVF process, and that the husband’s broadly worded revocation of consent was effective to revoke his consent to the continuation of the IVF process. The court awarded the remaining embryo to the husband, but only for the purpose of ensuring that NHF disposes of the embryo as provided in the Consent Agreement.

Divorce and Embryos

In the event of divorce, couples are not together anymore, probably don’t like each other, and if one person is going to use the embryo and have the child, that leaves the other person in an awkward spot.

For those who fail to plan for the worst, the results can be devastating. Couples who produce healthy embryos and freeze them for when they would be ready to have children face a problem years later when they want to divorce.

In many cases, judges have upheld agreements couples have signed at the fertility clinic, which say that the embryos could be brought to term only with the consent of both partners.

But as the New York Times reports:

“My state of mind at the time was complicated by cancer, being a newlywed and just this hope and opportunity to have children. It was unfathomable that that’s what would eventually determine that my last chance of having biological children would be taken away from me.”

Laws governing the disposition of frozen embryos vary from state to state. Judges have generally ruled in favor of the person who does not want to develop the embryo, but in Arizona, for example, the custody of disputed embryos goes to the party who wants to bring them to term.

Kathleen Pratt, 36, said that the process of poring over sheafs of legal documents to finalize the use of a surrogate led to several discussions with her husband, William, about what they would do with any remaining embryos if they divorced.

Ms. Pratt said her husband initially told her it made more sense to give her custody of remaining embryos — made with a donor egg and her husband’s sperm — because she was unable to have biological children. Then, Ms. Pratt said, she felt he should get to keep the embryos because they contained his genetic material, not hers.

Eventually they came to a decision: Neither should keep the embryos. Ms. Pratt, who lives in Charleston, S.C., remembers she and her husband saying to each other, “Why would we raise these babies outside of our family? If things go sour, let’s just call it a day.”

They ended up using both embryos to have a daughter in 2019 and a son last year. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone go through this with someone unless your relationship is solid,” she said.

The New York Times article is here.

Divorce Financial Mistakes

Avoid making costly divorce financial mistakes because money matters are often at the heart of divorce disputes, for better or worse. Since divorce is on the rise during the pandemic, be aware that aside from the cost of divorce, other parts of the process can end up costing you.

Divorce Mistake

No Mistake About It

For starters, some assets appear as if they have equal values. But, once you start to factor in the tax impacts, the assets can look very different. For example:

A hundred dollars in cash is different from shares of GameStop valued (at the time) at $100. Holding onto that stock can lead to appreciation (or depreciation) and selling the stock can have a tax impact.

Basically, the profit made on any given assets — the difference between the cost basis (generally, what you paid) and the sale price — ends up getting taxed as either a long-term or short-term capital gain once sold, depending on whether the asset was held for under or over a year.

Even if two assets have the same value right now, the cost basis for them may be different, and one will have more or less taxes than the other. Subtract those taxes from the value if you’re really going to do an equitable division.

So if the asset in question is, say, a traditional 401(k) account, withdrawals will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates.

Florida Divorce Mistakes

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

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

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

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

The divorce process can be very emotional and traumatic for couples as well as their kids. Spouses often do not know their legal rights and obligations. Court clerks and judges can answer some basic questions but cannot give legal advice.

Everybody Makes Mistakes

If you have a 401(k) or other retirement account and your soon-to-be-ex is entitled to a percentage of the distribution, be careful how you arrange the split. If you take the money out of you 401(k) and then give it to your soon to be ex, there will be a 20% tax withholding. Additionally, if the account holder is younger than age 59½, a 10% penalty for early withdrawal could apply.

Instead, you may need an a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. This is a separate order from the divorce agreement which gets approved by the court and sent to the plan administrator – who also must approve it.

Sometimes, divorcing couples sell the family home and divide the proceeds as dictated in their agreement. Other times, one of the spouses remains in the house. In this situation, depending on the specifics, there are a few things to watch for.

For starters, assuming your ex will no longer be a joint owner or responsible for any mortgage on the home, you would need to refinance the loan and qualify for it on your own. Otherwise the ex spouse would still be liable for the unsatisfied mortgage.

The CNBC article is here.