Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happiness Quotient

The Happiness Quotient
Do high expectations and a plethora of choices make modern women miserable?
Vicki Haddock
Friday, December 28, 2007

Exactly what does it take to make a woman happy?
One of the first to record her answer to that conundrum was the Marquise du Chatelet, whom history has recollected as the jilted mistress of Voltaire. That is short shrift: The brilliant marquise was a mother, a shopaholic, a passionate lover - and most significantly, a revolutionary scientist and mathematician who suspended wooden spheres from the rafters of her country estate to test Newton's theories, and who scribbled her insights until the candles burned to nothingness, plunging her hands into ice water to jolt herself awake. Her intellectual feverishness prompted the philosopher Immanuel Kant to sneer that such a woman "might as well have a beard," and Voltaire himself, having received solo title-page credit for a book he privately admitted she practically dictated to him, declared that the marquise was a great man whose only shortcoming was having been born female.
Thus duly boxed in by the gender conventions of 18th century France - and by an unplanned pregnancy at age 43 that she presciently regarded as a death sentence - the Marquise du Chatelet brought a unique perspective to a treatise she titled "Discourse on Happiness."
To be truly happy, she ruefully concluded, "one must be susceptible to illusions, for it is to illusions that we owe the majority of our pleasures. Unhappy is the one who has lost them."
So where are we nearly three centuries later? Recalibrate for feminism, which aimed to liberate women from the constricting corsets of sexist roles. Factor in an unprecedented level of education, greater earning power, more economic independence, more reproductive control and access to virtually any career, from CEO to soldier to leader of the free world. In theory, at least, a woman's prospects for happiness have never looked brighter.
Yet the paradox: Two recent studies reveal that a majority of American women are finding the holy grail of happiness more elusive. Researchers were startled to find that women now report less happiness than in the early 1970s; and where they once indicated greater levels of happiness and life satisfaction than men, that's now reversed.
"Aha!" opposing sides in the culture wars declared, glomming onto the findings to bolster their own takes on gender conflict. But this newly identified "happiness gap" is hardly a prima facie indictment of feminism for having worsened the lot of women, given that most women adamantly oppose to a return to rigid gender roles. Nor could it be attributable mainly to the notion that men are slacking while women work a second shift - full time in the workforce and a second full-time job at home. The results show that women are spending the same number of hours working now, on average, as in the 1970s, although a greater percentage is outside work. As for housework, men have picked up a greater, though still minority, share. Much of the cooking and cleaning is "hired out" or simply goes undone (Americans now spend $26 billion more each year on restaurants than grocery stores.)
Even so, men today report spending less time on activities they regard as stressful and unpleasant than a few decades ago. Women still spend about 23 hours a week in the unpleasant-activity zone - which was about 40 minutes more than men four decades ago, and now amounts to 90 minutes more than men.
And feeling guiltier in the process.
On a recent morning, one such woman is Lisa Boucher.
A 46-year-old Brisbane resident, she dashes around the kitchen serving breakfast to her 2 1/2-year-old daughter with the phone tucked into her ear as she resolves an urgent snafu on her job as a project manager for a high-end residential construction company. There isn't a minute to spare: She must whisk her daughter to preschool, make a meeting in San Francisco, use her lunch hour to retrieve her daughter and a nanny and deposit them at home, then return to work until almost dark, whipsaw back home, throw together a quick dinner, hang out to play with her daughter, tuck her into bed, then crash - and, with luck, get sufficient sleep to do it all over again when her alarm rings the next morning.
She feels guilty that it's the nanny who gets to spend so much fun time with her daughter. She feels guilty that she no longer has time for writing or any other artistic expression. She feels guilty when her mother, who she says uses the words "you should" a lot, suggests they are too social, even though they usually take their daughter with them when they go out. She feels guilty about how infrequently the house gets vacuumed, telling her husband, "Yes, the yard looks great, but we live on the inside - the raccoons live on the outside." Truth be told, she even feels guilty about not spending more "quality time" with the primary catalyst for all that vacuuming: her husband's shedding golden retriever.
"I want to preface this by saying that you're catching me on a really crazed week. I know I'm lucky to have a beautiful, happy kid; a great job; a great husband who pitches in," she acknowledges. "But here's where I am right at this moment: Last night I just turned to him and said, 'You know what, I'm not happy in my life.
" 'I've lost my joy.' "
Having watched her own parents divorce when she was 13, forcing her homemaker mother to get a job, Boucher vowed that she would never be felled by a similar fate. "I swore that I would never depend on any man, that I would establish my own successful career, that I wouldn't let anybody into my life that much," she says. "But now I have somebody to share my life with, and what I really want most is to be able to stay home and spend time with my daughter.
"So we women broke out of the little boxes that defined us, and now it seems like everybody's trying to get back in there. I'm trying to get back in."
Boucher isn't advocating an abdication of the women's movement. What she craves is a simpler life and more time at home, even if that means selling their house and moving somewhere cheaper. But the real estate market is slipping, and she and her husband must pay down debt incurred from the purchase of his company a few years ago.
"I know I don't really want to go back into a box. I just want the time to enjoy the moments, you know? Choice is a wonderful thing, but it's such a double-edged sword. The good news is we have all these choices ... but the bad news is we've got all these choices."
Measuring human happiness is tricky science: There is no "happy thermometer" to tuck under one's tongue. So while happiness research is booming, researchers wrestle with how to measure it, and account for data dependent on self-reporting of debatable reliability (although scientists find that people who describe themselves as happier also show outward signs validating that description - for example, they smile more). In recent years, they have puzzled over why 45 percent of Republicans say they're "very happy" when only 30 percent of Democrats do, or why married people report more happiness than singles, or why an index claimed the "happiest Zip code" belongs to Branson, Mo.
But a gender-based "happiness gap" is particularly complicated, given that men tend to see "Are you happy?" as a yes-or-no proposition. For women, it's an essay question.
In one recent study, two economists at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed 35 years of data from the widely regarded General Social Survey and other assessments, including the Virginia Slims American Women's Poll and the Monitoring the Future survey of teenagers.
Since 1972, women's self-described levels of happiness have fallen a few percentage points and now rest below that of men, on average, in every age category. It is particularly pronounced in those ages 30 to 44 - not coincidentally, women dealing with child rearing and aging parents, while reaching a critical point in their careers.
This drop in female happiness is pervasive - it also holds true regardless of marital status, education and employment. The only exception researchers were able to tease out was among African Americans. No one's certain why African American women report higher levels of happinness than they did in the '70s, but it's an intriguing aberration that merits follow-up.
While the gap is not huge, research co-author Betsey Stevenson said it was stunning given that by objective measures, the status of women's lives has improved in recent decades. "We would have expected their happiness to shoot up, not fall," she said.
Meanwhile, at Princeton University, another economist and a team of psychologists simultaneously stumbled across a gender "happiness gap" while analyzing dour decades worth of data on what Americans do with their time and how they feel when they're doing it.
Working-age women, for example, increasingly spend more time on paid work, caring for adults and watching TV - and less time cooking, ironing, dusting, entertaining and reading - than in the 1960s. But the data also reveals that men are spending less time on paid work and relaxing more - including watching more TV. In essence, men have gotten the knack of spending less time doing things they consider unpleasant.
Women, on the other hand, spend more time with family and friends but find it more stressful than men do. (Of course, such time often involves child or elder care, or hostessing, and could rightfully be categorized as work as well.)
Lead author Alan Krueger can only speculate on why, for example, men enjoy being with their parents while women find it more unpleasant than laundry. He told the New York Times that women typically spend time helping helping parents pay bills or plan a holiday, while "for men, it tends to be sitting on the sofa and watching football with their dad."
Both research papers raised more questions than they answered about the emotional well-being of men and, especially, of women.
Perhaps the most persuasive explanation for the happiness gap echoes Lisa Boucher's observation: Having choices means that women actually must choose. Or, as Bob Seger would put it, what to leave in, what to leave out. Acknowledge the axiom of the time-space continuum: A woman can only be in one place at a time, and any given day cannot contain more than 24 hours.
"My grandmother used to say too many choices make you sick," said Mary Nolan, taking in the view from her Financial District office. "I get this from my business bent, but I do believe we're too afraid to be wrong. We're afraid that if we make a wrong choice, we can't turn around and change it. Which is really unfortunate, because courage often comes from recognizing the wrong choice and reversing direction."
In her 30s and 40s, Nolan focused on building a successful career in insurance underwriting. "I liked my life the way it was, and I was not ready to commit to someone else and consider their needs on a 24-7 basis," she says. "When it got to the point where I couldn't have children, I no longer felt a need to be married. But then I started to really miss having a partner in my life." She found one on, adding, "Waiting until I was 50 gave me a better understanding of what it means to be married."
Still, some choices are irreversible. "If I had it to do over again, I would have [had] kids," she says. "That's the only real regret I have in my whole life." But Nolan also is determined not to let "what ifs" corrode her happiness. To the contrary, she says she's the happiest she's ever been.
Sipping her morning java at a Petaluma coffee shop, Shannon Stearns says her secret to happiness also depends on making peace with what to let go of - particularly given what she calls the "totally crazed state" of her life. It's a skill she still struggles to master at age 36, as a marketing professional for CamelBak and the mother to sons Wally, 5, and Murphy, 2 1/2.
"In 1972, women were expected to contribute to the PTA bake sale and keep a clean house," she says. "Today I'm expected to help run the school auction, sell wrapping paper, catch up on all my work e-mails for two hours after my kids are in bed - the list goes on and on and on. And the scale is bigger.
"The only way I survive with a tiny fraction of sanity is that I'm getting better about saying no.
"I don't have time for friends, fitness or fashion. I'll go two weeks without checking my voice mail at work because it's a time-suck. I've given up several career opportunities because, dammit, I won't work on Fridays, and yes, three out of four of those Fridays are haircuts and doctors appointments - but the fourth Friday is taking Wally and Murphy to the park and playing safari with them. And I won't give that up for anything."
Nonetheless, Stearns admits she sometimes is haunted by remorse over what she must neglect. "My college roommate called me for my birthday in March, and I still haven't called her back. I need to at least say, 'I'm not the horrible friend that you think I am...' "
Of course, choice is relative: The spectrum narrows for poor women living paycheck to paycheck. But for the first time in history, women confront a wider array of life alternatives than men, who rarely contemplate, for example, putting their careers on hold to care for children or aging parents. We're still adjusting to this shift in the cultural paradigm.
When researchers ask teenage girls what is important to them - finding a successful job, staying close to their friends, having a family, looking good and so on - they discovered that their answer was "everything." They ranked nothing as less important than it had been in the past.
The unquestioned modern mantra is that freedom comes through maximizing choice. Swarthmore psychology Professor Barry Schwartz says that's why supermarkets stock 75 salad dressings, why a single electronics store's product line allows buyers to construct more than 6 million stereo systems. And it's why someone, somewhere is busy creating a combo MP3 player/nose hair trimmer/crème brulee torch.
"More choices are better, but more and more choices are not. Too much choice produces not liberation but paralysis," says Schwartz, the author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less." He cites studies demonstrating that consumers are less likely to buy products - from jams to mutual funds - if they are given too many options.
The same principle applies to women's life choices.
"Even if you overcome paralysis and make a choice, you end up less satisfied than if you had fewer options," Schwartz contends. "Whatever salad dressing you choose, it won't be perfect, and you end up thinking about the ones you didn't buy. And the imagined alternative induces you to regret the decision you made. Not only that, but when you have no choice and things aren't perfect, you can blame the world.
"But when you have all these choices and you still feel regretful and unsatisfied, you end up blaming yourself. Hence, guilt."
The alchemy of female content may be to make bold decisions and then refuse to be tormented by the seductive lure of the untaken path.
"The reason things seemed better back when they were worse," Schwartz says, "is because people with few choices and lowered expectations could expect to be pleasantly surprised." That also might explain why the World Values Survey of 65 countries found the happiest people in Nigeria, a country lacerated with instability and poverty, while the United States lagged in 16th place.
The dark underbelly of lofty expectations is very real, says Stearns' mother, Sharon Morgan. An educational consultant and reformed former "stress cadet" who worked three jobs while raising her family - her daughter distinctly remembers going to sleep to the staccato of her mom's typewriter - she has scaled back on work to spend more time with her grandsons.
"As the ERA woke women up, I remember that initial thrill of empowerment sweeping over us," she said. "But Shannon's generation has had to face all the implications we didn't fully anticipate, and I see how incredibly hard it can be. I don't know anybody who would want to go back to the way it was, but I think those high expectations are taking a toll on women's happiness."
For one thing, progress plateaued short of true gender equity: Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn. A study this spring by the American Association of University Women found that a year after college graduation, women earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts - an inequity that within a decade will stretch to 31 percent. Even after adjusting for parenthood, choice of field, hours worked and the like, a quarter of the gap remained. That's unlikely to enhance women's feelings of well-being.
Many women also set stratospheric expectations for themselves, and for each other - reinforced by the cult of Martha Stewart, a slew of self-improvement books, the prevalence of plastic surgery. We've come to regard our work lives, our home lives and our private lives as projects to be endlessly tweaked in pursuit of perfection.
Even those conscious of the trap still fall for it. Stevenson, one of the University of Pennsylvania researchers, cops to recently loading the dishwasher because the plumber was coming. Her life partner and fellow researcher, Justin Wolfers, said, "What do you care, it's just the plumber. Do you think he'll be telling people what a dirty house we have?"
"Women need to learn not to be motivated so much by what people expect or say or think of us," she acknowledges. "The key is picking what it is we want to do well - and then not hearing the judgment of other people about the other domains."
Another factor behind the happiness differential may be that women are more prone to take their emotional temperature.
"I think a lot of women are just naturally more reflective, that they check in with themselves more than men," said Christina Whittenburg, 30, a first-grade teacher from Oakland. "Women are feelers. Men tend to be thinkers, more tied to the practical. It takes more of a shock or jolt to make them look inward. We're more likely to ask ourselves if we're happy."
And that could create its own problems, contends Darrin McMahon, a history professor at Florida State and author of the book "Happiness: A History."
For millennia, humans didn't expect to be happy in this life - that was what awaited them in the hereafter. Not until the Enlightenment did people believe they had the right to pursue happiness - today further interpreted as the right to be happy. But as John Stuart Mill cautioned, "Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.... Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness."
McMahon, whose critique is not gender specific, argues that we live in a society where we feel pressure to be happy. "When we're not, we feel like failures," he says. "What we get is the unhappiness of not being happy."
And women aren't just more self-aware - they also tend to feel more responsible for everyone else.
"Women still bear the brunt of the emotional work within the family because men just are not as alert to all the emotional cues," says Cornelia Busse, a psychotherapist in Sonoma. "They're not mining experiences with kids and relatives and friends the way women do, or worrying about them or feeling as responsible for everybody else. This is our territory, but frankly it places a huge burden on us. I think it leads us to be less happy."
While wishing men would take on more "emotional work," Busse also encourages women to stop being helicopter parents and obsessing over every personal conflict. "Ask yourself, 'What happens if I let it go and stop taking the emotional temperature of everyone in the room?' The answer probably is 'not much.' "
If nothing else, the declaration of a happiness gender gap is generating provocative conversation. The researchers themselves note that because men traditionally were less happy, perhaps women's happiness has diminished as they've entered into their world and are now bedeviled by the same woes that have long depressed men.
Or maybe the happiness gap isn't actually new at all. "Freakonomics" author and economist Steven Levitt suggests "there was enormous social pressure on women in the old days to pretend they were happy even if they weren't."
Like the Marquise du Chatelet, perhaps now we're abandoning our illusions and simply being more honest.

Vicki Haddock is a Bay Area freelance journalist and former Chronicle reporter who has written for the Magazine on the legacy of divorce, the science of criminal profiling and the mysterious death of newspaper heiress Margaret Lesher. E-mail comments to magazine@
This article appeared on page P - 19 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ban on Adultery

In 2005 a Pinellas County Sheriff instituted a ban on adultery and stated that members of his staff who were known to have committed adultery or were having a relationship with a married person would be punished. To read about this story, see the following:

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Autism and Divorce

There is a lot of research out there to show that couples who have children with mental or physical handicaps have less success in keeping their marriage together. Autism is one such handicap that seems to be on the rise, and the cost of the care that an autistic child needs can cripple a couple financially which puts added strain to a marriage. The Palm Beach Florida Commissioner is attempting to create a law that would mandate insurance for autism under insurance policies. If couples are able to keep up with the financial burden of raising an autistic child, perhaps this can help keep these couples marriages together.

To read about the story, visit:,0,5458192.story?coll=sofla_mezz

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Collaborative Approach to Divorce

I am sure that there are many of you out there who are waiting until after the holidays to file for divorce and may be wondering where to start. There is one approach to divorce which allows for quick resolution, cooperation between the parties and less expense called Collaborative Divorce. In collaborative divorce, the parties agree that they will not litigate any matters related to their divorce and agree to sit down, with the help of lawyers and a mediator, to resolve all the issues arising out of their marriage. The following article explains the process in plain language:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Does Dating After A Divorce Help Heal?

The following "Dear Abby" type column addresses the issue of whether or not dating after a divorce can help heal the emotional scars that people suffer from failed, and sometimes terrible, marriages. While I am not a psychologist, I think that the advice given is good.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Breaking A Trend

In past years the week before Christmas has been a notoriously slow week for family law attorneys. This was mostly due to people wanting to wait until after the holiday season to start divorce proceedings, judges being out on vacation, and people being without the funds to hire an attorney for a divorce or other family law related matter. This year, I have been unusually busy, and the only thing that I can think of that is contributing to being as busy as I am the week before Christmas is the slow economy and terrible housing market. If you have any information as to why people are choosing not to wait until the new year to start their divorce, please provide me with some insight.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Resolution to Kidnapping Charges

The following story relates to the resolution of the criminal charges that were assessed against a woman who kidnapped her biological children and took them to Canada, even though an adoption had taken place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How To Get A Good Divorce

Every now and then I come across articles that provide really good information and advice on how to help people get through a divorce with the least amount of angst. The following article provides practical advice on this very subject and is worth the read.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Better To Be Safe

The following story is really disturbing and something that I feel I must speak about. Unfortunately, there are many people who are victims of domestic violence and are fearful that their spouse or significant other is capable of doing them bodily harm. I hear from a lot of my clients who are fearful, some of it justified, some of it not. However, when I hear of certain behaviors that I believe to be dangerous or odd enough that it gives me the suspicion that someone is not thinking rationally and is capable of causing bodily harm, even if it hasn't happened in the past, I not only encourage my clients to attempt to obtain an injunction, I give them no choice. Some people don't want to file injunctions because they don't want to cause conflict, or fear that it will make the situation worst, but the reality is that injunctions are there to help protect you, and if you have valid reasons to fear for your safety, you should not hesitate to get an injunction for protection, or at the very least call the police if you are threatened. Do not be another statistic.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Marriage Mill

Most people know that its a crime to be married to more than one person at the same time. You don't hear of many cases these days when people are committing the crime of bigamy. A Miami woman was recently arrested for running what seemed to be a marriage mill. She was marrying people to help them obtain their U.S. Citizenship. She was finally caught and arrested.

To read about the story, see:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Accepting a First Offer

When people are going through a divorce, often times there are initial offers on the table with respect to equitable distribution and alimony. I always encourage my clients to take first offers seriously and to not reject them under the false notion that you "should never accept a first offer". You can save yourself a lot of time, money and attorney fees if you realistically look at the offer and decide whether it is in your economic best interest, because many times, after many months of litigation or numerous attempts to mediate the issues in your divorce, the settlement that gets signed is in the neighborhood of what was originally offered. I'm not encouraging people to accept offers which are not in their best interest, I'm simply stating that its not a good idea to reject an offer simply because its the first offer.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Annulment of Marriage Could Mean Deportation

There is no question that there continues to be people who are willing to marry a foreigner so that they can obtain their green card. However, there are also people who are fraudulently induced into marriage so that a foreigner can obtain their green card. They don't realize that the marriage is one of convenience for the other person for some time. What happens then? Well, in some instances, you can obtain an annulment based upon the fraud and the foreigner runs the risk of being deported. The following story talks about the dangers of fraudulently inducing someone to marry you so you can obtain your green card.,2933,314980,00.html

Monday, December 10, 2007

Divorce and Gay Marriage

Very few states recognize gay marriage, so when a gay couple wishes to get married, they need to travel to a state that recognizes their unions in order to join together "legally". They then return to their home states in order to live their lives. What happens when those parties want to dissolve their union when the state in which they live in doesn't recognize their marriage? In Rhode Island, it was determined that a couple could not be granted a divorce, because their state did not recognize their marriage. This creates an interesting and complex problem for gay couples who want to have their property and debts distributed and who may want to seek alimony or child support. Until all states recognize gay marriage, this issue will continue to show up in courts and newspapers.

To read the article upon which this blog is based, see:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Should Killer Get Alimony?

A state appeals court in New Jersey recently held that a woman could not be automatically barred from receiving alimony despite the fact that she had killed the parties' 14 year old son and is currently serving a sentence for beating the child to death. The reasoning was that there was nothing in the current statute that specifically barred alimony for a person who had committed murder, manslaughter or any other crime involving taking the life of another human being. In a nutshell, this just goes to show you that the Judiciary can only do so much and cannot legislate from the bench. If there are certain laws that you would like to see changed, you have to bring the issue before your legislature, because a court cannot and should not change laws, they are only there to interpret them.

To read the story upon which this blog is based, see:

Friday, December 7, 2007

Helping Children Cope With Divorce Using Video Games

There are so many different things that parents can do to help their children through divorce. With the dawn of the video generation upon us, it was just a matter of time before a company developed a video game to help children through their parents' divorce. If you are having problems communicating with your children, or feel that you need some aids to help them through this difficult time, you may want to check out this game to see if it is for you. Its called Earthquake in Zipland. While nothing substitutes a parent being actively involved in helping their children understand what divorce means to them, certain tools like this video game can be useful.

To see more about this video game, see:

(This blog does not endorse this video game for its usefulness or effectiveness. Its listing here is for information purposes only).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why Billionaire's Get Married

There is no doubt that billionaires are different from the average person and go about marriage in a different way. There are prenuptial agreements, extravagant engagement parties and celebrity invitees. With the high stakes of marriage and the likelihood of a marriage ending up in divorce and on Page 6 of the Gossip Pages, you have to wonder why a high profile couple or the super wealthy would take the marriage leap. The following article addresses that very question:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm Getting Divorce, What Do I Tell People?

Deciding to get a divorce is not easy, and once you have made the emotional leap, many people worry about what they are going to tell family and friends. People also worry that people are going to judge them or put in their two cents about what they think about their divorce. The following advice column deals directly with this issue and may help you if you are trying to figure out what to tell people about your divorce.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Divorce Is Bad For The Planet

There are people every where who talk about why divorce is bad for kids, bad for your finances, or bad for the traditional family. Now there are people stating that divorce is bad for the planet. It seems that even the go "green" people are putting in their two cents as to why they believe divorce is not such a good thing. Regardless, I'm not sure whether anyone should make a decision about whether or not to get divorced based upon whether its "bad for the planet".

To read the article upon which this blog is based, see:

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Website To Help With Divorce Information

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that there are approximately 1.4 million divorces in America every year. A new Florida based website is looking to provide a way for people to prepare for their divorce. The idea is that there are plenty of websites out there that help people plan and prepare for marriage, and given the large amount of couples who are getting divorced in America, there should be web-based information on divorce as well. The new website is called Feel free to browse the website and let me know whether you think the information on the website is helpful.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Divorce and Bankruptcy

Unfortunately, especially with the way that the real estate market is at this time, bankruptcy and divorce go hand in hand. Many people wonder what type of debts get canceled out in a bankruptcy and which liabilities they will continue to be responsible for. The main thing to remember is that child support and alimony payments, including any arrears are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. If you are trying to get out of having to pay arrears on either of those things, bankruptcy is not the way to go.

For a more thorough article on bankruptcy and divorce, see the following:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Power Of The Internet

The Internet, with the help of Google, has cornered the information market. Most people when they are looking for information, including information about potentially filing for divorce, they go to the Internet. It seems that a law firm in the United Kingdom is about to launch a website that will be the #1 place for people to go to find information about divorce and other family legal matters in their country. There is no question that a good informative website helps lawyers retain clients. However, its important to remember that websites are designed to provide general information and that if you are seeking more specific advice about your particular issues, you should speak with the attorney directly.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Value Vote

As the Presidential primary season just around the corner, many of the candidates may be worried whether their personal pasts will come back to haunt them. There are many people who state that there is still a "value vote" in America meaning people will choose not to vote for someone because they had an affair, divorce, or even an illegitimate child. We often choose candidates based on their ability to be a good leader, but also because that candidate holds values which we consider to be important. The following article discusses whether there really is a "value vote" here in Florida.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Celebrity Divorce, You Heard It Here First

One of the things that all of us "regular" people don't need to deal with is having our personal news splashed all over the Internet or page 6 of the paper. Often times a celebrity may hear news regarding their family, finances or worse, their divorces from the media. Hulk Hogan seems to be the latest victim of the relentless press. When asked by a reporter from a local newspaper to comment on his divorce, The Hulk was dumbfounded as he wasn't aware that his wife had filed. I'm sure that many of us are thankful that media is uninterested in the details of our personal lives.

To see the latest story about the Hogan's divorce, see:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another Reality TV Marriage On The Rocks

There seems to be a reality television curse when it comes to marriage and relationships. There are very few "television" romances that are still remaining strong and those celebrities who choose to put their lives on television often times find themselves headed to divorce court. Hulk Hogan and his wife are the latest casualties. While I'm sure that placing your life in front of cameras is not the sole reason for why these marriages fail, I'm sure that it doesn't help and may magnify problems rather than solve them. Sometimes, its best to keep your personal life as private as possible.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Family Traumas and Stress On a Marriage

Marriage, under the best of circumstances, can be very difficult. Sometimes when a couple is faced with a family trauma, the stress of that trauma can lead to divorce. This often comes into play when a couple is faced with a child who suffers a brain or physical injury that requires that child to be cared for. The following is a story about a young man who suffered severe injuries, but has parents who have stuck by him and helped him get the support and medical care that he needs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interesting Divorce War Stories

The headlines are sparse right now with new and interesting divorce stories. I hope that everyone has gotten their issue straightened out in order to enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday with their families. No matter how difficult your divorce is right now, you can perhaps take a little bit of refuge in the fact that there are some people who are going through a difficult time as well ans may be in a worse place than you. The following story is interesting and is proof that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ex Spouses Remaining Friends

In my line of work, you are often faced with couples who despise one another and want nothing to do with their ex-spouse after a divorce. This can sometimes make life very difficult when there are children involved. I'm always happy to share stories about couples who divorce and are able to not only get along, but remain friends. The following story, I think is an exception rather than the rule, but its a good way of showing that divorces can be amicable for the sake of children, and in this case, for the sake of a business.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hidding Lottery Winnings

The following is yet another example of a spouse attempting to fraudulently hide lottery winnings from his wife in order to avoid having to share in his windfall. I'm sure, if this man can be found, the courts will do what is right and inform him that his lottery winnings are marital property subject to distribution. Finding him in this case seems to be half the battle.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Daddy Divorce Camp

Daddy Divorce Camp (DDC), LLC, will be hosting its first weekend retreat in Orange Springs, Florida Fri. Dec. 7 - Sun. Dec 9, 2007 for men who are divorced, going through a divorce or considering a divorce.

The all inclusive weekend retreat will offer room and board, lodging in an air conditioned cabin , six meals , nine lectures/workshops and all activities for the low price of $600 per person.
Attendees will have the ability to attend a variety of lectures given by professionals on various topics:
-Legal Issues in Divorce
-Financial Issues in Divorce
-Family / Child Issues
-Anger Management
-Stress Reduction Techniques
-Insightful Workshops to assist in the healing / closure process
-Confidence Workshop - Interactive Ropes Course
Additionally, there will be available a variety of fun , stress relieving activities such as:
-Sporting Activites
-Comedy Show
Daddy Divorce Camp welcomes all interested parties, media to visit , for more information and to register for the December 7-9, 2007 event.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Adoption Awareness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness month and I have been searching around the Internet for interesting stories about adoption. The following article addresses a lot of issues concerning adoption, including the rights of a child to gain information about their birth parents, the painful decision to give up a child for adoption, and how birth children can develop a relationship with their birth parents long after they have become adults.,0,3612865.story

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shacking Up

More and more couples are deciding to "shack up" rather than remarry when they are fifty years old or older. This is for a number of different reasons, including protecting your children's inheritance and to avoid termination of alimony. Many states have adopted the rule that alimony terminates upon "cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex", but in those states that only have termination of alimony upon death or remarriage, shacking up is a viable and sometimes more lucrative deal.

The following article addresses why a couple would choose to live together rather than marry:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Mediation Radio Show

A radio show devoted to dispelling the facts and myths about the divorce process is garnering a lot of attention and a much broader listener base. With more and more people discovering the usefulness of the mediation process, especially in divorce, its great that there are professionals who want to bring the mediation process to the forefront of conversation and to help people understand how it works, how it can benefit them and what to expect. A special show will be airing live on Thursday, November 15, 2007, at 2:00 p.m. ET on All prior shows are archived and are available on demand for listening or for download to an MP3 and Ipod. If you are wondering whether mediation is the path you want to take to resolve your divorce, tune in!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sticking To A Plan

One of the hardest things to do after you are divorced is co-parenting children with your ex-spouse. There are bitter feelings, different parenting styles and scheduling issues which sometimes get in the way of being good parents to your children. Before, or shortly after, your divorce is final, you and your soon to be ex-spouse should develop a shared parenting plan that you both can look to when there are disputes, disagreements or ambiguities as to what you are doing with your children. If you both stay committed to a plan, there is no reason that you can't work out your differences and effectively co-parent your children. At the end of the day, you both have the same goal of wanting to raise, healthy, happy, well-adjusted children who are capable of being productive members of society. Its easy to create a plan, its much harder to stick to it, but if you keep it handy and remember what your ultimate goals are, anything is possible.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Divorce 2.0

Broward County has kicked off a new system that allows people to file for divorce online without the necessity of an attorney. This simplified system is an effort to help those couples who really don't need an attorney, or who cannot afford one. I am sure that other counties will soon follow suit and I'm also sure there will be many problems along the way that computer guys are going to have to fix. We'll wait to see whether this comes to Orange County and whether they allow attorneys to use the system as well.

To read about Broward County's new online filing system, see:,0,3701326.story

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Parents Dealing With Their Children's Divorce

Parents are increasingly more involved in their adult children's lives and many times, parents take an active role in their children's divorces. This can be monetarily footing the bill, being there for emotional support or even caring for grandchildren. The following article from The Orlando Sentinel speaks about how parents are affected by their adult children's decision to get a divorce.,0,5275534.story

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fired By Your Attorney

Heather Mills McCartney has split ways with her current divorce lawyers, and I think it has something to do with the fact that she went onto National television and blasted the media and her soon to be ex-husband. Many people don't realize that lawyers have the ability to fire their clients and many times it happens because a client does not heed their attorney's advice, or does something that will severely hinder the attorney's ability to do their job. It is important that you listen to your attorney and pay attention to what they tell you to do and what they tell you not to do. Divorces are emotional and sometimes its impossible to not act based upon emotion. This is not what makes attorneys get off a case. What makes attorneys get off a case is when a client makes a conscious decision to act in a way that will harm their case. While I do not know all the facts surrounding the reasons why Ms. McCartney's attorneys decided to "fire" their client, the timing of the split and the national television sound-off by McCartney leads anyone to the conclusion that her attorneys were not happy with her actions.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Work After Divorce

Many couples are divorcing within the first ten (10) years of marriage, which in most circumstances means that a woman cannot depend on getting any type of alimony, or any alimony that a woman may receive will be limited in duration. If you don't have a job, have never had a job, or have been out of work for some time because you have been home raising your children, the prospect of having to support yourself can be terrifying. It is important for all women going through divorce to have a career or job plan. Without having a plan, you will be treading water in a very deep ocean. There is plenty of information available on the Internet that can assist you in figuring out how you can enter into the workforce and start earning a paycheck that will help you pay your bills.

The following site has a special page devoted to helping women figure out what career they may want and how to get there:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Those Wandering Eyes

Divorce happens for many reasons, adultery is usually at the top of the list of things which are unforgivable enough to warrant a divorce. I read the following article that begs the question of whether the "wandering eye" is a good prediction of a man's likelihood of straying. I often talk about serious subjects and provide my blog readers with helpful information about divorce and other family related issues. This article is much more fun than informative.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Divorce and the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, and if you are going through a divorce, or it is your first holiday season since your divorce was finalized, you are probably apprehensive and nervous about how you are going to work out a schedule for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. You can make a holiday schedule work, so long as you keep in mind that your children probably want to spend time with both mom and dad. Therefore, here are some helpful tips on how to make holiday schedules manageable:

1. Talk To Your Kids- If your kids are old enough to make a decision about what they would like to do for the holidays and you haven't already agreed to a schedule with your ex, ask your kids what they would like to do. If they want to spend time with both mom and dad, try to work out a schedule that allows your kids to have equal time with both parents. Most kids want to spend time with both parents during the holidays and its important to take their feelings and wants into consideration before a holiday schedule gets set.

2. Consider Celebrating the Holidays Together- This is a touchy subject for most people going through a divorce. However, if you have young children, they could very well benefit from having you both present for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day activities. While they will have to adjust to new traditions in the future, if you and your ex-spouse can put differences aside to give your children a stress-free holiday without too much uncomfortableness, you can celebrate together.

3. Make Plans Ahead of Time- Don't want to the last minute to get a schedule in place. Discuss options as a family and make decisions well in advance so there is no question as to where the kids are going to be on the holidays. Many people put this off because its too difficult or they feel that there is no need to discuss because its "in the Marital Settlement Agreement" or in the Judge's divorce decree. Its still important to nail down specifics, especially if out of town travel arrangements need to be made.

4. Make Plans for Yourself- If you know that its not your year to have the kids on Christmas or Thanksgiving, you need to make plans for yourself and do whatever you need to do in order to insure that you are not going to be alone. Spending the holidays by yourself can be very depressing, so if you have made plans for yourself, you will spend less time thinking about the fact that your kids aren't with you.

5. Be Flexible- The best thing you can do for your kids and to insure that every holiday doesn't become a scheduling mess is to be flexible. Part of co-parenting after divorce is being flexible with schedules and coming to terms with the fact that you aren't always going to get what you want, especially around the holidays. Also, you don't always have to celebrate a holiday on the holiday in order to make it special and meaningful for your children. If you have a parenting plan that has you alternating holidays, you can help your kids understand and appreciate the benefits of having Two Christmases, Two Easters, etc.

For more information about dealing with the holidays, see:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Open Mouth Insert Foot

Part of my morning ritual is watching The Today Show. On a daily basis there is usually a piece about divorce which has given me countless things to blog about. This week, Heather Mills McCartney, who is embroiled in a bitter divorce from Paul McCartney, sounded off about the unfairness of the way that she has been depicted in the press. She made accusations that Mr. McCartney could have, at the very least, stopped the negative media campaign, but instead chose not to protect her or their daughter. The issue which has arisen now, which is most certainly a very negative side effect of standing up for herself, is that because she spoke about her fragile emotional state, some people are claiming that perhaps she isn't stable enough to be the primary care giver for her 4 year old daughter. Although I'm sure Ms. Mills McCartney was sick and tired of the way that she was being characterized in the media, she should have known better that to talk about the fact that she was emotionally unstable due to the media attention surrounding her divorce. If Mr. McCartney wanted to seek primary custody of their daughter, its going to be hard for her to take back her own words. My advice to any public figure going through a divorce is to keep comments to a minimum because you never know when your own words are going to be used against you.

If you would like read the latest about the McCartney divorce battle, see:,23599,22696561-2,00.html?from=mostpop

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Top Ten Mistakes Flordians Make In Divorce

Top Ten Mistakes People Make In Florida

I am learning that there are a lot of mistakes that people make when they are divorcing. These mistakes can cost you additional attorneys’ fees at best and total financial ruin at worst. Its important to be realistic when divorcing and to mitigate mistakes that can cost you time, money and the respect of your children. Here is a list of what I believe to be the top ten mistakes that people make when they are getting a divorce in the state of Florida.

1. Not Putting Children First- When parties think about their own best interests before their children’s best interest, impossible schedules are created, or a mother/father is blocked from time with the children, or even worse, a child is put in the middle of the divorce by being forced to choose sides. This does nothing but prolong the litigation process, cause undue stress on your children, and in the worst of cases, creates a divide between you and your child which may never be closed. Always put your kids first when you are divorcing. All other issues should be secondary.

2. Emotionally Attaching Yourself to an Asset- Some people want to keep an asset because it is tied to memories, or they want to keep it because they know that asset is important to their soon to be ex-spouse so they say that they want it out of spite. This accomplishes nothing other than creating attorneys fees. Fight for what is important and remember that stuff, is just stuff.

3. Keeping the House - Many people want to keep the house for a variety of different reasons. In order to keep the house, you have to buy the other person out of that asset. This is usually done by refinancing the house and tacking on that additional buy out money to your existing mortgage. What happens in some cases is that the home becomes a financial burden and the risk of ending up in foreclosure becomes very high. Therefore, only keep the house if you can financially afford to do so and is something that you can financially afford to do without the assistance of a great deal of child support and/or alimony.

4. Failure to Determine a Visitation Schedule - Sometimes I have clients who don’t want to set up a formal visitation calendar because they have a good relationship with the other party and don’t feel that a visitation schedule is necessary. What inevitably happens is that some time in the future this open visitation schedule, especially around the holidays, becomes the source of feuds between the parties as to who gets to spend time with the kids when. There should always be a bear minimum of visitation outlined in any Marital Settlement Agreement and the parties should work out their holiday schedules in advance so its clear who gets the kids and when. This helps mitigate problems if there is a dispute in the future as to who gets Christmas, etc.

5. Failure to Pay Child Support to State Agency- The more affluent a person is, the less likely they are to pay their child support through the state disbursement unit or via Income Deduction Order. If child support is not paid through the state, arguments can ensue as to whether certain funds are child support or payment for other child related needs which can be classified as a gift. If child support is paid through the state, the state keeps records of any arrears or extra payments which are made, so there should not be any ambiguities as to whether someone has paid their child support or whether there is any reason to grant someone a credit.

6. Failure to Specify Who Will Claim the Children on Taxes- This seems like a small problem, but it is very much an issue. When one party is paying child support, they are still able to claim their children on their taxes, despite the fact that the children primarily live with the other parent. Specifying who gets to claim the children as dependents helps insure that you don’t get audited by the IRS when you both attempt to claim the kids.

7. Failure to Properly Appraise Assets - Before you can go to Court and before you can agree to any form of settlement, you must know the value of your assets. If you don’t properly value your assets, you could end up with the short end of the stick property settlement wise. It is very important to make sure you know the real value of all of your assets.

8. Failure to Require a Life Insurance Policy- Child support and alimony, in most circumstances, make it possible for a party to live and care for themselves and their children. If the obligor dies when he/she still has an obligation to provide support, and if there is no life insurance policy in place, there are financially difficulties that arise from no longer receiving that support. If a life insurance policy is require, it insures that you will be protected in the event of the obligor’s untimely death.

9. Failure to Fight for Custody for the Right Reasons- This mistake comes in two forms. One in the negative, meaning people who fight for custody of their children for the wrong reasons, meaning out of spite, not taking into consideration the best interest of the child. This creates animosity from the other parent, additional attorneys’ fees, and in the end, you are probably going to lose. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to fight for custody unless you really believe that it is in your children’s best interest. On the flip side of the occasion, I sometimes have clients relinquish a custody battle because they don’t want to fight. If the children are truly better off with you, its important for you to fight the custody battle before the divorce is finalized. Once the divorce is final, you can only modify the custody issue if you show a substantial change of circumstances since entry of the Final Judgment that would warrant a change in custodial parent. It is much harder to win a modification of custody battle after a divorce is finalized.

10. Not Keeping the Lines of Communication Open with Your Soon to be Ex-spouse- There is no question that its hard to communicate with someone that you are divorcing, but if you are 100% closed off to the idea of communicating with your ex-spouse about division of assets, debts, property and your children, you WILL prolong the process. The more you are able to communicate the better chance you will have of completing the divorce process and moving on with your life. I always encourage my clients to speak with their spouse, with the rare exception when such communication will cause detriment to my client.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Broader Protection for Domestic Violence Victims

I just stumbled across the following article that talks about different states' laws regarding leave for employees to deal with domestic violence issues. Some states, including Florida, recognize that an employee may need some time off in order to obtain an injunction, seek medical attention or even attend court after an incident of domestic violence. The fact that states are recognizing the need to provide domestic violence victims with time to "sort out their lives" is important. Victims of domestic violence are going through so many emotions and worries, and the last thing that they should have to worry about is losing their job because they have to attend court or be out of the office to obtain an injunction for protection.

If you would like to read more about the article that this blog is based, see the following:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Affect of Adultry on Dissolution in Florida

One of the hardest pills for some people to swallow when they are divorcing in Florida is that adultery has very little to do with the outcome of a person's divorce when you are speaking of division of assets, liabilities and alimony. The only time that adultery ever comes into play is if you can prove that one parties' adultery dissipated marital assets or created debt. Therefore, more often than not, you will not be financially compensated because your spouse cheated. Most people want to be compensated for the emotional trauma that they suffered at the hands of their adulterous spouse, but in Florida, which is a no fault state, you are out of luck. If you are looking for a good example of what is considered a creation of debt which is non-marital because of an affair, you can look to the most recent news article in the Greg Norman divorce. They are taking the deposition of Mr. Norman's alleged mistress, Chris Evert, because it is believed she used his jet during the marriage which created some tax liability that Mrs. Norman does not want to be responsible for. If it is determined that any of the tax liability was associated with Mr. Norman using the jet for non-marital purposes, Mrs. Norman would not be responsible for that debt.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Single Women Than Married Women

According to current census results, for the first time in U.S. history, single women outnumber married women with about 51.5% of the adult women population single. Many think that this is due to women delaying marriage and/or remarriage after a divorce until later on in life. Another hypothesis surrounding the growing population of single women is that it takes longer to become financially secure in today's day and age, and more women want to be financially secure before they enter into marriage. The fact that more women are thinking about being financially independent prior to getting marriage is a wonderful thing, especially because our divorce rate here in America is so high. With the average marriage lasting less than 7 years, its important for women to not only think more about the person whom they are choosing to marriage, but to make smart financial decisions, so if their marriage ends up in divorce, they can have a good financial footing.

To read the article about the rise of single women, see:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Announcing Divorce Via Email

I have found a few articles about announcing that you are going through a divorce and whether email was the appropriate outlet to do this. At first I didn't think that this topic was "blog worthy", but this morning, I stumbled across yet another article about a person who announced the finalization of his divorce via a mass email. The general revelation from this article is that divorce is such a common place thing these days that its no longer taboo to broadcast to the masses that you are going through a divorce. I, for one, am not a big fan of the mass email for any announcement of big news, including divorce, but I understand the inclination to send one email out to everyone you know in order to avoid telling your divorce story over and over again. I would just be careful who you send the email to and what you say in the email. Divorce, although no longer taboo, is still a sensitive subject.

To read the story upon which this blog is based, see:

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dating After Divorce

Its hard for people going through a divorce to imagine that they will ever want to date, but the reality is that life does go on. After some one's divorce is final, I rarely see that person again, unless there are issues and problems post-divorce that need some legal expertise. However, dating after your divorce definitely comes up in conversation and I don't have any knowledge to pass onto my clients on how to deal with this sensitive and sometimes unnerving issue. I found the following article on that answers some questions and gives people advice on how to navigate the unknown waters of dating after divorce.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Father's Rights

Fathers are playing actives role in their children's lives, more so than they did even 10 years ago. Despite the fact that more and more fathers are the primary care givers for their minor children, some people believe that there is still a bias in the courts towards the mother when determining who should be the primary residential parent. A recent case here in Florida addresses father's rights.

To read the article, see the following:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How Will Divorce Affect Your Credit Score

Divorce, even in the most amicably of situations, can leave you in financial distress. This often times can affect your credit score in a negative way. I stumbled upon the following article about how to protect your credit before, during and after a divorce and thought it had some helpful information.

To read the article, see:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Grounds for Divorce in Florida

Under Florida law there are only two grounds for divorce and they are (1) that the marriage is irretrievably broken or (2) mental incapacity of one of the parties to the marriage. (Florida Statutes 61.052). Mental incapacity is fairly straightforward. Many people want to know what it means that your marriage is irretrievably broken. This simply means that one party no longer wants to married to the other party, and there is nothing that anyone can do, including the court, to salvage the marriage. Therefore, if you are contemplating divorce, and you don't believe that your marriage is irretrievably broken, and neither you nor your spouse is mentally incapacitated, you may want to seek some counseling to see whether your marriage can be saved before you seek a divorce.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sex Bias in Custody Disputes

I have a great deal of male clients and one of their common questions when they are in midst of a child custody dispute is whether or not the courts can take into consideration their sex in determining where their children should primarily reside. In Florida, the determination of child custody statute, Fl.Stat. 61.13(2)(b)1 specifically states that, after considering all relevant facts, the father of the child shall be given the same consideration as the mother in determining the primary residence of a child irrespective of the age or sex of the child. Therefore, the short answer to the question is no. Therefore, it is important for Judge's to look at the totality of the circumstances and the best interests of the children, regardless of whom is seeking primary residential care, in a custody determination. If it is clear that a Judge denies a father primary residential responsibility simply because he is a man, this is reversible error, and very much something that is open to appeal.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

From Bad to Worse......

What is going on with Britney Spears is a prime example of why you don't disobey a Judge's order. At first she lost physical custody, then she was awarded just supervised visitation, now the Judge assigned to her case has suspended all contact with her children for her failure to obey a court's order. No matter how unfair you think a Judicial Order is, it is very important that you obey them, because of the fact that the Judge presiding over your divorce or custody battle does have the ability to restrict your access to your children both on a temporary and permanent basis. If you follow the Court's order, its much more likely that the Judge will see that you are serious about doing what is best for your children.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Benefits of Shared Parenting

I definitely believe that shared parenting, meaning making decisions together about what is best for your children after a divorce, is beneficial in most circumstances. The following website is dedicated to the scientific study of the beneficial effects of shared parenting for children of divorce.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Helping Doctors Protect Their Assets and Practices

There is no question that the higher your income, and the greater your assets, the more difficult it is to protect your assets, and your income in the event of a divorce. This is certainly true for doctors. A new book has been published to help doctors learn how to protect their assets in the case of bankruptcy, frivolous lawsuits and divorce. I cannot speak to the content of the book, but it may have some helpful tips for doctors out there contemplating divorce and how to use tricks to protect their assets and practices.

To read about this new asset protection book, see:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Custody Wars!!

It seems that Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen still can't agree on what is best for their children, and Mr. Sheen's newest fiance is getting involved. My only question is aren't they done hurting each other yet? More often than not, when couples are involved in custody disputes that last years and years, the issues are much more about hurting your ex than doing right by your kid. While I do not have any first hand knowledge of what is going on between Sheen and Richards, it sounds like the same old story, just with a lot more scandal and public outings of personal emails.

To read the latest story about Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen's bitter custody battle, see:,2933,299543,00.html

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm Rich, Should I Tell My Spouse?

Every now and then, I come across a story that is so bizarre that it really does seem like something that should be told on an afternoon soap opera. I read the following story about a Florida woman who won the lottery, and failed to disclosure this information to her husband prior to filing for divorce. After her divorce was finalized, she quietly claimed her $28.5 million jackpot, and a litigation has ensued which is still making papers. It seems that but for the eavesdropping of a bystander, the woman's ex-husband would never had known that his ex-wife had attempted to cheat him out of his fair share of the lottery winnings. The ex-wife now has to pay a certain amount of money to the ex-husband for a specific period of time. What can we learn from this?? In your divorce, its important to have full disclosure, because, sooner or later, the truth does come out and you will pay for trying to hide an asset which is legally a marital asset.

If you would like to read the story upon which this blog is based, see the following:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Affordable Legal Advice

There are with out a doubt certain situations when someone does not need the help of an attorney to assist them in obtaining a divorce, but because the paperwork is so confusing, they feel that they have no other choice. Some counties, like Pinellas County, are instituting "self-help" computers at the courthouse so people can file simple divorces, as well as small claim proceedings. In addition, they provide affordable legal advice so that people can get some simple legal questions answered prior to filing their paperwork. I think that this is a wonderful idea and may help people do something on their own, rather than pay an attorney when they really don't need one.

If you would like to read about the Pinellas County program, see the following article:

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Britney Spears Request for Additional Visitations

The following article discusses Britney Spears' current attempts to have additional visitations after a Judge ordered for her joint custody to be revoked and that she should only have supervised visitation.

A week after Britney Spears lost the right to see her children unsupervised, she requested more visitation time. On Thursday (October 11), the singer's lawyer requested an emergency hearing to see if the judge in Spears' custody case would extend her visitation time with her two sons to include overnight stays, now that she's passed her first week of random drug tests. Federline opposed the request, but the judge, Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon, has asked the couple to try to work it out outside the court.
Federline's lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan, opposed the request on the grounds that it was premature, as Spears' progress report is scheduled to be submitted to the court on October 22, with a hearing to follow on October 26 to reassess. "The fact that a party, one week after a full court hearing, attempts to change the orders of the court, in the absence of an emergency or without any new facts, suggests a continued lack of respect and understanding for what an order of the court actually means," Kaplan said in a statement.
Spears' attorney, Anne Kiley, argued that the singer's request was for the benefit of the children, because the current visitation schedule is disruptive to the boys' sleeping schedules and requires them to be woken up from their naps. Kiley called it "traumatizing" for Sean Preston and Jayden James to be without their mother, but Gordon countered that it could be just as traumatizing for the boys to be around a mother who has substance-abuse and emotional issues. The judge said on Thursday that he was not going to modify his previous order, and that Spears' and Federline's lawyers would have to work out a compromise, which, despite a 45-minute separate conference, doesn't appear to have had results as yet. Spears didn't attend the first half of the hearing but arrived midafternoon for the second half.
Just one week ago, Gordon had allowed Spears monitored visitation with her children several days a week, possibly as much as every other day (see "Britney Spears Allowed Supervised Visitation Of Children; Judge Warns Singer To Take Him Seriously"). Spears was also ordered to complete at least three individual counseling sessions and at least three joint parenting-counseling sessions with Federline by the next hearing.
"It's only been a week since the judge's last ruling, and Britney has yet to prove that she can follow those orders," celebrity-divorce attorney Raoul Felder said. "At this point, for her, it's a celebration of hope over reality. I don't think she has a chance."
Legal experts had predicted that the most Spears could hope for would be to slowly build back fuller visitation rights (see "Britney Spears, Legally Speaking: Top Lawyers Say She Can Get Kids Back, If She Follows Advice"). New York divorce lawyer Lois Liberman estimated that Spears would be allowed one- to two-hour supervised visits before she could build to longer stays, such as overnights or weekends, and it would take at least three months of clean drug-testing before the court would consider allowing Spears unsupervised visits with her children.
[This story was originally published at 3:08 pm E.T. on 10.11.2007]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Accounting of Child Support Payments

I had a recent comment on my blog asking me a question about whether or not Florida court's require a child support recipient to provide an accounting of how child support money is spent. The short answer to the question is yes, in certain circumstances. 2007->Ch0061->Section%2013#0061.13">Florida Statute Section 61.13(1)(a) states that "The court initially entering a child support order shall also have continuing jurisdiction to require the obligee to report to the court on terms prescribed by the court regarding the disposition of the child support payments". I've never actually requested for an accounting of how child support is spent, and it seems, based upon the case law that I have read, that the courts will only require an accounting when it is requested by a party if the custodial parent is squandering money that is intended for the support of the child. This is not something that happens automatically and I don't see a lot of courts encouraging the use of accounting of child support funds. Therefore, if you are fearful that your ex-spouse is not spending child support funds properly, you can request an accounting, but that doesn't mean you are going to get it. The courts will order this at their discretion, and absent compelling facts that a child is not being properly cared for, I find it unlikely that a court would grant a request for an accounting.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Social Security Survives Divorce

When a couple divorces, there are a lot of questions that are asked concerning retirement benefits, more specifically social security. Some of my clients want to know whether they are able to collect their ex-spouse's social security. The short answer is, yes, so long as you satisfy a number of different criteria. I found the following "Question and Answer" article on this very subject which sheds some light on this issue.

Social Security Survives Divorce
A divorced spouse is generally eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on the ex-spouse’s record of work and earnings, said Lita Epstein, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Social Security and Medicare.
But it’s not automatic; you should contact the Social Security Administration to see if you’re eligible, Epstein said in a telephone interview from her home in Florida.
To be eligible, you must clear some hurdles. Following is a summary of the general rules:
•Your marriage had to have lasted at least 10 years.
•You must be at least 62.
•You’re not married.
•The ex-spouse must be at least 62.
In general, you won’t automatically receive benefits, said Kurt Czarnowski, regional communications director for the Social Security Administration.
“We’re not at the point where you have automatic enrollment in Social Security” in such circumstances, Czarnowski said in an interview at the agency’s regional headquarters in Boston.
So visit your local Social Security office or call the agency toll-free at 1(800) 772-1213. In the interview process, you’ll be asked whether you’ve ever been married, which will lead the agency to see if you’re eligible for benefits based on another’s record of work and earnings, Czarnowski said.
Assuming you’re eligible, you’ll receive a monthly benefit based on your record, or on your ex-spouse’s record, whichever will pay you more, he said.
A few other points:
•If you have been married more than once, and each marriage lasted at least 10 years, you’re generally eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on either ex-spouse’s record of work and earnings — whichever will pay you more, Epstein said.
•If you’re divorced and your ex-spouse has died, you may be eligible to collect a survivor’s benefit based on that ex-spouse’s record of work and earnings, Czarnowski said. Contact the agency to check on the rules and to see if you’re eligible.
•There are lots of rules and other details regarding a divorced spouse and eligibility for Social Security benefits, too many to list here. For more information, read “Social Security: Understanding the Benefits” and “Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know.” (This booklet includes information that applies to men and women.) For a free copy, visit your local Social Security office, call the agency toll-free at 1 (800) 772-1213, or use the agency’s Web site:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Marriage Classes Coming To Orange County

I am an advocate of any program or class requirement that gives couples the opportnity to learn more about each other, including future plans, visions and fighting styles before they get married. More and more states are requiring marriage education before a couple can obtain a marriage license, or they grant a discount on the marriage license fee for those couples who actually participate in a marriage class. Looks like these classes are coming to Florida. See the following article about marriage classes here in Orange County, Florida:,0,3949703.story

Friday, October 5, 2007

Observations from Seasoned Family Law Attorney

I recently found this article on the Georgia Family Law Blog. It gives some helpful advice to divorcing couples on how to conduct yourself during a divorce. Its helpful to get advice and thoughts from a seasoned family law attorney who has been "in the trenches" for many years. Here is the article in its entirety:
1. What behavior of clients still surprises you?That couples who did not get along during their marriage expect a divorce judge to suddenly make them cooperate with each other.
2. What determines how fast a divorce can be obtained?The psychological point the parties are at. Some are ready to end it, get on with their life. Others use the process as a catharsis to re-live their entire marriage, vent their frustration and assert blame.
3. What is the best advice to give to a non-custodial parent?Be polite and kind to the custodial parent. They control access to your children. Regardless of your visitation, the custodial parent has tremendous control. You may be rude behind their back but never to their face. It's a game you need to learn to play well or you could lose something greater than your pride.
4. What is the best advice to give a custodial parent?Let your ex have the children as much as they will take them. You need a break. They are the perfect babysitter. You know they will take care of them and if they are around the children alot, they will be more sensitive to their needs.
5. Does joint custody work?It can. Some people are naturals at it; others need a little help. A child psychologist can help those who don't realize they have damaging behavior. Putting the child in the middle and parental alienation are classic problems in joint custody.
6. What is the worst fear of most women?That their spouse will fight them for custody.
7. Do most men fight for custody?There are two categories of those who do: Men who honestly want custody. Men who want to scare their wives into accepting less child support provided they later relinquish the fight.
8. How can you tell the difference?From the obvious. Those who never spend any time with their children prior to the divorce being filed; those who travel and are never home; those who have girlfriends. These guys don't want custody.
9. Any way to control those who are insincere?For the ones who are just using custody as a fear factor, you should call their bluff. Offer them custody and watch them run.
10. Does guilt play a part in the outcome of a divorce?Yes. Usually the party that seeks the divorce is willing to take less. Men who want the divorce and have children are willing to pay more support and often give up the house to the wife and children.
11. Does mediation work?If you have an experienced mediator, you can usually resolve some of the issues. The mediator's experience should match the sophistication of the parties.
12. As an attorney, what do you learn from the mediation even if the divorce doesn't settle?It's a great way to evaluate opposing counsel and their client. Most clients and attorneys reveal the strength of their case at mediation because they are trying to influence the mediator. It's a great way to find out everything that is going to be presented against you at trial. It is also a good way to find out what the opposing counsel knows about your client.
13. As an attorney, can you influence a mediator?Usually, but you should do this when you are alone with your client and the mediator. You can ask the mediator to present issues a certain way. They will hold any information confidential that you ask them to. You can explore all types of settlement offers to find the give and take.
14. Is it advisable for the attorney to be aggressive at mediation?I think you should save your best arguments and evidence for the Judge. Their opinions are the only ones that matter. If the opposing side hears damaging evidence prior to the trial, you can bet they will have a good prepared response when they hear it at trial.
15. Does the personality of the parties influence the Judge?Yes. I like to find out what question I need to ask to make their spouse mad and that is the first one I ask.
16. How do you prepare your client for trial?I prepare and go over their questions and answers in advance. That way they know at least 50% of what is going to happen.
17. What is the best advice you can give your client in the courtroom?The judge determines everything. Although the judge doesn't ask the questions, you should look at the judge when you answer. It is his courtroom. Get him involved. Read the situation. If he looks bored or disinterested, make your answers short. Be respectful. Don't argue with the opposing attorney and never, never argue with the judge.
18. What practical considerations should a party consider when testifying?The judge makes a decision based on a very limited view of the situation. In doing so, perception becomes reality. If one witness is better organized, more articulate, the judge can understand their testimony. For someone to make a decision, they have to be able to understand the facts. Unorganized testimony is difficult to follow. Also. perception gives credibility. Witnesses who are neat and clean and speak in an even tone without anger or bitterness are received as more truthful. Arrogance is a certain loser. Create advantages. If no one believes you, your evidence and testimony loses its importance.
19. Can you tell us if there are any tactics opposing counsel use that in your opinion have been unnecessary?When they refuse to concede they are wrong and force the issue before the judge. These include filing a petition in the wrong county; asking for the non-custodial parent to pay for college when the law does not provide that they have to; denying their client had an affair when the client has had a child with their girlfriend/boyfriend; asking for support which exceeds the non-custodial parent's income; demanding personal property for their client which was the pre-marital property of the opposing party; asking for half of spouse's retirement when 75% was accumulated prior to the marriage; demanding visitation with their spouse's children by a prior relationship. The list can be endless.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: I am assisting people at a very difficult time in their life when they are called upon to make major decisions when they are not emotionally prepared to make them. I try to give them a sense of control over a situation that appears out of control. I try and give them feedback on how their behavior will be perceived to the Court and suggest directions which reflects more favorably on them. I strive to narrow the issues to the best settlement possible so they can determine if it's a settlement they can live with or whether they would rather take their chances with the decision of the Judge. Often times, a Judge will be more fair than the person you have been married to.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Staying Close To the Ex-Inlaws After Divorce

Divorcing couples often have to deal with the fallout from their respective families concerning how ex-in laws are going to fit into the new family dynamics. Often times, an ex-mother or father in-law can't divorce themselves from the parent role of their own child to realize that its important for them to maintain a good relationship with their former daughter or son in-law for the sake of the grandchildren. It makes every one's lives a bit easier, so long as the "'real" daughter or son doesn't feel that his/her own parents are choosing sides. The attached article discusses the dynamics of in laws who stay close after divorce:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Follow A Judge's Order

Once a couple decides to get a court and judge involved in a custody dispute, they must be prepared to suffer the consequences of a judge making decisions concerning what is best for their children. If a Judge signs an order that has anything to do with your children, it is extremely important that you comply with that Order. If you fail to comply, the Judge can decide to remove your children from your custody until you are able to show that you have the ability to comply with a Court Order. While I'm sure there is more going on with Britney Spears' case than her failure to comply with a Court Order, I'm also sure that her failing to act in accordance with a simple order regarding drug testing and obtaining a valid license gives the Court little confidence that she has the ability to make proper decisions regarding her children.

To read the latest story concerning Britney Spears' custody case, see:

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Judge in 10th Circuit

The following is a profile on a new judge in the 10th circuit who will be presiding over dependency cases. I think that this judge will do a wonderful job making decisions concerning cases which are notorious for their problems and high emotions. He was a former divorce practitioner who encouraged, and demanded, that his clients take the high road. Every now and then, we are given a glimpse at who some of our judges are as people, which helps us understand how they will run their court room. This information can be invaluable when you are trying to win an issue in their courtroom.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

How To Pay Off Debts

Sometimes divorce can lead to tremendous debt, especially when a party is used to living a certain standard of living, and then is required to live on their sole income. The following is a good article that was published by U.S. News and World Report, online that gives some helpful hints on how to get a handle on debts after divorce:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Financial Disclosure In Divorce

When a couple is going through a divorce, or contemplating a divorce, one of the biggest problem areas that arises is the issue of financial disclosure. Florida has mandatory financial disclosure rules and sometimes they can be difficult to follow, especially when one of the parties is not privy to any of the financial holdings, debts or assets of the marriage. The following article is a good explanation of the Florida divorce mandatory disclosure rules:

Friday, September 28, 2007

Religion and Divorce

Some religions are openly hostile towards couples who get a divorce and shun them from their church or make those people who have been divorced jump through hoops in order to bring them back into their religious fold. One of the many reasons why people decide to stay in unhappy marriages is religion. Some religions make it so difficult for people in their church when they do something that is against their rules, guidelines and doctrine. When divorce is "against a person's religion", there is a decision to be made and that is something that is personal to each person going through that moral dilemma. For a religious person, this is just another reason why divorce is emotionally draining and hard.

To read an article about divorce and religion, see:

The opinions and views that are expressed in this article are not necessarily my own, and are strictly posted on this website for informational purposes.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Divorce Through The Eyes Of A Child

There is no question that divorce can have a devastating impact on the children who are involved. Sometimes, no matter how hard a couple tries, their children can often times be lost in the shuffle of emotion and scheduling conflicts that divorce is often fraught with. Its important to have a firm grasp on what your children are going through when you are divorcing and remembering that what works for you, might not always work for them. I found the following which sheds some light on what children are going through when their parents are divorcing. Feel free to access my website at for more resources on this subject.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

For Better or For Worse

I have been a long time reader of a comic strip, "For Better of For Worse". If you are unfamiliar with the strip, its about a family who lives in Canada, and unlike most strips, the characters age in real time. This strip has handled many funny topics, but also more serious real life topics like death, homosexuality, growing old and divorce, to name a few. Sadly, the strip is coming to its inevitable conclusion as the strip's creator, Lynn Johnston, anticpates retirement. While this has saddened me that I can no longer vicariously live through the lives of the Patterson family, I understand the need to move on. Why does this have anything to do with my family law blog you may ask?? It seems that Ms. Johnston, is currently going through a divorce of her own, and the semi-retirement that she anticipated while her marriage was still intact, is not what it is now, partly because of her impending divorce. When people are going through a divorce, its important to envision a different future for yourself and be open to the positive things which may come to be in that new future as a single person. Ms. Johnston is doing just that, and her story is something that I think many people who are ending marriages while on the verge of retirement can relate to.

If you would like to read a story about Ms. Johnston and her comic strip "For Better or For Worse", see the following article:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Divorce The New Marriage

A new comedy which is being developed by NBC and novelist, Gigi Levangie Grazer, is going to circle around a couple in their 30s who are divorcing but still living together. The premise is the couple don't have enough money to go their separate ways so they live harmoniously under the same roof, despite the fact that their marriage is over. Grazer states that she believes that divorced couples are leaving one another with a lesser degree of animosity than they did in the 1990s and this new comedy is going to try to bring focus to the fact that couples can still be friends after a divorce. While I think the premise is one that can be fraught with humorous situations, I think the majority of divorcing couples who are living under the same roof for financial reasons are not co-existing in a happy healthy environment. More often than not, when a couple has to remain under the same roof during or after a divorce for financial reasons, the stresses of that situation can be unbearable. Therefore, I find it unlikely that most divorcing couples will find humor, or even be able to relate, to this new television show.

If you would like to read more about this new show being developed by NBC, see: