Wednesday, February 28, 2007

You're Not Free Yet

I was reading a recent article concerning Jewish divorce and a "get". I had never heard of such a document before reading about it in the newspaper and was intrigued as to the newsworthiness and media attention surrounding one man's refusal to cooperate and give his Ex-Wife a "get". Under Jewish doctrine, a person cannot be fully free from a marriage after a divorce unless and until they receive a "get". Even though a civil divorce allows a party to remarry in the civil sense, without a "get" a Jewish woman is not allowed to remarry or even date. The Jewish faith is not the only religion that requires someone to jump through a few hoops before they are allowed to remarry. In the Catholic religion, a party must have their previous marriage annulled in the eyes of the Catholic church before their marriage is recognized by the church. I'm not sure whether there are other religions that require you to obtain certain "religious" things before you are allowed to remarry, but in the event you have been divorced and would like to remarry, I suggest you speak with your local church, synagogue, or temple to determine whether you are free to remarry from a religious standpoint. There are currently no penalties that are imposed civilly for failure to sign a get, but the Women's International Zionist Organization is seeking to impose legislation that would impact the distribution of assets in the event a spouse imposes a barrier on remarriage, however I doubt such legislation will ever leave the legislature's floor.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Enforcement of Child Support

It seems that even the rich and famous are not immune from child support enforcement statutes. Bobby Brown was arrested yesterday for non-payment of child support to the mother of his two older children. Unfortunately, there are many cases out there regarding fathers/mothers who aren't paying their Court Ordered Child Support. There is a long standing argument that a person cannot pay their child support if they are in jail, so provisions that allow a warrant for some one's arrest for failure to pay child support are not able to provide the relief for which they are designed. While I see merit in this argument, most people do not go to jail for failure to pay their child support unless it is shown that they had the ability to pay and chose not to. If someone had the ability to pay, and are threatened with a warrant for their arrest, more often than not, they find a way to come up with the money that they need to bring their arrears current. I can guarantee that Mr. Brown was not paying his child support because he didn't have the ability to do so, therefore, an arrest warrant was very effective in getting him to pay his child support. In order to avoid issues regarding non-payment of support, I always encourage my clients to have an Income Deduction Order (a/k/a wage garnishment) in place so there is no question that a party pays their support obligation.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Grandparent Visitation Rights

As the structure of the traditional American family changes, laws have been enacted in order to attend to those changes. There is no question that grandparents have played a much larger role in the lives of their grandchildren over the past fifty years. Many grandparents have moved away from the grandparent who visits with the children and spoils them with money and gifts. More and more grandparents are secondary care givers and play a much more significant role in a child's life. As a result, more and more states are instituting laws to protect a grandparent's right to have visitation with their grandchildren, especially in the event of the death of a parent, or a divorce. Florida is very sensitive to a grandparent's desire to be in contact with their grandchildren, especially in situations where one parent is refusing any contact. Florida Statute 752, defines when it is appropriate for a grandparent to have visitation rights with their grandchild. Upon petitioning the court, a grandparent is entitled to visitation if it in the best interests of the child, and one of the following circumstances is present:

1) One or both of the parents is deceased;
2) the marriage of the parents has been dissolved;
3) a parent of the child had deserted the child; or
4) the minor child was born out of wedlock.

In addition, if the couple is married, in order to be awarded visitation over a married parent's objection, a grandparent must show that the child is in harm, and then prove that visitation is in the child's best interest.

To read more about grandparent visitation rights, see:

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How is Alimony Taxed

When a person receives an alimony award, usually the obligor can take a tax deduction for the payments to the obligee and the obligee must treat the payments as income, for which there are tax consequences. Basically if you pay alimony you receive a tax benefit, and if you receive it you have to pay taxes on it. This is a confusing concept for some, and its important to properly plan for alimony tax consequences so that when tax time comes around you aren't left with a huge tax liability. If you are concerned about your ability to pay quarterly taxes on your alimony, you may want to think of other ways to satisfy your needs like taking an asset in lieu of alimony or taking a lump sum payment at the conclusion of your divorce. There are creative ways to minimize your tax liability both from a obligor and obligee standpoint. You should speak with your lawyer about your concerns so that they are addressed before the conclusion of your dissolution.

If you would like to read more about alimony, please see:

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Arguments Against Same Sex Marriage

The debate over same sex marriages has been going on for quite some time and there are many reasons that laws are upheld banning those marriages. In many states, one of the reasons that same sex marriages are illegal is because they cannot naturally produce children. Many of the laws state that because of the inability to naturally "procreate", same sex marriage cannot be legal. Some proponents of same sex marriage in Washington State are thinking of creative ways to strike down these laws as unconstitutional. They are asking for a law to be created that requires a married couple to have children within the first three years of marriage, or face an annulment of that marriage. They agree that such a law is absurd and will probably be struck down as unconstitutional, but their reasoning behind such a law is that procreation cannot be a reason to uphold marriage as a union between a man and woman. This logical approach to the questions surrounding same sex marriage is at the very least interesting, and I'm sure will create a dialogue. I've long since thought that people who thought marriage was strictly a portal to have children were short sighted. If a marriage is to endure and stand the test of time after the children are raised and on their own, there has to be a better reason for why a couple got married than "we wanted to have children". I'm sure that the same sex marriage debate will be going on for quite some time, and its arguably one of those age old debates which may never come to its conclusion. However, when people are able to think out of the box and find creative ways to get people to understand their point of view, we can come closer to an answer to this debate.

If you would like to read about the Washington same sex marriage law debate, see:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Misappropriation of Trust Funds

When a couple is in the midst of a divorce, often times, a house will be sold, or other assets will be sold and the proceeds from those sales will be held in trust by one of the party's attorney. Unfortunately, from time to time there are news articles that pop up that talk about an attorney using those monies which are held in trust for their own purposes. Although trust accounts are in the name of the attorney, the monies that are held in trust are not the attorneys' property and any use of the funds for purposes other than those authorized by the client are illegal. I find it disturbing that an attorney would use trust account funds in a wrongful way, because such behavior can be grounds for immediate disbarment, depending on the severity of the misappropriation. I think that as a general rule, most attorneys would never consider using funds held in trust for anything other than their intended purpose. However, it still happens from time to time and it is important to protect yourself. Therefore, if you are going to place any amount of money into an attorney's trust account, follow these general rules:

1. Always ask for a receipt when you give any amount of money to your attorney to be held in trust.

2. Ask for a monthly statement of your trust balance and keep an eye out for any unusual withdrawals.

3. Enter into a formal agreement that states that any withdrawals from the trust account requires your written approval.

4. Find out who your attorney's legal malpractice insurance carrier is, therefore, if you realize that the funds which are held in trust are being misappropriated, you can immediately file a claim for recovery.

5. In the event that funds which have been held in trust have disappeared without explanation, immediately file a grievance with your local bar association.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Father's Custody Rights

Britney Spears is just one of many celebrities who have filed for divorce over the past year, but her bizarre behavior has been splashed across the tabloids for the past six months with more regularity than any other celebrity. Her latest antics caused more headlines due to her estranged husband's emergency request for a hearing regarding the custody of the couple's two young sons. It seems that Ms. Spears has checked into yet another rehabilitation facility and this morning, the emergency hearing was canceled because the couple reportedly agreed that Mr. Federline would take care of the children while Ms. Spears sought treatment for whatever malady is currently ailing her. While these types of situations are not necessarily the norm, there are more and more mothers who may not be the best person equipped to care for children and there is a growing trend for children to be placed with the father as a result of a divorce. The question then becomes whether behaviors such as those exhibited by Ms. Spears will ultimately affect a Judge's decision regarding who should be primary custodial parent.

Prior to 1980, you rarely saw a father being awarded custody of his children outside of a finding that the mother was "unfit". Now a days, more often than not, both parties are good parents, and both want to have their children living with them on a day to day basis. What happens when both parents are equally capable of taking care of the children, but cannot agree as to who should have primary residential care of the children? What criteria do Judges use to determine who should get custody of children when there is no clear choice? I believe that there is still a bias towards awarding custody to the mother in those situations due to societal prejudices concerning who is more equipped to give children the care, guidance, love and discipline they need to become productive members of society. While I believe that more and more judges are putting away those biases and awarding custody strictly on the "best interest of the child" standard, I still believe that fathers have an uphill battle when it comes to fighting for custody of their children. Stay tuned for how the custody battle plays out between Mr. Federline and Ms. Spears.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Taking Custody Into Their Own Hands

There is no question that divorce is difficult on all parties, including the parents. There are many times that a parent is fearful about facing a Judge and what their ruling may be with respect to custody of the children. Unfortunately, we are still hearing about mothers or fathers who take it upon themselves to "escape" with their children in an effort to deprive one parent from having any contact with the children. There is no justification for such actions, given the fact that our judicial system, more often than not, rightfully denies contact when a parent will put a child's welfare in danger. When a child is forced from their home and is wrongfully denied contact with a parent based on the other parent's wishes, everyone suffers. While our society has sympathy for those people who take the law into their own hands, there should be no tolerance for it. Generally speaking, a child should be allowed contact with their parent and should be given the option as to whether they want to form a relationship with both of their parents, regardless of the wishes of the parents. More often than not, the desire to keep a child away from a parent has more to do with unsubstantiated fears and marital issues, than it does with the actual well being of a child.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Factor In Considering Whether to Get a Divorce

There seems to be many reasons why people are getting a divorce now a days. You rarely find people getting a divorce in order to protect their assets. There are more and more older couples who are faced with one of them having to go into a nursing care facility. With the cost of the better nursing facilities in the neighborhood in $80,000.00 per year, more and more couples are deciding to get a divorce in order to protect their assets and avoid going into the poor house when planning for their own long term care. This seems like a drastic thing to do and it is a shame that a couple would have to decide to do something so rash in order to protect their assets. While I'm not sure how we could possible correct the problem with rising elder care costs, but I'm sure that divorce should not have to be a solution.

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

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Divorce Effect On Work

Its no question that divorce can negatively effect every aspect of your life. While the obvious effects are on your personal life, it can also have an effect on your professional life. Stress from the happenings in your divorce case often times is brought into your professional life and can cause problems. Many companies are creating support groups for their employees who are going through a divorce in order to help them through the process and to help make the stress in their personal life more manageable. No matter what happens, its important to remember that despite what is going on in your personal life, you have to keep on top of your job in order to insure that there isn't problems in your professional life as well as your personal life.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Making Blended Families Work

Divorce is prominent in our American society, and what is just as prevalent are mixed families with yours, mine and ours kids, or just "yours" kids. Second marriages are just as likely, if not more likely to end in divorce, and one of the main reasons revolves around the difficulty of parenting as a step-parent.

There are many more challenges to making a blended family and even more issues and problems than in the traditional nuclear family. First and foremost, there are the non-residential parent issues. When children go on their visits with their non-residential parent, there are often occasions for that parent to either provide negative thoughts and feelings toward the new step-parent, or worse create tension for all parties out in the open. Secondly, there are issues with trying to effectively parent as a step-parent. Many times there is resentment coming from the child to the step-parent and often times, the anger and resentment is misdirected. Its important to recognize all the issues and attempt to work through them all with the entire family.

There are many resources out there that can help give families to tools to survive together as a blended family, here are just a few:

Friday, February 16, 2007

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders

As more and more people are planning for their retirement, the division of pensions, 401{k)'s and other retirement savings plans has become and essential part of the divorce process. When a retirement account is split between divorcing parties, its necessary to obtain a Qualified Domestic Relations Order ("QDRO"). This Order is usually drawn up by a professional who specializes in QDROs. Many people wonder what exactly is contained in a QDRO and what they actually are. The link below is a good resource to learn more about QDROs and whether it is something that can be used in your divorce case:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

College Is Going To Cost How Much?

Its no surprise that the cost of college tuition these days can put a significant dent in a parent's pocket. The average yearly tuition for a private college is approximately $50,000.00 per year. In some states, your obligation to financially support a child terminates when they reach their 18th birthday, or when they graduate from high school. However, in states like New York and Hawaii, a Judge can order a parent to contribute to their child's college expenses regardless of the fact that the child has reached the age of 18. Additionally, any provision contained in a Marital Settlement Agreement regarding contributions towards college expenses will be enforceable in a Court of Law. Therefore, if you don't want to get stuck with your child's pricey college tuition bill, its important to finely tune your Marital Settlement Agreements so that its clear what it is you are agreeing to contribute to. In addition, planning for your child's education should be something that is started at the very latest, at the birth of that child. I cannot stress enough the financial strain that a college tuition will put on your finances, so planning for it from the beginning is the smartest move that any parent can make.

If you would like to read the Forbes article that this blog is based on, see:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Unrealistic Expectations In Divorce

When a couple has decided to divorce, both parties have different ideas on who is entitled to what. What I always tell my clients is that when you are divorcing, its important to have realistic expectations from the beginning about what you are legally entitled to. Mediation has done wonders for the divorce process and has helped couples put away their boxing gloves in order to come to a resolution that everyone can live with. The following are five "tips" that can help people better understand the issues surrounding property distribution in a divorce and encourage couples to be reasonable when talking settlement:

1. Equitable does not mean equal. If the State in which you live has an "equitable division" of marital assets, this does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split.

2. Don't expect to have the same lifestyle that you enjoyed during the marriage after the divorce is finalized. When a couple divorces, they are essentially splitting one household into two with the same amount of income. It is absolutely false to think that a total household income of $120,000.00 can sustain two households in the same way that it sustained one.

3. A good compromise means that no one is 100% happy. Good compromises mean that everyone is giving something up that they want, so that there can be a resolution. In order to settle a divorce, everyone has to be willing to give something up or in some cases, do something that they don't want to do.

4. Take emotion out of it!! This is probably the most important rule to live by when divorcing. By not getting emotionally attached to items of personal property or real property, its easier to come to a settlement because you don't argue about keeping something that you hate, just to spite the other party.

5. Fault doesn't matter. In states, like Florida, which have no fault divorce, marital fault has no affect on property distributions or alimony. Therefore, unless someone has dissipated a martial asset for a non-marital purpose, fault does not factor into the equation of the distribution of assets and liabilities. While this may seem unfair, there is no way around it, so accepting this as fact from the beginning is useful.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Out of Control Divorce Settlements

There is no celebrity divorce that has garnered more attention than the divorce of Heather Mills McCartney and Paul McCartney. The first issue regarding the lack of a Prenuptial Agreement is what first caught people's attention. The numerous other allegations that have arisen since then has given the tabloids endless amounts of story ideas. Lately, there has been some buzz that there will be a settlement and its in the neighborhood of $48 Million Dollars. While I know that Mr. McCartney's net worth is at least ten times that amount, I find it totally irrational to think that someone he was married to for a very short period of time would be entitled to such a large settlement. In Florida, when determining what a spouse is entitled to as far as equitable distribution, one is only entitled to their equitable portion of marital assets, and are not privy to any of the assets that were amassed prior to the marriage. If a couple has one party who works, and that spouse accumulates a large amount of income during the course of a short term marriage, there should be some special equity considerations when determining who gets what in the divorce. While a settlement offer is different than what someone would be awarded by a Judge, and I'm sure that the settlement negotiations in Mr. McCartney's case has something to do with wanting to keep his divorce quiet and out of the courts and the newspapers, it still seems that the amount being offered is above and beyond what Ms. Mills is truly entitled to. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out for Mr. McCartney and whether the case ultimately ends up in the Courts. Whatever happens, I'm sure that Sir Paul will consider getting his next wife to sign a Prenuptial Agreement.

If you would like to read about the latest developments in Mr. McCartney's divorce case, see:

Monday, February 12, 2007

Divorce War Stories

As we approach Valentine's Day, as a family attorney, I am profoundly aware of the fact that this Hallmark holiday is not a happy one for a great deal of people in our country. There is a vast amount of people living in America right now that are not living with a husband or wife, or are in the midst of a divorce. There are various reasons why people get divorced, and I have written a couple blogs on common mistakes and problems in a marriage which lead to a divorce. While these have been serious, I thought it was time to look at the lighter side of divorce, or at least the lighter side when you are merely a spectator. There is an article in the Miami Herald online that listed 10 easy ways to mess up a marriage and end up in divorce court. I was expecting to read something serious, but it seems that there is humor in everything including divorce. While not all of these anecdotes are harmless humor, there is something to be said for looking for the obvious when determining whether you should end you marriage.


A Miami man promised his wife a big diamond. When she discovered it was cubic zirconia, she said, ''Good-bye, have a good life,'' says Andrew Leinoff, a divorce lawyer.

• What was your first clue? After 10 years of marriage, a Miami man became suspicious of his wife's behavior and hired an investigator. ''It turned out she was a he. He, she . . . whatever . . . had been surgically altered before the marriage and hadn't told him. That was the end of that,'' says Leinoff.

• Dirty downloading: Three years into her marriage, a Broward wife discovered hubby was into computer porn, says Hollywood divorce lawyer Mark Seff. It was covert at first, and she put it down to boys being boys. Then he stopped trying to hide it -- just leaving it up there on the screen. She decided it was a slap in the face, and hit the delete marriage button.

• In every rose a thorn: A Fort Lauderdale woman knew her husband was cheating, but feared it would be hard to serve papers on him. So on Valentine's Day she got the process server to rent a delivery van and carry a dozen roses into hubby's office. ''You John Doe?'' ''That's me.'' ''Happy Valentine's Day.'' Papers served.

• The false accusation: A Miami woman was out late a lot, so her suspicious husband planted a microphone in her car -- ''which is illegal, by the way,'' says Miami divorce lawyer Mel Frumkes. He learned nothing, because she was innocent. But she found the bug. Buh-bye.

• The true accusation: A Miami man found notes to his wife from a lover and overheard phone conversations, says Frumkes. He accused her. She admitted it. Too easy. Too bad. Toodle-oo.

• The sucker punch: A popular tactic these days is to falsely accuse a spouse -- male or female -- of domestic violence. It gets you a leg up in the divorce proceedings, says Frumkes. ``And it helps you get possession of the kids and the house.''

• In the dumps: A Redland woman came to South Miami divorce lawyer Cynthia Greene to end a longtime marriage. ``She said that every year on their anniversary he gave her a trash Dumpster. She decided that pretty much summed up their relationship. He was stunned. He had thought it would be nice if she didn't have to carry the garbage so far.''

• Poor planning: A Miami Beach woman went to the family jeweler to get her watch repaired, and the clerk asked how she liked the expensive sapphire ring her husband had just bought for her. She hadn't received a ring, of course. ''And that was the end of that,'' says Miami divorce lawyer Marsha Elser.

• Worse planning: A few days after a South Florida woman's husband returned from a business trip to Manhattan, she received a package from the hotel in the mail. ''Dear Mrs. So-and-So. We're returning the cosmetic bag you left in your room on your recent stay.'' She hadn't been on the trip, of course. ''And that was the end of that,'' says Elser.

If you would like to read the article in its entirety, it can be found at:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What To Do If You Don't Have a Pre-Marital Agreement

Celebrity divorce is not news, however, it is news when a celebrity has substantial wealth, and no prenuptial agreement. Its a rare occasion when a celebrity doesn't demand that his/her soon to be spouse sign a prenuptial agreement, but it does happen, and everyone speculates as to how much money they are going to have to fork over in the event of a divorce. This is the case for Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. This case has been splashed all over the newspapers for weeks and it looks like Mr. McCartney may be settling with Ms. Mills for millions. Whether this is fair or not is debatable, however, its important to know what you can do to protect your wealth if you find yourself in a similar situation as Paul McCartney. Forbes recently published an article on its website giving people some helpful tips to protect their wealth in the event of a divorce when there is no prenuptial agreement in place. Some of the things are extreme and unrealistic such as a man going to jail for contempt because he wouldn't turn over $2.5 million to his wife that he was ordered to pay by a Judge. While I'm certainly not condoning that type of behavior, there are other ways in which you can protect your wealth in the event of a divorce. See the Forbes article for more information:

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why Divorce Rate Increases Slightly in January

Ask any family lawyer and they'll tell you that their is a slight spike in their consultations for divorces in January. Many people wait until after the business of the holiday season is over to seek out a divorce. There are various reasons for waiting, one being having a sense of a family unit for the children during the holiday season, or a person just wanting to start a new year with a new life. Unfortunately, there is no good time for a divorce, and whenever you decide to end your marriage, it will affect your children. Any illusion of happiness during the holidays is just that, and while I understand why someone might wait until after the holidays to get a divorce, it won't make the process any easier, it some ways it makes it more difficult. Children may wonder why their parents are splitting since everyone seemed happy during the holidays. This can be confusing and send the wrong message to children. I'm not saying that you should divorce during the holidays, I'm just saying that divorce is difficult no matter when you decide to commence the proceeding.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Stressful Jobs and Its Relationship to Divorce

The latest story out of Florida, besides the story of Anna Nicole Smith, that has been gripping the Nation, is the story of Lisa Nowak, the Astronaut who may be convicted of the attempted kidnapping and murder of a fellow NASA employee who is alleged a rival for the affection of another astronaut. This story again falls under the truth is stranger than fiction category. However, being an astronaut is one of the most stressful jobs that a person can have. It requires a tremendous amount of discipline, commitment and dedication and often times, it seems, that a person's family will take second. This, of course would put a lot of stress on a family, especially a person's marriage. Its no secret that people with stressful demanding jobs have a high rate of divorce. Lisa Nowak seems to be no exception, as her marriage was reportedly ended just a few weeks ago. While I'm purely speculating concerning the demise of Ms. Nowak's marriage, I'm sure that her job, and her commitment to it, may have been a major factor. I guess stay tuned for the outcome of this bizarre case.

If you would like to read a recent story about Lisa Nowak, see:,0,2712517.story?coll=orl-home-headlines

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Necessity of Getting Emotional Help

Unfortunately, there are plenty of news articles about people who after obtaining a divorce, or while going through the process, become so depressed and unbalanced, that they do something to hurt themselves, their ex-spouse, or their children. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in a story that I found on the Pittsburgh Gazette's website. The story tells the sad tale of a man who was supposedly so distraught over the demise of his marriage, that he shot and killed his three children, and then himself during his weekend visit with the children. Whether his depression was a direct result of the divorce, or whether it was brewing long before the divorce proceeding was initiated by his Wife was not chronicled in the story.

Divorce, in some ways is just as traumatic as a death of a close family member. It is the end of a marriage, and although it can be a good beginning to a new life, many people are often left feeling depressed, lonely, alienated from their family or worse, inconsolably angry. These feelings can lead to destructive behavior and its important for people who are not coping well with their divorce to seek help from either a professional or a support group. The important thing to remember is that divorce is not the end of the world, and that there are plenty of people out there who have been through the process and can help you through the dark days into the light.

If you are in need of a support group or would like to learn more about divorce support groups visit:

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Marriage Insurance

There is an entrepreneur in North Carolina who is currently attempting to create a company that provides marriage insurance to couples. With 50% of marriages ending in divorce, this seems like a brilliant idea, especially since people lose a substantial amount of their wealth after a divorce. When you are dividing one household into two and attempting to fund those two households with the same amount of income, this is bound to have a financial strain on the wealthiest of couples. We have insurance for just about anything these days, and protecting yourself in the event of a divorce, seems like a good idea. There is vacation insurance, wedding insurance, renters' insurance, not to mention car insurance and home owners' insurance. While I'm unsure as to how the marriage insurance would work, its an interesting concept and if this North Carolina entrepreneur is successful, before people walk down the aisle, they may be taking out an insurance policy to protect their investment in martial life.

If you would like to read about the North Carolina entrepreneur and his business venture, see:

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Can Fighting Patterns Really Predict Divorce?

With divorce as common as it is in America today, couples are often looking for ways to help their marriages survive the odds. There is plenty of information and helpful tips out there that can give couples the tools to assist them in keeping their marriage strong. Whether or not these tips and helpful suggestions are being used by couples and/or actually reducing the divorce rate is undetermined.

There are plenty of studies that attempt to explain why couples get divorced, or determine what patterns of marital behavior give rise to the likelihood of divorce. A new study by a Baylor University Researcher indicates that the way in which a couple fights may determine whether their marriage will stand the test of time. In his studies he notes that all couples fight, but how the couple communicates and resolves conflict can be a huge factor in whether a particular couple eventually get a divorce. Its certainly not news to me that couples who don't communicate well are more likely to end up in divorce court, but what is interesting to me is that fighting styles may be a link to divorce. Perhaps if couples learned how to fight effectively, their communication will improve and they will, therefore, stay married. While the study is very clinical, and people may not be able to help how they feel during an argument, nevertheless, its an interesting study worth bringing to every one's attention.

If you would like to read about the Baylor study, see the following link:

Monday, February 5, 2007

Custody Battles of the Future

With more and more couples waiting until later in life to decide to have children, infertility and in vitro fertilization has become an increasingly popular way for a couple to conceive. There are thousands of embryos sitting in freezers right now and the debate over what should happen to any "leftovers" has been brewing for years. A new question that has arisen recently is what should happen to the frozen embryos when a couple decides to get a divorce? Who should be given custody of the embryos and are these embryos considered property or human life? While I won't quote myself on my opinion on this ethical question, I do see the validity in setting precedence with respect to whether a woman should be allowed to complete the in vitro fertilization process without the consent of her ex-husband. So far, the half-dozen state supreme courts that have handed down opinions about embryos in divorce cases have sided with a person's right not to be forced into parenthood. The way in which these cases have been decided sparks an interesting debate concerning paternal rights and a man's involvement in the decision to bring life into this world. While I don't believe that this debate will end anytime soon, I think its just a matter of time before the United States Supreme Court hears a case regarding property rights and frozen embryos.

The article this blog is based upon can be found at:

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Hollywood Setting an Example?

In Hollywood divorce is even more common than it is in mainstream America. The details of the divorces of the rich and famous are constantly splashed all over the covers of magazines and rarely are those details anything positive. However, the latest headlines surrounding the divorce of Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe are surprisingly refreshing. The couple, who have two children, have put their differences aside in order to do what is best for their children. They have been seen together attending their children's different functions. This is rare in many divorces as couples are unable to put aside their hurt feelings and anger in order to remain a unit when it comes to parenting decisions and family time. When a divorcing couple has children, it is important that the children don't have to stress and worry about whether their parents can get along during times in their lives when their parents are forced to cross paths. Parent-teacher conferences, concerts, even bigger events like graduations can often lead to drama for children. The reality of divorce with children is that even though the marriage is terminated a couple are parents for life and its important to set aside differences in order to do right by your children, no matter how difficult that might be.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Internet Divorce

You can get just about anything on the web these days, why should divorce be any different? A Florida attorney has created a website that makes getting divorced as simple as purchasing a book through For a simple fee, an attorney will prepare for and file your divorce papers and will appear with you at your final judgment hearing. Your case must be 100% uncontested, meaning that you and your spouse must agree on everything related to your divorce including custody of your children and child support. There are plenty of paralegal-type companies that offer this service as well, however, boasts that when you sign up with them, you get an actual attorney to do the work for you insuring that everything is done correctly. I'm not sure whether you are given any advice or guidance with respect to any part of the divorce process. While this seems like a wonderful alternative to using a costly attorney, I'm wary of a service that may not require you to have any contact with your attorney prior to your final judgment. When a couple divorces and a final judgment is entered, whatever is contained in their Marital Settlement Agreement is solemnized into that Final Judgment. This means that the couple will be bound by that Agreement. If something is contained in the Marital Settlement Agreement that the couple either doesn't properly understand, or worse, didn't intend to be in there, they are stuck with it until further order of the Court. There are plenty of attorneys out there who can provide the same service as for a reasonable fee, who will meet with their clients in person to make sure that everyone is on the same page. I am all for technology and feel like any attempt to simplify the divorce process is wonderful, however, there are some things that require face to face interaction. If a matter is truly uncontested, a couple is 100% clear on their intentions, and they understand the process as well as all the papers that they are signing, Internet divorce is a viable option. For those couples who have a bevy of questions and who may need more handholding throughout the divorce process, an attorney who they can meet with face to face is probably the better option, regardless of whether the matter is completely uncontested.

If you would like to read more about divorceez and how they can be of service to you, visit their website

Friday, February 2, 2007

Pets and Divorce

In Hollywood, its no secret that the truth can be stranger than fiction when famous couples head for divorce court. In most recent headlines, the divorce of Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese is no exception. They are reportedly fighting over custody of their two cats and two dachshunds. Oddly enough, the custody battle between Manson and Von Teese is not unusual. In fact, if you were to poll divorce attorneys, I'm sure that a majority of them would tell you that more and more people are discussing custody arrangements with respect to their pets. While this may cause Judges to snicker and generate good reading for your local newspaper, it is a reality that people are emotionally attached to their pets. When a couple is litigating custody of their children, the best interests of the child is almost always the standard. Most states consider pets to be nothing more than property and rarely do Judges put a custody plan in place to deal with bickering pet lovers. What happens when a couple can't agree to who gets the family pooch? While I have not come across this yet in my own practice, I'm sure that sometime in the future I will be trying to figure out an amicable way to answer this question.

There are a number of different stories regarding pet custody battles. The most interesting one I found on a Blog that came from a stroy publsihed on the Hartford Courant.

Thanks to the San Francisco Family Law Blog for posting regarding the following newspaper article by Jane Porter of the Hartford Courant:

Gaetano Ferro, a divorce lawyer, remembers an unusual case from a decade ago. It involved a custody dispute over a springer spaniel.
What Ferro remembers most are the snickering judges in the courthouse. And he recalls that the couple finally decided the dog would spend alternate weeks with each owner.
Such a case would be less unusual, and probably less funny, today. Nearly a quarter of divorce lawyers surveyed across the U.S. have noticed an increase in pet-custody cases in the past five years, according to a recent poll of 1,500 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
"There is a shift occurring in our society in which the ... pet is considered more a member of the family ... and therefore becomes, sadly, a part of the battle when the family disintegrates," said Joyce Tischler, founding director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Northern California.
A 2004 survey found that 56 percent of pet owners would very likely risk their own lives for their pet, and 53 percent spend more now on their pet than they did three years ago. A 2001 survey by the same group, the American Animal Hospital Association, found that 83 percent of pet owners refer to themselves as their pet's "mom" or "dad."
That relationship is not acknowledged by the courts, where pets are still considered "property," no different from the silverware, the plasma TV and the living-room sofa.
"In America, pets are basically chattel," said Monica Harper, a matrimonial lawyer in Hartford, Conn.
As a result, many judges find fighting over pets a waste of court time, and attorneys counsel their clients to settle such disputes on their own. The matrimonial lawyers' survey found that 90 percent of the pet-custody battles were about dogs.
To Ferro, disputing who gets the cat or dog is like shooting a mosquito with an elephant gun.
But for many divorcing couples, the pet is like their child. To help judges consider the well-being of animals involved in such cases, the Animal Legal Defense Fund developed a friend-of-the-court brief five years ago.
The 18-page brief is intended to show judges that "there is an unnamed third party in a custody case," Tischler said. "There is a distinction in the dog or cat's mind -- believe it or not -- as to who tends to be closer," she said of the relationship between pet and owners.
The brief makes clear that the animal's interests should not be left out in such cases.
Generally, pets stay in the home where children primarily live, said Thomas Colin, chair of the Connecticut Bar Association's Family Law Section. But when the splitting couple does not have children, the issue becomes more complicated.
During his first 10 years practicing as a matrimonial lawyer, Colin had never encountered a pet-custody issue. But just last year, he worked on two custody disputes involving dogs. In both cases, the divorcing couples did not have children. Deciding who was granted custody of the pets meant digging up registration certificates, determining who was responsible for taking care of the animals and who had more of an attachment, he said.
When Colin was a student at St. John's University law school in the early 1990s, pet custody wasn't an issue. Today, universities around the country examine such issues in courses focused entirely on animal law.
"It's becoming a hotter area of the law, just measuring by the ... mail I get," Colin said, recalling a recent flier for a full-day seminar on animal legal issues.
"When this first came up, I said, `This can't be that big of a deal because it's just a pet,"' he said. "But what I learned is ... in the lives of these people going through emotional divorces, this is a very real thing, and it should be taken seriously."

Source: "Pet Disputes in a Divorce Can Be a Dog Fight" by Jane Porter of the Hartford Courant.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

How To Find a Good Family Law Attorney

There are thousands of attorneys whose primary area of practice is divorce and family law. When none of your friends and family can refer you to a good attorney, there are certain things that you can look for to insure that you are getting the right attorney for your particular case. Here are some things to look for when choosing an attorney:
  1. Does the attorney have a calm demeanor and will he/she be able to act in a rational manner throughout your case?
  2. Is the attorney up to date with all the latest technology?
  3. Is the attorney knowledgeable about the laws in your state and does he/she have credibility in the family law community including with the local judges?
  4. Will this attorney be diligent with the issues regarding your case and will he/she promptly return phone calls and keep you up date with all relevant happenings in your case.
  5. Will this attorney treat you with respect and be sensitive to your feelings throughout your case?
  6. Will this attorney be honest with you and tell you "no" when he/she knows that what it is you are asking for is either not appropriate or unlikely to be awarded by a Judge?
  7. Will this attorney be conscious of the costs associated with the litigation and not spend money without a compelling reason?
  8. Does this attorney have the ability to stand up to opposing counsel and not back down as a result of being intimidated?
  9. Will this attorney understand and zealously represent your interests?
  10. Is the attorney respectful of your time and does she have a record of being prompt for all appointments, court appearances, telephone conferences, etc.

This list is attempted from a similar list which can be found at: