Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznare
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Illinois Divorce Law: A Change-up for the Breakup

From Belleville News-Democrat:

After the holidays, divorce lawyers tend to get really busy. This coming year is going to be even busier.

The Illinois General Assembly passed the first revision of the “Dissolution of Marriage Act” in decades that changes how divorces are handled by the courts. The new law goes into effect Friday.

“It’s not perfect, but we were told perfection is the enemy of good,” said Edwardsville lawyer Jennifer Shaw, who helped revamp Illinois’ divorce law.

The changes will affect everyone filing for divorce in Illinois after Jan. 1. In 2015, more than 1,000 divorces were filed in St. Clair County and 1,200 in Madison County.

Some of the changes cover new terminology that reflects recent changes in society, such as gay marriage. Husband and wife are now referred to as the more gender-neutral “spouses.” Child custody is now referred to as “allocation of parenting time and responsibility.”

 

“It takes the sting out of the word ‘custody,’” Shaw said. “The judge will still make the decision on the amount of time the child spends with either parent by what’s in the child’s best interest.”

It also makes the process less confrontational.

Read more here.

January 10, 2016 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Hampshire Couple Seeking to Undo Their Divorce Gets Turned Down

From NBC News:

Should those irreconcilable differences suddenly become reconcilable, don't go looking to get un-divorced in New Hampshire.

The state's Supreme Court this month upheld a lower court ruling refusing to vacate a New Castle couple's 2014 divorce after 24 years of marriage.

Terrie Harmon and her ex-husband, Thomas McCarron, argued on appeal that their divorce decree was erroneous because they mended fences and are a couple once more. But the justices, in a unanimous ruling issued Dec. 2, said the law specifically allows them to grant divorces — not undo them.

Courts in some states — including Illinois, Nebraska, Mississippi, Arkansas, Maryland and Kentucky — will vacate divorces within a certain time frame or under certain circumstances, at the parties' request. Others — including New York and South Dakota — maintain they, like New Hampshire, have no statutory authority to undo a divorce.

Attorney Joshua Gordon, appointed to defend the lower court's ruling, said allowing the couple's divorce to be undone could jeopardize the finality of all divorces.

"Divorce is a uniquely fraught area of litigation," Gordon argued. "For divorced couples, it is often important to have the solace of knowing that their former spouse is indeed former."

Read more here.

January 2, 2016 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Divorce Impacts Felt Into Adulthood

From Penn State News:

Divorce can have a multitude of short-term negative effects on children, including anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. New Penn State research indicates parental divorce can have long-lasting impacts and even influence the health of adult children.

According to Jason Thomas, assistant professor of sociology and demography, decades of research shows that parental divorce can negatively impact outcomes from early childhood. However, little study has been done on the timing of parental divorce and its effects on adult health.

“I’ve always been interested in health and longevity and how early adversities or advantages changes pathways to adult health outcomes. Divorce is just another early experience for us to examine,” Thomas explained.

Thomas and his research team used data from the National Child Development Study, which follows the lives of 17,000 people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week of 1958. Also known as the 1958 Birth Cohort Study, it collected information such as physical and educational development, economic circumstances, employment, family life, health and wellbeing through the age of 50.

He found that individuals in the study who experienced a parental divorce before age seven had poorer health at age 50. “I had assumed younger children would have more adverse health affects as adults, but earlier research was mixed,” said Thomas.

Read more here.

December 22, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Untangling Knots: Bankruptcy and Divorce

From The National Law Review:

Bankruptcy is the legal process by which the debt of the party filing for bankruptcy is discharged, thereby absolving a party of a portion of their debt. Unfortunately, the bankruptcy process is not as simple as it sounds, and it can be further complicated when the parties—or an individual—are in the middle of a divorce or considering a divorce.

As a result of this, family law clients often ask whether they should file for divorce or bankruptcy first. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer, as every divorce and every bankruptcy filing is unique. However, there are a variety of factors one can consider when deciding this question.

If one party has significant debt, but the other party makes a substantial income, it will be difficult to qualify to file a joint Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is because the court will have to consider the total household income when determining whether or not to grant the bankruptcy petition. In this case, it is likely more beneficial to file for divorce prior to filing bankruptcy so that the household income is not considered in the bankruptcy petition.

Filing for joint bankruptcy is not possible unless both spouses consent to the filing. One spouse cannot force the other to file, even during a divorce proceeding. However, the party who wants to file for bankruptcy may still be eligible to do so individually, but filing individually will not discharge the debts of the other party. Therefore, it may be advisable to file for bankruptcy before the divorce so that both parties’ debt may be discharge before the divorce proceedings begin.

Read more here.

December 19, 2015 in Bankruptcy, Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

144 Years of Marriage and Divorce

From The Washington Post:

We often hear that marriage rates in the U.S. are declining. But what do trends in marriage and divorce really look like over the long run, and why?

In a new post, data tinkerer Randy Olson provides some clarity on those trends by pain-stakingly assembling and analyzing data on marriage and divorce rates going back to before 1870 from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

First, you can see that the common generalizations are true. As the chart shows, marriage rates have declined steadily since the 1980s. Today they are lower than any other time since 1870, including during the Great Depression. However, divorce rates today are actually slightly down compared with the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s on a per capita basis.

In addition, you can see that events like World War I, World War II and the Great Depression all had a significant impact on marriage and divorce rates.

Couples rushed to the altar before the wars started, as well as at their conclusion. As Olson notes, divorces also spiked after the conclusion of WWII, perhaps because some couples who had married rashly before the war realized their differences.

Read more here.

December 13, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mississippi Supreme Court Narrowly Grants Same-Sex Divorce

From ABC News:

The Mississippi Supreme Court voted to allow a lesbian couple to seek a divorce, even as two justices questioned the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage and suggested that landmark ruling has no constitutional basis.

The decision Thursday came after DeSoto County Chancery Judge Mitchell Lundy Jr. ruled in 2013 that the Mississippi Constitution and state law prevented him from granting a divorce to Lauren Czekala-Chatham and Dana Ann Melancon because the state didn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Czekala-Chatham appealed, and it was initially opposed by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat. However, Hood asked the court to allow the divorce after the June 26 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Friday, same-sex couples will be in federal court seeking to overturn Mississippi's last-in-the-nation ban on adoption by gay couples.

In the Mississippi court's divorce ruling, five of nine justices said in a two-page order that because Hood had reversed his position, "we find no contested issues remain" and sent the case back to DeSoto County for further action.

Justices Leslie King and James Kitchens agreed with the outcome, but dissented, calling for the court to issue a full opinion. King and Kitchens called for Mississippi to overturn its ban on same-sex marriage and grant the divorce in February.

Czekala-Chatham and Melancon were married in San Francisco in 2008 and bought a house in Mississippi before separating in 2010. Czekala-Chatham said she hopes to soon be divorced from her wife, who now lives in Arkansas.

Read more here.

November 11, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Divorce Rate Doesn't Go Up As Families of Children with Disabilities Grow

From University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Couples raising a child with developmental disabilities do not face a higher risk of divorce if they have larger families, according to a new study by researchers from the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The study, published in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, also compares divorce rates of couples who have at least one child with a developmental disability to that of their peers who have typically developing children.

Researchers found that among couples with children without any disabilities, the risk of divorce was lowest for couples with one child and increased with each successive child. In contrast, the risk of divorce for parents of children with developmental disabilities remained unchanged with increasing family size.

Parenting a child with a developmental disability involves challenges and rewards that are unique to each family and prior research has shown that parents of a child with a developmental disability tend to experience greater marital stress compared to peers raising typically developing children.

As a result, there has been "a conception that, in general, parents of children with disabilities are more likely to experience divorce, and we wanted to test that assumption," says Eun Ha Namkung, first author of the paper and a graduate student in social work at the Waisman Center's Lifespan Family Research Program, led by study co-authors Jan Greenberg and Marsha Mailick. Previous research has proven inconclusive.

Read more here.

November 4, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

After Full Lives Together, More Older Couples Are Divorcing

From The New York Times:

Hilary Stephens was 57 when she decided she had had enough — enough of her job, of caretaking, of her marriage of 28 years. So she did something many people fantasize about: She walked away from it all.

“Sometimes it’s the only solution,” said Ms. Stephens, now 58 and the mother of two adult children. She moved from Washington to the Philadelphia area, where she is now vice president for development at Woods Services, a nonprofit.

Late life divorce (also called “silver” or “gray” divorce) is becoming more common, and more acceptable. In 2014, people age 50 and above were twice as likely to go through a divorce than in 1990, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. For those over 65, the increase was even higher.

At the same time, divorce rates have plateaued or dropped among other age groups.

One explanation is that many older people are in second marriages; the divorce rate is about two and a half times larger for those who have remarried and are often grappling with blended families or greater financial challenges.

Life expectancy also plays a role. In the past, “people died earlier,” said Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle, and the love, sex and relationship ambassador for AARP. “Now, let’s say you’re 50 or 60. You could go 30 more years. A lot of marriages are not horrible, but they’re no longer satisfying or loving. They may not be ugly, but you say, ‘Do I really want 30 more years of this?’”

Read more here.

November 3, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Divorce and the Shared Mortgage

From The New York Times:

Deciding what to do with the house can be a major quandary for couples getting a divorce, particularly when they share a mortgage.

When there is equity in the home, each spouse typically wants to take a share as part of the settlement agreement. But if one person wants to remain in the home, rather than sell it and split any profit, then that spouse will likely have to qualify for a mortgage on his or her own.

Spouses who choose to stay may have to refinance their mortgages in order to cash out enough equity to pay off an ex. But even a spouse who has the financial resources for a buyout without drawing on home equity will still probably have to get a mortgage in his or her name.

“The person walking away wants their share of the equity, but also wants their name off the mortgage as soon as possible,” said Kathleen B. Connell, a family law lawyer and lecturer in Atlanta.

The mortgage obligation can tie up that person’s credit, and “if there’s a default,” Ms. Connell added, “the mortgage company is going to sue them both, regardless of what the divorce agreement says.”

Read more here.

November 2, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bitter Divorce Leaves Man Stranded in Front Yard of His Million-Dollar Home

From USA Today:

Neighbors in the upscale waterfront development of Taylor Lake Shores in Lakeview are asking authorities, and a reclusive doctor, to find a solution to a months-long dispute that has left a 69-year-old man camped out in the front yard of his million-dollar house after a dispute with his wife.

Sharafat Khan has reportedly been living outside his house, mostly on the front lawn, since his wife, Shahnaz Khan — a Friendswood-area doctor — kicked him out of the house in March and left him with only the clothes on his back.

“I’m really weak, but otherwise OK,” he said Tuesday, seated underneath the palm trees in his front yard on Ray Shell Court.

His wife has placed a sign on the front door asking people not to feed him.

“If you want to feed him, take him to your house. If you want to, you can keep him at your house. Thanks for your sympathy, but do not bring anything on this property,” the sign reads.

Neighbors continue to bring him food anyway.

“It just seems the man is elderly and it seems inhumane to leave him stranded out there,” said neighbor Laurel Stout.

It was an everyday argument that got him kicked out of the house, Khan said.

Lakeview Police report a series of arguments have brought them to the upscale home as many as 30 times in the last six months. Khan says his 61-year-old wife kicked him out, changed the locks and demanded police to remove him from her property.

Read more here.

October 12, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Study says Baby Before Marriage Doesn't Increase Divorce Risk

From USA Today:

In the past, having a baby before marriage may have spelled divorce if the couple later chose to get married, but times have changed, according to a new report.

Couples who tie the knot after their first baby, now stay together at the same rate as those who were married before their first child, according to research released today by the non-profit group, Council on Contemporary Families.

Researchers analyzed data on women who had their first child between 1985 and 1995 and compared it to those who had their first child between 1997 and 2010. Couples who had a baby first and married later in the earlier period were 60% more likely to divorce than couples who married before they had a child. But a decade later, the cocktail of a baby-first-then-marriage did not raise the couples' risk of divorce, according to thousands of surveys from the CDC's Survey of Family Growth.

The stigma around conceiving before marriage has diminished a lot in the last 25 years, says Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington. Schwartz is not affiliated with the study.

Couples are no longer rushing into a shotgun wedding if they conceive, and instead taking things at their pace, she said.

Read more here.

October 6, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), Marriage (impediments) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Tennessee County has Divorce Rate of Almost Ninety Percect

From WNCN:

There are four counties in Tennessee where the divorce rate is higher than the marriage rate.

Hartsville is the self-proclaimed heart of Tennessee, and at the local salon, Betsy Walker says she’s a pro at divorce — she’s done it four times.

“Just trade ‘em in, get a new model, like a car,” she said.

The stylist isn’t surprised by the data from the Tennessee Department of Health.

In 2013, the last year the data was available, more people filed for divorce than for marriage licenses in Trousdale County where Hartsville is.

“Everybody is in everybody’s business and everybody knows each other here. So probably a lot of people get caught,” said Walker.

The health department data shows about 50 percent of couples in Tennessee get divorced.

Read more here.

October 5, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

When the Wealthy Divorce, They Regularly Engage Forensic Accountants

From Forbes:

Worldwide, the use of forensic accountants by the wealthy – especially the ultra-wealthy – is increasing. This is a trend that is likely to only accelerate. There are a number of different reasons the wealthy engage forensic accountants. Often, when the wealthy bring in a forensic accountant, it’s to address business concerns. The questionable practices of business partners might very well prompt the hiring of a forensic accountant.

Relatively speaking, a burgeoning need by the wealthy for forensic accountants is driven by them divorcing. According to James DiGabriele, professor of accounting at Montclair State University, one of the foremost forensic accounting programs in the country, “It’s impossible to appropriately divide marital assets if everyone doesn’t know just what those assets are and what they’re worth. High-net-worth couples generally have a number of types of assets such as investment portfolios, businesses, collectables, partnerships, and the list goes on. Divorce lawyers are not the professionals that are going to be able to determine the value of all the different assets. That’s the job of the forensic accountant.”

“When assets are held in trusts or partnerships, or located in different jurisdictions, getting a valuation can be complicated. Also, the valuation of retirement plans, deferred compensation arrangements, and life insurance programs all require the expertise of a qualified accountant,” explains Ellen Rabasca, partner at Geltrude & Company, directing their divorce practice. “What’s even more of an issue is when a spouse chooses to play dirty and tries to divorce plan by hiding marital assets. This can get very complicated when we’re dealing with privately owned businesses. For example, business owners have been known to use dummy or shell corporations to conceal assets from divorcing spouses.”

Read more here.

September 29, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

New Website Promises to Handle Your Divorce and Filing Costs for $99

From TIME:

A new website aims to take much of the heartache and cost out of getting a divorce by conducting the whole process online.

Presented at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco on Tuesday, Separate.us, founded by Sandro Tuzzo and Larry Maloney, aims to distill legal jargon into plain language and reduce legal fees from tens of thousands of dollars to base price of around $1,500. Initial filing costs just $99.

“Today, connecting is easy. There’s tons of software applications out there for that,” Tuzzo said onstage at the event. “But what if you need to end a relationship, where are the tools for that?”

After working as a divorce attorney for the past 15 years, Tuzzo said he knows too well just how arduous the process can be. Separate.us aims to simplify the procedure by letting users complete, file and serve divorce papers online.

Read more here.

September 28, 2015 in Divorce (grounds), International, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Viral Rise of Divorce Selfies and The Death of Traditional Marriage

From The Washington Post:

In late August, Shannon Neuman and her husband Chris went to the municipal court in Calgary, Alberta, to get a divorce. They had already filled out the forms and taken the requisite seminars. They navigated the 24-story Courts Centre and dropped their papers off.

Then, on their way out, Chris and Shannon — no longer the Neumans — paused in front of a courthouse sign. They snapped a selfie, both smiling.

“Here’s Chris Neuman and I yesterday after filing for divorce!” Shannon wrote in a Facebook post that was shared 11,000 times within its first hours online. (Wrote Chris, in the comments: “I couldn’t have hand-picked a better ex-wife if I tried.”)

Er … what is going on here? This isn’t at all the type of dialogue we expect around divorce, particularly since we’ve been taught that marriage is the only viable type of adult relationship or family structure. But in the era of platonic parenting and conscious uncoupling, these sorts of friendly, even triumphant #divorceselfies have become increasingly common. If you search the hashtag on Instagram, in fact, you’ll find over a hundred of them.

There were Keith Hinson and Michelle Knight, the Florida couple who split with a grinning selfie after three years. Jessica Hrivnak, the violin teacher who captioned hers "welcome to coparenting!" Amber Ortega and ex-husband Mike, who gives a thumbs-up to the phone.

Read more here.

September 7, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tennessee Judge Refuses to Grant Straight Couple Divorce Because...Gay Marriage

From The Washington Post:

It was the judicial equivalent of a high school student tearing up his term paper because he got a bad grade. Or, more accurately, throwing it back at his teacher and telling her to revise it herself.

Last week, a Tenn. judge refused to grant a straight couple a divorce because the U.S. Supreme Court allowed gay marriage.

Many readers may be scratching their heads right now, wondering how the legalization of gay marriage could possibly disrupt straight divorce proceedings.

But spare a moment to hear out Jeffrey M. Atherton, if for no other reason than that the judge’s argument is an increasingly common one as conservatives across the country claim the Supreme Court overreached with its June 26 watershed ruling.

Read more here. 

September 6, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

You Need To Tell Your Child's Teacher About Your Divorce

From LA Times:

The school year is just beginning, but grades are already in on parent-teacher communication: needs improvement.

There’s a crucial disconnect between parents and teachers, both vital players in a child's growth and development, according to the results of a new survey. VitalSmarts, a corporate training and leadership development company, surveyed 689 parents and 174 teachers from its national database of subscribers.  

The results: Teachers feel parents aren’t telling them about the major changes in the home that affect the students in their classroom. Parents feel teachers don’t share revealing details about their child’s behavior at school.  

But why would, say, an English teacher need to know that a student’s parents are divorcing?

"Teachers just sort of expect that they’re going to be told" about life-altering events in their students’ lives, said David Maxfield, vice president of research and one of the study's co-authors. "The teacher wants to get updated on that kind of information because that has such a profound impact" on the child."

Read more here.

August 29, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Study Shines Light on What Dooms Marriages

From CBS News:

A new study shines a light on how romantic relationships end.

Columbia University professor Heidi Grant Halvorson said for decades, researchers knew on average, women are more likely to initiate divorce, but data presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association shows that in very committed, non-married relationships, men and women are about just as likely to call it quits.

Halvorson said that has to do with differences between how men and women share responsibilities in the two types of relationships.

"In nutshell, there's even data that shows simply the division of chores is a major source of happiness and unhappiness in marriages and those predominantly go to women even when women work as long as men do," she said Monday on "CBS This Morning."

Sixty-nine percent of women in married relationships initiate divorce, according to the study's author Michael Rosenfeld. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly half of all women in marriages perform daily housework, compared to 20 percent of men, according to the Department of Labor.

Read more here.

August 28, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Your Spouse's Ashley Madison Account Can Impact Your Divorce

From Forbes:

Now that hackers leaked the email addresses of 37 million users of Ashley Madison, the dating service for married people in search of an affair, New York City divorce lawyer Morghan Richardson’s “phone lit up like a Christmas tree,” she says.

“People are struggling to deal with how this information may impact their divorce and their life — if at all,” says Richardson.

Here is how catching a cheating spouse can affect your split:

    1. Power. “I often hear from the wronged spouse: ‘I knew he was cheating! Now that I have proof I can get the house, the kids, the …’” says Richardson. The reality is that most states have no-fault divorce laws. That means that a judge doesn’t care why you are splitting up. Their job is to make sure that the money is split fairly and custody and visitation are in the best interest of the kids. In cases of infidelity, the “wronged” spouse is so hurt and angry, they assume that a judge will take that into consideration. They won’t.  On the other hand, it is common that the cheating spouse will feel so guilty, or won’t want the divorce, or be afraid of losing face to friends and family that they concede to their husband or wife’s demands.  Guilt is a powerful negotiating tool in divorce.

Read more here.

August 27, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Uganda Bride Price: One Woman's Battle for Equal Rights

From CNN:

Florence Musidika was a primary school teacher in an unhappy and violent marriage. In 2002 she asked her husband for a divorce. In response, as she bent over one morning to light a fire to make breakfast for her three children, a grenade planted by her husband in the charcoal exploded in her face.

Miraculously, the then 27-year-old from Mbale in eastern Uganda survived the blast, but was soon confronted by a new injustice: under customary law her marriage to her abusive husband could not be dissolved until her family had refunded the bride price he had paid by in exchange for her hand.

Musidika is just one of many women whose families knew of her suffering but, unable to return the payment -- often made in livestock -- they sent her back to her abuser, imploring her to "try and be a good wife," explains Atuki Turner, the founder of women's rights organization Mifumi.

Read more here.

August 21, 2015 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2)