Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dividing a Dog

A Canadian couple's property division had stalled over only one possession: the family dog.

From GlobalBC:

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Ted Zarzeczny, in his recently released written ruling, made it clear he was none too impressed with this dog fight.

"It is an unacceptable waste of these parties' financial resources, the time and abilities of their two very experienced and capable legal counsel and most importantly the public resource of this court that a dispute of this kind should occupy all in a one-day trial involving three witnesses, including an expert called by one of the parties," Zarzeczny said.

"It is demeaning for the court and legal counsel to have these parties call upon these legal and court resources because they are unable to settle, what most would agree, is an issue unworthy of this expenditure of time, money and public resources," he added.

See the terms of this property division here.

MR

January 13, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top 10 Divorce Issues of Last Decade

One divorce attorney has created a list of the top 10 divorce issues of the last decade.  Read it in the Huffington Post here.

MR 

January 8, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Divorce as a New Year's Resolution

From WTOP.com:

WASHINGTON - While "lose weight" is probably on many people's lists of New Year's resolutions, some are vowing to shed more than a hundred pounds -- not in a gym, but in a divorce courtroom.

"A lot of people want to begin the New Year anew," says family law attorney Kathryn Dickerson of Vienna, Va.-based SmolenPlevy.

Unhappy couples often try to endure the Christmas holiday.

"They've resolved to themselves they're not going to spend the holidays next year as they did this year," Dickerson says.

Men are more likely than women to begin divorce proceedings early in 2011, Dickerson says.

Women "are tired, they're let down, the stress is over, and they just want to breathe for a little bit," says Dickerson.

"For men, they've gotten through the holidays. They've maintained the image of a family for as long as they could, and they're ready to move forward."

The winter weather often exacerbates tension in a struggling relationship.

"People stay indoors. When people stay indoors they tend to wear on each other faster."

Dickerson says she believes the bad economy has likely resulted in couples staying together longer than they'd like to.

Read more here.

MR

January 6, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New CA Divorce Laws

A new bout of California laws for the New Year includes changes to Caifornia divorce law:

From DailyBreeze:

The major change focuses on oral testimony in court.

"Previously, for most hearings before any trial, testimony is done in writing by declaration and submitted to the court," Fleischer said. "Starting on Jan. 1, all hearings require oral testimony unless both parties specifically waive that right or a judge finds good cause not to have oral testimony.

"The definition `good cause' is slated to come in another year. This will require everyone who previously signed declarations to testify, which can include the divorcing couple as well as all of the third party witnesses, which could be numerous."

Fleischer said the law is well-intentioned but will have unintended consequences.

"Sometimes people need to have their voices heard by the system, and their credibility during testimony needs to be observed and judged," Fleischer said. "But our courts are already bogged down and we cannot get hearings for months. Oral testimony takes time and this will only serve to cause more delays."

Fleischer said this will also make the use of attorneys more costly to the parties.

Read more here.

MR

January 5, 2011 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Marriage Gap

A new CNN article by Leah Ward Sears considers the "marriage gap":

Wilcox's study finds that over the last 30 years, among what the report calls "Middle Americans" (the 58% of moderately educated Americans who have a high school degree), the proportion of children born outside of marriage skyrocketed from 13% to 44% while the portion of adults in an intact first marriage dropped from 73% to 45%.

Meanwhile, among financially well-off Americans (the 30% who have a college degree or higher), the proportion of children born outside of marriage climbed only slightly from 2% to 6%, the divorce rate dropped from 15% to 11%, and intact first marriages dropped from 73% to 56%.

In sum, the relationships of Middle Americans increasingly resemble those of the poor, while marriages among upscale Americans are getting better in many respects.

Read more, including an analysis of this gap, here.

MR

December 30, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New EU Divorce Rules

From AFP:

BRUSSELS — Take a German and a Frenchwoman who marry in Italy, move to Portugal and then split up: under new EU rules on cross-border marriage adopted Monday the couple will be able to choose where to divorce.

The rules, to be applied by 14 of the European Union's 27 member states in mid-2012, will enable an Austrian-Bulgarian couple living in Slovenia, for example, or a Hungarian couple resident in Brussels to choose which country's rules apply in case of separation.

Of the more than one million divorces in the European Union in 2007, around 140,000, or 13 percent, concerned couples of different nationalities, the European Commission said.

The new legislation will enable couples with different nationalities, those living apart in different countries, or those living together in a nation other than their home country, to decide which country's laws apply to their divorce.

Read more here.

MR

 



December 22, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The History of Divorce Law

A fantastic historical look at the difficulty of obtaining a divorce in New York appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal.  An excerpt:

In the early 20th century, a number of young women hired themselves out as "correspondents" in divorce cases—essentially bait for philandering husbands. In 1934, the New York Mirror published an article titled, "I Was the 'Unknown Blonde' in 100 New York Divorces!"—featuring one Dorothy Jarvis, who earned as much as $100 a job. Ms. Jarvis had several tactics, beyond taking her date to a hotel room and awaiting ambush. There was the "push and raid" (where she would push herself into a man's room, dressed only in a fur coat, then whip off her outer garment), as well as the "shadow and shanghai" and the "dance and dope."

Read the piece here.

AC

September 8, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Divorce Insurance

From the NY Times online edition:

SafeGuard Guaranty Corp., an insurance start-up based in North Carolina, recently released what it’s billing as the first world’s first divorce insurance product. Here’s how its WedLock product works.

The casualty insurance is designed to provide financial assistance in the form of cash to cover the costs of a divorce, such as legal proceedings or setting up a new apartment or house. It is sold in “units of protection.” Each unit costs $15.99 per month and provides $1,250 in coverage. So, if you bought 10 units, your initial coverage would be $12,500 and you’d be paying $15.99 per month for each of those units. In addition, every year, the company adds $250 in coverage for each unit.

Then, if you get divorced and your policy has matured (see below for the maturation rules), you would send WedLock proof of your divorce. In return, you’d receive a lump sum of cash equivalent to the amount of coverage you had purchased.

So how does the company prevent people who know they are going to get a divorce from signing up? To prevent that kind of adverse selection, the policies don’t mature until 48 months after their effective date (though people can purchase additional riders to reduce that maturity period to 36 months and to get their premiums back if they happen to divorce before the policy matures).

AC

August 15, 2010 in Current Affairs, Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Unhappily Married

The New York Times recently had an article about couples who remain perpetually separated, but do not divorce.  Read it here.

MR

August 14, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Friendly Divorce"?

From USA Today:

When John Jarvis visits his 13-year-old daughter, he stays in the guest room of his ex-wife's house.

Bob Murphy of Chandler, Ariz., offered his ex-wife a key to his house when they divorced earlier this year after 26 years of marriage.

Some of today's divorcing couples, who may have witnessed some wretched family separations, are vowing to do it differently. Even if their own parents didn't divorce, many kids saw how hard it was on their friends.

So more couples are opting for a friendly divorce, whether through mediation, collaboration or even do-it-yourself kits. And the majority of couples choosing friendly divorces are those with children.

However they do it, they want the process to be more amicable. In the end, they save time, money and increase the odds that they might actually still be friends. And the kids are the biggest beneficiaries.

This new kind of divorced mom and dad might attend parent-teacher conferences together, work jointly to get one kid to Little League and the other to piano lessons — even if it's not technically their visitation day — and share calendars electronically so Dad can arrange to take the kids when mom's out of town on business.

"It just seems much more humane and friendly," says Jarvis, 54, who admits that his staying at his ex-wife's Chandler house when he visits his daughter, Hannah, does raise some eyebrows. Many divorced couples can't stand to be in the same room together, let alone spend days together and face each other every morning over coffee.

Jarvis lives in Massachusetts, and staying with his former wife not only means he gets more time with Hannah, but it saves money on hotels and rental cars, so he can afford to come more often.

Traditional vs. friendly

Most divorce cases still are handled in the traditional way, with lawyers on each side trying to get the best deal for their client, often through nasty disagreements over custody, child support, property settlements and finances. Divorcing couples typically aren't feeling friendly toward each other anyway, and contentious experiences in court can make those feelings even worse.

"It makes it almost impossible to have a civil relationship going forward. You don't forget what it's like to be cross-examined by your spouse's lawyer," says family law attorney John Zarzynski, who co-founded Agreement House. "It sets them up for years and years of not being able to communicate well."

Mediation is one kind of a friendly divorce. Collaboration is another, in which both parties retain their own attorneys but also use experts and work together for a solution for everyone. Couples don't set foot in court in either instance. Proponents say it reduces the emotional costs on everyone; both children and adults start their new lives on relatively stable ground.

No one keeps statistics on the number of mediated and collaborative divorces. But Zarzynski, during 31 years of practice, has seen the trend firsthand. When he started, mediated cases were rare. Ten years ago, he mediated about a dozen a year; last year, that number was 75.

A typical traditional divorce can stretch out for months — even years — and cost both parties $15,000 to $25,000.

Zarzynski says a mediated divorce, on average, costs $1,000 and takes 70 days, including the state's mandatory cooling-off period of 60 days.

A collaborative divorce involves more people — it may add a financial adviser, psychologist or divorce coach to the mix — so it costs a bit more than a mediated divorce. A 2004 study in Texas shows that instead of a typical 18-month, $14,000 process through litigation, a collaborative divorce took an average of 18 weeks and $9,000 to complete.

Read the full story here.

AC

August 13, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

20% of U.K. Divorces Relate to Facebook

We already knew that Facebook killed many marriages, but new numbers show how many divorces are linked to facebook in the United Kingdom: 20%!  Read more here.

MR

August 7, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Divorcing Clients Following a Divorce

The Washington Post recently published an interesting article about how a divorce lawyer’s approach changed following her own divorce.  Read it here.

MR

July 17, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, July 9, 2010

NY Divorce Legislation

NY may soon become a no-fault divorce state.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Following approval from the state assembly last week, Governor David Paterson is expected to sign legislation allowing for no-fault divorce, a move that would make New York the last state in the country to remove a cumbersome requirement that forces couples to place blame on one spouse for a marriage’s end.

Read more of the update here.

MR

July 9, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Truth in Divorce

More on New York's shift to no-fault divorce.  This time the focus is on increased truthfulness in divorce court.

There are certain to be consequences if New York State introduces no-fault divorce, as now seems likely. The divorce rate might climb. Matrimonial battles will focus on bitter issues like support and child custody. The poor will be able to get divorced as easily as the rich. But there is something else. Those who are splitting up can just tell the truth.

For decades, New York State’s divorce system has been built on a foundation of winks and falsehoods. If you wanted to split quickly, you and your spouse had to give one of the limited number of allowable reasons — including adultery, cruelty, imprisonment or abandonment — so there was a tendency to pick one out of a hat.

Pregnant women have insisted they have not had sex in a year, one of the existing grounds; spouses claimed psychological cruelty for getting called fat; and people whose affairs have made Page Six have denied adultery. One legendary ploy involved listing the filing lawyer’s secretary as the partner in adultery (which may even have been true in a few cases).

“What the fault divorce system has done is that it has institutionalized perjury,” said Malcolm S. Taub, a veteran Manhattan matrimonial lawyer. “This play-acting goes on and everybody looks the other way and follows the script.”

Nancy Chemtob, a lawyer who has been edging into the celebrity divorce ranks, said the requirement that someone find fault has long forced lawyers to question clients closely to try to find an acceptable reason to explain the split, even when the real reason is pretty simple: The client does not like his or her spouse.

Because dislike, no matter how intense, does not fit one of the legal slots, Ms. Chemtob keeps asking until her client says the magic words, like “he bought me a gym membership,” Ms. Chemtob said.

“I have to sit there like a shrink or I’m not even sure what, but definitely not a lawyer, pulling all this verbiage on grounds out of them,” she said. Lately, it seems, purchasing a premium workout package is code for, “You are a slob.”

That would not necessarily be cruel and inhuman treatment in the outside world, but in the matrimonial courts it can be more than adequate, said Robert S. Cohen, a leading New York divorce lawyer.

“One spouse gets on the stand and says, ‘He complains about the fact that I don’t make the bed every day,’ or one of them says ‘She complains that I don’t do the dishes,’ ” Mr. Cohen said.

In cases where both sides want the marriage to end, judges often declare such infractions fault enough, Mr. Cohen said. “There’s a clear feeling among the judges that fault should have been long gone from our system,” he said.

For judges, New York’s requirement of fault when the rest of the country has abandoned that requirement creates a series of problems. One of them is the need to listen to private information some of them feel is none of their business.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey S. Sunshine, the supervising matrimonial judge in Brooklyn, said it seemed somewhat 19th century to have people testifying about “constructive abandonment,” the legal term for rebuffing intimacy for a year or more.

“Should we really,” Justice Sunshine asked, “in the 21st century be having people get on the stand and testify that ‘my spouse refused to have sex with me’?”

Read the full story here.

AC

June 25, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Divorcing? There’s an App for That

From Robert Ambrogi’s blog:

If you’re married to your iPhone but not so sure about your spouse, then DivorceApps.com may have just what you need. It is developing a series of iPhone apps designed for people who are considering or in the process of divorce.

Two apps have been released so far. The first, Cost & Prep, is an app that helps people plan and track the costs of divorce and that also helps track key information that will be required in a divorce case. The second, Estate Divider, helps create an inventory of assets and liabilities and then calculate how best to divide them. Each of these apps costs $9.99.

Still in development are a child-support calculator, a child-possession calculator, and a more robust version of the estate divider program.

 Read more here.

MR

June 16, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Accuracy of Divorce Statistics

From an interesting Time magazine piece on the reliability of divorce statistics:


Do half of all marriages really end in divorce? It's probably the most often quoted statistic about modern love, and it's a total buzz kill, in line with saying that half of all new shoes will give you hammertoes or that 50% of babies will grow up to be ugly. Now the divorce stat is coming under scrutiny — and not just because of its unromanticity.

"It's a very murky statistic," says Jennifer Baker, director of the marriage- and family-therapy programs at Forest Institute, a postgraduate psychology school in Springfield, Mo. She's often erroneously credited with arriving at the 50% figure; it was around long before she used it. Figuring out divorce rates is tricky. Not all states collect marital data, and the numbers change dramatically depending on the methods and sources that are used. In the end, the best that researchers can do is look for trends within a specific group or cohort (say, all people who married in the 1980s) and project what will happen. As Baker says, "It's very difficult to know, if a couple gets married today, whether they'll still be married in 40 years."

But in an upbeat new guide to marriage, For Better, Tara Parker-Pope, a New York Times reporter (and divorcée), devotes a chapter to debunking the 50% stat, at least among the subset of the population that reads books like hers. Since the 1970s, when more women started going to college and delaying marriage, "marital stability appears to be improving each decade," she writes. For example, about 23% of college graduates who married in the '70s split within 10 years. For those who wed in the '90s, the rate dropped to 16%.

According to research at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, one of the clearest predictors of whether wedding vows will stick is the age of the people saying them. Take the '80s: a full 81% of college graduates who got hitched in that decade at age 26 or older were still married 20 years later. Only 65% of college grads who said I do before their 26th birthday made it that far.

But just 49% of those who married young and did so without a degree lasted 20 years, a cohort that Parker-Pope spends little time discussing. Instead she contends that the 50% stat is a myth that persists because it's something of a political Swiss Army knife, handy for any number of agendas. Social conservatives use it to call for more marriage-friendly policies, while liberals find it handy to press for funding for programs that help single moms.

Perhaps, but there may still be truth to it. Penn State sociologist Paul Amato, in a thorough new report on interpreting divorce data, writes that the half-of-all-marriages-end-badly figure still "appears to be reasonably accurate."

What seems most clear is that less-educated, lower-income couples split up more often than college grads and may be doing so in higher numbers than before. "The people who are most likely to get divorced have the least resources to deal with its impact, particularly on children," says Amato.

Read the full story here.

AC

May 17, 2010 in Current Affairs, Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Parental Alienation Acknowledged in NJ

A New Jersey court of appeals recently ruled that, in extreme situations of parental alienation, parents could sue each other for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  Read the case here and news commentary here.

MR

May 14, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Minnesota "Couples on the Brink" Bill

Proponents of a pending bill in the Minnesota legislature argue it provides "an off ramp on the superhighway to divorce":

Minnesota courts are working to process divorces more quickly. Research shows the longer divorce cases drag on in the courts, the more animosity builds up, particularly if couples have children.

But some wonder if speedy divorces are too quickly rushing people to end marriages -- even couples who might have some hope of reconciling. To address such concerns, the Legislature is considering a bill that family advocates say would provide an "off ramp" on the superhighway to divorce.

"We have data on 2,500 divorcing people in Hennepin County. [They are] parents who are a lot more ambivalent and reluctant about getting a divorce than anybody realized," said Bill Doherty, a marriage expert at the University of Minnesota.

Doherty and his research team, which included a family court judge, surveyed 2,484 divorcing parents in 2008 and 2009, and found that 70 percent of couples agreed divorce was the best course of action. But in about one-third of the cases, at least one spouse wasn't sure.

Some were wavering. Others said they'd stay if their spouse significantly addressed problems such as alcoholism or infidelity, and others said they'd do anything to save their marriage.

The most likely person to be interested in saving a marriage was the person left behind. Since two-thirds of divorces are brought by wives, husbands are more often what Doherty calls "the hopeful spouse."

But the courts aren't designed for such uncertainty, said Doherty, a licensed psychologist and director of the university's Marriage and Family Therapy program.

"The way the courts view it is you have a legal right to a divorce," he said. "And just like when you show up to get your driver's license, nobody says, 'Are you sure you want to drive?'"

The Couples on the Brink bill that Doherty is championing would use an additional $5 tax on marriage licenses to develop a way to identify couples who might want to reconcile -- and improve the quality of marriage counseling they'd receive.

"They go to clergy who often don't know what to do with them," Doherty said. "They go to counselors who are sometimes not well trained in marriage counseling. And even if they do some marriage counseling, these are difficult situations."

Doherty likens it to practicing medicine in an emergency room. He said that with better training for counselors and clergy, 10 percent of couples headed for divorce might be able to restore their marriages.

Couples with a history of domestic violence would not qualify.

Divorce lawyers say there are better uses for this public money. The Minnesota State Bar Association family lawyers narrowly voted against supporting Couples on the Brink, said Pamela Waggoner, chairwoman of the bar's family law section.

"We have other programs that are wanting -- domestic violence prevention programs and programs that assist parents in successfully parenting their children as a separated couple," she said.

Read more news coverage here or the bill here.

AC

April 20, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Loss of Pregnancy and Divorce

A new study from the University of Michigan Medical School provides interesting statistical evidence of the increased risk of divorce after a pregnancy loss:

The grief from the loss can strain even the best of relationships, and a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School has found that couples who experience miscarriage are 22% more likely to break up.

Those that experience stillbirth are at an even greater risk – couples were 40% more likely to divorce or separate after the tragedy.

Miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks of gestation, and stillbirth is a loss of a fetus after this time.

Dr. Katherine Gold, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U-M, and colleagues published their findings in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics. After following 7,700 pregnant couples for 15 years, they found that most couples who ended up in divorce after pregnancy loss did so after about one-and-a-half to three years after the event; however the risk seemed to remain elevated even up to a decade later, particularly in parents that had lost a child due to stillbirth.

Read more here.

AC

April 8, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lawyerless Divorces...

...might sound good to many.  According to Catherine Jun of the Detroit News:

Breaking up is hard to do — especially in a recession.

With depressed home values and a dicey job market, divorces in Metro Detroit are down, as unhappy couples ride out the financial storm, the theory goes.

But of those who do file for divorce, more are financially strapped and duking it out without attorneys, according to courts. These do-it-yourself divorces are crowding legal aid offices and court dockets and slowing proceedings with incomplete paperwork and tutorials judges must deliver from the bench. And as more couples represent themselves, many are losing out on property and custody claims that are legally theirs, judges and attorneys say.

Read more here.

MR

April 3, 2010 in Divorce (grounds) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)