Tuesday, March 22, 2016
From NBC News:
Americans are more accepting of gay relationships and couples living together before marriage — but they've grown less comfortable with divorce, a new survey shows.
The government periodically asks thousands of teens and younger adults what they think about changes in U.S. family relationships. The results released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics indicate a shift over a decade on a range of topics. But most surprising was what they said about divorce.
Asked if divorce is the best solution when a marriage is on the rocks, 38 percent of women agreed, down from 47 percent a decade earlier. For men, it was 39 percent, down from 44 percent.
Divorce in the U.S. has become more common through the generations, and there's an assumption that acceptance would be holding steady or perhaps increasing, some experts said.
There could be several explanations for the decline, said Wendy Manning, a family and marriage researcher at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Marriage rates are down and people are older when they first get married. So those who do marry are more likely to be in it to win it, she said.
"Marriage is becoming so selective that maybe people think if you achieve this status, you don't want to end it," said Manning.
Read more here.
Monday, March 14, 2016
Since mobile apps have revolutionized the dating game, it's no surprise that apps to help you split up would follow.
It's never been easier to call it quits thanks to a slew of simple online offerings that can be accessed from any mobile phone aiming to help couples navigate the divorce process and avoid hefty legal fees along the way.
One start-up, Wevorce, offers a step-by-step "DIY" guide withmediators accessible by videoconferencing starting at $749. Through Separate.us, users can complete, file and serve divorce papers entirely online. That service costs somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000, the company estimated.
Avvo, an established online legal marketplace, also recently launched a complete, uncontested divorce package, which includes a 30-minute phone call, for $995. And other online sites advertise uncontested divorces for even less.
"For better or for worse, technology has made it easier for people to split," said Avvo's general counsel and consumer advocate, Josh King.
Avvo helps users connect with a local lawyer of the customer's choice to complete the paperwork for the dissolution of a marriage. If more help is needed, the lawyer can provide additional counsel for an extra fee. But these packages are not for everyone, King said.
"The critical thing is that you don't have a lot of disagreements or complicated externalities," King said. "These products are designed to cover a wide range of people that have a fairly routine legal problem."
And as these tools that aim to achieve a more efficient — and affordable — divorce gain steam, experts warn that divorces are rarely that simple.
"If they have no assets and no children, you can do one of those divorces, no harm, no foul," said John Slowiaczek, president-elect of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But far more often, couples have other issues including alimony, child support, retirement accounts, real estate, student loans, investments, taxes, credit cards and so on, he said.
Read more here.
Friday, March 4, 2016
No one plans to get divorced. But it does happen… and when it does, the understandable emotional upheaval can make it hard to focus on dealing with practical matters.
And that’s too bad, because when your marriage ends you should immediately take steps to ensure your interests are protected — and your estate plan reflects your new marital status.
What should you change? In two words, almost everything.
Once your divorce is final – meaning the divorce decree has been approved and a judgment rendered – as a start you should review and revise, if necessary, the following legal and estate planning documents:
- Powers of Attorney (property, healthcare, HIPAA, etc)
- Will (if you have one)
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
What happens if you don’t make changes to the above?
As one example, say your ex-spouse remains the beneficiary of your life insurance policy and you pass away. In that case the proceeds will go to your ex-spouse instead of, say, to your children. That may be what you intend – but then again, it probably is not.
Read more here.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
From Times of India:
A single letter can constitute an act of cruelty, the Delhi high court has said, granting divorce to a man living separately from his estranged wife for the past 28 years. The missive in question: a declaration by his angry wife in 1990 when he was stationed abroad that she wanted to divorce him and that she had found an old friend who wanted to marry her and accept her with their young daughter.
It was only in 1995, when the case came up in trial court, that she admitted the letter didn't contain a grain of truth and was only meant to jolt the husband out of his complacency. But Justice Najmi Waziri of the high court pointed out the mental agony caused to the husband due to "this sole act of cruelty that continued for a period of 4-5 years".
Upholding the decision of the trial court to dissolve the marriage on ground of cruelty, Justice Waziri noted, "For a husband living away from his wife since 1987, to have received a letter from her intimating him about her unequivocal decision to dissolve the marriage and marry another man would have been a pain as grievous as any to endure. Such an element of rejection, coupled with brunt of emotional infidelity by the wife, can break the spirit of the husband to continue marital ties."
Challenging the decision in high court, the wife argued that the letter was a "one-off, stray incident and could not be a ground for divorce". She said it was an act of despair, the letter was written in sheer frustration since she had been waiting for many years to live with her husband again, abroad or back home.
Read more here.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
From The Clarion-Ledger:
Domestic violence would become grounds for divorce under a bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary A Committee on Tuesday.
"One incident of domestic violence is enough," said state Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, author of Senate Bill 2418.
Doty said she had conversations with the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence and others about the bill.
Mississippi has 12 grounds for granting a divorce. Under Senate Bill 2418, one or more instances of domestic violence would be the 13th, if established by clear and convincing evidence.
Freshman Sen. Chad McMahan. R-Tupelo, argued for adding documented domestic violence to the language in the bill.
"Are you saying it should be some documented report of domestic violence?" Senate Judiciary A Chairman Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, asked McMahan.
McMahan said he believes domestic violence should be proven and not based solely on a person claiming it without proof.
Doty said the bill states domestic violence has to be established by clear and convincing evidence, which sets a higher standard than a person merely claiming it.
Read more here.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
From Business Insider:
Ever been in the middle of a heated argument when suddenly the other person pulls out their phone and starts texting? If the answer is yes, and if you find it happening constantly, we hope that person isn't your significant other.
This behavior, known as stonewalling, is one of four reactions that John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington and the founder of the Gottman Institute, has identified as a telltale sign that all is not well with a married couple.
In fact, when Gottman and University of California-Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson lumped stonewalling together with three other behaviors — contempt, criticism, and defensiveness — and measured how often they occurred within the span of a 15-minute conversation, they found they could predict which marriages would end in divorce with striking precision.
When the psychologists added questions about things like relationship satisfaction and how many times the research subjects had thoughts about separating to the mix, they could predict which marriages would end in divorce 93% of the time.
The figure, which comes from a 14-year study of 79 couples living across the US Midwest (21 of whom divorced during the study period), was so striking it spurned the researchers to label the four behaviors "the four horsemen of the apocalypse."
While that initial study, published in 2002, was small and focused on a specific population, a decade of research into marriage and divorce has lent further support to the idea that divorce is associated with specific negative behaviors.
Read more here.
Friday, February 19, 2016
From New York Daily News:
As the yule log’s embers died and resolutions for a new year — and a new you — abounded at the start of January, family attorneys everywhere, including myself, prepared for the influx of official separations and divorce filings.
In the divorce law community, we generally adhere to three truths. Engagement season is November to February. And divorce, sadly, has two high seasons — January and March.
For January’s bump, the let-down of failed holiday happiness, mixed with hurt and angry partners, often leads to a trip to the divorce lawyer to discuss their options.
My office is usually filled with spouses who truly thought that if they could just make it past the holidays and New Year, they could heal their marriage.
However, the holidays usually end up being the last straw before the matrimonial bliss takes a tumble.
In addition to failed expectations, financial and family pressures soar in November and December.
According to a 2012 study published in The Family Relations Journal, “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce,” researchers Jeffrey Dew, Sonya Britt and Sandra Huston found that most couples argue about their children, money, in-laws and quality time — or a lack thereof — with financial arguments being the most likely predicter of divorce.
Read more here.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
From Chicago Tribune:
Dickler, the presiding judge of the domestic relations division in Cook County Circuit Court, has overseen thousands of divorces, from the seemingly ordinary to the obviously extraordinary. You may have heard her name during the highly publicized divorce of Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin from his wife, Anne Dias Griffin.
In her quarter century of handling divorces, Dickler has witnessed how the finances may differ from case to case, but the other hard parts — the sadness, the loneliness, the bitterness, the fight over children — are the same regardless of address or social class.
But awhile back, Dickler recognized that there was a class of people for whom divorce — and the related issues of how to deal with property and children — came with unique difficulties.
Those people are known in the legal system as "the incarcerated."
The incarcerated tend to be poor, people for whom "property" may mean little more than a few clothes and papers. In Illinois, the prisons where the incarcerated live tend to be in remote places far not only from their homes and their children, but from domestic relations court; the logistical impediments to getting a divorce have made getting one almost impossible.
Read more here.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
From Wall Street Journal:
When entrepreneurial couples get divorced, there’s often at least one child that gets torn apart: the business they raised together.
Spouses who spent years building a company suddenly find themselves having to divide it up, and the negotiations can get nasty. One spouse may demand a bigger share of the company to soothe bad feelings from the divorce. Another may get defensive about the business’s finances and refuse to divulge details. And old resentments about how the business has been managed can bubble to the surface, making things even uglier.
Both spouses can be left emotionally drained, and the business can end up neglected—or dissolved entirely.
“The worst-case scenario is that you have to liquidate the business and split the proceeds,” says Catherine Stanton, an attorney and divorce mediator in Denver. “When we’re going through a divorce, we’re not always our best selves. If you’ve got a bad relationship with your spouse, they might not feel compelled to find another solution, and may go for the nuclear option.”
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Of course, it’s impossible to take bad feelings entirely out of the picture. But there are strategies spouses can use to ensure their business has a fighting chance to survive a split, as well as minimize their own emotional turmoil. In some cases, these methods can even help spouses run the business together—and thrive—after the divorce.
Read more here.
Friday, February 5, 2016
From Fox Business:
A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is an order that needs to be included in a divorce settlement agreement to provide former spouses their share of Erisa-qualified retirement assets. In order to receive your fair share of assets saved during the years you were married, a QDRO will ensure your rights under these retirement plans are fully protected. QDROs should be prepared by a qualified family lawyer who understands the tax implications and other consequences of dividing the full range of retirement assets.
Connie Buffington, a family lawyer with the Atlanta office of Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle, offered the following tips to FOXBusiness.com on what divorced retirees need to know regarding their rights involving their ex-spouse’s employee benefit or pension plans.
There are three common mistakes when dividing qualified retirement assets (e.g. 401(k) plans) and non-qualified retirement assets (e.g. IRAs) during a divorce: not considering potential tax consequences and liabilities; not defining the method by which a traditional pension plan is to be divided; and not accounting for the treatment of investment gains or losses in the context of the division.
QDROs are required to divide assets held in ERISA-qualified plans in connection with divorce. They can also be used to facilitate alimony and child support payments. They’re not required to divide IRAs or non-qualified plans, such as deferred compensation plans, supplemental pension plans, long-term incentive plans or stock ownership plans.
Read more here.
Thursday, February 4, 2016
From Daily North Shore:
We’ve heard a thousand times that patience is a virtue, and the Bible tells me that Love is patient. The Fins wrote that “God did not create hurry;” the French, “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” And the Italians gave us, “The salt of patience seasons everything.”
Local attorney Jennifer Cunningham Beeler says patience is the most important thing a divorcing couple can bring to the courthouse these days. Illinois divorce laws changed significantly Jan. 1, adding a new layer of stress to that most stressful negotiation.
“It’s the first big change in the laws since 1973,” Beeler told me. “Attorneys and judges are having to relearn things we have long been comfortable practicing. But the 2016 laws recognize that old old-fashioned view of family is changing, and now we have two moms and two dads and step-siblings and others.”
Beeler knows of which she speaks. Beyond her litigation experience in Lake and Cook counties, she earned a certificate from DePaul University’s Center for Dispute Resolution in family and divorce mediation, is a court-approved financial mediator in Cook County, and is a financial and custodial mediator in Lake County. She also serves as a child representative and guardianad litem for custodial cases.
As she explained how the law has changed, I consider how family life, too, has changed since 1973. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported a marriage rate of 10.7 per 1,000 residents in 1973, and a divorce and annulment rate of 4. That year, Illinois posted 44,671 divorces and 481 annulments. Mobile phones weren’t commonly available to ease communication among family members, and microwave ovens were too expensive to expedite dinner for most households. Adults held traditional jobs with traditional hours, not voicemail and email and Skype to extend the work day far past 5 p.m.
In 2011, the number of marriages exceeded 73,000 and the divorces exceeded 33,000. Still, the rates in each category were lessened by half. But these figures barely hint at how families have changed in those 38 years. It’s exciting to hear that the law is catching up.
And so Beeler explained: gone with these most recent changes in the local divorce laws is the notion of sole and joint custody, in favor of an “allocation of parental responsibilities”. And the concept of visitation is now considered an “allocation of parenting time”.
Read more here.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Divorces are skyrocketing for people in their 50s and 60s. Between 1990 and 2012, the number of divorces among people 55 to 64 more than doubled and tripled for those 65 and older, according to a study by Susan Brown, I-Fen Lin and Krista Payne of Bowling Green State University.
On top of the personal pain, divorcing spouses often face extraordinary financial pain.
As the Bowling Green researchers’ report, Marital Biography, Social Security and Poverty, noted: “Those who divorce earlier in adulthood have more time to recoup the financial losses divorce usually entails. In contrast, those who divorce later have fewer years of working life remaining and may not be able to fully recover economically from a gray divorce.”
Said Christine van Cauwenberghe, assistant vice president of tax and estate planning with the Investors Group financial advisory firm in Winnipeg, Manitoba: “Going through a divorce can be difficult at any age, but older couples face unique challenges in retirement planning as a result of later-in-life separations.”
Van Cauwenberghe added that because divorce is an emotional process, it “can cloud your ability to make sound financial decisions that will ultimately affect your future.”
That’s why, if you’re divorcing in your 50s or 60s, it’s crucial to reassess your financial plan to ensure that it reflects your new direction in life.
Although the freedom divorce offers may be refreshing, the danger in becoming single at a later age is being one step closer to retirement without a partner and potentially with half the income.
Read more here.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
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.
Saturday, January 2, 2016
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.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
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.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
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.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
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.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
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.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
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.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
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.