Saturday, August 14, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
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.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 9, 2010
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.
Friday, June 25, 2010
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.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
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.
Monday, May 17, 2010
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.
Friday, May 14, 2010
A New Jersey
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
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.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
...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.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on "early marriage," which some interesting statistics about divorce rates:
First, let's take a closer look at that term "early marriage." While it's true that teenage marriages are a significant predictor of divorce, it turns out that marriages of people in their early to mid-20s are not nearly as much at risk. According to a 2002 report from the Centers for Disease Control, 48% of people who enter marriage when under age 18, and 40% of 18- and 19-year-olds, will eventually divorce. But only 29% of those who get married at age 20 to 24 will eventually divorce—very similar to the 24% of the 25-and-older cohort. In fact, Hispanics who marry between the ages of 20 and 24 actually have a greater likelihood of marital success (31% chance of divorce) than those who first marry at age 25 and older (36% chance of divorce).
Further, a recent study by family scholars at the University of Texas finds that people who wed between the ages of 22 and 25, and remained married to those spouses, went on to experience the happiest marriages. While the authors caution against suggesting that 22 to 25 is the optimal marrying age for everyone, their finding does suggest that "little or nothing is likely to be gained by deliberately delaying marriage beyond the mid twenties."
Read the full story here.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
A Maryland lawmaker is backing legislation that would allow couples who have lived together but have not had sex for a year to skirt the state's one-year waiting period for no-fault divorce. Yes, you read that correctly. I thought it was a joke too until I read the bill.
Simmons said it would ease the initial financial burden for couples -- especially those with children -- because they could remain in the same house during the year-long waiting period.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Norwegian Study Shows No Significant Correlation Between Divorce Rate and Parenting a Child with Cancer
Using data on nearly 978,000 married couples in Norway, researchers found that divorce rates between 1974 and 2001 were no higher among couples with a child suffering from cancer compared with other parents.
When other factors were considered, such as parents' age and family income, couples who had a child with cancer were 4 percent more likely to get divorced than other parents -- a difference that was not significant in statistical terms.
Few studies have looked at divorce among parents of children with cancer. But there is often a "general perception" -- whether at cancer clinics or in support groups -- that the strain of having a child or a spouse with cancer puts couples at risk of divorce, noted Dr. Astri Syse of the Cancer Registry of Norway in Oslo, the lead researcher on the new study.
These perceptions, she told Reuters Health in an email, are "unsubstantiated myths that may add another burden to the people afflicted by cancer or afflicted family members, and thus important to highlight as incorrect."
"In general, our study ought to reassure parents of children with cancer," Syse said.
She added, however, that the study was conducted in a country with an extensive welfare system that includes free healthcare, and that may shield couples from some of the economic hardships and other stresses that can affect families dealing with a child's cancer.
That, according to Syse, leaves the question of whether the findings extend to countries with different health and welfare systems, including the U.S.
Read the full story here.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Maravilla: "The other don't ask, don't tell: adultery under the Uniform Code of Military Justice after Lawrence v. Texas"
Christopher Maravilla has published "The other don't ask, don't tell: adultery under the Uniform Code of Military Justice after Lawrence v. Texas," 37 Cap. U. L. Rev. 659-680 (2009). Here is an excerpt:
The U.S. military has a long standing prohibition, punishable by court martial, against adultery committed by service members whether it is between service members of the same rank, different ranks, or with civilians. [FN1] While the armed forces are a unique body in terms of constitutional jurisprudence and not necessarily subject to the same protections as civilians (generally with regard to the First Amendment right to free speech), [FN2] this doctrine is not absolute. The Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas opened the issue whether consensual sexual activity between two adults is protected under the Constitution, specifically in homosexual relationships. [FN3] The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in United States v. Marcum sidestepped the issue by finding that Lawrence did not apply to the specific facts in that case. [FN4] Subsequent military courts have misread Marcum in holding that Lawrence either: (1) is applied only on a case by case basis, [FN5] or (2) does not apply in the military context at all. [FN6]
Adultery covers a wide range of conduct from one night stands, relationships with a co-worker, to long-term romantic entanglements. [FN7] Adultery among members of the Armed Forces is considered common. [FN8] For example, condoms have been made available for both married and unmarried sailors going ashore. [FN9] There are no statistics available for the rate of adultery among members of the armed forces. There is, however, what is considered to be an informal amendment to the prohibition of adultery: “[D]o what you want, but don't do it blatantly and don't get caught.” [FN10] In other words, the policy is another form of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” [FN11]
In interviews with soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, the New York Times found one soldier who said, “But everyone is human. It's going to happen.” [FN12] Another married soldier spent forty dollars to spend five minutes with a prostitute in a Mexican brothel. [FN13] To prosecute any one of these individuals for their conduct becomes almost arbitrary. Critics also argue that the military prosecutors' willingness to pursue charges against adulterers varies depending on the service and the commanders. [FN14] Lawrence J. Korb of the Brookings Institute also argues that these prosecutions when they do occur are more aimed at a member of the Armed Forces already in trouble for something else. [FN15] He likens it to “getting Al Capone on income tax evasion.” [FN16]
However, as this article argues, Lawrence applies to the military, and the crime of adultery in and of itself should no longer be barred by the military because it serves to merely enforce a moral code. Rather, adultery between service members of different ranks should be brought under the *661 prohibition against fraternization. [FN17] While this article does not reach “Don't ask, Don't tell,” many of the arguments presented resonate with that issue. This article will: (1) discuss the military's criminalization of adultery in light of Lawrence and Marcum, (2) argue that this prohibition serves only to enforce a moral code, and (3) that such prosecutions should be brought as fraternization, not adultery.
The abstract is also on SSRN.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Washington Times reports on the growing phenomenon of decisions to delay divorce until the recession ends.
In the reality of this recession, even couples who both want a divorce can get stuck in a dead marriage.
Take Sheryl Schelin of Myrtle Beach, S.C. She and her estranged husband wanted to get a divorce two years ago but because of financially tough times that included job loss, they couldn't afford to maintain separate residences — a prerequisite to file for divorce in that state, she says.
So, Ms. Schelin now lives with the couple's 10-year-old daughter and her estranged husband lives with his new girlfriend and neither can completely move on emotionally.
"It's totally draining," she says, adding it feels like she's in limbo, neither going backward or forward. "I want my maiden name back, but that's not going to happen until the divorce goes through."
Which will be next summer at the earliest, she says.
So, in the end, can anything good come out of this temporary drop in divorce rates? A permanent reduction, perhaps?
Read the full story here.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A New York court of appeals has rejected a wife's claim for divorce on grounds of "constructive abandonment" on grounds that "the husband refused to engage in social interaction with the wife by refusing to celebrate with her or acknowledge Valentine's Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the wife's birthday, by refusing to eat meals together, by refusing to attend family functions or accompany the wife to movies, shopping, restaurants, and church services, by leaving her once at a hospital emergency room, by removing the wife's belongings from the marital bedroom, and by otherwise ignoring her." Such "social abandonment," the court held, does not rise to the level of constructive abandonment, which New York courts have held requires constant refusal to engage in sexual relations despite repeated requests.
The opinion details the history of constructive abandonment, and is a very interesting read. See it in full here.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Illinois Supreme Court has determined that the legislature cannot amend a statute of limitations so as to revive causes of action that had expired under a previous version of the legislature. This will no doubt impede the litigation of childhood sexual abuse claims, as it has in this particular case.
See Doe v. Diocese of Dallas, 2009 WL 3063427 (
Monday, November 16, 2009
Kraft: Empirical Study of "Effect of Labor Division between Wife and Husband on the Risk of Divorce: Evidence from German Data"
Kornelius Kraft (University of Dortmund, Department of Economics) and Stefanie Neimann have posted "Effect of Labor Division between Wife and Husband on the Risk of Divorce: Evidence from German Data" on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Using German panel data from 1984 to 2007, we analyze the impact of labor division between husband and wife on the risk of divorce. Gary Becker's theory of marriage predicts that specialization in domestic and market work, respectively, reduces the risk of separation. Traditionally, the breadwinner role is assigned to the husband, however, female labor force participation and their wages have risen substantially. Our results suggest that there are gender-specific differences, e.g. female breadwinner-couples have a substantially higher risk of divorce than male breadwinner-couples. In contrast, the equal division does not significantly alter the probability of separation.