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.
Monday, February 22, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court next month is scheduled to hear its biggest abortion case in at least a decade, and the reach of that decision will likely be impacted by the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend.
A Texas law requires that doctors have local admitting privileges, and that clinics make costly building upgrades to operate like out-patient surgical centers. Numerous other states have passed similar laws, and Scalia was widely expected to provide a fifth vote to uphold such restrictions.
Without him, it may not change much for Texas. A 4-4 split in the court would leave in place the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld these provisions. Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America says that would shut down a number of clinics that perform abortion. And she says that would come in addition to other Texas restrictions that have already closed about half the state's clinics, leaving some women to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion.
"We would be looking at an even greater health care crisis in Texas than we're already facing," Hogue says.
But a split decision in the Supreme Court would have no national precedent. That means other appeals court rulings striking down similar laws would also stand. And Hogue says there are more cases to come.
"I think this vacancy is far, far greater in terms of its implication than this one case in Texas," she says. "There are so many laws looking to restrict not only abortion access and abortion rights, but a broader set of reproductive rights in front of the court right now."
One of them also comes up next month, when the court hears a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's mandate on covering birth control for female employees.
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.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
A bill being heard this week by a Missouri legislative committee promotes shared parenting – a flexible arrangement in which children spend as close to equal time as possible with each parent after separation or divorce.
The legislation proposes adding language to the state’s child custody law to emphasize that the best interest of the child is equal access to both parents – a change that would encourage judges to pay more attention to research on the best interest of children.
Dr. Ned Holstein, president of the National Parents Organization, says numerous studies have shown in recent years that children do not fare as well in “sole custody” or “primary custody” arrangements and that shared custody needs to be emphasized whenever it is possible.
The best custody arrangements, says Holstein, are those in which parents rotate responsibilities, typically on alternate weeks.
But he says nationally the typical custody arrangement is to place the children with one parent about 80 to 85 percent of the time with the other parent only spending time with the children a few days a month.
Holstein also says setting a standard shared custody model will reduce the number of nasty custody battles.
“Many of the parents who are warring,” he says, “are warring precisely because what the courts set up is a fight, where they say one parent will win and the other parent will lose."
Read more here.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
From The Guardian:
The Catholic church is telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasized that, though they must be aware of local laws, bishops’ only duty was to address such allegations internally.
“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.
Monday, February 15, 2016
From Military Times:
The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would require anyone employed by the Defense Department to report cases of suspected child abuse on military installations to state child protective service agencies in addition to reporting such suspected crimes up their chain of command.
The legislation was approved by voice vote and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Called Talia’s Law, the bill is named for five-year-old Talia Williams who was tortured and beaten to death by her father — an active-duty Army specialist at the time — and step-mother in 2005 at Wheeler Army Airfield in Hawaii.
Talia’s mother, Tarshia Williams, sued the U.S. government in 2008 for what she argued were failures by military officials to report suspicions that her daughter was being abused. Williams was awarded $2 million in a settlement last May.
The Defense Department had signed a memorandum of understanding with the State of Hawaii in 2013 that said the state’s child welfare services agency was “primarily” responsible for handling instances of child abuse on military bases. But DOD also has its own parallel system for child and domestic abuse investigations.
Suspected cases of child abuse are reported to military police or the installation’s Family Advocacy Program, which work in coordination to identify and investigate instances of child abuse. Those mandated by law to report suspected child abuse are usually professionally involved with children, such as day-care workers and doctors.
The U.S. District Court of Hawaii, where Williams brought her suit, found that various individuals failed to report Talia’s case, including members of the military police, doctors, and an employee with the Family Advocacy Program – all covered by the House bill.
Read more here.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Six months pregnant with her first child, Eritania Maria has a rash and a mild fever, symptoms of the Zika virus linked to brain deformities in newborn children in Brazil.
But the 17-year-old is too scared to take a test to confirm if she has Zika.
Like other women in the slums of Recife, which squat on stilts over mosquito-ridden marshland in northeast Brazil, Maria has few options if her child develops microcephaly, the condition marked by an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain that has been linked to Zika.
Brazil has amongst the toughest abortion laws in the world and is culturally conservative. Even if she wanted an illegal abortion and could afford one, Maria is too heavily pregnant for a doctor to risk it. So she prefers not to know.
"I'm too scared of finding out my baby will be sick," she told Reuters, her belly poking out from beneath a yellow top.
The Zika outbreak has revived the debate about easing abortion laws but Maria's case highlights a gap between campaigners and U.N. officials calling for change and Brazil's poor, who are worst affected by the mosquito-borne virus yet tend to be anti-abortion.
Add a conservative Congress packed with Evangelical Christians staunchly opposed to easing restrictions, plus the difficulty of identifying microcephaly early enough to safely abort, and hopes for change seem likely to be frustrated.
As with many countries in mostly Roman Catholic Latin America, Brazil has outlawed abortion except in cases of rape, when the mother's life is at risk or the child is too sick to survive.
An estimated 850,000 women in Brazil have illegal abortions every year, many under dangerous conditions. They can face up to 3 years in prison although in practice, jail terms are extremely rare.
With two-thirds of the population Catholic and support for Evangelicals growing fast, polls show Brazilians oppose changing the law. A survey by pollster VoxPopuli in 2010 showed that 82 percent reject decriminalization, while a Datafolha poll the same year put the figure at 72 percent.
Read more here.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
From ABC News:
A federal judge in Louisiana has issued a new order blocking the state from enforcing a law that he says would keep most women from getting abortions.
Attorneys for the state immediately asked Judge John deGravelles to stay Wednesday's order while they appeal it and his Jan. 26 finding that the law is unconstitutional.
The law requires doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles. Supporters say that would protect women's health. Opponents say it would make it impossible to get abortions.
DeGravelles said in January that of six doctors performing abortions in Louisiana, only two meet the requirement, and one of them has said he would quit if the law is enforced.
The remaining doctor performed nearly 30 percent of all abortions in the state, deGravelles said. He said forcing the other five doctors out of their clinics would therefore leave about 70 percent of the women who want abortions unable to get one.
Even if the second doctor who has admitting privileges continued to perform abortions, about 55 percent of the women who want the procedure would be unable to get one, deGravelles wrote.
Read more here.
Friday, February 12, 2016
From The New York Times:
“Free Pregnancy Testing,” reads the large sign in front of the East County Pregnancy Care Clinic, on a busy intersection of this impoverished city east of San Diego.
Inside the clinic, a woman will not only get a free pregnancy test, but she will also see a counselor to discuss her options. She will see models of fetuses at early stages of development, which show that “at week 12, you see a recognizable human,” said Josh McClure, the executive director of the clinic. If she is pregnant, she can get a free ultrasound and attend childbirth classes. If she gives birth, she may receive help with diapers and a car seat.
What she will not get from this center is advice on where to obtain an abortion.
The clinic is one of more than 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers around the country that are operated by religious opponents of abortion, with the heartfelt aim of persuading women to choose parenting or adoption. Now it and others in California are in a First Amendment battle with the state over a new law that requires them to post a notice that free or low-cost abortion, contraception and prenatal care are available to low-income women through public programs, and to provide the phone number to call.
The clinics argue that the law, which took effect in January, flagrantly violates their rights of free speech, and it appears that many of the dozens of licensed pregnancy centers in California are not yet complying.
Read more here.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
From The Charlotte Observer:
“I have an appointment this afternoon with a family law attorney.”
“Oh no. I’m so sorry. So, you are going through a divorce?”
“What? No, no. I just want to ask some questions. Do you think the attorney is going to make me leave my spouse? Should I cancel?”
So often conversations like the one above take place and people worry about what it really means to meet with an attorney. All kinds of thoughts and emotions fill the client’s head and heart. They worry that their spouse will find out. They worry what other people will think. They worry that if they meet with an attorney, their fate has been sealed and they are doomed to divorce.
That is simply not the case. Yes, sometimes when people meet with a family law attorney, it is because they have decided to separate and want to move forward with the process. But, unbeknownst to many, there are other reasons to meet with a family law attorney.
Someone may be experiencing a tough time in their relationship and he or she may simply want to know what is behind “door number two.”
Read more here.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
From Action News Jacksonville:
Living with a significant other out of wedlock is illegal in Florida, but anew push, mostly by Democratic state lawmakers, is trying to do away with the ban on shacking up.
Michigan, Mississippi and Florida are the only states where it’s illegal for a man and a woman to live together and not be married.
The current law dates back to 1868.
It’s rarely enforced, but multiple attempts to do away with the ban on cohabitation have failed. However, many lawmakers want it off the books for good.
Senate Bill 498 is moving forward in Tallahassee. A Senate panel voted Thursday in favor of the bill, sponsored by State Sen. Eleanor Sobel. The bill now moves to the full Senate for a vote.
Local Republican State Rep. Charles Van Zant has been against changing the law since the beginning. But, Ryan Strickland, who lived with his wife for four years before they got married, says it’s time.
“People need to adjust as the time goes on,” Strickland said. “Lots of laws need to be adjusted to reflect the times and the feelings of people.”
Read more here.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
From Hometown Life:
A four-bill package that will help ensure collection of child support payments when parents live in different states or countries was signed into law as 2015 ended.
“In divorce and child custody situations, we must make sure the child's best interests are being preserved,” said State Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, a bill sponsor. “Just because a parent moves out of the state or even out of the country doesn't mean the responsibility to provide for his or her child should end. This legislation brings Michigan in line with federal child support guidelines.”
The bipartisan package legislation amends the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act by not only ensuring the collection of child support payments, but also streamlining the process for collecting both international and interstate payments.
It also takes the burden of determining the legality of international child support orders off of employers. The UIFSA provides universal and uniform rules for the enforcement of family support orders. This legislation repeals the current UIFSA and reenacts the 2008 version, which brings Michigan in line with federal guidelines.
Read more here.
Monday, February 8, 2016
Before 2014, a divorced spouse had to show that his ex-spouse shared a common residence with a new partner in order to prove they were living together and be able to stop paying alimony.
But under the Alimony Reform Act of 2014, an ex-spouse no longer has to be living full-time in the same home as another person to be engaged in "cohabitation."
More than a year after the law was passed, advocates of the new law — generally ex-husbands — say there have been improvements, but they have been more modest than they envisioned.
It's less difficult to prove cohabitation, or that an ex-spouse is in a virtual new marriage and effectively living with the new partner, and shouldn't get payments anymore. That issue was raised in a Morris County case this week in which a former husband is seeking to terminate his alimony obligation.
The change in cohabitation was made to remedy a situation where "people are in a marital relationship, for all intents and purposes, but don't get married and keep their separate homes, just so one of them can keep getting an alimony payment. That is a problem," said Jeralyn Lawrence, former chairwoman of the New Jersey Bar Association's family law section, who helped develop the new law.
When New Jersey was debating possible changes in its alimony law back in 2012, advocates of reform were hoping for sweeping changes that would benefit the payers of alimony.
Read more here.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Domestic violence is rampant across Kauai, according to figures from the county prosecutor’s office and Kauai Police Department.
“We have a history of domestic violence and murders on the island,” said Renae Hamilton, executive director at the YWCA of Kauai. “It strikes everyone in the community.”
Domestic abuse is the second most prevalent crime on the Garden Isle at 282 arrests out of 3,888, according to KPD’s recently released report for all adult arrests and juvenile detainments for 2015. Criminal contempt of court was number one, with 483 arrests.
Hamilton said the domestic violence numbers are not surprising, and don’t even tell the whole story.
“As we know, all cases of domestic violence don’t get reported,” Hamilton said. “I’m sure there are cases where they don’t call the police at all.”
Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said his office receives more than 500 domestic violence cases a year, including misdemeanors and felonies.
“Our most recent murder and attempted murder cases both involved aspects of domestic violence,” Kollar said, referring to two pregnant women, Victoria Kanahele and Jasmine Duque, who were stabbed in the past six months. “Most of our domestic violence crimes involve alcohol or drug use in some way. Services are provided by our attorney staff, our victim and witness staff, and our partner service providers in the community.”
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.