June 9, 2011

We've Moved!

Our new home is http://blog.nolo.com/divorce/.
March 28, 2011

Disabled Mom Gets Limited Visitation

A mother who suffered severe brain damage during the birth of her triplets can have in-person visits and Skype calls with her kids, a Southern California judge ruled this week

Abbie Dorn, who is in a vegetative state after a series of medical errors during childbirth, lives with her parents in South Carolina after being divorced from her husband following her brain injury. Her parents petitioned on her behalf for visits with her kids, who live with her former husband in Los Angeles. 

Attorneys for both sides praised the ruling, with the grandparents' attorney calling it a victory for all disabled parents. The father was also pleased, having prevailed in his request to both limit and supervise visitation. 
March 10, 2011

Facebook and Divorce: A Match Made Somewhere

There are more than 500 million active users of Facebook worldwide, according to the site's own statistics page. It stands to reason, then, that Facebook would have an ever-larger role in the everyday reality of its users. And in fact, when it comes to the not so everyday reality of divorce, the social networking site appears to be increasingly relevant.

For one thing, Facebook, like a high school reunion, can be the road to infidelity. What starts as an innocent reconnection with an old flame can turn into evenings of instant messaging, and the rest is history. But Facebook's involvement in your divorce doesn't end there--in more and more cases, Facebook pages and status updates are being used as evidence in the courtroom. The American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers estimates that over 80% of its members have used Facebook evidence in court. 
February 9, 2011

Divorce Expo Coming to a City Near You?

Anyone going through a divorce knows that it affects every aspect of your life, and that you can find yourself in need of just about every kind of resource, from legal information to where to store the stuff that doesn't fit into your new apartment. Where can you find all of that information in one place? Entrepeneur Tom Kaufman aims to provide it at The Next Chapter Expo by offering one-stop shopping and education at the first-ever expo for divorced and divorcing spouses, in Denver on May 14, 2011. Kaufman says that he intends the event to include a long list of resources, whether you need a makeover or a tax expert. The expo will cater to both opposite-sex and same-sex spouses and will include both educational sessions and exhibitor booths. Interesting idea and we'll be watching to see how it goes. 
January 13, 2011

Reminders for Parents: What Your Kids Want You to Know

The Executive Director of KidsTurn, a wonderful San Francisco-based non-profit agency providing resources to children and parents experiencing separation or divorce, has offered a brief yet crucial reminder of some of the most important things that kids dealing with divorce want their parents to do--and not do. From not trashing your ex in front of the kids to making sure you still function as a parent even when you're struggling with your own emotional problems, each of these five pieces of advice can help parents help their kids through the turmoil of divorce. 
January 5, 2011

Religious Divorce Dispute Gets Attention

Aharon Friedman and Tamar Epstein married in April of 2006 and separated two years later. Ms. Epstein moved from their home in Maryland back to her parents' house in suburban Philadelphia. In April 2010, after a messy court proceeding, a Maryland entered a judgment of divorce. 

But for these parents, both Orthodox Jews, the matter doesn't end there. Jewish law has its own decree of divorce, known as a get, and an obstinate husband can withhold the get--preventing the wife from remarrying within the Jewish faith. There's a word for Ms. Epstein: an "agunah," or chained woman.

Usually, disputes over a get are resolved quietly within the Jewish community--often by a rabbi or other community leader pressuring the husband to give the get. But in this case, Ms. Epstein has gone public with a recent protest outside Mr. Friedman's apartment. And a rabbi sent a letter to Mr. Friedman's employer--he is tax counsel for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee--asking that the employer put some pressure on Mr. Friedman to release his wife from the religious marriage. 

Mr. Friedman may be withholding the get because he is angry about the portion of the divorce judgment that allows him to visit his three-year-old daughter three weekends a month--in Philadelphia. The weekends start on Friday at 6 p.m. and end on Sunday evening--and as an observant Orthodox Jew, Mr. Friedman cannot drive between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, so he sees his daughter only on Sundays. 

Whether that's a good enough reason to deny his ex-wife the right to move on with her life after their divorce may be a question best addressed to a higher power....but it doesn't look like he's going to get a moment's peace on the earthly plane until the get is given. 
December 20, 2010

Holiday Hints for Divorced Parents

The blogosphere abounds with posts like this one, but in my opinion, advice to divorcing parents about how to navigate the holiday season is worth repeating. This Huffington Post article by Diana Mercer offers helpful hints from kids themselves, including one that I think is really important: Plan ahead! Kids want to know what's going to happen, and the last thing you want is to be fighting with your ex about plans just before the holidays. Especially if one parent wants to travel with the kids, or if grandparents or other extended family members are in the mix, it's essential to make detailed plans and manage everyone's expectations.

And when you're making those plans, be as flexible as you can. If your ex wants to pick up the kids an hour early one day so that they can go the airport to meet the visiting grandparents' plane, say yes. If your kid asks for an extra phone call to the other parent, or to trade nights so as not to miss a special holiday party, see what you can do. It's good politics--after all, you might want the same consideration at another time--and it's the right thing to do for your kids.

Even if you're feeling like the Grinch when it comes to your ex, if your family traditionally exchanges gifts then make sure you take your kids shopping for gifts for their other parent. If the holidays are emotionally challenging for you, be sure you take good care of yourself in whatever ways work for you. Don't hesitate to create new family traditions with your post-divorce family configuration--it will take you out of your melancholy and help your kids feel like the changes in their family situation aren't all bad.

The best present you can give your kids is a holiday season that's free of conflict between their parents. Whatever it takes, try for that.
December 16, 2010

Funding Your (High-End) Divorce

If you're in the process of getting divorced and you're in need of cash to finance your case, your living expenses or both, you can now sell the rights to a portion of your future settlement for a fee--if that settlement is likely to be significant, that is. 

Companies like Balance Point Divorce Funding offer a divorcing spouse the ability to get a cash advance against a likely future settlement, after the company researches just how likely the settlement is, how much money there is, and even whether your spouse is hiding assets. From the company's web site, it looks like the marital assets must total more than $2 million in order to get funding, so it's certainly not an option open to everyone. And in many cases, the money doesn't go into your bank account for you to spend as you wish--instead, the funder pays your divorce service providers (lawyers, accountants, and the like) directly, with a cash allowance to you if you need living expenses. 

This isn't a new concept--companies have been funding other types of lawsuits for years using the same model, though the practice appears to be on the rise
November 18, 2010

Economy A Factor In Virtual Visitation Decision

"Virtual visitation" is a term that didn't exist until fairly recently. It refers to using media like webcams and Skype to create a virtual environment in which distant parents can connect with their children. 

A recent Findlaw.com article describes a New York case in which a judge granted a divorced mother's request for permission to move with her three children to Florida, despite the fact that the children's father would continue to live in New York. As a condition of the moveaway order, the mother had to agree to allow the children to visit with their father via Skype, an Internet service that allows for live videoconferencing. The judge noted that economic conditions justified the move, as the parents' house was underwater, employment prospects were dim, and the mother had supportive family in Florida. 

Virtual visitation laws are on the books in six states: Utah was first, followed by Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin. Other states have laws pending, and it seems only a matter of time before all states include virtual visitation in their custody statutes. Just as with in-person visitation, courts will set schedules for virtual visitation, and parents must make the kids available for time with the other parent. 
August 30, 2010

New York Joins the Modern World with No-Fault Divorce

After years as the last holdout for mandatory fault divorce, New York finally has a no-fault divorce law. Governor David Paterson signed the new law on August 15, bringing New York in line with the rest of the 50 states in allowing married couples to divorce without one spouse having to take the blame.

A no-fault divorce means that spouses can end their marriage by mutual consent--or allows one spouse to proceed with the divorce whether the other spouse agrees or not, but without having to accuse the other spouse of cruelty, adultery, abandonment, or imprisonment. The old fault rules meant that even spouses who both wanted a divorce, and who could otherwise proceed amicably, had to lie in court about one or the other committing these bad acts.

The new law takes effect September 1, 2010.

August 31, 2009

Health Care Costs Encourage Divorce--For Economic Purposes Only

We're all familiar with the concept of a "marriage of convenience," where partners marry for reasons more practical than romantic. But in the current economy there's now an increase in what could be seen as a divorce of convenience--or even of necessity, with marriage becoming another casualty of the broken health care system.

A New York Times opinion piece this week illustrates the most common scenario: contentedly married spouses encountering the certainty of future health care costs that they simply can't afford discover that divorce is the only way to avoid financial ruin. In this case, a middle-aged husband has early-onset dementia, with a prognosis of degenerative mental function until he becomes unable to care for himself and must be institutionalized. On the advice of a social worker, the hospital where he receives care, and an attorney, his wife filed for divorce. The alternative was losing all of their joint and her separate assets as his health care gradually becomes more expensive. The wife continues to live with and care for her husband, but legally, they are not married and she is not responsible for his medical costs.

Medical costs are by far the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Medicine.
August 3, 2009

Divorce Not Conducive to Good Health

It seems that divorce is not only stressful and difficult in the short term--according to a New York Times article about a new study, both divorce and the death of a spouse can have long lasting negative health effects.

It's long been known that married people are healthier than non-married people, but this University of Chicago study concludes that losing a spouse can contribute to health problems that last for the rest of a person's life and aren't mitigated by remarrying. In fact, the never-married people ended up healthier than those who married and then lost a spouse to death or divorce.

On the other hand, it's not healthy to stay in a bad marriage, either. An Ohio State study about the effects of marital strife on healing showed that after an argument, physical wounds took longer to heal.
July 15, 2009

Opposites Attract, But Does it Last?

A recent New Zealand study says that while opposites may attract, after a while they begin to repel each other -- leading to a higher divorce rate than that of couples who are more alike. Differences in habits like smoking, drinking, and work, along with age differences, were the top oppositions leading to marital problems. From my perspective, it's probably not the differences themselves but a failure to communicate about them effectively that leads to marital discord, but either way, couples apparently aren't working out their opposite-ness.
April 15, 2009

It's True: Baseball is Good for Relationships! Divorce Rates Lower in Baseball Cities

I knew it! Baseball is a healthy, positive outlet that is good for people -- and their marriages. Business Week reports that a recent study sponsored by the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies concludes that cities that wanted, and got, major league baseball teams had a 28 percent lower divorce rate than cities that wanted but didn't get teams.

Here's an example: In 1990, Denver's divorce rate was six divorces per 1,000 people. By 2000 -- seven years after the Colorado Rockies arrived in Denver -- the divorce rate had declined 20 percent to 4.2 per 1,000 people. (During the same period, the national divorce rate dropped only 15 percent.) Similar results were found in Tampa Bay (17 percent drop following the Rays' arrival) and Phoenix (30 percent drop when the Diamondbacks took up residence at the BOB).

Howard Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Denver, thought the correlation might be because "[g]oing to a baseball game and not talking about relationship issues, but rather having fun and talking as friends, is one of the ways to protect and preserve love."

I never heard it better told -- and maybe this is one reason my parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary. For me, it's just one in a long list of reasons that I say, take me out to the ball game!

March 4, 2009

Ex-Husband Can't Have Kidney or Money for It

Last month, I posted about a man trying to draw attention to his contested custody case by demanding either money or return of the kidney he donated to his ex-wife years before. Not surprisingly, the New York court hearing the case decided against him, ruling that public policy bars his claims for compensation -- he couldn't even get into court to have a transplant doctor testify as an expert about the value of the kidney. The court declined to apply the rule that gifts given from one spouse to the other during the marriage are marital property and can be divided at divorce, stating that while "the term 'marital propery' is elastic and expansive,'" the elastic doesn't stretch to encompass human organs.