January 2008 Archives

January 30, 2008

Divorce Settlements Held Up By Poor Housing Market

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Getting divorced? Thinking you'll sell your house and both of you can use the money to start fresh? In these subprime, foreclosure-happy times, think again.

In many divorces, the family home is the biggest asset to be divided. Divorcing couples have a few different options for dealing with the house: (1) the spouses continue to co-own the house; (2) one partner stays in the house and buys out the other partner's share; or (3) the spouses sell the house and divide the proceeds.

Option (1) is the only one not affected by the current slow housing market nationwide, and it tends to be the least desirable option because it keeps divorcing spouses connected to each other at a time when they're likely to want to get things done and move on. For couples who want to sell their house or who agree to a buyout, a weak real estate market can hold up a settlement indefinitely, as described by Kathleen Megan in this article.

January 24, 2008

Al Gore Supports Same-Sex Marriage

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I would have expected it to be bigger news that Al Gore has come out (no pun intended) in favor of same-sex marriage. In a video statement on his website, current.com, Gore says that "gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women ... to join together in marriage." The Advocate today provides a written transcript of the video statement.

First the Mayor of San Diego, now the former Vice President, Academy Award-winner, and Nobel Laureate. Who's next? It most likely won't be one of the major Democratic presidential candidates, all of whom support marriage-lite in the form of civil unions. But we can always hope that Gore's eloquent expression of the reality of this issue gets their attention and the attention of the nation.

January 23, 2008

Memo To Britney: 5 Ways to Get Your Lawyers to Fire You

As you may know, Britney Spears had another court appearance scheduled in her divorce case. According to this Associated Press story by Linda Deutsch, Britney drove to court, avoided the paparazzi, went through security, and then turned around and walked out of the building without going near the courtroom where the hearing was being held.

In the meantime, when asked by the judge whether her client was going to show up, Britney's attorney had to say, "I don't know." This is not the way to endear yourself to your divorce attorney. But Britney's enough of an expert on annoying her lawyers that the lawyers have asked the court for permission to withdraw from the case. Here are some of the no-nos that the pop princess has used to get her lawyers to fire her:

1. Being a no-show at a hearing she asked for.

2. Being a no-show at her own deposition.

3. Refusing to turn the children over to their father after a scheduled visitation.

4. Engaging in generally erratic and self-destructive behavior, in public view.

5. Failure to communicate.

Okay, that last one is a guess on my part, but I have to believe that if she were communicating with her attorneys, they'd be advising her against items 1-4 above, and she'd be showing up instead of flaking out.

Even when you're not absurdly famous, you may need to hire a lawyer to help you in your divorce. If you do, remember that your lawyer is trying to do a job, which is to negotiate on your behalf, to protect your interests, and get you to a settlement or a victory. You can either help or hinder the lawyer in that job. Britney's showed you how to hinder -- look here for ways you can help instead.

January 9, 2008

When It Comes to Child Support, How Much is Too Much?

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Every state has its own guidelines for child support--when parents separate, they use each parent's income and the amount of time they spend with the children to calculate how much support should be paid. But is there such a thing as an income too high to measure child support obligations? Billionaire Donald Bren thinks there is. The Los Angeles Times reports that Bren refuses to disclose his income or other financial information. His two children say that under California guidelines, support should be approximately $2.2 million each. The rules base child support on the parents' income in order for the children to share the same standard of living as their wealthier parent. Bren says the court should determine the amount that would accomplish that, and he'll pay it, and thus it's not necessary to give the court financial information.

The fact is, state child support guidelines aren't designed for the super-wealthy, but for regular people. At the same time, rules are rules, and unless Mr. Bren can show a good reason why his financial information should be protected, the court's likely to decide he should make the same disclosures that everyone else is required to make. If he wants to get a ballpark of what he might be required to pay, he can use one of the free child support calculators available on the Web.