October 2008 Archives

October 27, 2008

Virtual Activities Lead to Divorce Mayhem

What in the virtual world is going on? Take a gander at these recent stories.

First up, a man in England is sentenced to 14 years in prison for killing his wife, from whom he was separated. Why did he do it? Because she changed her status on the social networking site, Facebook, to "single." He felt "humiliated" by this, so he drove to her house in a drug-fueled rage and stabbed her to death in her bed.

Next, a murder-suicide, also in England -- and I thought the Brits were supposed to be so mild-mannered. In this case, the wife apparently posted an entry on Facebook indicating that she was splitting from her husband. He became enraged and killed her and then himself, leaving their two young daughters orphans.

In a story that's less horrifying only because it didn't happen in real life, a Japanese woman "murdered" an avatar that was her husband in a virtual game world, after the husband "divorced" her in the game world. The woman used login information she got from her virtual husband when they were virtually happily married, to go into his account and "kill" his avatar. He complained to police, and the woman is being prosecuted for illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data.

October 20, 2008

Parents' Divorce Agreement on Religion Upheld

More on divorce and religion to add to earlier posts here and here. Last week, an Arkansas judge held a father in contempt of court after he began promoting his Mormon beliefs to the children. As reported in the Arkansas Morning News, the parents' divorce agreement states -- at the father's request -- that the children will be raised in the Protestant faith, and that neither parent will promote another religion. Nonetheless, the father and his new wife recently began involving the children in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the mother objected and asked the court to find him in contempt of the earlier order. The father argued that the restriction impaired his Constitutional right to freedom of speech, but the court held that the voluntary agreement was a valid contract that could be enforced by the mother.
October 16, 2008

Oregon Wife Wins Right to Dispose of Frozen Embryos

Following a general trend in an emerging area of divorce law, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled on October 8 that a divorced wife has the right to dispose of frozen embryos that she and her ex-husband created during their marriage.

The couple's agreement with the facility storing their embryos designated the wife as the person with the sole legal right to make decisions about them. The appeals court held that the agreement was binding on the divorcing husband and wife, and ordered that the embryos be destroyed at the wife's election. The court rejected the husband's argument that the embryos were alive, and followed other courts in finding that one spouse does not have the right to impose parental obligations on the other.

A blog post at www.divorce-lawyer-source.com says that there are more than 100,000 stored embryos across the country, and I agree with the assessment in that article that this issue is going to keep coming up in divorces as more and more couples use alternative reproductive technology to have children.

October 13, 2008

Dividing Property Equally -- Taking it to the Extreme

Think your divorce settlement divides everything equally? You've got nothing on the Cambodian couple who literally divided their property in half by sawing their house in two, right down the middle. The wife is keeping the half that's staying on their land, and the husband hauled away his half, mostly in the form of debris and materials. You can see a video of the result here.

This reminds me of the Brooklyn couple who both refused to move out of their home during their divorce, and ended up living in separate parts of the house after a judge ordered them to put up a wall.

Here's hoping your spirit of compromise was a little better-developed than that of these folks, who have taken the idea of equal division of property to the next level.

October 2, 2008

Divorce and the Military

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There are over a million active duty service members in the U.S. Armed Forces today, many serving in high-stress areas like Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps surprisingly, the rate of divorce generally among service members is comparable to that in the general population (although there was a sharp increase between 2001 and 2004, a period when deployments increased significantly). But within the military, women divorce at nearly twice the rate of men. There's lots of speculation about why in this article at Divorce360.com, but no solid answers.

Numbers aside, the reality is that divorce raises special issues for military spouses in almost every aspect of the divorce process, including calculating support, dividing property, establishing a parenting plan, and dealing with retirement and insurance benefits. The Armed Services Legal Assistance Office provides some help for military families going through divorce, and there are websites that offer free legal information as well. Also check out Nolo's Essential Guide to Divorce -- the updated 2nd Edition has a new chapter on military divorce.