December 2008 Archives

December 17, 2008

Go to Jail, Lose Your Alimony? A New Definition of Cohabitation

In one of the more bizarre decisions in recent history, an appeals court in Florida has determined that a woman convicted of a crime and imprisoned in a cell with another inmate should have her alimony terminated because she is "cohabiting" with another person.

Technically, that's true, and in fact both the woman and her husband agree that she is cohabiting according to their divorce settlement agreement, which defines the term as "living with another person (not including the parties' child) for a period of 3 (three) consecutive months." However, the trial court in their case found the conclusion that this particular form of cohabitation met the intent of the agreement to be "unthinkably bizarre and at odds with any reasonable interpretation."

The appeals court disagreed, holding that because the woman conceded that the technical definition was met and also because her crime (driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident, causing great bodily injury) involved voluntary acts known to bear the risk of incarceration, the interpretation was not absurd. One dissenting judge argued that the happenstence of being assigned a cellmate should not be enough to constitute cohabitation, and I have to throw my lot in with him and the trial judge. It's one thing to stretch the concept of cohabitation to include roommates even when they don't share expenses, but this is another realm of cohabitation entirely.

December 8, 2008

Military Divorce Rate Up

I posted about military divorce a couple of months ago, and now a new report is out showing that the rate of divorce among Marines and Army personnel is up this year. AP reports that the divorce rate rose from 3.3% to 3.5% in the Army, and from 3.3% to 3.7% in the Marines. The gender breakdown shows that women in the service divorce at a significantly higher rate than men -- female Marines had a 9.2% divorce rate and female soldiers a rate of 8.5%, compared with 3.3% and 2.9% for men in the respective branches. Suicide rates and other mental health problems are also up. The length of service and repeated deployments are obviously taking their toll on our service members.
December 3, 2008

Divorce and The Economy, Part 1

I'm calling this post Part 1 because I'm expecting this issue to come up repeatedly, though actually, my first post on it was way back in January, when the housing market began to soften and divorcing couples started having trouble selling their most valuable -- and sometimes their only -- asset.   

A recent article by Alex Johnson at MSNBC.com goes farther, saying that the current economic situation "may be doing what pastors, family therapists, and matrimonial counselors have long struggled to accomplish: keeping troubled marriages together." Divorce is expensive, in large part because a divorce means that the resources that once supported one household must stretch to support two. The MSNBC article notes that although there are no hard numbers, marriage counselors say business is up, and divorce lawyers say business is down.

While divorce isn't a desirable result, neither is the necessity that unhappy couples remain together based purely on economic factors. On the other hand, if people who otherwise might have divorced go to marriage counseling instead because it's less expensive and it actually helps, who are we to argue that the bad economy is all bad?