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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk For Free? Answer: Cuz It Ain't Free!

Live-in lovers break up... then pay up: Court hearings boom for unmarried couples
By Tamara Cohen

Couples who break up following a live-in relationship are paying tens of thousands of pounds in settlements to their former partners.

A new phenomenon of ‘break-up payments’ is increasingly common because more and more couples are living together for several years without marrying.

When a marriage collapses, a spouse is usually entitled to half the couple’s assets, but for cohabitees the legalities can be a minefield.

Law firm Pannone has reported a 40 per cent rise in these payments in the past five years, claiming people are taking advantage of the uncertain legal status of unmarried couples to issue ‘nuisance’ demands.

Some people were willing to pay up to £100,000 to former partners to avoid lengthy legal action which can last up to 18 months, it said.

Recent actions have involved custody of children, jointly owned property, bank accounts and even pets.

There are 2.3million cohabiting couples and the number is expected to double in the next 25 years. One in four children is born to cohabitees.

Vicki McLynn, a senior associate at Pannone, suggested the problem was partly due to such disputes being dealt with using property rather than family law, as no legislation had yet been passed making clear the rights of unmarried partners when they split up.

She said: ‘It can ultimately be a case of “he said, she said” – one partner’s ability to be more convincing than the other in court can be crucial in determining how cases are settled.

‘Given that element of risk and the assets at stake, many family and litigation lawyers in our firm and elsewhere are seeing clients wanting to pay up to end the matter.’

Unmarried couple Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy split after five years together. They are not thought to have sought settlements from each other

In 2007, the Law Commission published a series of recommendations for the government following a review of the rights of unmarried couples. It concluded that the ‘unclear’ current law made for ‘unfair’ outcomes.

The commission urged a series of reforms including legislation enabling unmarried men or women who had lived together for at least two years to make a claim against their ex-partner. The recommendations have so far not been acted upon.

Miss McLynn suggested that while some disputes involved individuals who had genuinely made contributions to building up joint assets, others featured demands which could best be described as ‘nuisance’.

She said: ‘We have seen instances in which people have issued demands to complicate their exes’ new relationships.’

Earlier this year, family law firms reported a 15 per cent rise in the number of cohabiting clients seeking advice on relationship breakdown as a result of the recession.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Reading your Spouse's Email a CRIME?

Michigan man could go to jail for reading his wife's e-mail
By Hayley Tsukayama
A Michigan man faces five years in prison for reading his wife's e-mail, under a state law intended to prevent identity fraud. As the Detroit Free Press reports, computer technician Leon Walker accessed his wife's Gmail account on a laptop in their home. From her e-mail messages, he learned she was having an affair with her ex-husband -- a man previously arrested for domestic violence. Walker then filed for emergency custody of his wife's young son.

Walker's soon-to-be ex-wife testified that the laptop her husband used to access the e-mail account was a private laptop, and that she was the only one who knew the password.

Leon Walker, on the other hand, said the laptop was a family computer and that his wife kept all her passwords in a little book next to the computer.

The legal question at heart here is whether or not Walker's wife had an expectation of privacy.

Frederick Lane, a Vermont lawyer and electronic privacy expert, told the Free Press that the fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, might help him, Lane said.

"I would guess there is enough gray area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy," he said.

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper told the Free Press she defends her decision to charge Leon Walker.

"The guy is a hacker," Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Free Press last week. "It was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way."

Other lawyers in the Detroit area told the Free Press that this application of the law was ludicrous. One told the paper that if this case is applicable under the law, the state would also have to prosecute parents monitoring their children's Facebook accounts.
By Hayley Tsukayama December 27, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture, E-mail, Policy and politics, Privacy
Note by Kelly Chang Rickert: Though it may or may not be a crime, if you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, it would be wise to keep your emails/facebook/social network stuff private. Please see my article with tips for preparing for a divorce.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to Survive The Holidays Without Your Children

8 Survival Tips for the Non-Custodial Parent

Happy Holidays, everyone! I posted this last year, but due to demand, I am posting it again...

It already hurts a little during the year, but being without your children during the holidays may be downright depressing.

If you have joint custody with alternating holidays, this may be your year without the children. Here is how to make it better.

1. Have Christmas a week, a month early. As with all natural disasters (earthquakes, fires, being without your children!), plan accordingly. If this is an ODD year, and you have your children for Christmas on even years, you will need to celebrate early this year!

Purchase gifts, have a tree, and explain to the children that you are not skipping the celebration just because you don't have them this year. Instead of Christmas without you, they will get TWO Christmases!

2. Get Skype and see them on Christmas! If you are on good terms with your ex (and you should be, especially during the holiday season - REMEMBER THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS), arrange for the children to see you (and you them) via webcam.

Skype is also particularly useful for grandparents, who always have to share custody of their grandchildren for Christmas. :)

3. Volunteer your blues away! You think your life sucks? Go to the local orphage, where you will find children who don't have parents. They would love to have you. If you have gifts of song or dance - or baking - or just simply being there to hug them, GO AND BE WITH the needy. They will love you. And love is what you need. Google local churches. They'll get you the volunteer A-List.

Here, I just googled it for you. How to Find Volunteer Projects at Christmas Time. Enjoy.


4. Celebrate your day without children by doing adult things! If you have very young children, this tip is for you. There are some restaurants and resorts that do NOT allow toddlers and babies. Yay! These are for you. Watch a REAL movie without cartoon characters. Get a massage, and then hang out and lounge at the steam room. Enjoy a nice long dinner with your friends without rushing home. Drink a glass of champagne. Listen to music that Elmo doesn't sing.

5. Change your Custody Order. Get together with your ex, and if it's feasible (location, emotion) see if both of you can agree to share the children on this special holiday.

6. Take lots of pictures and videos during your year, and view them every year. It is amazing what a walk down memory lane can do for your mood.

7. Spoil yourself rotten. Pamper. Indulge. Overindulge. You deserve it.

8. Take a trip. A long trip. An international trip with a huge time change. You won't even know you missed them.

The holidays are only a lonely time if you choose to feel that way. If you look around, there are many people who need you in so many ways. You can benefit by turning the focus on others (ah, the true holiday spirit). So many people forget the meaning of Christmas - it is the utmost celebration of the birth of our saviour Jesus Christ, who died to save our wretched souls. Being in the true spirit of Christmas is thinking of others, and forgetting our own selfish needs and desires.

If you cannot find solace in that (and believe me, I can understand why the above is not consoling at all), look to your friends. Being surrounded by other people will magically help you feel better. Remember, it's just this year. Next year, you'll have them again.

Finally, remember, all parents (whether separated, divorced/married, widowed) all eventually deal with not having children for Christmas. Consider it a blessing that you have the opportunity to deal with such a tragedy earlier than later!

For all of you - children, no children, married, single, divorced, widowed, it's complicated - Have a Wonderful Holiday.


The Law Offices of Kelly Chang

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Marriage Advice for William and Kate

LONDON (AP) — Prince William and fiancee Kate Middleton have another chore on their must-do pre-wedding list: Sit down with priests to think about the vows they will make.

The couple are expected to meet Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Bishop of London Richard Chartres before they marry April 29, palace officials said Wednesday. Both clergy will be involved in the wedding ceremony at London's Westminster Abbey.

"It's customary for a priest to meet with the couple before their wedding," said Maria Papworth, Williams' spokeswoman.

These marriage preparation sessions include discussions on how to handle marital disagreements and how to prepare for the changes brought on by parenthood. Meetings often take place in groups, but talks for the soon-to-be royal couple will be private and strictly confidential.

The marriage of William's parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, ended in divorce. St. James Palace would not comment on whether they also received similar attention, but it is normal practice for a Church of England wedding.

For more marriage advice (from a divorce lawyer), see here.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dodgers Divorce: Judge Gordon Throws Out Postnup

Judge rules in favor of Jamie McCourt in Dodgers ownership struggle

See the Statement of Decision.

The decision denying Frank McCourt's claim to sole ownership of the team is not expected to immediately affect day-to-day operations. He may use other legal strategies to challenge his ex-wife's case.

By Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall

Frank McCourt is not the sole owner of the Dodgers, a judge ruled Tuesday, a decision that keeps the team in legal limbo for what might be several more years.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon granted Jamie McCourt's plea to throw out a 2004 marital agreement that would have left her without an ownership share in the Dodgers.

"The court finds that the marital property agreement is not a valid and enforceable agreement," Gordon wrote in his ruling. "The court orders that the marital property agreement is set aside."

The ruling is not expected to have an immediate impact on the day-to-day operations of the team. Frank is expected to employ other legal strategies to dispute his ex-wife's claim to co-ownership of the team.

Frank could decide to appeal Tuesday's ruling. He already has notified the court he wants to use a different legal strategy in another claim to sole ownership of the Dodgers, one based on the concept that he bought the team with a company he established before his marriage to Jamie.

Frank's attorneys have said such a trial could be completed in one day and that all the necessary evidence is in the court record. Jamie's attorneys have said such a trial could require up to 60 days, preceded by months to collect new evidence.

Dennis Wasser, an attorney for Jamie, said he hoped the ruling would enable both sides to settle the case, for what he said would be the good of the Dodgers and the community. "We are very pleased that the marital property agreement has been invalidated. Now that Jamie has prevailed in this case, we hope it will be possible to resolve the matter in a reasonable way going forward."

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has declined to comment on the case. The Times reported in September that the possibility of years of legal battles between the McCourts had prompted him to consider intervening on behalf of the Dodgers, but it is uncertain what options he might contemplate.

The McCourts also could use Gordon's ruling to renew settlement talks, with the validity of the 2004 marital agreement no longer a wild card in negotiations.

The sides have been unable to reach a settlement despite several rounds of discussions -- with and without mediators -- over the last year.

In the absence of a settlement, Gordon eventually would determine permanent spousal support. In May, Gordon ordered Frank to pay Jamie $637,159 per month in temporary support, including costs associated with the couple's homes.

The McCourts filed for divorce on Oct. 27, 2009, one week shy of what would have been their 30th anniversary.

In March 2004, two months after baseball owners approved their purchase of the Dodgers, the McCourts each signed a marital property agreement that specified the team belonged solely to Frank and the couple's homes belonged solely to Jamie.

In the initial phase of the divorce case -- and in a trial that lasted 11 days -- the only question before Gordon was whether the agreement was valid.

Frank asked Gordon to enforce the deal, arguing that Jamie was the driving force behind the agreement and that she had gotten exactly what she wanted from it -- that is, to protect the homes from creditors should the Dodgers suffer severe financial losses.

Jamie asked Gordon to overturn the agreement, claiming she never intended to surrender her rights to Dodgers ownership and never would have signed the document had she been explicitly informed of its impact in the event of divorce. She said she should be considered co-owner of the Dodgers.

As the trial approached, lawyers discovered the McCourts had signed six copies of the agreement, three of which listed the Dodgers as Frank's sole property and three that did not.

Larry Silverstein, the Boston lawyer who drew up the agreement, testified that he had botched the wording in the latter three copies and had corrected his mistake by replacing the relevant page in the agreement -- after the McCourts had signed the document, and without informing either of them of the alleged error.

Frank argued that Silverstein had made an unfortunate mistake but corrected it to conform with what Jamie had wanted -- that is, no financial responsibility for the Dodgers.

Jamie argued that Silverstein's blunder, whether innocent or intentional, resulted in two versions of the agreement with materially opposite terms. If one version said Frank owned the Dodgers and the other version did not, she contended, there never could have been an agreement in the first place.



Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Taking Sides in a Divorce, Chasing Profit

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Michelle Pont and her husband amassed millions of dollars in properties and investments from a freight-hauling business that they started with a single stake-bed truck in 1991. They bought a four-bedroom home, then a second home, a vacation home, a motor home and half a dozen cars.

Michelle Pont is one of the company’s clients.
But when Ms. Pont decided to seek a divorce last year, she quickly ran out of money. She had no job. Her husband controlled the family’s investments. A few months of legal bills maxed out her credit cards and drained her retirement account.

She wrestled with accepting a smaller settlement than she considered fair. Then a lawyer referred her to Balance Point Divorce Funding, a new Beverly Hills lender that offers to cover the cost of breaking up — paying a lawyer, searching for hidden assets, maintaining a lifestyle — in exchange for a share of the winnings.

In October, Balance Point agreed to invest more than $200,000 in Ms. Pont’s case.

“It’s given me hope,” Ms. Pont said. “I don’t view it as a loan; I view it as an investment in my future. They are helping me to get what is rightfully mine.”

With some in the financial world willing to bet on almost anything, it should be no surprise that a few would see the potential to profit from the often contentious and emotional process of ending a marriage.

So far, the number of companies investing in divorce is small — Balance Point is one of the few that do it exclusively. But other businesses are gearing up. A New York start-up, Churchill Divorce Finance, also is planning to enter the business. The company’s chief executive previously co-founded a publicly traded Australian company, ASK Funding, that has invested tens of millions in divorce cases there.

While this business is in its infancy, Balance Point is part of a bigger trend — the growing industry that invests in other people’s lawsuits, arming plaintiffs with money to help them win more money from defendants. Banks, hedge funds and boutique firms like Balance Point now have a total of $1 billion invested in lawsuits at any given time, industry participants estimate.

Lawsuit lenders initially focused on personal injury cases, but over time they have sought new frontiers, including securities fraud cases brought by disgruntled investors, whistleblower claims against corporations and property development disputes.

Stacey Napp, a lawyer by training who has spent her career in finance, founded Balance Point last year with money from her own divorce. Since then, she has provided more than $2 million to 10 women seeking divorces. She says she is helping to ensure both sides can defend their interests.

“Everybody knows somebody where at the end of the day, the divorce was not equitable,” she said. “We want to help those people, the underdog, to make sure they get their fair share.”

Divorce cases may be a promising niche for lenders because costs can mount quickly — some top lawyers in Los Angeles charge more than $500 an hour — and because state laws uniformly require plaintiffs to pay lawyers upfront, rather than promising them a contingency fee, or a share of any winnings, as is common in other civil cases.

The state laws were written to make people think twice before pursuing a divorce. But Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, a New Jersey lawyer who serves as a vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which sets ethical standards for divorce lawyers, said she welcomed the use of divorce financing as a workaround because, in her view, society also has an interest in helping people who are determined to separate.

“It furthers the concept of putting both spouses on an equal playing field,” she said.

Ms. Napp developed the idea for Balance Point during an eight-year legal battle with her former husband, which she paid for with loans from family and friends. She filed to divorce David Napp in 2001 after 13 years of marriage. Mr. Napp, an investor in mobile home parks, agreed to pay $500,000 and allow her to keep the family home. But shortly after the deal was finalized, Ms. Napp was stunned to discover that Mr. Napp was about to sell his stake in the parks for $5.7 million. She asked the court to reopen the settlement, setting off a legal dispute that lasted until the spring of 2008, when an Arizona judge ruled in her favor.

“Somewhere along the way a light bulb went off,” Ms. Napp recalled. “I said, ‘I’m kind of a perfect storm. I know how to find assets, I understand litigation, I have resources — what happens to people who are missing even one of those elements?’ ”

She decided to seed a business with some of the money she had won in Los Angeles, the city of fleeting marriages. Balance Point has since raised additional money from private investors. Ms. Napp said she expected the first case to be resolved later this fall, providing her first profit.

Her customers fall into a pattern. They are women. They generally do not have jobs. They often are raising small children. And their husbands run their own businesses, making it tough to obtain financial information.

A stay-at-home mother with three children spent 16 months trying to compel her husband to produce current financial statements for his solo law practice. She was running out of money when Balance Point agreed in August to provide financing.

A woman who signed up in January has used the backing to build a case that she is entitled to share the value of 17 properties her husband put in a trust for the benefit of his children from a previous marriage. Both women declined to be identified.

Then there is Ms. Pont, who is battling her estranged husband, Jeffery D. Pont, over the value of their trucking company. The couple met in 1990. The next year, he bought his first truck with Ms. Pont’s tax refund of $2,300, she said. He started a small business carrying ink and printing supplies. Mr. Pont and his lawyer did not return calls for comment. By 1996, the couple had married and the company had rented an 1,100-square-foot warehouse. Ms. Pont said she answered the phones while nursing their first child.

By the late 1990s, there was enough money flowing in for Ms. Pont to stay home with the child. And the company has continued to prosper. The main warehouse is now 150,000 square feet.

But she moved out in the spring of 2009 and filed for divorce. The estranged couple has since spent several hundred thousand dollars on lawyers, accountants and investigators. The judge overseeing the case has warned that the total could exceed $1 million if the two sides cannot reach a compromise.

Ms. Pont said the money from Balance Point would allow her to sustain the case for as long as necessary. Balance Point does not charge interest; instead, clients pay the company a percentage of their winnings.

Lawyers who finance other civil cases generally keep at least a third of the winnings. Ms. Napp said Balance Point required a “substantially smaller” share from clients, though she declined to be more specific.

The company wants to focus on people with marital assets between $2 million and $15 million, a bracket Ms. Napp described as “the lower end of the high end.” She said that investing in smaller disputes was not worthwhile. Wealthier people, she said, seemed to resolve divorces more easily — perhaps because they still felt wealthy in the aftermath. “Anything south of $15 million, when you divide that in half and take out the legal fees, you’re not in the same house, you’re not taking the same trips — your life is different,” she said. “You can’t maintain that same quality of life that you’re used to.”

Ms. Napp says she urges clients to set aside emotions and negotiate a settlement. Indeed, she says she will not take clients who seem unwilling to compromise, fearing that their pursuit of justice will undermine Balance Point’s pursuit of profit. She cannot compel clients to settle.

But Ms. Napp concedes that clients are attracted to Balance Point in part because she did not settle her own case. Most lawsuit lenders avoid any role in the management of cases, seeking to disarm critics who worry that lenders seeking profits will corrupt the pursuit of justice. Ms. Napp, by contrast, sells the benefit of her own experience.

Ms. Napp said that as she decided to create Balance Point, she realized that she could not settle her own case. “I had to win,” she said. “Because I don’t know that, if you don’t have a happy ending, that people are going to think it’s such a fantastic idea.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nicole Richie Seeks Permanent RO Against Paparazzo

LOS ANGELES ( KTLA) -- Nicole Richie is set to appear in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday to request a restraining order extension against a paparazzo who allegedly got too close to her daughter.

Richie claims Fabricio Mariotto frightened her 2-year-old daughter Harlow while trying to take photos of the child at her preschool.

Richie is seeking a permanent restraining order.She is also reportedly expected to testify that other photographers have also crossed the line with Harlow and her 15-month-old son Sparrow.The restraining order is part of a larger campaign Richie is waging against the paparazzi who persistently pursue celebrities' children.Richie has been dating her children's father, Joel Madden, since 2006. The pair are reportedly set to marry later this month.

Richie is best known for co-starring with Paris Hilton in the 2003-2005 reality TV series "The Simple Life." She is the daughter of singer Lionel Richie and has recently become a fashion designer.

There are several types of restraining orders in California:

•Emergency Protective Order (EPO). This type of Restraining Order is issued by law enforcement and is valid for 5 days. It is used by domestic violence victims for their immediate protection and safety.

•Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (TRO or DVRO). A California Temporary Restraining Order is in force for three weeks, but it can be made into a permanent restraining order for 1 to 3 years. This is also useful for domestic violence victims.

•Criminal Protective Order (“No Contact” Order). This type of restraining order is obtained through the District Attorney’s office, and is issued in active domestic violence cases. With this order, your abuser cannot call, write, e-mail or contact you at all except through lawyers.

•Civil Harassment Restraining Order (CHO). This restraining order doesn’t need to qualify as a domestic violence restraining order. It can be used to stop harassment, threats, stalking, etc. by neighbors, roommates and co-workers.

The best way to determine which restraining order you need to to work with an experienced California Restraining Order attorney who will focus on your best interests.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Parental Divorce Doubles Stroke Risk In Children

Children with parents who have gotten divorced at some point, have more than twice the risk of having a stroke during their lives.

Research on these findings was presented at The Gerontological Society of America’s (GSA) annual meeting.

Data for the study was compiled from more than 13,000 people in a 2005 health survey, and analyzed by a University of Toronto research team.

After accounting for additional health risks, researchers still found parental divorce to hold a very high rate of stroke in children who experienced the divorce.

From the total study population, more than 10 percent explained to have a parental divorce, and nearly 2 percent reported to have had a stroke at some time during their life. After accounting for health factors including age and gender, the stroke risk was more than two-fold for those who have experienced a divorce of their parent(s).

Even when analyzing other risk factors like health habits, mental health, or other childhood experiences, the risk for stroke in those experiencing a parental divorce remained significantly higher than those who did not.

Researchers suggest these findings to be interesting, but explain it to potentially put an added strain on distressed parents.

Additional research needs to be compiled to determine if additional factors exist to present these findings.

Japan's Child Custody Law

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Sorting out child custody isn't east even in the most amicable of divorces but when an acrimonious separation involves two different nationalities, things can get even trickier, especially if a Japanese citizen is involved.

Still, it's unlikely that Japan will bend to international pressure to encourage equal guardianship of the children of failed relationships as it continues to adhere to the single-custody system that only allows one parent to have sole rights to a child.

The heat is on for Japan to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, with the European Union urging Japanese Justice Minister Minoru Yanagida at an October ministerial meeting in Tokyo to address the issue head-on. The 1981 treaty is designed to prevent one parent from a dissolved marriage between two people of different nationalities from taking their offspring against an existing child custody agreement and has been signed by 82 countries. Among the Group of Eight, Japan and Russia are the only nations that aren't signatories.

The United States too has ratcheted up its call for Japan to take the cross-border custody issue more comprehensively, and the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2007 was passed by the late September calling on the Japanese government to "immediately address the growing problem of abduction to and retention of United States citizen minor children in Japan."

Patrick Braden, for one, can't wait for Japan to sign the international pact. The father of now 5-year-old Melissa, Braden hasn't seen his daughter since the mother of his child took the baby to Japan without Braden's consent four years ago. Even though a Los Angeles court had granted joint custody of Melissa to the couple, Japanese authorities haven't adhered to the court's ruling and have effectively given Melissa's mother full custody rights.

For his part, however, Braden hasn't once visited Japan either before or after his relation with the mother of his child, Ryoko Uchiyama, with whom he was never married.

"I don't see the point," Branden said. Instead, he has focused his energy on getting U.S. support for his cause, founding Global Future, an advocacy group focused solely on getting Japanese-American children currently with their Japanese parents back to their parents in the United States. About 300 children are believed to have been affected by the current legal limbo.

Still, it's unlikely that the Japanese government will sign the Hague treaty any time soon. Part of the reason why Japan hasn't given in to the demands of foreign parents is because the concept of joint custody doesn't exist. Rather, one parent -- usually the mother -- takes sole responsibility for children after a divorce and, while parents are free to argue on who should be the one responsible before a family court, any decision reached is final, and could spell the end of visiting rights for the losing parent.

Granted, such a drastic ruling on custody rights is coming under greater scrutiny in recent years, especially as Japan's divorce rate continues to rise. Nevertheless, there is no real public outrage over the current status of sole custody, and so long as that is the case, then the fact that a mother has taken over her child from the United States after ending her relationship with the father won't be viewed as bizarre.

In fact, there are greater concerns about how to actually implement joint custody when the parents live on two different continents, argued Sayuri Umeda, senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress who is also a lawyer both in Japan and the United States.

As for the pressure on the Japanese government to sign the Hague convention next year, it's likely to "be postponed again and again," Umeda said.

The real victims of the political impasse aren't the Japanese government or the disputing parents but the children who are forced into such extreme positions.

"It's a great tragedy for the children," Umeda said.


(Shihoko Goto is a former senior correspondent for UPI's Business Desk and is currently a freelance journalist who divides her time between Washington and Tokyo. She has written for Dow Jones, Bridge News, Congress Daily and a number of Japanese publications including AERA, a weekly magazine of Asahi Shimbun.)


(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eva Longoria Files For Divorce

Eva Longoria Parker has filed for divorce from her husband of three years, San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, UsMagazine.com has learned.

She filed Wednesday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In the filing, she requested that her name be restored from Parker's name to Eva Jacqueline Longoria.

Documents also state that the couple had a prenuptial agreement. It was signed in 2007, the year they wed, and amended in 2009.

She is seeking spousal support.

She cited irreconcilable differences for the split.

The filing comes on the heels of the latest Us Weekly, which reports that Longoria Parker, 35, recently discovered that her husband, 28, has been exchanging personal texts with a mutual female friend for nearly a year -- hundreds in just one month.

"Eva is heartbroken by the betrayal," says one insider (Longoria Parker’s rep had no comment; Parker’s rep could not be reached).

The two met in November 2004.

They had a brief rough patch that year -- "We were going through growing pains," she explained to Cosmopolitan -- but they worked it out.

He popped the question in 2006. "It was more than I'd imagined," she told Cosmo of his proposal. "I was shocked, too. It was like two in the morning. He got down on one knee. He was so nervous, which is what I find so surprising and sweet. I said, 'Honey, you know how much I want to marry you!'"

They famously wed in a $1.5 million wedding at a 17th century castle in Paris in July 2007 -- in front of her Desperate Housewives co-stars, including Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman.

Baby rumors soon followed.

"Tony and I want ... as many as we can have. Three, four, five," she said in 2008. "We think about adopting too."

The same year, the 5-foot-2 star dodged pregnancy rumors when she packed on 7 lbs. for Housewives ("I'm just fat," she quipped).

The two appeared to be in fine shape this past summer as they celebrated his birthday and their third wedding anniversary.

"We're thinking about it. Pretty soon," he told Us in June when asked about starting a family. "She's got one more year with Desperate Housewives, so we'll see what happens."

With their time apart, he told Us, "Skype helps a lot. As long as you both make an effort, it works ... [but I miss] not being able to kiss her every day!"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Sign Here

Move over, heirs and heiresses: Baby boomers are flocking to sign prenuptial agreements, too..

New Yorkers Laura Jackson and Gary Zaremba met on a dating website in 2005. Two years later, Mr. Zaremba, a 52-year-old real-estate developer, popped the question. Ms. Jackson accepted.

Then he popped another: "Will you sign a prenuptial agreement?"

He had been through a divorce, had a college-age son and several real-estate investments. She, a publicist and also 52, had never married.

"When he first mentioned it," Ms. Jackson, now Ms. Jackson-Zaremba, says, "I thought, 'Oh, my God.' It definitely took a little bit of the romance out."

Baby boomers looking to protect their assets are increasingly turning to prenuptial agreements—legal contracts drawn up before a marriage that dictate what happens to assets in the event a couple should part ways, either by divorce or death.

"They used to be for the rich and famous," says Marlene Eskind Moses, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and a lawyer in Nashville, Tenn. "It's become more commonplace in the market as an estate-planning opportunity for boomers."

Even before the financial crisis hit, prenuptial agreements were on the rise: Some 80% of matrimonial lawyers said they had seen an increase in couples signing them in recent years, according to a 2006 survey sponsored by the matrimonial lawyers group.

The financial crisis—which hit boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, especially hard—accelerated the trend. Many of them, just on the cusp of retirement, saw their investment portfolios pounded, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 53% from Oct. 9, 2007, to March 6, 2009. Home values, which represented significant chunks of boomer net worth, were down almost 31% as of March 31 from their peak in mid-2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller national index.

As a result, boomers have become more anxious to hold on to whatever they have left, says Gabriel Cheong, a divorce attorney with Infinity Law Group LLC in Quincy, Mass. Today, the majority of inquiries come from boomers "concerned about protecting their assets," he says. "Not just with the markets, but with protecting their spouses and children." And they often enter a marriage with substantial assets—and children from an earlier union.

Baby boomers are more likely to get married multiple times than younger or older couples because they also are more likely to have gotten divorced. Almost 40% of boomers who have been married have gone through at least one divorce, according to 2004 Census data, the most recent available, while only about 30% of all people who have been married have been divorced. By their 50th birthday, 27% of boomers have moved on to their second or third marriage.

None of this, of course, makes discussing a prenup with one's betrothed any easier. Ms. Jackson-Zaremba and Mr. Zaremba "put the elephant on the table," he says, and disclosed everything to each other before their lawyers drafted the agreement. Though his net worth was significantly higher than hers, she had retirement savings and an annual salary she wanted to keep separate. He owned a string of properties in several states and several lighthouses he was in the process of restoring that he, too, wanted to keep separate.

Under the terms of the prenup, one investment property on Long Island's North Fork that the couple purchased would be owned 75% by Mr. Zaremba and 25% by Ms. Jackson-Zaremba. A second property on Long Island would have the same split, but after five years ownership would change to 50-50. Assets filed on a joint tax return wouldn't be considered joint assets, the agreement states, and Mr. Zaremba's name would be added to the lease on Ms. Jackson-Zaremba's New York apartment. Neither party would take on each other's debts. Ms. Jackson-Zaremba also would receive a life-insurance policy, a provision added in the drafting.

Lawyers usually recommend that couples with substantial assets—or those who expect to inherit such assets later on—consider a prenup. Without one, they are at the mercy of a smorgasbord of state laws in the event of a divorce or death. In "community property" states, such as California, marital assets are typically split 50-50. In "equitable distribution" states, judges generally look at what is "fair," so all marital property is considered before it is divided.

Such uncertainty has helped prenups gain favor as estate-planning tools. Yet they are anything but simple to execute, and prospective couples need to make sure they avoid some common traps.

Bulletproofing a Prenup
The drafting of a prenuptial agreement, and the discussion surrounding it, should begin several months before the wedding date. If the signing terms of a prenup are later deemed rushed or ill-informed, a court can choose not to enforce the contract. Prenups are contracts, after all, and lawyers rely on decades of case law for guidance in drafting them. That has made the documents more complicated.

There still isn't any guarantee that the agreement would be bulletproof from future challenges by a former spouse, says Gary Skoloff, a family lawyer with Skoloff & Wolfe in Livingston, N.J. "A lawyer can no more guarantee that a prenup is enforced than a doctor can guarantee the result of a surgery," he says. Having each party represented by a lawyer generally decreases the likelihood that a judge might deem a prenup unfit, experts say.

Still, there are some general rules that experts say will help the document hold up in court. When drafting a prenup, lawyers generally divide goods into two major pools: assets created before the marriage and assets created during the marriage. In addition to assets, responsibility for paying off debts incurred both before and during the marriage can be divided in a prenup.

Some older prenups cited fixed-dollar amounts. That made it easier to contest them, as inflation eroded the value of many assets or, conversely, as some assets, such as real estate, saw their value sharply increase. Lawyers now prefer to disclose the ownership stake—and, when possible, the value—of all assets for transparency, but also to address how appreciation of assets or new contributions will be divided.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to hide assets. "The worst thing you can do is play games," Mr. Skoloff says, "because then you've lost credibility with your spouse. And a judge."

Another rule of thumb: A prenup can't contain anything that violates a state's laws or public policy. In Florida, for example, any kind of debt incurred before a marriage—regardless of what a prenup says—is considered a nonmarital debt, so it wouldn't transfer over to a spouse, says Mitchell Karpf, a marital and family lawyer with Young, Berman, Karpf & Gonzalez in North Miami Beach, Fla. Some couples do choose to insert sunset provisions, so that the prenup expires after a certain number of years of marriage.

Doctors, lawyers, members of a family business or others who have a shared practice may suggest their peers draft prenups to ensure a spouse can't take income from the business. Conversely, a spouse who contributes to a business might want to ensure that their work is compensated.

The Next Generation
Tanya Porter, 60, and her husband, Darrell, 72, signed a prenup when they were married 27 years ago for one overriding purpose: to ensure their assets would go to their children from previous marriages in the event of a divorce or death. Today, many things in the agreement are moot, with stocks sold, cars long since traded in and kids all grown up. "It's funny now to reread it," says Ms. Porter, now a full-time wedding planner in Englewood, Colo.

In recent years, as more couples have drafted prenups, the documents have expanded to spell out terms of the marriage itself, addressing issues such as adultery, intimacy or weight gain, Ms. Moses says. Some prenups also determine things like what religion children will be raised as, or where they will attend school. However, child-support and custody agreements typically aren't included in prenups because those are to be determined separately by the courts.

Because prenups are general legal contracts, same-sex couples may be able to draft financial agreements, even if their state doesn't legally recognize the union, she says. "People are free to contract," Ms. Moses says.

Some baby boomers, anxious about how their assets will be passed on, are even requiring their children to consider prenups, says Daniel E. Clement, a divorce lawyer in New York. Typically, younger couples just starting out with equal assets wouldn't need one. But if a spouse has wealth such as a trust or inheritance they either intend to give or receive, a prenup might make sense.

"When they hand that money down, they want to make sure it's not lost on an heir's spouse when they want to give it to the heir," Mr. Clement says. "I think people are more cognizant that money can be there today, gone tomorrow in a flash."

Another concern for many couples: how inheritances are spent. A spouse's inheritance may belong only to that spouse, but if it is spent toward a home that both live in, it could be considered joint property. Couples can use a prenup to clearly spell out ownership stakes.

Melissa Brides and her husband Aaron Ockman of Santa Monica, Calif., decided that a prenup wasn't in order, even after his parents suggested one. Although taken aback, Ms. Brides—herself a child of divorce—says she "understood why they were asking." The two 34-year-olds have roughly the same net worth, but Mr. Ockman co-owns an apartment building with his parents.

Even though the couple finally decided against getting a prenup, having the discussion was beneficial. Mr. Ockman's parents drafted a separate agreement among the three family members stipulating what share of the property Mr. Ockman owns in the event the building is sold.

As for the Jackson-Zarembas, their prenuptial agreement was written to sunset after 15 years. It was signed on July 11, 2008. The couple was wed the next day and have been happily married ever since.

"Sometimes," Mr. Zaremba says, "the best contracts are the ones you don't have to use."

I Do's and I Dont's
Some pointers on what and what not to do when considering a prenuptial agreement:

- Have each party represented by a lawyer
- Start talking about and drafting the agreement several months before the wedding
- Consider enlisting the help of a marriage counselor, financial planner or accountant.
- Research whether an additional waiver is needed for a workplace retirement plan.
- Hide any assets from a future spouse.
- Forget to assign responsibility for joint and separate debts, if applicable.
- Include things that could violate state laws, such as child-support payments.
- Use a prenup as a substitute for a will or estate plan.
"The prenup changed me," she says. "I became more assertive." Most of all, she finds it much easier, both professionally and personally, to discuss money.

Write to Mary Pilon at mary.pilon@wsj.com

For more information on prenups, please visit our websites here and here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Father and son fight over £5.1m divorce settlement

By Stephen Howard, PA

A father is fighting his son in court over a £5.1 million divorce settlement he made with his former wife two months before she died.

Fraser Richardson inherited his mother Harriet's estate and is resisting his father Eric's application to cut the settlement.

The father ran a hotel chain and flats business with his wife and faces a massive damages claim after a child was injured falling from one of the apartments.

His insurers have warned him they may not indemnify him and he wants the divorce settlement figure varied so that any damages award is shared with the estate of his late wife.

Sally Harrison QC, representing the son, told three judges at the Court of Appeal: "The relationship between Fraser Richardson and his father has broken down entirely and they could not work together in any way in the future."

The son says that when the divorce settlement was agreed, his father retained 52.5% of the couple's joint assets, close to £11 million, and in return agreed to take on all the risks of the business from which his mother had retired.

Nigel Dyer QC, representing the 71-year-old father, said any damages award should be a joint liability because the accident happened when his former wife was his business partner.

He said it was not foreseeable during the divorce proceedings that the insurers might repudiate liability under the insurance policy and refuse to indemnify the business.

"In these circumstances it is not fair or reasonable that the husband alone should be liable for the damages award; any damages award should still be a liability to be met by the husband and wife's estate."

He said the husband had been advised by solicitors that if the claim succeeded on liability, the damages could be in the region of £3 million with costs of £300,000.

"If the husband has to pay £3.3 million he will lose nearly 60% of the assets he retained under the order."

Mr Dyer said it would not affect the wife's estate by staying the settlement order until after the accident damages hearing.

"The wife is dead so she does not need the money," he said.

At the time of the divorce settlement hearing, both husband and wife were 70 and had been married for more than 40 years.

During their marriage they carried on a business as hoteliers, property investors and landlords.

Their assets comprised two hotels in the North West, five in Devon and Cornwall and nine blocks of flats in Manchester, worth a total of £40 million.

After deducting investment loans mainly taken out by Mr Richardson, the net assets were £10,906,734.

The accident in 2004 involved a two-year-old girl who fell from a window in one of the couple's blocks of flats.

Mr Dyer said that three and a half years after the accident, a personal injury claim was issued against Mr Richardson and the Richardson Group which he ran with his wife.

He said: "If the husband has to meet the damages claim with no contribution from the wife's estate, then Fraser will end up with a much greater share of his parents' wealth than his father will retain."

He said the settlement order should be set aside and a new lump sum order made to reflect the true value of the assets after any damages award had been taken into account.

Ms Harrison said Mr Richardson failed to act promptly in appealing against the order.

When the settlement was made, the judge had balanced the fact that the husband was retaining assets with far greater potential for growth against a lump sum paid to Mrs Richardson with the husband's acceptance of all the risk laden assets and any losses, she said.

Judgment was reserved in the case.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Be a Good Client

(And Save Yourself Money)

a. Tell me the truth. In order for me to be at my very best, I need you to tell me the whole truth about your legal matter, even if it is unpleasant, and even if you think it hurts you. Remember, our success depends on the accuracy of the information I receive.

b. Return my phone calls and emails and promptly comply with my requests. During the course of my representation, I may ask you to do some things to help me help you. At such times, please do your part and promptly comply with these requests. Remember, you are paying for my time, which includes "nag" time.
c. Tell me how you feel. I hope you will be satisfied with my work. If so, please tell me. And if for some reason, you are not satisfied, do not be afraid to tell me so that I may discuss the matter with you.

d. Ask questions. If at any time you do not understand something that is, or is not, happening, please ask questions.

e. Pay your bill timely. Remember, in order to represent you, I rely on services and staff, whom I have to pay. I have a business to run. If you do not pay your bills, my services will be terminated, no matter how much I like you. It’s not personal – it’s business.


a. My commitment is to give you my best effort. I commit to give you all of my experience, training, and energy in my representation of you.

b. To promptly return your phone calls. I understand how important it is that your phone calls be promptly returned. I will make every effort to return your call the same day, and at the latest, within 24 hours.

c. To be honest with you. I will tell you the truth as I honestly see it.

d. To keep you informed. I am aware that your legal issues are very important to you. I do not take your trust for granted, and I plan to keep you fully advised about the progress of your legal matter.

e. To tell you what is going to happen step by step. I intend to tell you as best I can what to expect before it happens, so that you are not surprised or confused.

f. To treat you with respect. You are my client, and as such, you deserve the utmost respect from your attorney.


a. Explain the law in California on issues of divorce, annulment, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, property division, and restraining orders. What is an annulment? What happens between filing and Judgment? What is an OSC? What is the date of separation? How much support can you expect to pay?

b. Explain procedure of the court. How long will this take? What will the Judge be like? What can you expect when you make this particular demand? Is it worth it to go to court?

c. Represent you in court. Your lawyer will be your voice. They will step into your shoes and tell your side of the story, convincingly and appropriately. They will speak the law language for you. They will pacify a grumpy Judge who doesn’t like excessive verbosity.

d. Represent you to opposing party and counsel. You are a good person. You have reasonable demands. Your lawyer will be on your side, arguing for your demands.

e. Protect your interests. You have rights defined by the law. You need to know your rights, and how to enforce them. Your lawyer is your protector.

f. Creatively argue the FACTS to best support the LAW. We can’t easily change the law, but lawyers are gifted at spinning FACTS which can get you the most you need under the law.


a. Easily Change the Law. Times change. Laws change. But let’s be realistic, will the laws change during your divorce? Probably not. The 401k you acquired during the marriage, with no prenup? That is community property. We can’t change that. Your wife isn’t working and hasn’t worked for 10 years? You need to pay spousal support. Even if she cheated on you? That’s right. You have to pay spousal support. We can’t change that. You are a stay-at-home mom with a law degree with 2 school-aged children and you never want to work a day in your life, and want to collect support forever? You will eventually need to find a job. Child support terminates at age 18, or 19 if in high school. Spousal support – depends on many other factors. But unless you find another source of support, you WILL need to find a job. We can’t change that.

b. Make Your Personal Decisions For You. I can always give excellent advice and counsel on legal issues. For example, is $2500 a fair amount of support to pay, for 10 months? Is your parenting plan reasonable under the circumstance? Can you move to Hawaii? However, I can never tell you to get divorced.

c. Speed Up the Process. You can trust me to deliver prompt service. However, I cannot control the other side. Or their lawyers. It only takes one party to drag out a case. I promise you that unless it is due to strategy, I will not purposely prolong your case. Also, I do not control the courts. I promise that I will get you the earliest mediation and court appointment. However, I can never promise you’ll get a trial date by January 2011, or an OSC date by May 2012. I do not control the court calendar.

d. Predict the Outcome with Guarantee. I have a lot of experience with the court system, and family law. It is my job, and I do it well. However, I am not God. I do not have a crystal ball, and I don’t have sixth sense. I am human, and I err. So do NOT rely on me to tell you, to absolute perfection, what will happen if we go to court.

e. Finally, We Cannot Be Your Personal, On-Call, 24/7 Advisor. We understand that your case is important to you. And we honor that. You have our word that we do not take our clients’ trust for granted. Please understand – there are other clients in your similar situations. If I am in court on the day of your emergency, I simply cannot tend to you immediately. I am very fortunate to have very competent staff, who are always here to respond to your needs. However, if you need to talk to me, you will need to make an appointment. I will do my best to get to you ASAP.

f. Understand my role and do not take me for granted. I am your lawyer. Some of my clients – I even consider my “family”. But I am NOT an on-call robot, and barring true emergencies, I cannot respond to your calls after-hours, or on the weekends. I cannot give you my cell phone number. You have my email, and during work hours, you can expect a response, same day. There are times we may look at and answer your email over the weekend, but this is generally the exception and not to be relied upon by you that we are accessible on weekend.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Divorce: Three Times a Charm for Charlie Sheen

It's been a tough week for Charlie Sheen. On Tuesday, the 45-year-old actor was hospitalized after an "adverse" reaction to prescription medication. And on Monday (November 1), the "Two and a Half Men" star and wife Brooke Mueller filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences."

Back in May, Sheen and Mueller signed a 43-page settlement that divided all their assets and settled a child custody agreement. According to documents obtained by TMZ, the couple are seeking joint custody of their twins, Bob and Max.

In addition to physical custody, Mueller will receive $55,000 a month in child support. That monetary sum must be no less than the amount of support he is obliged to pay for his children with ex-wife Denise Richards, as the document reads, "Under no circumstances shall the child support paid by Charlie for Bob and Max be less than the child support paid by Charlie to Denise Richards for Sam and Lola."

The couple, who married in May 2008, have experienced their share of trouble, including a domestic dispute over Christmas at their home in Aspen, Colorado. Sheen had reportedly threatened Mueller with a knife and was charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault as a result of a plea deal. He later entered rehab "as a preventative measure," according to a statement issued by his publicist.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Divorce: Why the big breakup in China?

By Jaime FlorCruz, CNN Beijing Bureau Chief

  • Divorce in China was once frowned upon
  • In today's China, some 4,500 couples split up every day
  • Psychiatrist: Divorce on the rise because of social, economic changes
  • Another reason for increase in divorce: Changes to regulations make it easier to split

"Jaime's China" is a weekly column about Chinese society and politics. Jaime FlorCruz has lived and worked in China since 1971. He studied Chinese history at Peking University (1977-81) and served as TIME Magazine's Beijing correspondent and bureau chief (1982-2000).

Beijing, China (CNN) -- There was hardly any confusion about marriage and family life in old China. Traditional Chinese culture frowned on divorce. An ancient proverb admonishes newlyweds: "You are married until your hair turns white."

In practice, of course, men played a more dominant role in Chinese families and got away with most things, including marital dalliances. It was shameful for women to marry more than once while it was easy for men to take one or more concubines.

But the times are changing in modern China. The economic miracle that followed the country's opening to the outside world after 1979 has dramatically changed social mores --- and getting divorced no longer carries the social stigma it once did.

In today's China, some 4,500 couples split up every day. More than 2.46 million couples divorced in the country last year -- nearly twice the number in 2001.

See more of CNN's special coverage of China

"The rise in divorce rate is expected because China over the years has been going through drastic social and economic changes," said Xu Haoyuan, a U.S.-trained psychiatrist who offers marital counseling on a Beijing radio hotline. "Views on sex and marriage have swung from one extreme to another -- from the extremely puritanical to the free-wheeling."

So, why are couples in China splitting up? Experts have many explanations, but a key reason was the revision in 2003 of the marriage registration regulation, making it easier to divorce.

Before the change, couples seeking a divorce were required to get letters from their work units or neighborhood committees that explained and endorsed their reasons for breaking up.

Those who did not want to be subjected to lectures, gossips and shame opted to stay miserably married. Under the new rules, if couples are not fighting over property rights or child custody, they can get their divorce in minutes.

Other reasons for the spike in divorce: increased social mobility, especially the relaxation of the "hukou," or household registration system, that has accelerated internal migration; the one-child policy, some negative effects of rapid economic growth on peoples' values, and the dramatic change in the status of women.

Ideologues blame it on fickleness that comes from social-climbing, gold-digging, unsatisfied sexual or romantic desire. Still others attribute it to indiscriminate adoption of Western values and "bourgeois ideas" of materialism and egotism.

Not surprisingly, marriage counselors find that a common cause of Chinese divorces is marital infidelity, euphemistically referred to as "di san zhe," or "a third party."

"Extra marital relations are quite common nowadays," said the psychiatrist Xu. "Almost every couple who call in say they have extramarital relations. People are confused about what is right and what is wrong."

For four years, one of my friends had carried on a long-distance marriage with his wife. He worked in Beijing as a producer of movies and TV programs, while his wife chose to stay in her native Shanghai, where she worked as a white-collar employee in a trading company.

Not long ago, my friend found a girlfriend -- a young Beijing native. When his wife learned about it, she demanded a divorce. They parted ways amicably.

In some regions in China, the reasons for divorce have nothing to do with the romantic relationship: some people, wanting to take advantage of government programs, have entered into fake divorces.

For example, many property-hungry couples in Shanghai were found forging divorce documents in early October in order to circumvent a new government regulation. To curb speculation and cool the red-hot Shanghai property market, the local government recently issued new rules limiting families to buying one additional home per family. By faking divorce, couples hoped to buy as many as four homes instead of two, according to the Chongqing Business Newspaper.

In the past, marriage in China was mainly an economic arrangement where women were dependent on husbands and relegated to the role of breeder and nurturer.

Chinese women are now achieving higher economic and social status. These changes transform marriage into a mutually satisfying partnership.

Many Chinese now put a premium on love, mutual affection, compatibility and sexual equality.

All things considered, I see rising divorce rates in China in a positive light.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The World's Most Powerful Women

The World's Most Powerful Women

When it comes to power, cultural impact means as much as money and political influence.
Forbes' power lists are synonymous with moguls and movie stars, heads of state and captains of business. One look at the 2010 World's 100 Most Powerful Women list and it is clear that we've come up with a new ranking of the female power elite that reflects the New Order of now.

When we set out to identify this year's list, we decided it was time to look up and out into the broader culture. Our assessment is based less on traditional titles and roles and more on creative influence and entrepreneurship. These power women have built distinctive companies and brands and championed weighty causes, sometimes through unconventional means; in other cases they have broken through gender barriers.

In Pictures: The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women

Click here to see the full list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women

We divided our power women candidates into four groups: politics, business, media and lifestyle (that is, entertainment, sports and fashion). We ranked the women in each group, and then group against group. Not easy, but that's today's reality: an unpredictable, diverse mash-up of hard power (currencies and constitutions) and dynamic power (audience and audacity).
Why else would Lady Gaga (No. 7) and Ellen DeGeneres (No. 10) share top 10 billing with Michelle Obama (No. 1), Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of Kraft Foods ( KFT - news - people ) (No. 2), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (No. 5) and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo ( PEP - news - people ) (No. 6)? If anything, it's inspiring.

We included many heads of state and hopeful candidates, but we also have queenmakers who don't hold office, first ladies of various sorts, Surpreme Court justices and cultural icons, bankers and bestselling authors. We rely on these women for, yes, managing our money, creating paychecks and governing at home and on the international stage, but also what we eat, download, talk about around the dinner table and the causes we support. What we think and how we act.

At the top of our list, First Lady Michelle Obama is a true change-maker since taking lodge in the White House in 2008. The first African-American in the post, she's changed the face of the office (literally), and with consistently high approval ratings, she's given a new generation of girls and women around the world a role model. A former private attorney and public servant in Chicago, her interest in working with young people and advocating for healthy eating, among other issues, is evidenced by her Let's Move! campaign, which aims to solve the epidemic of childhood obesity within a generation.

Power women are connected, each one leveraging the power of the next. As a result of Let's Move!, for example, major food and drink manufacturers (including Rosenfeld's Kraft Foods and Nooyi's PepsiCo) have pledged to cut 1.5 trillion calories from their products by 2015 through new products, recipes and reduced portion sizes. At the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) last month, Secretary of State Clinton led a plenary session on empowering women and girls, a new CGI action area, and attended by Katie Couric (No. 22), Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan (No. 76) and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (No. 86).

Back to how Nooyi and talk show host DeGeneres landed together among the top 10 most powerful women in the world? While Nooyi helms PepsiCo, which has revenues of $43 billion annually and a portfolio of brands that include Tropicana, Frito Lay and Gatorade, DeGeneres directly connects with 3 million viewers daily weekdays through her talk show. And that's just one hour of her day.

Off-camera, the out-and-proud DeGeneres spreads her message to more than 5 million Twitter followers, notably bringing national attention to a gay teen's fight for same-sex prom dates last spring. Her high-profile, high-energy personality--as a television host, CoverGirl model and former judge of American Idol--has made LGBT issues more than mainstream. She's instilled a sense of glee and attractiveness to it all.

Traditionally, women's lists are heavily salted with the language of "firsts." First woman CEO. First woman on the Supreme Court. First female president. To be sure, there are firsts on this list: Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the House, while race car driver Danica Patrick is the first (and only) woman to have won an IndyCar series. With the impending launch of OWN, Oprah Winfrey is the first woman to own her own cable network and Julia Gillard and Johnson Sirleaf are currently the first female prime minister of Australia and Africa's first female president, respectively.

First females make for good copy, but the real headline is that packs have emerged. Three women sit on the Supreme Court, marking an unprecedented tipping point for change. This year Diane Sawyer joined Couric as a female nightly solo news anchor, with Rachel Maddow and Christiane Amanpour as compats. Gillard is among 10 female heads of state on this year's rankings. From Singapore to Silicon Valley, 25 women on the list hold CEO titles.
Ripening for political leaders, generally, comes at the 50s and 60s, while business leaders peak in their 40s and 50s. Media and lifestyle power women seem to come of age in their 20s and 30s. But there are notable exceptions and crossover. Madonna and Arianna Huffington have exceptional staying power, while Sarah Palin and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg are early bloomers.

Redefining the idea of power as influence is a challenging feat, particularly hard in that we looked at the world in all of its complexities to find the women who wield their importance in four distilled spheres to create change. Add the pace of the year 2010--the speed at which we consume and communicate--and the task becomes even greater.
What we've found is that power, hard or dynamic, can be fleeting. One million or so Twitter followers today can be kissed goodbye as quickly as a company can go bankrupt or a government overthrown. And so we consider this list a frozen moment in time.

We invite you to visit forbes.com/woman where the list will live, breathe and be shaped and reshaped in months to come.

The Most Powerful Women In The World—click on each woman to view profile
1. Michelle Obama, First Lady, U.S.
2. Irene Rosenfeld, Chief Executive, Kraft Foods
3. Oprah Winfrey, Talk show host and media mogul
4. Angela Merkel, Chancellor, Germany
5. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, U.S.
6. Indra Nooya, Chief Executive, Pepsico
7. Lady Gaga, Singer and performance artist
8. Gail Kelly, Chief Executive, Westpac
9. Beyoncé Knowles, Singer and fashion designer
10. Ellen DeGeneres, Talk show host
11. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, U.S.
12. Angela Braly, Chief Executive, Wellpoint
13. Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Homeland Security, U.S.
14. Cynthia Carroll, Chief Executive, Anglo American
15. Sheila Bair, Chair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
16. Sarah Palin, Political maverick and commentator
17. Mary Schapiro, Chair, Securities and Exchange Commission
18. Ellen Kullman, Chief Executive, DuPont
19. Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice, U.S.
20. Ursula Burns, Chief Executive, Xerox
21. Angelina Jolie, Actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador
22. Katie Couric, News anchor
23. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, Health & Human Services
24. Anne Lauvergeon, Chief Executive, Areva
25. Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice, U.S.

Click Here To See The Next Most Powerful Woman In The World

Monday, October 4, 2010

Canada: 40% of First Marriages End in Divorce

4 in 10 1st marriages end in divorce: report

CBC News

Forty per cent of Canadian marriages end in divorce, says a new study from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

The traditional definition of family is changing in Canada, with 4 in 10 first marriages ending in divorce, according to a new study.

For the first time in Canadian history, there are more unmarried people than legally married people age 15 and over in this country, says the study from the Vanier Institute of the Family released Monday in Ottawa.

It was based on data from the 2006 census, and some of the information has been reported in the years since.

"Marriage is still a vitally important part of the experience of families in the fabric of our country and most young people do aspire to marriage," said Clarence Lochhead, executive director of the Vanier Institute, adding that even people who have divorced or separated will end up partnering up again.

"We just have to come to grips with the diversity that actually is within our experience. Then we need to find ways to address and take on the challenges that face families, but do it in an inclusive way that makes sense for the reality and not some ideal notion of what a family is or ought to be."

According to Statistics Canada, about 38 per cent of all marriages taking place in 2004 will have ended in divorce by 2035. The total divorce rate was down slightly from its peak of about 41 per cent in the mid 1980s, but slightly higher than the rate of about 37 per cent recorded in the mid 1990s.

Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rate of divorce at 21.6 per cent — while Quebec had the highest at 48.4 per cent.

Top 8 reasons people marry
1. Feeling that marriage signifies commitment
2. Moral values
3. Belief that children should have married parents
4. It is the natural thing to do
5. Financial security
6. Religious beliefs
7. Pressure from family
8. Pressure from friends

Top 5 reasons couples separate or divorce
1. Different values and interests
2. Abuse — physical and emotional
3. Alcohol and drugs
4. Infidelity
5. Career-related conflict
Source: Vanier Institute of the Family

The highest proportion of married people was in Newfoundland and Labrador where 54.3 per cent were married, while Quebec had the lowest proportion of married couples with only 37.5 per cent of adults falling in this category.

Newfoundland and Labrador also had the lowest rate of divorce, while Quebec had the highest.

Also for the first time in Canada, there were more couples without children than with children, and this was true throughout the country, with families with children representing a minority of families in all provinces and territories.

For married families with children, 18.6 per cent of children live with only one parent. Common-law families are growing faster than any other type of family with one in 10 Canadians living in such relationships and 14.6 per cent of children living with common-law parents.

The 2006 census was the first to report on same-sex marriages and 16.5 per cent of same-sex couples now marry.

The recent economic downturn has proven to be a stressor for families. The higher cost of living means most families now require two income earners to achieve an average standard of living.

More families are also struggling with debt and poverty. Men are also working longer hours and spending less time with their families.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/04/vanier-study004.html#ixzz11RwJBynn

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CONVICTION: Movie Review

I normally wouldn't take the time out to "blog" about a movie, but after an amazing preview screening last night, I had to quickly write my review to help promote this movie about the American legal system.

FYI - "Conviction" hits general theaters on October 15, 2010.

I have free passes for all interested to a screening next Thursday, 10/7/2010, 7:30 pm, at the Grove. Please email me if you are interested.

Conviction Movie Review
by Attorney Kelly Chang Rickert

It starts with his, and ends with hers.

"Conviction" is an aptly-named movie about an innocent man, Kenneth Waters (Sam Rockwell), who endured and lost a criminal trial for murder, and subsequent appeals. With no money (so no lawyer), his baby sister Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), takes on the job - finishes high school, college, law school and passes the bar, to become his attorney. With newly-established DNA law and evidence, she is able to release him.

It only took 18 years, but Betty Anne was able to successfully set aside the wrongul conviction.

The legal system isn't all too easy on folks with modest means (my favorite line in the movie is by Abra Rice, played by the beautiful Minnie Driver - "The legal system is so f'cking inconvenient!!")

Inconvenient, yes. Not for the weak, yes.

But justice IS served at the end - and that is my favorite part of the movie.

I have practiced law for over a decade (and will likely practice for 2 more), and this is by far one of my favorite law movies of all time. It presents a naked version of the legal system - hoop-hopping, paper-pushing, and sometimes corrupt.

The many obstacles faced by Kenneth and Betty Anne can really put a damper on the legal system. But the movie ends the way it should - with justice, and teaches us that fierce determination and a strive for justice will defeat any travesty.

The movie speaks loudly to me as an attorney. I distinctly recall June 5, 2000 - the day I was sworn to practice law for the good. I took an oath to fight for justice. Without movies such as "Conviction", it is very simple to see how that message gets eroded over years of paperwork, deadlines, and procedural BS. It reminds me to look past all that - and DO GOOD.

The movie also speaks to me as a tax-paying citizen, a wife, and a mother. I loved the inspirational message of hard work overcoming any difficult circumstances. (Law school was hard for ME, and I was 21 years old, unmarried, no children AND receiving subsidies from my parents!) I am very fond of the message that ANYONE, even a poor single mom of 2 can become an attorney, and FIGHT for justice.

Finally, I loved the very real portrayal the American legal system. It can be big and scary, but you can work your butt off, and it JUST may pay off.

The title was very clever - a true double-entendre, and the movie came full circle - beginning with his conviction, ending with hers.

I've always loved my job, but damn, after seeing this movie, I gotta stand up and say, "I AM PROUD TO BE A LAWYER".