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Monday, August 23, 2010

Kelly Chang Rickert Explains "The Jude Law"

I had the privilege and pleasure of appearing on this fabulous TV show last night on Style Network.

In case you missed it - here is a piece of advice, straight from a divorce lawyer's mouth.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Dish Presents: Surviving a Bad Romance




THE DISH PRESENTS:

SURVIVING A BAD ROMANCE

Sunday 8/22/2010; 8pm PST, Style Network



(Kelly Chang Rickert appears as an expert on this show.)

Survive a cheating no good loser on 'The Dish Presents'

Know a cheater, loser, drunk, druggie, no good can't get a job to save his life piece of work?

Don't we all.

Then don’t miss the one-hour Style special “The Dish Presents: Surviving a Bad Romance,” as Host Danielle Fishel, relationship experts and comedians offer up a hilarious pop-culture guide for the do's and don'ts for surviving a bad romance!

“The Dish Presents: Surviving a Bad Romance” airs this Sunday, August 22 at 8:00pm et/pt, only on The Style Network!

It’s estimated that close to half of all guys will cheat at some point in their lives. So, what’s a girl to do when her man is caught with his pants down?

Luckily, hope is on the way, as Danielle Fishel, host of the hit series “The Dish,” introduces a group of relationship experts and comedians who will serve up hilariously helpful commentary, offer advice about how to deal with cheaters and help scorned women avoid the pitfalls while maximizing the perks of their situation.

Investigating the most shocking celebrity breakups to date, no high-profile couples will be off limits as the team scrutinizes the unfortunate events that lead to their failed romances. From scandalous extramarital affairs, to explosive admissions and the unexpected and even bizarre outcomes, women will learn from these mistakes and know what to do when faced with an unfaithful partner.

Tune in to this instructive yet sassy guide to overcoming a broken heart, on “The Dish Presents: Surviving a Bad Romance.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Open Letter from Divorce Lawyer





Open Letter from Divorce Lawyer
By a renowed Maryland Lawyer Who shall remain Anonymous






PLEASE NOTE THIS IS SATIRE AND NOT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY...
Dear client:

I am pleased that you have hired me to represent you in your divorce. I'm pleased because I need the money you and others like you pay me. I'm tired of working with people like you who are always fighting and never happy, and often unhappy with me, but I feel trapped now and don't know how I could change my practice at this point in my career without a huge financial setback, so I hang on and do the best job I can, the best way I know, for clients like you.
If you're like most people going through divorce, you've heard a chorus of voices -- from your mother to your neighbor to the person who cuts your hair -- warning that you better get a mean "junkyard dog" lawyer. I don't like being a junkyard dog lawyer, and I don't think it would be in your best interest for me to be, but I have to give you the impression early on that I am so you will hire me. I don't like doing it, but you demand it, so I do it.

That means that when we met in our first consultation, I talked about how experienced I am. I gave you an optimistic assessment of what you would give up and what you would get working with me. If your spouse had come the same day instead of you and presented the very same facts, I would have given your spouse an equally optimistic assessment from their perspective. I learned long ago not to lose any sleep about doing this. You demand it, and I'm going to give it to you so you will hire me.
You can see what happened now, can't you? I gave you an optimistic assessment of your case from your perspective, then one of my colleagues gave your spouse an optimistic assessment of the case from your spouse's perspective. Together, we worked knowingly or unknowingly to convince both of you that the other is being unreasonable and that you each needed us to win you a better deal.
I told you in our initial consultation that you should avoid communicating directly with your spouse about anything other than parenting of your children. I did this because nothing is so important to me as client control. I want to be the gatekeeper of all communications between you and your spouse, so I can decide how much information to provide to you and what "spin" to put on it. This will make you and your spouse more suspicious of each other, and it will make you more dependent on me. I like that, at least in the early stages of divorce negotiations.
I required you to pay a large retainer when you hired me. I told you that I have a fixed retainer for all divorce clients, or I may have told you that I set your retainer after carefully considering the complexity of your case, the time I expect to put in, and the risk that my estimates might be too low. In reality, though, my technique for setting your retainer was far simpler: I charged the highest retainer I thought I could get. The reason I did this is that the retainer is often the only money I ever see for representing someone in a divorce case. I may try to bill you and get paid later, but many of my clients don't pay me anything after the initial retainer, even though they owe me a great deal of money, and I hesitate to sue them for fear they will counterclaim for malpractice and drive up my insurance premiums. The fact that I have so much trouble getting clients like you to pay me what they owe me is another reason my work is so unpleasant for me.
I also will work to appear successful. I may drive a luxury car and maintain a sumptuous office, because I want you and my colleagues -- especially my colleagues -- to believe that I am earning lots of money. In one sense, I am earning lots of money. I charge a high hourly rate, and I have a great deal of business, so I have high billings. I also have a high overhead, however, and I have trouble getting paid. In reality, I have financial struggles just like you do.
There's more than a 93% chance that your case will settle before trial. Nevertheless, I will prepare your case as if you were going to trial. This will be wasteful and expensive. I will conduct lengthy discovery, including interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and depositions, charging you a great deal of money to prepare documents that I simply have printed from my word processor with minor changes.
I will do this not because it's in your best interest but because I'm afraid of being embarrassed in front of other lawyers and judges and because I'm afraid you will sue me. The result is that you and/or your spouse will spend a great deal of money preparing for a trial we know will almost certainly not occur. I've heard that much of this could be avoided by simply exchanging documents and affidavits, but that's not what I'm used to doing. If there's a better way, I don't know it, and even if I knew it, I probably wouldn't do it. The way I practice law is what I know and understand, and it's safe for me.
I live my professional life in and around the courthouse. I gauge my schedule and my priorities to make sure cases that have an imminent court date are ready to present. This means that if your case doesn't have an imminent court date, it will be hard to get me to focus much attention on it. Your case will move much more slowly than you would like.
When we are at the courthouse, there will be huge blocks of time when I will leave you alone while I negotiate or just swap stories with your spouse's lawyer. Every now and then, I'll report back to you on progress and tell you how negotiations are going. You probably will find it jarring that I'm so friendly with your spouse's lawyer. Remember, you and I have a temporary relationship.Your spouse's lawyer and I have seen each other several times a week for years, and our relationship will continue long after you're gone from my life. It's not surprising, then, that I'm more attentive to that relationship than I am to the one with you.
Early on in our relationship, you are in emotional distress, you believe that no one in the world has ever faced the problems you are facing, and you view me as a savior who can protect you from all the cruel insults you are facing. Over time, however, you will begin to stabilize emotionally, you will begin to view me and my services more realistically, and you will begin to realize just how expensive all this is becoming. You may begin to resent me, and you may place a lower priority on paying my fee. You will also begin to hold me accountable for producing results that I know are unrealistic.
Although at the outset I stated an optimistic assessment of your case, over the term of our relationship I will become increasingly pessimistic with you about your chances. I will do this because, by then, I will become tired of you and tired of your case. I will want you to become more flexible in negotiations so I can reach an agreement with your spouse and your spouse's lawyer. By then, I will have spent enough time on your case to justify keeping all the retainer, and I will be afraid that I may never see any more money, so I will press you to reach agreement with your spouse.
Also, as our relationship continues, I will be increasingly harder to reach. I may fail to return your phone calls, or I may call you back but be evasive about giving you useful information, always seeming in a hurry. I will do this perhaps without even realizing I'm doing so, primarily because it will be unpleasant for me to deal with you when you become increasingly unhappy.
Often an agreement will happen because you and your spouse meet over the kitchen table or on the phone and work it out, then communicate it to your respective lawyers. This agreement may be remarkably similar to what the two of you could have agreed had you been willing to cooperate with each other at the beginning through mediation or negotiations, but you won't think about that by then, because to do so would be to admit to yourself that you've wasted several thousand dollars on legal fees. Even though I told you at the outset not to talk to your spouse, I will by then be secretly glad that you did and will work to help your agreement succeed (if I can avoid spending much time on it). Remember, by then, I will want out.
I have learned that most of my business comes by referral from other professionals, so it's more important to me that referral sources feel good about me than that clients feel good about me. I devote lots of attention to my relationships with judges, other lawyers, and other professionals. On the other hand, I have over the years become quite comfortable with unhappy clients, even clients who complain about me to the bar association. This bothered me in my early years of practice, but I've become jaded to it now. The bar association knows as I do that clients of divorce lawyers are often unhappy. I know the bar association is accustomed to receiving these complaints and taking them with several grains of salt, so it doesn't worry me much that you might complain about me.
I like you, and I'm a caring professional who wants to do a good job for you. I've learned not to trust you, though. I wish I could trust you, but I've been burned too many times by clients like you. I'm going to keep my guard up. Now that you know the way this works, let's get started.
Sincerely yours,
Your Divorce Lawyer

Open Letter from Former Divorce Lawyer



Open Letter from a Divorce Lawyer - Alternate

By John Ballew. Mark my words. Here is a lawyer who cares deeply about his clients and his profession. I can't find a web site for him, but you can reach is firm at 402-436-3030, and his e-mail is jwb@bcslawfirm.com.




Some days I feel like sending this letter....

Dear Client:

Now that your divorce has been granted, I wanted to share some observations about the process, our working relationship and the results obtained in light of your expectations and recent complaints:

1 . Our Expectations of You As A Client: When you first came in our office, you certainly presented well and acknowledged your role in causing this divorce. Once we agreed to represent you and you signed the engagement letter, we gave you some information regarding our expectations of you as a client. In short, you were expected to be truthful, prompt in getting us information we requested and it was suggested that you obtain counseling from a qualified and competent psychotherapist because the difficulties you were having with the emotional impact of the divorce. We also asked that you not involve the children in the process and that you not seek and rely upon advice (as opposed to emotional support) of your friends, family members and co‑workers. Unfortunately, you failed to abide by almost all of our suggestions which is one of the many reasons why this case took so long to resolve, why part of the case ultimately needed to be tried and why your fees were much more significant than they ordinarily should have been had you been emotionally stable, cooperative and truthful with us.

2. The Results: Early in the case, we explained the law regarding various aspects of the divorce and we repeatedly discussed the pros and cons of the proposed settlement offered by your spouse given the uncertainties of how our judge would rule on issues of tracing of inherited and gifted property, the date used for valuation of the marital estate, the valuation of your spouse's closely held business, the dissipation of assets leading up to the divorce, alimony and deviation from the child support guidelines. While we were able to settle most of these issues, your insistence that you receive what we told you was an excessive settlement ultimately lead to a trial on certain issues. The fact that the results could potentially be less than what we could have achieved in the way of a settlement was discussed prior to preparing for and appearing at trial.

3. Your Bill: At the outset, we explained to you that the charges you were expected to pay for with our firm would vary greatly, depending upon several factors beyond our control. The complexity of the issues, the attitude of your spouse, the identity of and cooperation received from your spouse's attorney and the judge assigned to the case all make a difference in fees. As you know, we ultimately prepared for trial because the case was not settled and our preparation in advance of the trial date allowed us to negotiate a settlement that was much more favorable on the issues resolved because the other side was not prepared. Our retention of a CPA for advice on tax and valuation aspects also helped us devise a settlement on certain issues that the other side failed to even consider. This process was made more difficult by your spouse's failure to comply with informal discovery requests and, ultimately, formal discovery requests which led to the issuance of an order compelling discovery and the issuance of sanctions against your spouse and your spouse's attorney. All of this takes more time and consequently resulted in higher fees. Despite the fact that we are not a bank and do not "finance" legal matters, as a courtesy to you, we carried your unpaid balance and incurred significant additional charges without being paid until after you received your settlement in the case.


4. Your Behavior: As you know, when we first met, I explained to you the procedures utilized by this office to handle these cases and my reliance on paralegals to keep your costs down and efficiently process information and prepare much of the standardized court filings. However, I also explained to you that the paralegals cannot give legal advice and those types of questions need to be directed to me. Unfortunately, you chose throughout the case to call and seek legal advice from the paralegals (probably in a misguided attempt to save money), became abusive with our office staff on numerous occasions, called me at home on weekends (4 times on one particular Saturday) and evenings over matters ranging from the removal of a lawn mower from the garage to your spouse's choice of movies for the children and made/sent abusive phone calls/e‑mails to your spouse. You also (against our advice) became romantically involved with someone shortly after the case was filed which further angered your spouse and hindered settlement negotiations.

5. Complaint To Bar Association: The recent complaint that you filed with our Bar Association has been received and reviewed by me and a response was sent to the Counsel for Discipline. Although some of my clients are occasionally unhappy, most are gratified by the effort this office puts forth on their behalf. We frequently receive thank you notes and gifts from clients who come to realize that our assistance and dedication was invaluable to them during one of the most difficult and trying times of their lives. While my letter to Counsel for Discipline addresses most of the complaints you had, I note that in ‑your letter to the Bar Association you failed to note a couple of details that do not necessarily pertain to my ethics as a lawyer but do perhaps shed some light on your behavior:

a. Your complaint failed to advise the Bar Association that you threatened to file a complaint against me unless I reduced your bill;

b. Your complaint failed to mention that, following entry of the divorce decree you cleaned out the safety deposit box, vandalized the home and refused to turn over or destroyed personal property, all of which was done without informing me as your lawyer which has now resulted in contempt of court proceedings being instituted against you;

c. On several occasions while in public, you approached me and made overt comments of a sexual nature and at the same time requested that we meet for drinks, which I refused;

d. Without notifying me, you obtained a Protection Order against your spouse after the decree was entered based upon perjured testimony under oath and after dismissing the initial Protection Order as part of our settlement agreement.

There are fewer and fewer lawyers choosing to practice in the domestic relations area because of the demands placed upon them and their staff by clients, the significant exposure to malpractice they have because of the complexity and number of issues which are required to be dealt with in most cases and because many clients like you do not appreciate the effort expended on their behalf in trying to deal with their problems, many of which are created by the client themselves.
Our office wishes you the best of luck in obtaining new counsel in dealing with what will undoubtedly be years of additional bickering with your ex spouse.

Our advice to you: Spend the money.

Get some help.

Sincerely,

Your Former Divorce Lawyer

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sperm Donation and Law



WHAT IS THE LAW REGARDING SPERM DONORS AND PATERNITY RIGHTS/CHILD SUPPORT OBLIGATIONS?











So, I keep seeing ads for Jennifer Aniston's new film, The Switch. In the age of independent women, single moms, and vanishing importance of men, what is the law regarding sperm donation???

Short answer: sperm donors (known or unknown) have no paternity rights or obligations IF the sperm donation is done CORRECTLY, through licensed physician or licensed spem bank.

The relevant law is CA Family Code 7613:

(a) If, under the supervision of a licensed physician and
surgeon and with the consent of her husband, a wife is inseminated
artificially with semen donated by a man not her husband, the husband
is treated in law as if he were the natural father of a child
thereby conceived. The husband's consent must be in writing and
signed by him and his wife. The physician and surgeon shall certify
their signatures and the date of the insemination, and retain the
husband's consent as part of the medical record, where it shall be
kept confidential and in a sealed file. However, the physician and
surgeon's failure to do so does not affect the father and child
relationship. All papers and records pertaining to the insemination,
whether part of the permanent record of a court or of a file held by
the supervising physician and surgeon or elsewhere, are subject to
inspection only upon an order of the court for good cause shown.

(b) The donor of semen provided to a licensed physician and
surgeon or to a licensed sperm bank for use in artificial
insemination or in vitro fertilization of a woman other than the
donor's wife is treated in law as if he were not the natural father
of a child thereby conceived.

So...what if the parties had a previous intimate relationship which did not lead to conception - but the sperm donation did?

Case on point:
STEVEN S., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. DEBORAH D., Defendant and Appellant.

COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION FOUR

There, Steven and Deborah had agreement that Steven would be sperm donor. Deborah was artificially inseminated by Steven's semen, and got pregnant. However, the pregnancy was not to term. Later, Steven and Deborah had sexual relationship, but Deborah never got pregnant. They broke up. After they broke up, Deborah used Steven's sperm again, and this time, got pregnant and had baby.

Trial Court held that 7613 does not apply, and accorded paternity rights to Steven.

Appeal Court disagreed, and held for Deborah - NO paternity rights for Steven. Appeal Court reaffirmed the Legislative intent of FC 7613 - which is protection of the right of women to bear children through sperm donors without fear of paternity claims, and also to protect sperm donors from child support obligations.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Long History of Difficult Divorce






Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
False confessions, graphic testimony, framed spouses and 'unknown blondes': a history of the difficulty in getting divorced, and how it could now change





Unhappy couples in New York have long gone to extremes to throw off the shackles of matrimony—in the worst cases, framing their spouses, producing graphic testimony about affairs, or even confessing to crimes they did not commit. All this will fade into the past if, as expected, Gov. David Paterson signs a bill making New York the last state in the country to adopt unilateral no-fault divorce.

Their counterparts in other states have had it much easier. California adopted the first no-fault divorce bill in 1970; by 1985, every other state in the nation—but one—had passed similar laws. In New York, the miserably married must still charge each other with cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery or abandonment—or wait one year after a mutually agreed legal separation—in order to divorce.

New York's first divorce law was passed in 1787, at the initiative of a cuckold named Isaac Gouverneur, who had the good fortune of securing Alexander Hamilton as his counsel. From then until the Divorce Reform Law of 1966, adultery was considered the only grounds sufficient for divorce. The woman whose husband fled West; the wife who was physically abused; even a man who discovered on his wedding night that his bride was of "doubtful sex" did not meet the criteria for a full divorce. If they were lucky, they might obtain a legal separation—or after 1829, an annulment.

The legal situation put many distressed couples in a quandary. Some devised adulterous situations. Those with money went out of the state to divorce—to places like Indiana in the 1800s, Nevada in the 1900s, or Mexico in the 1960s. (The cheap, fast Mexican divorce drew many celebrities too, including Marilyn Monroe during her split from Arthur Miller.) Still others remained bound to spouses they could not stand.

In the early 20th century, a number of young women hired themselves out as "correspondents" in divorce cases—essentially bait for philandering husbands. In 1934, the New York Mirror published an article titled, "I Was the 'Unknown Blonde' in 100 New York Divorces!"—featuring one Dorothy Jarvis, who earned as much as $100 a job. Ms. Jarvis had several tactics, beyond taking her date to a hotel room and awaiting ambush. There was the "push and raid" (where she would push herself into a man's room, dressed only in a fur coat, then whip off her outer garment), as well as the "shadow and shanghai" and the "dance and dope."

There never was a shortage of juicy testimony. In the case of Cock v. Cock of 1818, an eyewitness testified that when Mr. Cock was away, he came to the house before sunrise to find Mrs. Cock in bed with another man, "she being undressed and he having his breeches unbuttoned and down about his feet." Likewise, in the case against Aaron Burr, the infamous founding father, a servant deposed that she had seen "Jane McManus with her clothes all up & Coln Burr with his hands under them and his pantaloons down." (The divorce was granted the day Mr. Burr died.)

Then there were those who were desperate enough to fight the law, most without success. The extraordinary case of Eunice Chapman, which drew national attention, was a rare instance of triumph. When she met her husband in Durham, N.Y., in 1802, Eunice Hawley was a 24-year-old beauty headed toward spinsterhood, thanks to her family's financial failings. She was initially put off by the advances of James Chapman, a widower 15 years her senior, as she later wrote. However, he had a good business and promised her security, and after two years of his dogged pursuit, Ms. Hawley accepted his hand in matrimony.

Eight years and three children later, the marriage fell apart—according to her, because of his abuse, alcoholism and infidelity; according to him, because of her "abusive tongue." Finally James left Eunice and their children, ages 2, 5 and 6, with no plans to return.

This might have been the end of the story, had James not encountered a religious society called the Shakers. Now famed for their spare, modern-looking designs, the Shakers were a radical sect that, in following the teachings of their English-born leader, Ann Lee, required their followers to renounce their sexuality, all private property and personal family bonds for a larger spiritual union. To James, the Shakers' spiritual inspiration and orderly lifestyle were just what his family needed, and he hoped that his wife would agree. Eunice did not.

Real-estate heir Leonard Kip Rhinelander (above, at right) eloped with Alice Jones, below in October 1924—and then New York society discovered she was a descendant of West Indians. The following month, Mr. Rhinelander filed for an annulment, claiming she had deceived him about her race. After a well-publicized trial, the annulment was denied; in 1929, the couple finally agreed to a Nevada divorce.

..From there, the Chapmans became locked in a battle for the children who were, by the law and culture of the times, considered the rightful property of their father. Eventually James exercised his paternal prerogative: While Eunice was out, he seized the children and brought them to the Shakers near Albany, N.Y. Later, when Eunice came after them, he took the children into hiding among the Shakers in New Hampshire.

Eunice was now an abandoned woman, with no access to her children, and no secure way to rid herself of her husband—a situation made critical by the legal status of married women at the time. From the moment she wed, a woman like Eunice was considered "civilly dead" by law. She could not own property, earn her own wages, sue or be sued, make a will or sign any other contract by herself. She would remain in this state until her husband died or she managed to obtain a full divorce.

Years later, Eunice's opponents would complain that Eunice had plenty of recourse in the existing divorce laws, since she could charge her husband with adultery. Not only did she claim to have had "ocular demonstration" of his cheating, but she had an eyewitness who could testify that he had seen James lying in a back-room bed with another woman. The problem was that even with such proof there was no guarantee that a court would take Eunice's side. What scholar Hendrik Hartog has called a "guilty mind" was required, and Eunice would be hard pressed to present her husband as an incorrigible adulterer, in need of punishment, when he had joined a celibate sect.

So what was Eunice to do? An adultery trial would be expensive, as well as risky. And she would have to find James first, which could take years, if she could find him at all. One other legal option remained: She could petition the legislature for a special act of relief that would grant her a divorce as an exception to the existing laws. To do so, she would have to find a legislator willing to push her petition through the Capitol—no small task, since it would have to win favor not only with both houses, but also with the Council of Revision, which had veto power over the legislature. Legislative divorces were actually common practice in other states. But then, as now, New York was unusually conservative and had never issued one.

Going against the odds—and all expectation that she remain at home and accept the actions of her husband—Eunice fought a dazzling battle. She courted politicians, published tell-alls about Shaker "captivity" (which she distributed to legislators, and peddled everywhere), and made the most of what would now be called her phenomenal sex appeal. Her case drew crowds and even attracted the attention of Thomas Jefferson (who was outraged on behalf of the Shakers, not Eunice).

Some lawmakers argued that as badly as Mr. Chapman had treated his wife, the couple should not be allowed a divorce, since an end to the marriage would deprive the bad husband of the possibility of reform. Other legislators warned that permitting this divorce would ruin womankind. In an 1818 speech before the Assembly, Nathan Williams said: "By passing this bill we shall give boldness to the female character. Those who are now apparently amiable, encouraged by the success of Eunice Chapman, would become emboldened….They, like Eunice Chapman, would leave their retirement, and by familiarity with gentlemen would soon…be haunting the members—for divorces!"

Other arguments were not so different from those in circulation today. A main strike against Eunice's case was that relaxing the divorce laws would prevent couples from working things out, leading to more divorces. Some contemporary activists would agree: The spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, Dennis Poust, recently suggested that the proposed changes would make it "easier to get out of marriage than it is to get out of a cell phone contract."

After three years' battle, in 1818, Eunice Chapman clinched unprecedented rights to custody, as well as a legislative divorce. Her triumph did not secure her children's return—for that, mob action, a final face-off with James in New Hampshire, and yet another kidnapping would be required—but it paved the way. Others have not been so fortunate. Eunice's case goes down as the only divorce in New York history that was granted as a direct act of legislature.

Petitioners did lobby the legislature, and at least one got part way through. Jacob Scramling sought relief after his wife, who had been presumed drowned, was found and then refused to come home. He won approval in the Assembly in 1845, but lost in the Senate. One year later, legislative divorce was abolished, leaving divorcing New Yorkers with no option but to charge each other with adultery. Only in 1966, with the passage of the Divorce Reform Law, did New York catch up with other states by admitting additional grounds such as abandonment and cruelty.

It was only three years later, however, that no-fault divorce legislation passed in California. And for 25 years, New York has stood alone in its approach to no-fault divorce. On the cusp of a historic rewriting of the laws, some critics complain that the current no-fault divorce bill is bad for women. Others champion it as a step forward. Many other couples throughout history would surely have welcomed it.

—Ilyon Woo is author of "The Great Divorce."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should You Say "I Do" To Divorce Insurance?


SHOULD YOU SAY "I DO" TO DIVORCE INSURANCE?
BY STACY JOHNSON
First there was wedding insurance: we’ve explained it several times in the past, most recently a couple of months ago. That’s insurance that’s supposed to protect your wedding day – money you’d receive to reimburse you for lost deposits and other expenses in the event your wedding is canceled due to a death in the family, dangerous weather, military service or other unforeseen circumstances.

Now, apparently for the first time, there’s divorce insurance.

A North Carolina insurance startup called SafeGuard Guaranty Corporation has begun selling policies under the name WedLock (shouldn’t that be wed-unlock?). It charges $16 a month for a single “unit” of coverage, which equals $1,250. You can buy additional units for $16 a month – and keep going right up to 200 units, or $250,000 of coverage. The company adds $250 of coverage every year per unit.

What do you get for that? A cash benefit that will ease the financial burden of your divorce. According to divorce360, attorney’s fees alone can run as high as $45,000 for contentious divorces in urban areas like Los Angeles. With the divorce rate between 40 and 50 percent, SafeGuard might feel like a safe bet.

Cashing in your policy is as simple as mailing your divorce documents to SafeGuard. But lest you think you can quickly take out a policy as your marriage is hitting the rocks, note this huge caveat: Policies don’t mature until 48 months after their effective date. (If you want to include a rider for what they call an accelerated maturity, you can reduce that time period to 36 months – but that will hike your monthly premium from $16 to $30 per unit)

The policies aren’t backed by any state insurance or other government fund – only by the company that’s actually doing the underwriting the policies for Safeguard, Prime Insurance. If Prime goes down the tubes, your premiums go with them.
Wedding insurance vs. divorce insurance
While wedding insurance may be overkill in terms of cost vs. benefit, depending on the parties involved, it could be justified. It only costs a couple of hundred bucks and protects what could add up to thousands in lost deposits. And it only applies to one special day.

I’m less sanguine regarding divorce insurance. This type of insurance seems fundamentally flawed both financially and emotionally.

Financially, you’re paying $192 every year for $1,250 of benefit – and you have to pay four year’s worth, or $768, before you’re even eligible to collect. Would investing that money be more rewarding? Let’s do a comparison.

According to this financial calculator, if you invest $192 every year for five years and earn 10 percent compounded monthly, you’ll end up with – surprise! – about $1,250. That’s the same amount WedLock promises as your starting benefit. Granted, earning 10 percent is no simple feat. But it’s certainly possible. Witness our online stock portfolio.
Now let’s consider a Wedlock policy. If you pay WedLock the same $192 every year for five years, upon divorce you’ll get $2,250 ($1,250 plus 4 years of the extra $250). That’s a lot more than the $1,250 you’d get saving on your own. But you have to get divorced to get it.
If you’re saving on your own, you can stop whenever you want. If you’re paying for a WedLock policy, best you keep the premiums up, or your policy will lapse and you’ll end up with nothing.
Speaking of ending up with nothing, what if you get divorced in, say, two years? According to company CEO John Logan, you can purchase a “return of premium rider” for an extra $2 per unit that will refund any premiums you’ve paid in – less the state tax paid by the underwriter – if you get divorced in less than four years.
Now let’s consider the emotional angle of this type of insurance. When I talked to John Logan, here’s what he said about his new invention:
“We know we can’t build a dam and stop divorce from happening. But we’d at least like to put our finger in the dike to stop the crack in the foundation of marriage from getting bigger.”
Mixed metaphors aside, this seems exceedingly odd language coming from a company selling a product whose only value springs from divorce. Imagine you buy 10 units, pay premiums of $1,920/year, year after year, creating a larger and larger potential benefit. But the only way to access it is get divorced.
You may not be willing to kill your spouse for a $100,000 life insurance benefit, but how much of a benefit would it take for you to divorce your spouse? $50,000? $100,000? $200,000? Every couple would have their price. After all, you could always collect the dough and get remarried.
So if everyone gets divorce insurance, then ultimately wouldn’t everyone – except perhaps the super-rich – get divorced just to get their money?
Of course, most people probably won’t get that close. Could you approach your spouse with, “Say, sweetheart, take a look at this website, doesn’t this look like a good idea?” Nobody suggesting divorce insurance to their spouse is going to be married for four more years. Nor is anyone who keeps that kind of financial secret from their spouse.
I asked John if he’s ever been divorced. He has – once. He added, however, that he’s currently engaged and looking forward to his second time out. Is he buying divorce insurance? Nope. As it happens, in North Carolina, where both John and WedLock reside, state insurance regulations make his product prohibitively expensive.
Like this article? Subscribe to our free email updates and we’ll send you a downloadable copy of Stacy Johnson’s ’205 Ways to Save Money’ as our gift. Click here to subscribe now!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Prop 8 Found Unconstitutional


Ruling against Prop. 8 could lead to federal precedent on gay marriage






Judge says the same-sex marriage ban was rooted in 'moral disapproval' and violates constitutional rights to equal protection and due process. Opponents vow to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.

August 4, 20106:38 p.m.

Reporting from San Francisco and Los Angeles — A federal judge declared California's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional Wednesday, saying that no legitimate state interest justified treating gay and lesbian couples differently from others and that "moral disapproval" was not enough to save the voter-passed Proposition 8.

California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions," U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said in his 136-page ruling.

The ruling was the first in the country to strike down a marriage ban on federal constitutional grounds. Previous cases have cited state constitutions.

Lawyers on both sides expect the ruling to be appealed and ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court during the next few years.

It is unclear whether California will conduct any same-sex weddings during that time. Walker stayed his ruling at least until Friday, when he will hold another hearing.

In striking down Proposition 8, Walker said the ban violated the federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and of due process.

Previous court decisions have established that the ability to marry is a fundamental right that cannot be denied to people without a compelling rationale, Walker said. Proposition 8 violated that right and discriminated on the basis of both sex and sexual orientation in violation of the equal protection clause, he ruled.

The jurist, a Republican appointee who is gay, cited extensive evidence from the trial to support his finding that there was not a rational basis for excluding gays and lesbians from marriage. In particular, he rejected the argument advanced by supporters of Proposition 8 that children of opposite-sex couples fare better than children of same-sex couples, saying that expert testimony in the trial provided no support for that argument.

"The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples," Walker wrote.

Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the backers of the ballot measure, said he believed Walker would be overturned on appeal.

Walker's "invalidation of the votes of over 7 million Californians violates binding legal precedent and short-circuits the democratic process," Pugno said.

He called it "disturbing that the trial court, in order to strike down Prop. 8, has literally accused the majority of California voters of having ill and discriminatory intent when casting their votes for Prop. 8."

At least some legal experts said his lengthy recitation of the testimony could bolster his ruling during the appeals to come. Higher courts generally defer to trial judges' rulings on factual questions that stem from a trial, although they still could determine that he was wrong on the law.

John Eastman, a conservative scholar who supported Proposition 8, said Walker's analysis and detailed references to trial evidence were likely to persuade U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a swing vote on the high court, to rule in favor of same-sex marriage.

"I think Justice Kennedy is going to side with Judge Walker," said the former dean of Chapman University law school.

Barry McDonald, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine University, said Walker's findings that homosexuality is a biological status instead of a voluntary choice, that children don't suffer harm when raised by same-sex couples and that Proposition 8 was based primarily on irrational fear of homosexuality "are going to make it more difficult for appellate courts to overturn this court's ruling."

Edward E. (Ned) Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, said he believed the judge's ruling was both legally and morally wrong.

"All public law and public policy is developed from some moral perspective, the morality that society judges is important," he said. To say that society shouldn't base its laws on moral views is "hard to even comprehend," he said.

In his decision, Walker said the evidence showed that "domestic partnerships exist solely to differentiate same-sex unions from marriage" and that marriage is "culturally superior."

He called the exclusion of same-couples from marriage "an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and marriage."

"That time has passed," he wrote.

Although sexual orientation deserves the constitutional protection given to race and gender, Proposition 8 would be unconstitutional even if gays and lesbians were afforded a lesser status, Walker said. His ruling stressed that there was no rational justification for banning gays from marriage.

To win a permanent stay pending appeal, Proposition 8 proponents must show that they are likely to prevail in the long run and that there would be irreparable harm if the ban is not enforced.

Lawyers for the two couples who challenged Proposition 8 said they were confident that higher courts would uphold Walker's ruling.

"We will fight hard so that the constitutional rights vindicated by the 138-page, very careful, thoughtful, analytical opinion by this judge will be brought into fruition as soon as possible," pledged Ted Olson, one of the lawyers in the case.

Other gay rights lawyers predicted that the ruling would change the tenor of the legal debate in the courts.

"This is a tour de force — a grand slam on every count," said Shannon Price Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "This is without a doubt a game-changing ruling."

Wednesday's ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed last year by two homosexual couples who argued that the marriage ban violates their federal constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

The suit was the brainchild of a gay political strategist in Los Angeles who formed a nonprofit to finance the litigation.

The group hired two legal luminaries from opposite sides of the political spectrum to try to overturn the ballot measure. Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, a conservative icon, signed on with litigator David Boies, a liberal who squared off against Olson in Bush vs. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave George W. Bush the presidency in 2000.

Gay-rights groups had opposed the lawsuit, fearful that the U.S. Supreme Court might rule against marriage rights and create a precedent that could take decades to overturn.

But after the suit was filed, gay rights lawyers flocked to support it, filing friend-of-court arguments on why Proposition 8 should be overturned.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown refused to defend the marriage ban, leaving the sponsors of the initiative to fill the vacuum. They hired a team of lawyers experienced in U.S. Supreme Court litigation.

Proposition 8 passed with a 52.3% vote six months after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was permitted under the state Constitution.

At trial, the opponents of Prop. 8 presented witnesses who cited studies that showed children reared from birth by gay and lesbian couples do as well as children born into opposite-sex families. They also testified that the clamor for marriage in the gay community had given the institution of marriage greater esteem.

The trial appeared to be a lopsided show for the challengers, who called 16 witnesses, including researchers from the nation's top universities, and presented tearful testimony from gays and lesbians about why marriage mattered to them.

The backers of Proposition 8 called only two witnesses, and both made concessions under cross-examination that helped the other side.

The sponsors complained that Walker's pretrial rulings had been unfair and that some of their prospective witnesses decided not to testify out of fear for their safety.

When Walker ruled that he would broadcast portions of the trial on the Internet, Proposition 8 proponents fought him all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won a 5-4 ruling barring cameras in the courtroom.

The trial nevertheless was widely covered, with some groups doing minute-by-minute blogging. Law professors brought their students to watch the top-notch legal theater.

An estimated 18,000 same-sex couples married in California during the months it was legal, and the state continues to recognize those marriages.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

carol.williams@latimes.com
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Woman Finds Out Her Husband Is a Bigamist ... Via Facebook


CLEVELAND -- She knew her husband took a lot of business trips. Now she knows why.


"Megan" said she didn't suspect her husband of another marriage until the evidence was on her computer screen.

Her relatives pointed her to the other woman's Facebook page where Megan discovered multiple photos of her husband and the woman together.

A few weeks later, dozens of wedding photos also showed up on Facebook showing Megan's husband and his new bride.

"It's rubbing that salt into the wound of already finding out that my husband's having an affair," Megan said. "The pictures are out there for the world to see. It's not just that I have the knowledge, but I see the proof and everyone I know sees the proof and people I don't know see the proof."

Megan's wedding took place in Italy in 2005, and by 2008, the couple had two children and a home in a Cleveland suburb. As a businessman with his own plane, Megan's husband traveled a lot around the country and across the world.

Megan said she first became suspicious when her husband claimed to have been in China and even brought back gifts for the kids yet his passport had been at home the entire time.

To eventually learn on Facebook that her husband not only had another lover but now a second wife was devastating, Megan said.

"If they're going to have the affair, they're going to have the affair," she said. "But it's extra. It adds impact to the hurt, when they're posting the things they post about the affair. Pictures of the vacations they're taking with the other, the lover, the extra person. (Facebook posts) just cause a whole new hurt."

Common mistakes

Divorce attorneys are finding a staggering increase in evidence gathered through social media, according to CNN.

Andrew Zashin, a family law expert from Cleveland, said the artificial "celebrity" status that Facebook creates often clouds people's judgment of how those posts and others will come back to hurt them in court.

"If someone's having an illicit relationship, they don't know what the other side of that relationship is broadcasting to the world on Facebook," Zashin said. "Often times we'll see a man or woman denying an affair or a relationship. All of sudden, things start to unravel, not because they did something but because the other part of this illicit relationship did something (using social media)."

Body of Evidence

An attorney for Megan's husband told WTSP in Tampa, Florida that he doesn't believe he needs a divorce because he learned after the fact that the marriage paperwork was never filed correctly in Italy and therefor they were never married.

Megan claims everything with the marriage was done "by the book" and that a prenuptial agreement was signed. She plans to use pictures, posts, and other information from Facebook in her eventual divorce hearing.


© 2010 WKYC-TV

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Un-Divorced




The Un-Divorced
By PAMELA PAUL
Published: July 30, 2010
JOHN FROST and his wife had been unhappily married for much of their 25 years together when his company relocated him in 2000. So when he moved from Virginia to Knoxville, Tenn., he left her behind.

At first, it wasn’t clear what would happen next. Would she follow him? Or would they end up divorced?

The answer: neither. “After a few months,” Mr. Frost said, “we both realized we liked it this way.”

Technically, the two are married. They file joint tax returns; she’s covered by his insurance. But they see each other just several times a year. “Since separating we get along better than we ever have,” he said. “It’s kind of nice.”

And at 58, he sees no reason to divorce. Their children have grown and left home. He asked himself: Why bring in a bunch of lawyers? Why create rancor when there’s nowhere to go but down?

“To tie a bow around it would only make it uglier,” Mr. Frost said. “When people ask about my relationship status, I usually just say: ‘It’s complicated. I like my wife, I just can’t live with her.’ ”

The term “trial separation” conjures a swift purgatory, something ducked into regretfully and escaped from with due speed, even if into that most conclusive of relationships, divorce. We understand the expeditious voyage from separation to divorce, the desire for a clear-cut ending that makes way for a clear-cut beginning. We hardly look askance at the miserably married or the exes who hurl epithets in divorce court.

But couples who stubbornly remain separated, sometimes for years? That leaves us dumbfounded. “I see it all the time,” said Lynne Gold-Bikin, a divorce lawyer in Norristown, Pa., who is the chairman of the family law department at Weber Gallagher. She can cite a docket of cases of endless separation.

With one couple separated since 1989, the wife’s perspective was, “We still get invited as Mr. and Mrs., we go to functions together, he still sends me cards,” Ms. Gold-Bikin said. As for the husband, “He cared for her, he just didn’t want to live with her.”

But at his girlfriend’s urging, he finally initiated divorce proceedings. Then he became ill and she began taking over his finances — a bit too wifelike for him. “He said, enough of this, there’s no reason to get divorced,” Ms. Gold-Bikin recalled.

Among those who seem to have reached a similar conclusion is Warren Buffett, the wealthy chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Buffett separated from his wife, Susan, in 1977 but remained married to her until her death in 2004. All the while, he lived with Astrid Menks; they married in 2006. The threesome remained close, even sending out holiday cards signed, “Warren, Susan and Astrid.”

Also in the ranks of the un-divorced: the artist Willem de Kooning had been separated from his wife for 34 years when she died in 1989. Jann and Jane Wenner separated in 1995 after 28 years but are still married, despite Mr. Wenner’s romantic relationship with a man.

Society is full of whispered scenarios in which spouses live apart, in different homes or in the same mega-apartment in order to silence gossip, avoid ugly divorce battles and maintain the status quo, however uneasy. In certain cases, the world assumes a couple is divorced and never learns otherwise until an obituary puts the record straight.

Separations are usually de facto, rarely pounded out in a contract, and family law is different state to state. But even long-estranged couples are irrefutably bound by contractual links on issues like taxes, pensions, Social Security and health care.

Divorce lawyers and marriage therapists say that for most couples, the motivation to remain married is financial. According to federal law, an ex qualifies for a share of a spouse’s Social Security payment if the marriage lasts a decade. In the case of more amicable divorces, financial advisers and lawyers may urge a couple who have been married eight years to wait until the dependent spouse qualifies.

For others, a separation agreement may be negotiated so that a spouse keeps the other’s insurance until he or she is old enough for Medicare. If one person has an existing condition, obtaining affordable health care coverage is often difficult or impossible. The recession, with its real estate lows and health care expense highs, adds incentives to separate indefinitely.

Four years ago, Peggy Sanchez, 50, a Midwest resident, parted amicably from her husband, who has fibromyalgia.

“He would not get medical treatment if he weren’t on my insurance,” she said, and giving him that is less expensive than paying alimony. “Besides, I care about him and want to make sure he gets the medical help he needs,” she said.

There are still sticky issues: Ms. Sanchez’s boyfriend is unaware that she’s still married. Her daughter from a previous marriage views her husband as a father figure. And he got custody of the family dog. But Ms. Sanchez plans to stay separated.

“I don’t have much desire to remarry so there’s no benefit to me from divorce,” she said. “I guess that sounds pretty jaded, but it’s just not as important as it used to be.”

Sharon O’Neill, a marriage therapist in Mount Kisco, N.Y., has seen four cases in the last two years in which couples separated but stayed in the same home. In a depressed market, couples may not want to sell a house they purchased at the market’s height, or one party can’t maintain the mortgage or the other can’t afford a new home.

“The financial collapse has made people say, ‘Let’s not rush into a divorce, let’s see if we can make something else work,’ ” Ms. O’Neill said.

The added value of marriage is also hard to kick.

“Many people I’ve worked with over time enjoy the benefits of being married: the financial perks, the tax breaks, the health care coverage,” said Toni Coleman, a couples therapist in McLean, Va. “They maintain a friendship, they co-parent their kids, they may do things socially together. Sometimes they’re part of a political couple in Washington or have prominent corporate positions. But they just feel they can’t live together.”

What Ms. Coleman finds surprising is that the primary consideration is practical and financial, not familial. The effect of endless separations on the children rarely seems a priority.

“People split up and have these God-awful joint custody arrangements, so you would think that they stay separated for the kids’ sake, but I’m not seeing that,” she said. “It usually comes down to money.”

Others believe separation is easier on the children than is divorce. A 48-year-old social worker from Brooklyn, separated eight years, traded places with her husband in the same home, so that their children would not have to shuttle from one home to the other. The couple had an apartment where each would live when not at the family home.

“In hindsight, it was probably more confusing for the kids,” she said. “But we did it with their best interests in mind.”

But long-term separation can create big problems. If a couple isn’t divorced, their lives are still legally and financially intertwined. If your estranged husband goes on a spending spree, you’re responsible for the ensuing credit card debt. If you win the lottery, that’s community property. Finances can swing wildly, creating an alimony boon or a bombshell should one partner eventually want a divorce.

“I just had a situation where after 15 years of separation, the wife wanted to remarry,” said Elizabeth Lindsey, an Atlanta divorce lawyer. “But over the years, his assets had completely dissipated.” The wife would have profited from divorcing earlier.

A separation can also go on longer than anyone anticipated, even until death, leaving a mess for survivors. In New York State, for example, a spouse, even if separated, is entitled to a third of the partner’s estate.

There’s also the risk that you could lose track of your erstwhile partner altogether. “We see cases, usually with foreign nationals, where the husband goes back to the Philippines, and the wife wants to marry James but she’s still married to Ted,” said Steve Mindel, a managing partner at the Los Angeles law firm Feinberg Mindel Brandt & Klein. Judges now often require that a professional be hired to locate the spouse, to facilitate the divorce.

BUT more often than not, a delayed divorce simply reflects inertia. Celeste Liversidge, a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, most frequently sees people who are avoiding an unpleasant task.

“It’s often so ugly,” she said. “People get to a point where they can’t live with each other but going through the divorce process is too painful.” A six-month separation turns into years.

One woman, a 39-year-old mother of two from Brooklyn, who like many interviewed for this article wished to remain anonymous, has stayed separated for nearly two years at the suggestion of five lawyers.

“There’s no advantage to getting divorced,” she said. Both she and her husband are in new relationships. Most people assume they’ve officially split. But given the health insurance issue and the prospect of legal fees, she said, “I feel like we could just drift on like this for years.”

Not being divorced is also an excuse not to remarry.

“In my day, we’d refer to a man as a bon vivant, a gadabout who doesn’t want to worry about marrying anyone else because he’s already married,” said Sheila Riesel, a New York divorce lawyer for more than three decades.

In the end, some people just don’t want to divorce. Perhaps one spouse desires it and the other drags his or her feet. Sometimes, people are just confused; separation can be a wake-up call.

In other cases, initiating divorce ultimately serves that purpose. Last year, a 67-year-old professor in New York filed for divorce from the man she married in 1969 and separated from in 1988 after she had an affair with a woman.

“I had images of Vita Sackville-West, but it was very messy and the children suffered a lot,” she recalled. “My husband had been more attached to me than I thought.”

And she considered him a pal; they even took vacations together. “I think I liked that we were still married in some way,” she admitted. “But last year I met someone who minds that I’m still married to someone else.”

And thus, time to divorce. Call it an old-fashioned romance.


A version of this article appeared in print on August 1, 2010, on page ST1 of the New York edition.