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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.

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(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.)

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(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:

Do
- 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.
Don't
- 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


HOW TO BE A GOOD CLIENT
(And Save Yourself Money)
1. DO YOUR JOB.

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.


2. LET ME DO MY JOB.

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.

3. WHAT YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER CAN DO FOR YOU

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.

4. WHAT YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER CANNOT DO FOR YOU

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.