Thursday, July 10, 2008

Divorce and the Economy

I was home Tuesday morning waiting for a repairman when I caught the "Today" show on NBC. One of the speakers was a prominent divorce attorney discussing the state of divorce these days, especially given the economy. The other issue was use of electronic evidence during a divorce especially when child custody is an issue.

The conclusion was that the economy has a temporary affect on the divorce rate. Tough economic times tend to make people stick together. Isn't it always easier to support one household on two incomes rather than two households on two incomes? The divorce rate is likely to emerge from stagnation once the market begins doing better.

As for electronic evidence, the program focused on the Christie Brinkley divorce trial. As you may know, Brinkley's attorneys are using her husband's past behavior, which includes visits to pornographic websites, to argue he is an unfit custodian.

While using such evidence is not new, it still often goes unnoticed . . . . or unrecognized by those engaging in such behavior.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

New Attorney Joins Sullivan & Ward, PC

I am pleased to announce that Samantha Kain has joined our law firm. Samantha graduated from Drake Law School in December 2003 and brings a wealth of knowledge to Sullivan & Ward's practice areas. Samantha has experience in handling family law matters, criminal defense, estate planning and real estate transactions.

Samantha's direct dial is (515) 247-4711.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Job Perks A Marital Asset?

New Jersey's former governor, James McGreevey and his wife Dina Matos McGreevey are in the middle of a divorce. Some of you might recall that Former Gov. McGreevey announced several years ago during his term that he is a "gay American" resulting in the unraveling of his marriage. Although only married since 2000, Matos McGreevey is seeking alimony. The issue in today's hearing was not whether she is entitled to alimony but whether she is deserving of compensation for losing out on perks of her husband's job — state police transportation and a 24/7 security detail, a household staff and use of two beach houses — because he resigned 13 months shy of completing his first term.

McGreevey maintains that perks of the governor's office are not a marital asset.

In Iowa, one's job perks can be considered as a factor in determining (upward deviation from guideline amount) child support or alimony by looking at the cash value or the savings to the receiving party. Perks I have run across usually include paid cell phone, car allowance, gasoline, and country club memberships - not state security and use of summer rental homes. The McGreevey case is interesting because it involves perks that would have come to fruition if Gov. McGreevey served his entire term; they are not perks he currently receives.

Luckily the couple agreed on the important stuff ahead of time: custody of their 6 year-old daughter; however, the agreement remains sealed.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stability Helps Children of Divorce

I just finished up a modification trial today regarding child custody. As an attorney, I strive not only to represent my client but when the case involves the children, my duty also includes thinking about how the outcome could affect them as well. A recent article on Newswise and included in the Journal on Marriage and Family reported that for children of divorce, what happens after their parents split up may be just as important to their long-term well-being as the divorce itself.

A new study found that children who lived in unstable family situations after their parents divorced fared much worse as adults on a variety of measures compared to children who had stable post-divorce family situations. “For many children with divorced parents, particularly young ones, the divorce does not mark the end of family structure changes – it marks the beginning,” said Yongmin Sun, co-author of the study and associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus. “A stable family situation after divorce does not erase the negative effects of a divorce, but children in this situation fare much better than do those who experience chronic instability”

The study compared children who grew up in three different situations including children who grew up in married households, children whose parents divorced before the study began but lived in a stable home, and children whose family situation changed once or twice during teen years.

Results showed that young adults who grew up in stable post-divorce families had similar chances of attending college and living in poverty compared to those from always married families. But they fared less well on measures of the highest degree obtained, occupational prestige and income. However, those who lived in unstable family situations after their parents divorced did worse on all measures. In fact, they fared more than twice as poorly on most measures compared to their peers who had stable family situations.

This study found that for those in stable post-divorce families, the difference in adult well-being was mostly due to a shortage of economic and social resources. Compared to always-married parents, divorced parents had a lower level of income, didn’t talk to their children as much about school-related matters, had fewer interactions with other parents, and moved their children to new schools more often.

These findings provide a clear message to parents: minimize disruption during a divorce and after.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When S/he Won't Pay

On May 20, 2008 a man from central Florida will stand in front of a Judge and possibly be sentenced to five years in prison for failing to pay hundred of thousands of dollars in child support. Robert Abraham, age 65, pleaded guilty in mid-March to failing to pay $651,000 in child support for his three children. The charges marks the first time anyone in his county of residence has been charged with a felony for neglecting to make child support payments.

Often custodial parents face the same ordeal, although owing hundred of thousands of dollars is rare. In Iowa, the custodial parent can bring a contempt action in court for non-payment and each missed monthly payment may be the basis for individual counts of contempt. If the non-custodial parent has missed many months, the counts can add up (26 counts in a case I handled last year). The court can employ many remedies which are set out in the Iowa Code including forcing the non-custodial parent to post bond equal to months of future-owed payments, fines and jail time - up to 30 days for each finding of contempt.

Abraham further demonstrated his lack of intelligence when he declined to settle his $651,000 child support debt for $200,000.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Striking Back

Apparently there is now YouTube Divorce. In an effort to have the last salvo, Tricia Walsh-Smith (an actress and playwriter), posted a YouTube video in which she lashes out against her prominent soon-to-be-ex-husband, Philip Smith, president of Shubert Organization (the largest theater owner on Broadway). She spills intimate details of their marriage in an effort to leave a lasting imprint of humiliation.

Ms. Smith goes through their wedding album on camera, describing family members as "bad" or "evil" or "nasty," and talks about how her husband is allegedly trying to evict her from their luxury apartment. She also makes embarrassing claims regarding their intimate life, and then calls his office on camera to repeat those claims to a stunned assistant. Part of Ms. Smith's anger arises from a prenuptial agreement she signed. While the terms and conditions were not disclosed, one can assume from her behavior that she will get little, if anything, from her divorce.

This behavior teaches us two things: first, always have an attorney review any prenuptial (or antenuptial agreement for that matter) with you before you sign. While love is blind, money is not. Second, Ms. Smith's behavior, although envied by many who have gone through tumultuous divorces, may not sit well with a judge. Judges make decisions partly on a person's judgment. If Ms. Smith challenges the validity of the prenup, her recent YouTube escapade may have some impact on the ruling, especially her credibility.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Post-divorce Dating Jitters featured an article today, in first person might I add, about post-divorce dating jitters. Like most people, the author never thought she would find herself single again and on the "singles market." The article provides a real humanistic view toward the dating-again-phenomena going through self-doubts and anxiety.

I can't count on one hand how many clients during a divorce proceeding or immediately after it is finalized state "I will never marry again" or "no one will want me." The article teaches the reader that a little confidence tossed together with humility and humor results in a surprisingly pleasant experience.