Valentine’s Day: A Time for Us or … For Divorce?

Struggling to decide whether you want to call it quits on your marriage?

For a lot of unhappy spouses sitting on the divorce fence, the sentimental Valentine’s Day holiday may be the straw that breaks the camel’s marital back.

In general, divorce filings tend to increase during the several months following the extended Christmas and New Year’s holiday season.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Drilling deeper down into it, in particular, Valentine’s Day turns out to be “pull-the-trigger-on-divorce” day. On the order of up to a whopping forty percent spike.

Part of it, of course, is simply the coincidental proximity of the Valentine’s Day holiday to the very busy end of year holiday season. During which most couples and families experience more than usual circumstance-imposed togetherness.

And part of it is the proximity of Cupid’s holiday to receipt of W-2s and 1099s and the final low-down on the previous year’s total compensation package.

But a not-insignificant part of it really seems to be whether the other spouse makes the cut romantically on Valentine’s Day.

And a very large percentage of the time, they don’t.

But the bigger question is does the spouse’s grade for Valentine’s Day truly determine the “whether” of divorce or the “when”?

Still, for those wanting to try to redeem themselves during or after a rough patch, pulling out all the stops for Valentine’s Day surely couldn’t hurt.

Read more in this Yahoo Shine article: Carnations? Again? Why Post-Valentine’s Day is a Popular Time for Divorce.

Posted in Uncategorized

If You Are Disabled, You Are Not Shut Out: The Domestic Violence Courts and Family Courts May Be More Accessible Now Than Ever Before …

People who are disabled often feel that they have inadequate access to the family courts and divorce legal system, as well as the domestic violence court system. Leaving them feeling vulnerable and trapped in unhappy and even abusive marriages and relationships. Without hope of escape.

Too often, there has been merit in their feelings, for a variety of reasons – some subtle and complex. But there is no denying that our family courts are working on improving access to the divorce legal system for people who are disabled. Various disability aids and assistive devices are increasingly available in divorce court.

Admittedly, there is still a long way to go, with significant room for improvement. Having said that, the disabled (and their loved ones, caregivers, lay advocates and attorneys) should no longer simply assume lack of access or limited access to divorce court or domestic violence court. Today’s family court legal system can be accommodating and accessible to the disabled …

Illinois Husband wants a divorce, including temporary alimony and spousal support, – and a domestic violence restraining order of protection.

But Husband suffered a stroke, which left him significantly neurologically impaired. He literally does not have the ability to sit up, let alone travel to court (at least not without an ambulance and a stretcher).

Is Husband shut out of family court or domestic violence court? Not necessarily.

On at least two different occasions, an access-minded Illinois family court fashioned two different solutions for the disabled Husband to have his days in domestic violence court and family court.

On the first occasion in 2011, the family court literally came to Husband, his home, which was specially characterized as a courtroom under authority of an order from the county’s Chief judge. Husband was permitted to testify, prostrate on his couch.

Fast forward to 2012 for the second occasion. Technology facilitates access with even greater convenience and less expense.

Husband again testified from his couch at home. But this time, Husband had a laptop equipped with a built-in web camera. At the same time, Husband’s attorney was in the domestic violence courtroom with her iPad, the judge, the defendant and opposing counsel.

With a friend’s assistance and the court’s indulgence of some delay as they worked through some technical challenges, Husband was able to testify in Court via Skype. The family court could see and hear Husband testifying in real time on the iPad, almost as though Husband were physically present in the courtroom.

The domestic violence court’s and the family court’s willingness to embrace such newer technologies, which are now commonplace in homes and offices throughout the US, is a giant leap forward in increasing access to the family court legal system to people who are handicapped and/or disabled. Almost regardless of precisely how severely disabled they may be.

Read more in this Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article: Judge hears testimony in a condominium living room and this Wall Street Journal piece: Bedridden Man Uses Skype to Testify Against Wife.

Posted in Uncategorized

Mortgage Refinancing Where An Ex-Spouse Is Receiving Child Support and/or Alimony and Spousal Support as Part or All of Their “Income”

Florida Husband and Wife have a young Child together.

Husband and Wife split up.

Wife wishes to remain in the marital home with Child. Husband, however, wants to sell the marital home and receive his one-half of the equity in it. Right now.

The compromise that both of them are equally agreeable to is for Wife to refinance the marital home in her own name alone and to use the refinanced loan proceeds to buy out Husband’s interest in the marital home.

Wife checks with their bank though and it turns out that Wife doesn’t earn enough money herself either to cover their current mortgage, property taxes and insurance on the marital home, or to qualify for a new mortgage in just her own name.

Husband and Wife both fear their amicable divorce is slipping away from them.

But, under all of the circumstances in Husband’s and Wife’s particular case, their desired arrangement can be salvaged.

Since Child is young, Wife is entitled to receive child support for nearly ten years. And Husband has been consistently paying Wife monthly child support since Husband and Wife separated six months earlier.

Husband made it clear to Wife from the outset that he was prepared to fight to collect on his interest in the marital home as soon as possible. He wanted a lump sum.

But he wasn’t unwilling to make reasonable monthly alimony and spousal support payments to help Wife out with her living expenses, so that Wife can afford to keep her work schedule within previously agreed limits until Child goes off to college.

And Husband is agreeable to putting that into a court order right away.

Although it isn’t salary, alimony and spousal support, and child support are both generally viewed by loan underwriters similarly … under certain conditions anyway.

In assessing creditworthiness of former spouses relying on child support and/or alimony and spousal support as part or all of their income, loan underwriters generally look most favorably on:

  • legally binding obligations

  • of substantial duration (at least three years)

  • set forth in a court order or, at a minimum, a legally enforceable settlement agreement

    1. wage garnishment or income deduction orders

  • a stable track record of support payments (at least six months to a year)

Remember that the above are merely typical loan underwriting criteria. Each lender may unilaterally establish its own loan underwriting criteria.

Read more in this FHA Loan Article: Alimony, Child Support and Separate Maintenance–Does it Count as Income? and this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau response: If I want to rely on the alimony or child support that I receive in my mortgage or home equity loan application, does a lender or broker have to consider that income?

Posted in Uncategorized

The Violence Against Women Act Is a Casualty of the Fiscal Cliff

Amidst all the issues being hotly debated down to the wire in and around our federal legislaturate at last year’s end, one that was overshadowed was the looming expiration of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Senate passed an expansive reauthorizing bill last spring. But the House of Representatives rejected it for a narrower version … that didn’t leave the House in time to become law in any event.

Resulting in federal financial support for domestic violence services to victims dwindling.

Particularly impacted are self-reported victims of domestic violence who are immigrants. native Americans and members of the lesbian / gay / bisexual / transgender population.

Congress is expected to resuscitate the Violence Against Women Act this month.

Read more in this Jacksonville Florida Star article: Violence Against Women Act Expires Nationwide and this CNN article: Backers hope to revive Violence Against Women Act.

Posted in Uncategorized

Boy Allegedly Abducted Twenty Years Ago Found Living His Life Close to His Alleged Abductors

Five year old Indiana Boy is reportedly abducted. In 1994.

Allegedly by his grandparents (Grandparents). Who were charged (but never apprehended and prosecuted) with custodial interference. Those charges have since been dropped.

At the time of Boy’s disappearance, there was reportedly a pending family court case over Boy’s custody. Because Boy’s Mother and Stepfather were unemployed – and allegedly the family was living in their car.

Except for Boy, who reportedly actually resided with Grandparents – from his birth.

Now twenty-four year old Boy is discovered in Minnesota.

Happily married. Expecting a child of his own.

Living on the same property as Grandparents. Defending Grandparents.

Using his true birthdate and the same social security number assigned to him before he went missing. But using a slightly altered name.

Adding to the strangeness of the recent discovery of Boy’s whereabouts after all these years is that Mother and Stepfather reportedly just provided authorities with Boy’s social security number and card.

When confronted, Grandparents confessed their true identities and Boy’s identity. They now face the threat of criminal prosecution.

Mother is reportedly extremely happy that Boy has been found.

Read more in this ABC News article: Official: Abducted Ind. Boy’s Mother Lived in Car and this WCCO CBS TV 4 news article: Boy Abducted In ’94 Found In Minnesota.

Posted in Uncategorized

Popular New Year’s Resolutions: Lose Weight, Get Fit and … File for Divorce

Every new year brings a spike in divorce filings, and this year is shaping up to be no different.

There are lots of reasons, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, emotional to financial.

People generally take more time off from work during the holidays. The extra togetherness-time with the other spouse can be a constant reminder of the couple’s irreconciliable differences.

Even without the additional ingredient of visiting extended family. Which can pile on stress under the best of circumstances.

The extra family time, possibly combined with increased drinking and, for some, holiday depression, can also spark domestic violence.

Often one spouse has been gritting their teeth and bearing it just to get through the holidays for the kids’ sake.

By the same token, most people get back on a more even keel in January. This can lead to greater objectivity and calm in dealings.

But, even during this rocky economic era, the allure of some spouses’ year end bonuses should not be underestimated as a factor in the timing of filing for divorce. Where such bonuses are significant, hanging on a bit longer can make a big difference in the divorce bottom line to the less affluent spouse.

Timing can also affect holiday spending – and borrowing – in ways good and bad. Holiday spending can be an excuse to dip in to resources and/or camouflage draining resources. But the holidays can also be seen as a last ditch opportunity to show you care – with lavish gifts.

And with the new year, more complete financial records for the preceding year become available. These can be invaluable, both for the divorce filing and for tax filing, especially to the spouse who typically is less involved in family finances. This may be even more true this year in light of impending and potential changes in tax law.

Read more in this Reuters article: Considering divorce? Good reasons to wait for January and this WXYZ ABC TV 7 Detroit news piece: January has long been a popular month for divorce filings.

Posted in Uncategorized

Divorce on Hold Because … S/He Won’t Move Out?

Florida Husband and Wife mutually agree to divorce.

Wife relocates to a neighboring state and leaves Children in Florida with Husband for several months.

Wife returns to Florida. To the marital residence, in fact.

No, it’s not a reconciliation. Wife plans to move to her own place in the general vicinity. When she rebuilds her savings a bit.

But weeks turn into months …

And Husband is anxious to “get it over with already”.

But don’t they have to separate first? Live in separate residences?

To the surprise of some new clients like Husband, no, that is not actually necessary under Florida divorce law.

Assuming Florida has jurisdiction of a marriage, all Florida divorce law requires is that the marriage be “irretrievably broken”.

That can happen even with both spouses living under the same roof.

Truth be told, since the beginning of the recession and the foreclosure crisis, more and more divorcing couples in Florida are continuing to live together in the marital residence throughout their divorce.

Believe it or not, some former couples continue to share a residence even after their divorce is final. Really.

It’s not that either spouse is refusing to accept the breakup. It is really all about their finances.

For better or for worse, Florida divorce law is completely indifferent as to whether a divorcing couple continues to live in the same abode.

Either spouse may proceed with filing for divorce, even if neither spouse has moved out of the marital residence.

Posted in Uncategorized

College Student Obtains Stalking Restraining Order of Protection Against … Her Parents

Daughter is attending college in Ohio, roughly six hundred miles away from her Parents’ Kansas home.

Apparently not far enough.

Daughter contends that Parents are extremely controlling and “co-dependent”. Spying on her activities on her phone and computer; traveling and dropping in on her without warning; conferring with Daughter’s academic advisor; using a web cam to ensure that Daughter is at home at night; and alleging that Daughter is promiscuous, unstable and abusing drugs.

To get out from under their thumb, Daughter seeks an Ohio stalking restraining order of protection against Parents, based on their stalking-like behavior, rather than actual domestic violence.

And the presiding Ohio judge sides with Daughter and enters a stalking injunction order prohibiting Parents from coming near Daughter for roughly nine months.

Parents are shocked and angry – and withdraw their financial support of Daughter. Luckily for Daughter, her college steps in and puts Daughter on a scholarship.

Read more in this Good Morning America article: College Student Wins Stalking Order Against Parents.

Posted in Uncategorized

Court-Ordered Alimony or Spousal Support Can Really Be a Bear …

Especially in Italy.

Just ask Italy’s seventy-six year old former three-term prime minister, Husband. Who served in that office after first establishing himself as a media mogul there.

An Italian family court ordered this billionaire to shell out more than $47 million per year, or close to $4 million per month, as alimony, or spousal support, to his ex-wife.

I routinely hear from ex-husbands who are angry and bitter over court orders to pay comparatively paltry alimony awards, closer to $4,000 per month.

They’d resent paying $4 million in annual spousal support considerably moreso.

But Husband doesn’t seem to be losing any sleep – or time – over his alimony obligation to his second wife.

Instead, Husband appears to be focused on his impending marriage to his 27 year old fiance. A much healthier attitude.

And perhaps also some criminal charges which he was recently convicted of and sentenced for, others which he was recently convicted of but not yet sentenced for, and still another for which he is under investigation.

And maybe even his planned bid for re-election as prime minister.

Doesn’t leave much time for bitterness.

One can only speculate as to whether the happy couple has entered a prenuptial agreement.

No information is provided as to whether Husband bears any alimony obligations to his first wife. It doesn’t take too much imagination to recognize that, if things don’t work out with the twenty-seven year old, another divorce and alimony obligation on top of this new alimony award to his second wife, could start to add up to some real money.

Read more in this Hollywood Reporter article: Italy’s Berlusconi Ordered to Pay Nearly $50 Million a Year in Alimony.

Posted in Uncategorized

Divorce Cliches Revisited

Some cliches everyone takes for granted about divorce may not be true.

  • Cliche: half of marriages end in divorce. While 40 to 50% of marriages do end in divorce, this number is skewed by serial divorcers, the folks who marry and divorce repeatedly. In the USA, the divorce rate has actually been trending down.

  • Cliche: living together cuts divorce risk. Probably not true, although it may depend on the reason the couple moves in together.

  • Cliche: second marriages are more likely to stand the test of time. Actually, no. With each failed marriage behind someone, the odds that their new marriage will end in divorce rises a bit more.

  • Cliche: divorce is very expensive. This depends on the couple, and how they handle their divorce. Divorce need not be expensive.

  • Cliche: all ex-wives get alimony. Definitely not. This depends on the particulars of the marriage. But permanent alimony is definitely becoming the exception and the emerging trend is away from alimony. And, under the right circumstances, it may be the wife doling out the alimony, rather than the husband.

  • Cliche: mothers nearly always get primary custody of the children. Definitely … once upon a time. Nowadays, custody is an all but obsolete concept. Other things being equal, many judges begin with an expectation of dividing timesharing between parents relatively equally. But it always depends on the particulars of each case.

  • Cliche: divorce is more prevalent in the US than in other countries. Pretty close to the truth. Only five other countries have higher divorce rates than ours.

Read more in this Woman’s Day article: 7 Divorce Myths—Debunked!

Posted in Uncategorized