Maximizing the Marital Estate in a Divorce

A personal finance expert opines that “modern” divorce is about money. And to a large extent, that’s true.

Of course, there may also be important noneconomic issues pertaining to parental responsibility and timesharing. But those are outside the focus of a personal finance expert.

Relative to the money aspects of divorce, however, here are some tips from the personal finance expert:

  1. Follow the money. Copy records you can gain access to. Tax returns. Savings account statements. Retirement plans. Insurance policies. Financial statements. Wills. Trusts. Brokerage account statements. Credit card statements. Credit reports. Etc.

  2. Poke around in the business. Business records. If the stakes are high enough, a forensic accountant may be warranted.

  3. Protect yourself. Squirrel away a nest egg to see you through the case. A separate savings account is prudent. Ditto a separate credit card. Freeze the joint credit cards and any home equity lines of credit to avoid your spouse maxing them out.

  4. Itemize premarital / nonmarital assets. Identify which were maintained separately and which were commingled with marital assets.

  5. Don’t overlook your spouse’s pension and retirement accounts.

  6. Be realistic in your expectations for alimony under the circumstances of your case and the law of your state. Also be aware that this is a rapidly evolving area of the law in many states. Depending upon both, you may want to have good handle on your reasonable employment and salary expectations.

  7. Don’t overlook health care coverage and COBRA benefits.

  8. If the assets and/or income involved are substantial, a tax advisor can be helpful in structuring a settlement to get the most tax-bang for your bucks.

  9. Similarly, a divorce financial planner can also be helpful in evaluating settlement proposals and making your money work as hard for you as possible.

  10. Bitter, protracted legal battles cost money. It is worth considering whether the reasonably anticipated benefits really justify the costs.

  11. Read more in this CBS TV Money Watch article: 10 Steps to Avoid Losing Your Shirt in a Divorce.

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UK Appellate Court Denies Return to US of Children Abducted to Nigeria

Husband and Wife are both originally from Nigeria.

Husband and Wife have two Children together and the family has been living in the US.

Wife takes the Children to Nigeria on vacation … and informs Husband that they will not be returning.

Wife takes the Children to the UK for a vacation.

Husband applies for return of the Children from the UK to the US under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, even though the Children are just visiting in the UK.

The UK trial court concludes that the Children are habitual residents of Nigeria … but orders the return of the Children from the UK to the US anyway.

Wife appeals.

The appellate court reverses, holding that the Children should remain in Nigeria.

The court weighed heavily the delay in filing for return of the Children in the UK..

Read more in this [UK] Children & Young People Now article: Legal Report: Child abduction and this Bailii [UK] England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions.

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Protecting the Rights of a Gay Parent in Fact if They Split Up with the Legal Parent or the Legal Parent Dies

Although things are changing, at least in some states, many gay couples raising children together still face many legal challenges, especially in the event of a breakup or the death of the biological parent.

In Michigan, one lesbian couple, an Attorney and a former Mechanic, have taken pains to create as nearly as possible the equivalent of equal spousal and parental rights, despite Michigan’s prohibition of adoption by a gay person of their partner’s biological or legally adopted child.

In this de facto family, the Attorney has given birth to two children. The Mechanic stays home and serves as the primary caregiver to the children.

Accordingly, the Mechanic earns no salary and is not permitted to save for her retirement on a tax-favored basis.

Nor does the Mechanic have any right to visitation or timesharing with the children in the event the couple breaks up … or the Attorney dies.

In fact, the Mechanic’s parental rights are severely limited even being together with Attorney. The Attorney signs a parental consent form twice a year authorizing her to consent to treatment for the children and related matters. Hardly a reliable solution.

The couple have consulted with experts who concentrate on serving nontraditional families like theirs. They have received some helpful advice … but cannot or choose not to act upon much of it.

As far as the children go, key recommendations include:

  1. power of attorney for parental authority, which does not expire automatically

  2. parental appointment of guardian

  3. domestic partner agreement and

  4. co-parenting agreement

From a financial perspective, the breadwinner partner can hire the nurturing partner as a nanny for a nominal salary. That would at least permit the nurturing partner to invest their nominal salary in an IRA.

Read more in this New York Times article: The Extra Hoops Gay Parents Must Jump Through

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Trust Fund Multi-Millionaire Husband Ordered to Share It With Wife. Asserts That He Does Not Control Trust Fund and Will Be Left Homeless by Family Court Orders to Pay Wife Property and Support

Sixty year old UK Husband and Wife are divorcing after twenty-one years of marriage.

Husband is a trust fund millionaire in the hotel business, currently living in Spain and managing a property there.

Husband is worth about 4 million UK pounds in assets he owns outright.

There is also 6 million UK pounds in a trust fund his father established during the marriage.

The UK family court awards Wife some properties, along with a 3 million pound lump sum payment from Husband based on the trust.

Husband asserts that the trust is not for his benefit but for future generations of his family, and that he has no control over it. Husband further insists that the trustees of the trust will not cooperate in making trust funds available to pay Wife the court-ordered obligations.

Husband further asserts that the upshot is that he will be forced to sell the assets he controls to pay the award to Wife and his court-ordered child support obligations, and that he will be left homeless.

The UK family court finds that Husband is misrepresenting his finances and relationship to the trust and trustees.

Husband has appealed the trial court’s rulings.

Read more in this UK Daily Mail article: Millionaire claims he faces homelessness after unique divorce ruling orders trust funds to go to wife.

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US Leads the World in Catholic Annulments

Six (6%) percent of the globe’s Catholics live in the US.

Yet, of the marriage annulments granted by the Catholic Church, a whoppingly disproportionate sixty (60%) percent of them are granted to residents of the US.

These recently released skewed statistics touched off considerable debate.

The Catholic Church justified the numbers by patting itself on the back for issuing annulments expeditiously.

Other commentators found fault with Americans.

Read more in this Catholic Culture article: Why does the US lead the world in marriage annulments? and this Catholic World Report article: Annulment Nation.

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Child Welfare Agency Professionals Indicted for Negligent Homicide in Death of a Child Believed to Be in Need of Services

Some months ago, a four year old Brooklyn Girl, who weighed only eighteen pounds, died of malnutrition, dehydration, drug poisoning and injuries resulting from abuse.

New York’s child welfare agency was already involved in the Girl’s life and had assigned a caseworker to her case.

At the time of her death, the Girl had allegedly been beaten regularly … and bound to her bed.

Her mother and grandmother both reportedly were aware of these facts.

The Girl’s mother and grandmother have both since been indicted for murder and manslaughter, respectively.

The Girl’s caseworker and his supervisor both allegedly subsequently made false entries in the Girl’s case file to reflect, fraudulently, that the child welfare agency had done its job, visiting, or attempting to schedule visits to the Girl’s home, and checking on her welfare.

In fact, the caseworker reportedly made no visits or attempts to check on the Girl and had not complied with the agency’s requirement of biweekly checks.

For their alleged negligence and attempted fraud in this case, the child welfare agency’s caseworker and supervisor were indicted for criminally negligent homicide, official misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child, as well as falsifying and tampering with public records.

The charges against the child welfare workers are believed to be the first of their kind in New York.

The child welfare workers’ defend that they were just following orders from higher ranked individuals in the agency and, apparently, that they are unfairly being made scapegoats.

The child welfare agency is concerned that the charges will adversely impact recruiting of child welfare staff.

Read more in this New York Times article: Welfare Worker and Supervisor Charged in Death of Child.

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Divorce Encroaches On Rural America

As recently as the 1970s, rural Iowa boasted a divorce rate out of 1910s America at large.

And there were hardly any paternity cases for child support and/or child custody, between parents who were not married.

Rural Iowans went to church regularly, mothers stayed at home with children and, well, people in their world did not divorce.

But forty years later, things have changed … in a big way.

Except for the fact that most rural Iowans still belong to a church and attend regularly, now, rural Iowa pretty much mirrors the rest of America.

Rural Iowa women today are more likely to be college-educated than in the past … and more likely to be college-educated than rural men.

They are out in the workforce.

Being divorced no longer carries much of a stigma in rural Iowa.

And divorce has multiplied there by a magnitude of seven times.

And rural Iowa now has its share of paternity cases for child support and custody disputes between unmarried parents.

Read more in this New York Times article: Once Rare in Rural America, Divorce Is Changing the Face of Its Families.

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Former Pro Athlete Faces Imprisonment for Allegedly Failing to Pay $1 Million in Child Support

Father is court-ordered to pay child support.

Father used to be a professional basketball player and earns a high income.

But his child support arrearages reportedly have piled up to nearly $1 million.

Finally, Father is charged with three counts of failure to pay support for different children in different states.

Father pleads guilty and awaits sentencing.

Father faces up to six months of imprisonment.

And, perhaps worse, Father will still be required to pay the support he owes.

Read more in this Carmi [IL] Times article: Former southern Illinoisan owes nearly $1 million in support.

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Girlfriend’s Much Younger Boyfriend Is Charged With Assaulting Seventeen Month Old Foster Child Girlfriend is in Middle of Adopting

New York Girlfriend and Boyfriend have been dating for over six months.

Girlfriend is 32 years old, a foster parent of a 17 month old Baby and a 9 year old girl, and the mother of an 11 year old girl.

Boyfriend is 19 years old.

Girlfriend left Baby in Boyfriend’s care while taking the two girls to school.

When Girlfriend returned home, Baby was unconscious and in respiratory distress.

Baby was later diagnosed with broken ribs and a ruptured spleen, and was assessed as being in critical condition.

Baby’s injuries are under investigation by authorities.

Law enforcement authorities suspect that Baby’s injuries are the result of Boyfriend beating Baby.

Boyfriend turned himself in to authorities and is now under arrest on charges of assaulting Baby.

According to accounts of third parties, Boyfriend believed that Baby needed to grow “tougher”.

Yet Girlfriend reportedly insisted that Boyfriend is “good” to her children.

Prior to the suspected beating, Baby had been recovering from prenatal heroin addiction and doing well in foster care with Girlfriend.

In fact, Baby’s adoption by Girlfriend is underway.

It is unknown whether recent events jeopardize the adoption.

Read more in this New York Times article: Arrest Made in Beating of a Child in Brooklyn.

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Proposed Legislation Has Teeth for Parents Who Frustrate the Other Parent’s Visitation and Timesharing

When a parent consistently doesn’t pay child support, the family court typically has a range of options to enforce their support obligations, and to punish them and deter future nonpayment.

When a parent withholds court-ordered visitation and timesharing with a child, the family court’s enforcement options are considerably narrower and more limited.

But, in response to a particularly egregious case, the Illinois legislature is looking to change that.

New proposed legislation in Illinois would allow family courts to:

  1. incarcerate noncompliant parents

  2. require them to post bonds

  3. impose increasing monetary fines on them

  4. revoke driver’s licenses and revoke business licenses and

  5. modify custody based on the denial of visitation

Read more in this [Springfield, IL] State Journal-Register article: ‘Steven Watkins’ bill passed by Illinois House committee and this Capitol Fax article: Strong penalties proposed for visitation violations.

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