Technology Aids Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce

  1. Computers

    • Keystroke Loggers

    • Hard Drives

    • Browsers

    • Social Media

  2. Smart Phones

    • Text messages

    • GPSes

  3. GPSes

Just a few of the high tech gadgets that may come into play in modern divorces, in more than one way. The ways that probably spring to mind first probably have to do with parental fitness for custody … or marital misconduct.

Because modern spouses conduct an enormous amount of their personal and professional business and interactions on their computers and the internet.

As a result, the technology is proving surprisingly effective at revealing hidden assets, both suspected and unexpected. Cheaper and faster than surveillance and experts lacking specific leads.

Of course, some of these informal investigations may be illegal. So beware that you are proceeding at your own peril – and against legal advice. And that you may not be able to use your illegal evidence in family court.

But, truthfully, that doesn’t mean it can’t come in handy. In settlement negotiations, for example. Or in informing completely legal discovery pursuits.

The reality is that there is need to dig for information.

Surveys report that nearly a third of spouses / partners aren’t forthcoming about money and assets with their significant others. And a whopping fifty-eight percent of them admit to hiding money from their significant other.

And the magnitude is sometimes extreme. One husband told his wife that a business he owned had no value. Google disagreed, revealing that he had received millions in proceeds from its sale.

Read more in this Wall Street Journal article: Why Hiding Money From Your Spouse Has Gotten a Lot Harder.

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Family Court Grants Relocation Request by Custodial Parent

Indian Husband and Wife have Daughter together.

Husband and Wife separate and file for divorce in 2004.

Family court awards father visitation and timesharing based upon Husband’s and Wife’s agreement in 2008. The timesharing agreement is reflected in a family court order.

Wife subsequently obtains an excellent job offer – for a position in Canada.

Wife applies for a Visa. And Wife’s application is denied – because of the family court order granting Husband timesharing and visitation with Daughter.

Wife moves the family court for permission to relocate to Canada.

And the Indian family court grants Wife’s request in an ex parte (without prior notice to the other side) order, conditioning its ruling on Wife undertaking that she will allow Husband timesharing with Daughter whenever Wife is in India.

This Indian family court ruling bucks the last several years’ trend in Florida of very closely scrutinizing and liberally denying relocation requests by custodial parents.

But, in this particular case, the family court places great weight on the fact that Husband has not actually exercised any of his visitation or timesharing with Daughter since 2004.

The Indian family court recognizes that it is in the child’s best interests for Wife to take advantage of this economic opportunity. And that Wife should not be precluded from doing so by Husband’s rights set forth in an agreement and family court order that Husband is not honoring anyway.

Read more in this Times of India article: Errant father loses visitation rights after woman appeals

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Florida Gets Tough on Those Who Look the Other Way From Child Sexual Abuse

Following on the heels of the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, Florida has just passed the most potent legislation in the nation, called the Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act, designed to protect kids.

Effective October 1st, colleges and universities, both public and private, through their administrators and employees, must report to law enforcement allegations of abuse on campus or at off-campus school events.

Penalties for failing to so report include a fine of up to $1 million per incident, as well as felony charges.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families, which administers the state’s child abuse hotline, is ramping up to receive an anticipated additional 50,000 calls per year.

The new law also provides funding to assist victims with relocation.

Florida isn’t the only state that has reacted to the events at Penn State. Three other states have also since passed laws mandating that university officials report suspected child abuse.

Read more in this [Dallas-Ft. Worth] KDFW Fox 4 TV news article: Florida heralds nation’s toughest child abuse reporting law in wake of Sandusky scandal and this Palm Beach Post article: ‘Penn State’ child abuse reporting law signed into law by Gov. Scott

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Robbing the Cradle Results in Annulment – Years After the Fact

Far more often than anyone would expect, clients come in wanting an annulment. Unfortunately, most of the time, they really don’t meet Florida’s fairly narrow criteria to qualify for an annulment.

One criterion that most people do generally quite correctly associate with annulment is a union of very short duration. But there’s a new case out of India that flies in the face of that particular criterion – among others.

Indian Husband and Wife have been married for seventeen years.

But Husband and Wife have never actually lived together at all during their seventeen year marriage.

In fact, Wife didn’t even know they were married until very recently!

How can that be? Well …

It seems that Wife was only one year old when she was married to Husband. One. Yes, really.

And Husband probably has to be forgiven for robbing the cradle here. Because Husband was but three years old. Again, really.

Although illegal since 1929, parentally arranged marriages of children remain common in rural India.

Indeed, nearly half of Indian females are reportedly married by age seventeen. And forty percent of child marriages globally reportedly occur in India.

Upon being told that she was married and that it was time for her to go to live with Husband, Wife rejected their parents’ arrangement.

Astonishingly, this was reportedly a first.

Husband, by contrast, was prepared to honor their families’ arrangement, but came to respect Wife’s exercise of her free will.

Wife promptly consulted a social worker and child rights activist for assistance in annulling her marriage.

With the social worker’s assistance, the couple were able to secure an amicable, but nonetheless formal legal annulment of their marriage. The legal ground being that the marriage was null and void under the Indian law prohibiting child marriages.

Some Indians hope that the precedent established by Husband and Wife will encourage other young people in India to assert their own free wills and legal rights.

Read more in this MSNBC World News article: Indian baby bride Laxmi Sargara wins annulment in landmark case and this BBC India news article: Indian teenager annuls her child ‘marriage’

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Wife Challenges Billionaire’s Alleged Gifts of Expensive Real Estate to Daughter Despite Court-Ordered Freeze on Marital Assets

Husband and Wife are going through a divorce after twenty-four years of marriage. In Switzerland.

They are an international couple and divide their time among various locales. One of them being New York City.

Since their divorce was filed in 2008, Husband buys an apartment in Central Park West. A penthouse unit.

For $88 million. It may be for the couple’s adult daughter’s use. Or not.

Husband is a multi-billionaire. And Wife asserts that Husband bought the property, through a sham entity, to try to hide marital assets.

In alleged violation of a Swiss family court order freezing the couple’s marital assets during the divorce.

And so she filed a lawsuit in New York State, asking the court to impose a trust on the property for the protection of Wife’s interest in the property.

Husband acquired an even more expensive property in the West Palm Beach, Florida area in 2008. Wife previously filed a lawsuit in Florida similar to her New York lawsuit.

With the couple holding assets all over the world, such measures could grow tedious upon sufficient repetitions.


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Man Under Restraining Order of Protection Threatens Woman’s Life If She Refuses to Cooperate with Dismissing the Domestic Violence Injunction

A Utah Man with a domestic violence restraining order of protection against him figures out the perfect solution to his problem.

All he needs is for the Woman who obtained the domestic violence restraining order to retract her testimony against him and to request that the court dismiss the order of protection against him.

How to accomplish that though. That is the rub.

So he allegedly goes to Woman’s home and assails her when she arrives there and is getting out of her car. Man bashes her head into the steering wheel and then drags her out of the car by her hair.

Man has all the papers he needs Woman to sign at hand, and simply threatens to break her neck if she refuses to sign them. He strikes her to drive his point home.

Bleeding on the papers, the Woman gives in and signs them.

The Man threatens the Woman against calling the police on him again.

Well, the Man does indeed file the papers, stained with the woman’s blood, with the court. He thinks of everything. Almost.

The Man now faces charges of stalking, assault, retaliation against a victim and other related charges.

The restraining order of protection was originally entered against Man for stalking the Woman, e-mailing her demands for money, texting threatening messages to her, calling her seventy different times per day, and assault.

Read more in this Salt Lake Tribune article: Ex-girlfriend is allegedly beaten into signing papers.

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When in Divorce Court, Do as Divorce Lawyers Do: Mind Your Family Law Rules of Procedure and Evidence

Husband and Wife divorce. During the divorce, Husband is incarcerated and not represented by counsel.

At trial, according to Husband, the family court enters a default judgment for Wife and divides Husband’s separate premarital property as though it were marital. Months later, Husband seeks reconsideration by the family court. Upon review, however, the family court sticks with its original rulings.

This case exemplifies how lay people often seem to perceive the legal system: the Court simply didn’t “get” it the first time around. Without really grasping precisely what, how and why their case went wrong the first time … and exactly how they can avoid repeating their previous performance the second time around. (If they properly avail themselves of the methods for potentially getting a second time around.)

Unfortunately, naivete, followed up with blind faith, is rarely a successful legal strategy. As illustrated by this case.

As with most cases under review, the reviewing court is generally deferential to the family court before which the case was tried – and will only set the ruling at trial aside if it appears, in effect, that the family court ruling was pulled out of thin air, without any justification or basis whatsoever.

And how does the reviewing court know whether this might be the case? From the trial record.

The trial record being a court reporter’s transcription of the trial. Usually, not inexpensive.

It is the responsibility of the party seeking the review to furnish the transcript to the reviewing court. Husband here failed to do so.

For that reason, the reviewing court is unable to evaluate the ruling at trial by the family court. And therefore the ruling by the family court is upheld.

The reviewing court’s ruling and rationale will undoubtedly strike many lay people as overly technical and harsh. Perhaps so.

But, nonetheless, totally predictable and not unusual.

And that is the valuable lesson that the layperson should take away from this case: the rules of procedure and the laws of evidence (and, for that matter, all rules and laws) matter in court, and apply to everyone in court, even lay people.

Read more in this intermediate level appellate case.

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Are You Headed for Divorce? Your Arguments Spill the Beans

A relationship scholar asserts that the ways that couples argue tip off as to whether their marriage will last.

Engaging in four unhealthy modes of argument just may doom the marriage.

Argument styles that promote breakups include:

  1. Personal criticisms

  2. Contempt or disrespect

  3. Dismissive defensiveness

  4. Stonewalling and silence

Argument contents that promote breakups include:

  1. overbroad accusations such as “you never” …

  2. overbroad accusations such as “you always” …

  3. personal insults or condescension

So, can cleaning up argument patterns avert a divorce?

Read more in this Yahoo Shine article: Four Negative Patterns That Predict Divorce.

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Family Courts Tentatively Support Visitation Rights of Droves of Fathers Ex-Communicated by Fringe Church and Permanently Banned from Any Contact with Their Children and Their Children’s Mothers

Father’s brother (Leader) heads up a polygamous fundamentalist religious group (Church), which some liken to a cult.

Leader not only has multiple wives, but many of them are allegedly underaged girls. For which Leader was convicted of, and imprisoned for, child sexual assault.

Father’s Wife and his Children live in the Church. Father has been repeatedly ex-communicated from the Church by Leader …

And permanently banned by the Church from any contact at all with Wife and Children.

As a result, Father is divorcing Wife. And Father was reportedly awarded temporary custody of his Children in earlier divorce or child custody proceedings.

Now, in a separate case against Wife and Church leaders, Father seeks expedited visitation with Children and legal intervention. The Church reportedly exerts actual control over physical custody arrangements for children in the Church.

Father reportedly fears for the safety and welfare of the Children generally and, in particular, that his female Children may be coerced into premature marriages with adult men.

The Utah family court judge dismisses Father’s separate child custody case, ruling that judicial economy favors handling the child custody matters concerning the Children of the marriage within the divorce case, rather than in a separate child custody case. Generally true.

But, not indifferent to Father’s concerns, the divorce court judge advises Father that he may file a juvenile dependency case in juvenile court, if he believes that the Children are being abused.

Interestingly, another father ex-communicated by the Church and barred from any contact with his children, recently won temporary visitation and timesharing in the Utah family court in a case also filed against two of his ex-wives as well as certain Church leaders.

Leader reportedly ex-communicated 1,000 people from the Church. Which may signal an approaching flood of child custody and visitation litigation in Utah’s family courts.


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If You Come for the Wedding, Stay for the Divorce … Or Risk a Move and a Good Long Wait

Gay Florida couple marries … in Toronto. Because Florida does not allow or recognize gay marriage.

Couple divides their time between Florida and the UK. But the UK also doesn’t allow or recognize gay marriage.

Unfortunately, the couple now wants to divorce. And it’s proving easier said than done.

Out of the question where they live in Florida and the UK. Since they married in Toronto, that was their next choice.

But Toronto, like most places, has a residency requirement to avail yourself of a divorce there.

A full year, as is pretty typical. But too long for the couple.

So they are trying to avoid the residency requirement through a constitutional exemption. Presumably because Toronto allowed them to marry … and thereby left them without a place to divorce.

Their case is inching its way through the Canadian legal system, up, down and sideways.

On the bright side, legislation is pending in Canada to afford the remedy of divorce in Canada to couples like this one, who never lived there but who married there because gay marriage is legal there.

Sadly for them, either way, they probably won’t have their divorce finalized any time soon.

Undoubtedly, the couple did not consider this potential dilemma at the time that they traveled to Canada to get married.

They are far from the only gay couple in search of a place where they can obtain a legal divorce.

Read more in this Toronto Star article: Foreign same-sex couple’s bid for divorce drags on.

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