I’m Not Legally Married Here, But I Can Get a Divorce?

Maryland is another one of a growing number of states that does not recognize same sex marriages … but is repeatedly confronted by gay couples who married elsewhere and are now living in their state and want a divorce.

And after various inconsistent and unpredictable trial level family court rulings, Maryland’s highest court has now come down in favor of recognizing and allowing gay divorces.

This ruling may take into account a new Maryland law legalizing future gay marriages starting next January.

That new statute is under attack from various quarters though, and its longevity is in some doubt.

While it may be confusing to try to reconcile granting a divorce in Maryland in a marriage that would not be allowed to take place in Maryland (or other states that do not yet recognize gay marriage), the principle of affording full faith and credit to the legal measures of sister states does rise to the occasion.

Read more in this Baltimore Sun article: Maryland court recognizes out-of-state, same-sex marriages.

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Service of Process: It’s Not for the Faint of Heart

Most of the time, launching a family court case is fairly straightforward. But sometimes, it’s really not.

Because the client doesn’t know where their ex lives – or works – or “hangs out”.

This can make serving their ex slow and expensive, via trial and error or, sometimes, ultimately, what is called “constructive service”, by publication.

But slow and expensive is never popular with clients. Which is why this Wife’s efforts to serve her billionaire Russian Husband resonate.

He lives abroad and has reportedly gone to great lengths to secure his person and evade service in Wife’s US lawsuits – what with tens of millions of dollars at stake, including a $95 million mansion here in Florida.

And Wife’s process server has gone to equally great lengths to make service on Husband.

Such as leaping atop Husband’s car, while it was traveling at high speed.

And lying in wait as Husband boarded his private plane.

The typical process server receiving the average process server’s fee may not be willing to resort to such extreme measures for just any case though.

Sometimes making for very frustrated clients (or opposing parties) … and cases that drag on without really getting out of the gate.

A billionairess may be able to re-stack the deck in her own favor a little better than the average client though.

But anyone who really needs him just may want to take a chance and give Wife’s process server a call anyway …

Read more in this New York Daily News article: Mission nearly impossible: Russian billionaire’s surprised by court server on Hawaii tarmac.

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The Times They Have a Changed in Divorce Court

Although the general public may be the last to know it, the times have changed in family courts across the nation.

In contemporary divorce courts, mothers are routinely ordered to pay child support to fathers, who have primary custody of their children.

And, in modern family courts, wives are not infrequently ordered to pay spousal support or alimony to their soon-to-be ex-husbands.

The recession and its impact on men’s employment and earnings has only accelerated and magnified pre-existing emerging trends.

Nowadays, dads are more likely than ever to be home with the kids or, at the least, sharing more caregiving duties more of the time.

And moms are more likely than ever to be out working, and working more hours – and more than occasionally outearning their husbands and former husbands.

Read more in this Business Insider article: More Men Are Winning Battles In Divorce Court Today

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American Husband in Dubai Allegedly Ignores Tennessee Family Court Order to Return Daughter to Wife in the US

Husband and Wife have Daughter together.

Husband was a US army officer stationed in the United Arab Emirates. Husband recently left the military, taking a private contractor position in Dubai.

Wife reportedly returns home from work one day to find all her belongings outside the home, and a note from Husband informing her that he has Daughter and will be seeking a divorce.

Pregnant and broke, Wife turns to the US embassy for help, claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse.

Wife, who hails from Tennessee, files for divorce and child custody in Tennessee family court. But she hasn’t set foot in Tennessee for eight months.

Giving Husband a basis to file an emergency motion to dismiss Wife’s case in Tennessee.

But the Tennessee family court denies Husband’s motion. (Florida courts, among others, recognize military personnel stationed outside their home state as still being residents of their home state.)

And the Tennessee family court further orders Husband to return Daughter to Tennessee. But the prospect of enforcing the Tennessee family court order in Dubai is not encouraging.

Dubai is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, and does not generally recognize court orders entered in the US.

Read more in this 7 Days in Dubai article: US mother seeks daughter’s return from UAE.

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The Sometimes Yellow Brick Road to The Lure of the Uncontested Divorce

Husband and Wife have been married for over two decades. Wife has been unhappy for a long time.

But now the kids are grown and on their own. Wife is ready for her divorce.

An uncontested divorce is what she wants. After all, it’s cheaper, faster and easier that way.

Yes, of course, other things being equal, an uncontested divorce is going to be less costly, quicker and less emotional than a contested divorce. But other things aren’t always equal.

That’s Wife’s situation.

Wife gave Husband the uncontested divorce paperwork to sign. About a year ago.

But Husband just won’t sign it. He comes up with excuse after excuse for delaying it.

Wife finally realizes / accepts that Husband isn’t going to sign off on an uncontested divorce.

Wife thinks Husband is undergoing a middle-aged sexual identity crisis. Hiding from the truth.

Clinging to the marriage as though it validates the image of himself that he wants everyone – including himself – to buy.

She may be right. She may be wrong. It doesn’t really matter.

Wife can’t force Husband to sign the uncontested divorce paperwork that she paid for. And she can’t get her uncontested divorce without Husband’s signoff.

So her uncontested divorce is dead in the water. So close, yet so far.

Wife is just about ready to give up on getting her divorce. Of course, she has other options.

Such as simply filing for a divorce and letting the case play out.

The odds are decent that Husband won’t actually contest any aspect of the divorce. Husband is frugal and even-tempered.

While Husband may not want the divorce, he may not dread it enough to spend significant sums of money and emotional upset to fight it – futilely.

Because if Wife wants a divorce, she’s going to be able to get one. If she actually files for divorce, that is.

But Wife isn’t going to file. Her heart is set on an uncontested divorce. Or nothing.

It’s Wife’s life. She can stay in her unhappy marriage indefinitely … and wait for Husband to sign off on the uncontested divorce paperwork.

And wait. And wait.

Cheaper, faster, easier? Not so much.

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Divorces Taking Longer and Longer and Costing More and More Due to Budget Cuts in the Courts in New York … Florida … and, Probably, Every State

Budget cuts throughout the court system. A familiar refrain in Florida. And in New York state.

Floridians going through divorce may draw a small measure of consolation reading about the impact of their budget cuts on New Yorkers’ divorces, if not actually personally commiserating with New Yorkers going through divorces.

New York judges, lawyers and divorcing couples reportedly all agree that New York’s court system is unmanageable, makes the process cost more than it would if it were in better shape, and needs to be “repaired”.

A dedicated Commission has written a roadmap of where the New York courts need to go, but getting there is another story.

Today in New York, waits for a trial date can be a year. Divorce trials are often heard in small chunks, spread out over weeks and even months. Requiring that spouses and their attorneys make numerous separate court appearances and that working spouses miss a fair number of full or half days of work.

Of course, court administrators lay the blame on attorneys and spouses, for not settling their cases or seeking trials earlier in the process. A successful mediation program launched in Westchester County may be replicated in other counties.

The bottom line that came out of a meeting of attorneys in upstate New York is just as true in Florida as in New York:

  1. disagreements over property division or child custody (or, for that matter, anything) will prolong a divorce and

  2. one spouse has the power to, in effect, slam the brakes on the divorce

Underscoring the point that, if both spouses want a fast and inexpensive divorce, they must find a way to reach a settlement. Of course, that is often far easier said than done.

Read more in this [ Middletown, NY ] Times Herald-Record article: Divorces in New York eating up time and finances

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Discernment Counseling Anyone? Prefer Mixed Agenda Counseling Then?

Husband and Wife aren’t getting along.

Husband is kind of oblivious. Wife has pretty much made up her mind that she wants out.

What to do?

In years gone by, Wife might have suggested marital relationship counseling. And Husband very likely would have rejected the suggestion.

Today, Wife has another option, and it doesn’t require Husband’s participation, let alone commitment. It’s called discernment counseling (or mixed agenda counseling), and it’s a new concept.

And the purpose of it is to help Wife, the unhappy spouse in this instance, assess her options, including staying with Husband, and figure out what she really wants to do. On their own, on average, couples are stuck in an unhappy limbo for about six years.

Research shows that a significant percentage of divorcing spouses, maybe as many as thirty percent of individual spouses and both spouses in ten percent of divorcing couples, are open to reconciliation – and would avail themselves of a “reconciliation service” if one were provided through the divorce court system.

If desired, discernment counseling also facilitates coping by the spouse who wants to stay married.

Based on a small sampling of discernment couneling “patients”, forty percent opt to give reconciliation, utilizing marriage counseling, a try.

Marriage counselors advise:

  • Bring up the subject of divorce early, rather than late, to open the lines of communication up before a decision to divorce is set in stone

  • Give marriage counseling a shot if there is any conceivable chance of saving your marriage

  • Allow your spouse the courtesy of reacting and responding

  • Separate gradually

Read more in this Wall Street Journal article: When It’s Just Another Fight, and When It’s Over

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If Married Moms Can’t Afford to Work, Does Divorce or Separation of Parents Render Working More Affordable or Cost-Effective?

Husband and Wife have Children.

Husband earns a pretty good salary. Wife earns substantially less.

Daycare is pretty expensive. It eats up a very substantial chunk of Wife’s salary.

Husband and Wife jointly decide that it just doesn’t make financial sense for Wife to work to, more or less, break even on daycare for the Children.

Fast forward.

Husband and Wife break up.

Now, Husband’s knee-jerk reaction is that he’s not going to pay for Wife to stay at home with Children. Wife should get out and get a job.

But Wife isn’t going to be able to earn any more money by virtue of the parents’ divorce or separation. And daycare won’t cost any less than it would have before the parents’ divorce or separation.

So, does it make any more financial sense for Wife to work, now that the pair are divorcing / separating? Is it any more cost-effective for Wife to work now that the pair are divorcing / separating?

While the legal landscape is certainly different and more legal considerations may need to be addressed, very carefully, despite Husband’s knee-jerk reaction, it may still be worthwhile to ask the above questions in the face of divorce or separation. And, depending upon the answers, take on the additional legal complexities and tackle the potential legal concerns head-on.

Read more in this CNN Money article: Moms: ‘I can’t afford to work’.

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From Temporary or Trial Arrangement as Stay at Home Parent, to Primary Caregiver Designated at Trial

Husband and Wife have a Child.

Wife works part-time and serves as Child’s primary caregiver.

Husband is laid off from his job. No replacement job is in sight.

Husband and Wife are struggling financially.

At Husband’s suggestion, Wife increases her hours on her job to full-time, temporarily.

Husband then suggests that he stay home with Child, to save substantial daycare expenses, temporarily.

All perfectly plausible and reasonable, of course.

Watershed: In families with a child under 5 years old in which the wife works, twenty percent of husbands are the primary caregiver of their child. And nearly half of all fathers are at least equal contributors to rearing of their children.

Three, six or twelve months later, Husband tells Wife he wants a divorce … and primary custody of Child.

Wife refuses to agree to that custody arrangement. She insists that she has always been Child’s primary caregiver – until Husband’s recent layoff.

Since Husband and Wife can’t agree, visitation and timesharing issues will be decided by a family court judge after a trial.

But the family court judge may actually put a great deal of weight not on the timesharing and visitation arrangement that was in effect for the longest amount of time but, rather, on the relatively recent and current visitation and timesharing arrangement – especially if it seems to be working well and the Child is doing well. In other words, if it ain’t broke …

So it is that that casually undertaken agreement for Husband to stay home with Child could suddenly, unexpectedly, turn a lot less temporary – maybe even permanent.

Moral of the story: despite the recession and cultural shifts taking place around them, Wife – or Husband, as the case may be – should consider very carefully before making any big lifestyle change requested or suggested by the other parent that affects primary caregiving of their child, even on a short-term or temporary basis.

The request / suggestion may, of course, be made in total innocence.

But the ultimate impact a bit down the road could be dramatic and decisive. And potentially haunt them until their child’s eighteenth birthday.

Read more in this CNN Money news article: Stay-at-home dads: More men choosing kids over career.

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Six Year Old Arrested at School and Charged with Battery on Principal … To Get Him Help

Child is in kindergarten.

For reasons unknown, Child is acting out – badly. Child allegedly kicks Principal … and threatens to kill various school officials.

This is not Child’s first such incident at school. This time, Principal calls the police.

Child is kicking and screaming when police arrive, attributing his conduct to the devil. Police arrest Child … and charge him with battery.

The Principal expresses concern for the safety of other students and school personnel. But describes Child as a “good student-just having some difficulties”.

Law enforcement authorities state perhaps the most compelling reason for Child’s arrest: the juvenile justice system’s vast resources can be brought to bear toward helping this troubled Child … where his parents’ limited resources have failed and they, like his school, are frustrated and stymied.

This is one of a number of similar cases in the news recently. Juvenile delinquency is often a symptom of family difficulties.

The sad thing is that there may be undiscovered community resources available to help Child without resort to the juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, too often, such resources are not well publicized.

Pushing parents and schools to call the police on children. When the parents and the children in question might benefit more from consulting an attorney knowledgeable of the local juvenile courts and community resources and services for juveniles.


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