Heiress Seeks Annulment in Effort to Avoid Divorce Property Division

Annulment is more like the spoonful of sugar going down than the spoonful of medicine.

Everyone wants it. Typically, just to avoid stigma of divorce, real or imagined.

But just a handful of cases actually meet the fairly strict and narrow criteria for eligibility for annulment. So, despite strong interest in them, we can rarely justify filing them.

In general, the best candidates for annulment are very short-lived marriages that were never consummated or where the couple stopped cohabiting immediately upon learning of the defect or fraud that invalidates or threats the validity of the marriage.

Still, not everyone – eligible or not – is deterred from pursuing an annulment …

Canadian heiresses can likely bear the cost of the potential false start and indulge their whim … especially when the financial stakes are high.

Take this food industry Heiress’ example.

She, like her sibling, entered prenuptial agreements at the insistence of their father, the company’s founder.

The agreement apparently established a modest fixed sum of parting gift property upon breakdown of the marriage.

In this case, $5 million. Not really such a large sum in the context of this family’s wealth.

But heiress simply doesn’t want her husband to walk away with even that.

So, throwing caution to the wind, Heiress files for annulment.

Because if her marriage is held to be void from the get-go, there won’t be any property division as there would be in a divorce.

Is $5 million worth the risk of wasting her nominal annulment filing fee … and enduring some ridicule?

Could be.

So she’s giving it the old college try.

Doing her best to paint her husband as a fraud who duped her into the marriage.

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Smokers Beware: You May Be Branded a Child Abuser, and Lose Custody of Your Child or Foster Child

More than a year ago, a prominent physician and medical school professor drew a new line in the sand, and denounced cigarette smoking routinely around children as nothing less than child abuse. He urged the medical community to take bold action to stamp out the pediatric health crisis resulting from second-hand smoke.

Fast forward a year. The place is the conference of the International Society for Family Law. Where some leading family law attorneys have taken up the gauntlet.

They are advancing legislative proposals to

  • require emergency room doctors to report as child abusers parents of children in respiratory distress who are suspected of having smoked around their children
  • deny custody of children to parents who smoke around their children and remove custody of children from parents who smoke around their kids
  • ban foster parents from smoking around their foster children and
  • punish anyone for smoking in a car with children.

Sound harsh? Unreasonable?

According to the New York Times, more than 6,000 American children die annually as a result of their parents’ smoking, and still more children suffer more than five million serious diagnoses from it as well.

Even without new or different legislation, with the right evidence placed before the right judge about the right child with the right health issues, cigarette smoking certainly may be a consideration in both custody and timesharing rulings.

Read more in:

  1. this Science Daily News article: Repeated exposure of children to secondhand smoke is child abuse, expert argues
  2. this ValueWalk article: Smokers Should Lose Child Custody – Intl Family Law Conf.

UK Survey Suggests Marital Residence is Sold to Strangers in Substantial Minority of Divorces

A fairly small survey of at least middle-aged divorcees in the UK indicates that one third of marital residences get sold to third parties. Half the couples were long-term marrieds who had become empty-nesters and ended up downsizing.

Interestingly, some divorcing couples opted to share certain property after their divorces, including family pets.

Not surprisingly, women were more likely than men to report that they were less well off financially after their divorces. Whatever the financial impact of their divorces though, more than half of the surveyed divorcees reported being happier following their divorce.

The survey was conducted by a financial institution and is based on subjective self-reporting, except perhaps for the mortgage payoff and home sales data. It is worth noting that some of the couples surveyed were still in the midst of their divorce and it was not indicated for how long the other couples may have been divorced.

Read more in this UK Telegraph article: Family home sold in a third of ‘silver’ divorces.


Is Divorce Passed Down from One Generation to the Next?

Husband and Wife marry. Have Children. Divorce.

Fast forward two decades. Children are married.

Are Children more likely to divorce than any other couple?

Perhaps not.

Past studies have suggested that children of divorce are more likely to divorce themselves.

But drilling down through the data more meticulously suggests that high conflict in the family (whether or not it culminates in divorce) is actually a better predictor of divorce in the next generation.

Read more in this Tech Insider article: One parent behavior may affect kids of divorce more than divorce itself.


Who Gets the Silverware, the Car … the Frozen Embryos?

Traditional scenario. Husband and Wife marry, then have children. If Husband and Wife later decide to divorce, custody issues must be resolved.

Modern, increasingly common, scenario. Husbands and wives create and store frozen embryos due to fertility concerns. If husbands and wives later decide to divorce while they still have unborn embryos in storage, the fate of the embryos must be resolved.

Which may be every bit as contentious as custody of already-living children.

One high profile divorcing couple recently reached an agreement to destroy their frozen embryos.

But another is still fighting the good fight well over a year now.

Although this is hardly the first thing that comes to mind in the context of a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement, this is actually an excellent candidate for an agreement before the first embryo is frozen.

Read more in this


Pizzas for Child Support Flies … In Italy. At Family Court Trial Level.

Italian Husband and Wife have Daughter together.

Husband and Wife divorce.

Italian family court orders Husband to pay Wife child support of US $300-odd per month.

Husband is a pizza baker.

Husband’s business is off.

Husband can’t afford to pay his court-ordered child support.

But Husband has an idea.

He can bake pizzas for Daughter and Wife. A lot of them. US $300-odd worth of pizzas.

So that’s what Husband does.

Wife takes Husband to court.

But the Italian family court sides with Husband, and credits Husband with the dollar equivalent of the pizzas Husband gives Wife and Daughter.

This is a very questionable ruling.

The Italian family court is clearly sympathetic to the Husband, who apparently can no longer afford the cash amount of the previously ordered support.

Technically, Husband should have filed a modification action to reduce the amount of support he must pay based upon his changed circumstances.

The problem with the Italian family court’s compassionate (toward Husband) ruling is that, beyond the amount of pizza that Wife and Daughter would / could actually consume themselves, it is of no practical value whatsoever to Wife and Daughter.

The purpose of child support is to provide funds for the purchase of things for the child, including clothing and housing.

Unfortunately, except in a barter society, neither stores nor landlords or mortgage lenders accept payment in pizza.

If Wife appeals, unless Italian family law is radically different from that in the US, the family court ruling is going to be reversed. Or at least modified so that only a portion of child support can be paid in pizza, called “in kind”.

Read more in:

  • this Eater article: Child Support Can Be Paid in Pizza, Italian Court Rules
  • this NPR article: Short On Cash For Child Support? Try Paying In Pizza
  • this New York Post article: Father allowed to pay child support with pizza .
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    France To Simplify Uncontested Divorces

    About half of the divorces in France are what we call uncontested. In other words, the husband and wife reach agreement on everything from the get-go.

    The French government now wants to send them on their way faster and save family court judges time for the contested cases where they are most needed.

    Toward that end, court costs will only be approximately US $50 and no court hearings will be required.

    But each spouse will still have to have an attorney.

    Further, this simplified “judge-free” option is withdrawn “if a child requests to be heard by a magistrate”.

    Some government officials would go further and eliminate the no hearing option in any case where the divorcing couple has minor children.

    Every jurisdiction chooses its own lines in the sand. Time will tell whether France has chosen well.

    Southeast Florida still requires at least an abbreviated hearing in all cases.


    1. this Mashable article:France set to approve divorce by mutual consent without a judge
    2. this Findlaw / Associated Press article: France’s govt wants to allow divorce by mutual consent
    3. this Findlaw / Associated Press article: France’s government wants to allow divorce without a judge.

    Sponsor’s Affidavit of Support Supersedes Prenuptial Agreement on Alimony

    Husband, a naturalized US citizen, sponsors Wife, an immigrant, into the United States.

    Among the immigration papers they signed for Wife to immigrate, is the standard Affidavit of Support, in which the Sponsor (Husband) promises to support the sponsored immigrant (Wife).

    Husband and Wife also privately signed a prenuptial agreement in which they both gave up any rights to receive alimony from one another.

    Husband and Wife marry.

    A couple of years later, Husband and Wife divorce.

    Wife moves in with her adult Son and receives food stamps. Son contributes to Wife’s support from his modest income.

    After Husband’s and Wife’s divorce becomes final, Wife sues Husband in federal court, seeking to enforce the immigration Affidavit of Support … despite their prenuptial agreement.

    At trial in federal court, the Court ruled that the Affidavit of Support was enforceable when the sponsor and the immigrant divorced. However, in this particular case, since Wife’s son was supporting her, it was not.

    On appeal, the federal intermediate appellate court reversed, holding that the Affidavit of Support was enforceable against Husband without regard to Son’s income and contribution to Wife’s support.

    Read more in this Courthouse News Service article: Immigrant Ex Gets Alimony Despite Prenup .