Sharing a Mortgage During Divorce

November 4, 2015


An interesting article in the New York Times regarding shared mortgages: click here.

Both spouse’s names on the mortgage routinely provides complications in a divorce.  The article wisely advises to get started on the refinance sooner rather than later.  In many cases, the party wishing to stay in the residence will discover that they cannot afford it alone and the parties end up selling the house.

In other cases, where a refinance is possible, the paperwork takes longer than expected.  So the spouses may still be financially tied even after divorce.

It’s a difficult process that adds to the stress of the divorce.

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Should Jail Be a Reason to “Pause” Child Support?

October 22, 2015


Fathers in prison facing high debt over child support will have the opportunity to “press pause” on their child support obligations.  According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration announced new adjustments that will allow fathers to label their incarceration as “involuntary” to avoid increasing arrears while they are in jail.

This program would allow a reduction for child support payments, that isn’t currently allowed in many states.  Many states consider prison voluntary, and thus it does not qualify as a reduction for child support.  The new program would not be carried out until 2017.

But many are asking – is this fair? Why should incarcerated fathers get a break on child support – at a cost to the taxpayer?  Why should the mother have to bear the financial burden on her own of raising the child? Supporters of the program argue that billing fathers while they are in prison does not do anything except dig them deeper into debt.  Many don’t even know that the debt is accumulating until they are released from prison – at which time the large amount owed forces them to go to the underground economy for money.

Is this a fair program?

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August 24, 2015


For those who have not heard of it, DivorceHotel is a Netherlands based company for couples looking to have a vacation and divorce at the same time.  The general idea is that instead of worrying about a long drawn out divorce proceeding, couples come to the hotel for the weekend to get divorced, along with spa treatments.

The company partnered with New York resort Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa to open a United States location in September 2014.  The entire package includes separate rooms, a lawyer for each party, a mediator, and a welcome basket including red wine, sparkling water, chocolates, and an information packet.  Some sessions are timed with breaks for walks, massages, and time in the relaxation room.

The goal is to wrap up the process by Sunday and to leave with a binding agreement.  The divorce papers get finalized thereafter.  It’s an interesting process, but we’ll see how much traction it receives in the United States.

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Perfect Age to Say “I Do”

July 29, 2015


According to Time magazine, a new study suggests that the perfect age to get married is between the ages of 28 and 32.  According to the study, the couples that get married between 28 and 32 are the least likely to get divorced.  This is a new idea – prior to this, the thinking was that if you were older when you married, your relationship was more stable.

However, this study shows an upside down bell curve.  The later in life you get married, your chances of divorce rise again.  But many women feel pressured to get married by a certain age.  The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2013 that the median age for marriage for women is 27 and 29 for men.

Clearly, the message isn’t resounding with everyone.

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The TV, Couch, and Coffee Table – Dividing Personal Property

June 15, 2015


Many parties assume they will be able to amicably divide personal property – so they put it off until the end of the case.  However, waiting until all the rest of the property has been divided, such as the house, retirement accounts, bank accounts, etc. may allow the parties’ anger to bubble up and focus on the personal property.

The law in both D.C. and Virginia requires that property be divided in an equitable manner.  In order to determine what is equitable, the Court has to know the value of the property.  It’s easy to value bank accounts and real estate.  However, it’s not that simple with personal property.  When there is a houseful of furniture, collectibles, paintings, and rugs, each item may bring up memories and emotions which makes it difficult to resolve.  Further, parties find it hard to understand that most personal property actually has very little value.  The value is not the replacement price, but the fair market value of the item.

So what can the parties do? One option is to have the personal property inventoried at the beginning of the case.  Divide what you can, at the time that one party is moving out. Finalize an agreed list of who takes what.  Another option is to attend mediation to resolve personal property.  Some parties may agree to donate the unresolved personal property to a charity.  Some parties allow their children to divide the personal property.  If the issue is brought before a Judge, he or she may just divide the personal property arbitrarily or ask the parties to flip a coin and select alternatively.

It’s best to keep in mind that personal property may be difficult to divide if you put it off, and so you might want to resolve it first.

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Tips on Reconnecting with Your Child

May 5, 2015


Some parents have distant relationships with their children.  Sometimes the distance is caused by alienation, geographic location, parental bickering, or other reasons.  Whatever the reason, it is up to the parent to take the first step to reconnect with the child.

1) Take the initiative.  Some parents are afraid of taking the first step due to fear of rejection. However, the worst thing you can do is to sit back and think the child will come to you when he or she is ready.  As the parent, you have to take the initiative and set an example to reach out first.

2) Set a schedule, stick to it, and be committed to building the relationship.  If you go through court to establish a visitation schedule, be proactive and and prepared before the hearing.  There may be steps before you can have overnights, and it make take some time.  Sticking to the schedule is important – it shows the child and the court that you are committed to having a relationship with your child.  Do whatever you can to rebuild the relationship – it will mean the world to your kid.

3) Focus on the present.  There is no need to rehash past events with your child.  Focus on the present and future.  What activities does your child like? What school projects does he or she have? Who are the teachers? Who are your child’s friends?  Ask questions.  It make take some time, but your kid will appreciate your interest and build confidence in the relationship.

Taking steps to reconnect can be difficult, but they are the most important to your child.

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In a Turkey Baster Pregnancy, Father Has Rights

April 30, 2015


Last week the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that a father who used a turkey baster to impregnate a woman is more than a sperm donor, and thus has rights to be part of the minor child’s life.

Two friends, Joyce Bruce and Robert Boardwine, decided to try to get pregnant using a turkey baster.  The two never signed a written contract about what would occur if they were successful.  Boardwine came to Joyce’s house several times and give her plastic containers of his sperm.  After learning she was pregnant, Boardwine came over with stuffed animals and clothes for the baby.  The two remained friends until Boardwine suggested a name for the baby, and Bruce rejected it.  After that, the two didn’t speak for five months.

After the baby was born, Boardwine went to the hospital to visit the child. Subsequently, he went to Bruce’s home to visit, but the visits seemed awkward.  Bruce then asked Boardwine to stop visiting, and so Boardwine went to Court.

Bruce’s argument was that Boardwine had no rights, because he was merely a sperm donor.  However, Virginia’s assisted conception statute defines assisted conception as a pregnancy resulting from medical technology.  The Court of Appeals ruled that a turkey baster was not medical technology, and therefore Boardwine is more than a sperm donor and is entitled to be in the child’s life. Boardwine was granted joint legal custody and visitation.

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Custody laws proposing equal parenting time

April 22, 2015


Approximately 20 states are proposing laws that would change how custody is determined after separation or divorce. Generally the laws would encourage the maximum time for each parent. In New York and Washington, the laws are proposing equal time between parenting.

Many judges in the District of Columbia are already ruling for equal time between parents.  Proponents of giving parents equal time say that the children benefit when they can spend as much time with both parents as possible.  Additionally, some say equal parenting laws will reduce legal fees in fighting custody battles in court.  However, opponents say that mandating equal parenting takes away the discretion from the Judges presiding over the cases, and give more power to abusive parents.

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Snooping During Divorce in Virginia

April 10, 2015


People sometimes ask about information obtained from snooping – tape recording, emails, voicemails, and Facebook.  Is it legal in Virginia? Can I use that evidence in negotiation or trial?

Tape recordings – some spouses will try to tape record their spouse to catch the other party doing something inappropriate.  Virginia is a “one-party consent” state – which means that at least one person has to know the conversation was being recorded.  So if you are having a conversation with your spouse, and you decide to tape record it, that would be perfectly fine, because you knew the recording was taking place, and thus consented.  However, if you just place a running tape recorder in your spouse’s purse, and hope to catch her making incriminating statements to a third party, then that recording is not legal (because neither your spouse nor the third party knew consented to the recording).

Emails and voicemails – With emails and voicemails, the important concepts to consider are “expectation of privacy” and “authorized access.”  If you know your spouse’s code to unlock her phone, and sometimes use it to make calls or write texts, then you could argue you are an authorized user and can look at the phone’s content (such as emails, voicemails, and text messages).  Your spouse doesn’t have an expectation of privacy in her phone in that circumstance.

Facebook – Facebook is a whole different question – the posts on someone’s timeline or photographs are completely public.  There is no expectation of privacy.  But remember that the posts may be deleted at any time.  So if you want to preserve something, print it out or save it.

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New York Judge Allows Service on Facebook

April 6, 2015


A Manhattan judge has decided that a woman who has been unable to get in touch with her husband can serve him papers for the divorce on Facebook.  According to the reports, the woman only gets in touch with her husband via Facebook, and he hasn’t had a permanent address since 2011.  The woman’s attorney will serve the divorce summons on Facebook once a week for three weeks, or until the message is acknowledged.

Of course, this case has unusual circumstances.  Apparently the husband has no permanent address and no place of employment.  The post office does not have a forwarding address for him, and the DMV has no record of him.  Even a private detective couldn’t find him.

Only time will tell if this request will be granted in other states.  It makes complete sense.

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