Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?

Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?

By John Springer TODAYshow.com contributor

Video: Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime? 

TODAYshow.com contributor
updated 1 hour 3 minutes ago 2010-12-28T15:39:17 

Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?

By John Springer TODAYshow.com contributor
Video: Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?
TODAYshow.com contributor
updated 1 hour 3 minutes ago 2010-12-28T15:39:17
A Michigan man who accessed his wife's e-mail account while she was allegedly carrying on an affair faces up to five years in prison when he goes on trial Feb. 7 on a charge he violated a state law typically used against hackers intent on making money or mayhem. 

The question for the judge or jurors who will hear the case isn't whether Clara Walker gave Leon Walker, 33, permission to inspect her Google e-mail; he admits she didn't know what he was up to until her e-mail messages became an issue in their divorce and child custody battle.
But Leon Walker claims that he had every right to poke around in the computer because he was concerned that his wife's lover - the second of her two former husbands - might be abusive to her around their young children. Walker also contends that he had the right to go on the computer because he bought it, it was in his home, and she left the password lying around.

'No choice'
"She kept a copy of every password she had next to her computer in her address book," Walker told NBC News in a report that aired Tuesday on TODAY. "I felt that with the risk to my daughter and to my stepson, I had an obligation to check. I had no choice."

However, prosecutors in Michigan say Walker did have a choice, and made a bad one. They have charged him with unauthorized access to a computer in order to "acquire, alter, damage, delete or destroy property."

Leon Walker, 33, who says he learned of his wife's affair by reading her e-mail on their computer, faces trial on felony computer misuse charges. Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sydney Turner said the charge is justified. But because the statute doesn't specifically address the issue of a computer that is arguably a jointly owned marital asset, Walker's lawyer, Leon Weiss, is expected to argue that the statute should not be applied to domestic snooping.
If the prosecution is successful, the repercussions for the criminal justice system could be profound. "If there's going to be a concerted effort in the future to prosecute everybody who looks at somebody else's e-mail under their roof, they had better build a bunch more courthouses because we don't have enough courthouses," Weiss said.
Vote: Have you ever snooped in your significant other's e-mail?
Privacy law writer Frederick Lane told the Detroit Free Press that the law typically is used to prosecute identity theft and stealing trade secrets. He says he questions whether a wife can expect privacy on a computer she shares with her husband.

Opening the floodgates?
The problem with prosecuting people for merely reading other people's e-mails is that it is just so easy to do when the parties are in a relationship, Rikki Klieman, a criminal defense attorney and former Court TV anchor, told Natalie Morales Tuesday on TODAY.
If prosecutors around the country follow Michigan's lead and apply hacking laws to husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, the criminal courts will be deluged with cases that rightly belong before family court judges, Klieman said. "Are we going to put all of these people in prison? Are we going to prosecute people for felonies?

Video: Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime? (on this page)
"If the legislature wants to enact a specific law that says 'Thou shalt not look at thy spouse's intimate e-mails,' let them go ahead and do it," she added. "You would think there is more serious crime they have to deal with."

Clara Walker declined comment when contacted by NBC News
Clara Walker declined comment when contacted by NBC News.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Tips for Divorced Families

ParentAndChildChristmas.jpgIn our last post, we discussed parental alienation syndrome and the importance of children having both parents in their lives. Right now, the holiday season is upon us and Christmas is a short nine days away. The holidays can be a very stressful time for divorced parents.

Many of us can look back fondly on our childhood memories of the holidays, but for children of divorce their memories can be quite different if parents fight. Thankfully, Dr. Mary Anne LoFrumento, the author of the "Simply Parenting" series has some tips to help divorced parents give their children the most joyous holidays possible. We would like to share the Doctor's tips with you to keep in mind when planning for the holidays.

Putting the Children First
This time of year, it is especially important to put the needs of the children first. Bad holiday memories often come from fights between the parents over scheduling, gifts, or sharing time. If arguments arise between you and your ex-spouse, do your best to keep the kids out of it.

Show Unity
Children are very observant and they know when their parents are fighting. It is important for both parents to keep a positive attitude about the holidays and that it is still a special time of the year even if not everyone is together. It is a great gesture to help younger children pick or make a gift for the other parent.
Often, the divorce decree or agreement will detail what days the children spend with which parent. It is important to stick to this schedule, but if there is no schedule, it is important to plan ahead in detail.
Try to avoid splitting days between parents. Splitting days does not allow children to fully enjoy the time they spend with one parent if they are constantly worried about leaving. If families live near each other, make sure that the kids get to spend at least one full day with each parent. When families live too far apart to visit both sides, some parents will alternate years.

It is important to communicate your plans to the children and explain to them what is going on. Some children will feel guilty about leaving a parent behind. In those situations, letting the child know what you will be doing while he or she is gone will often help with that guilty feeling.

Sticking to your holiday plans and dropping of and picking up the kids on time is a top priority, except in cases of emergency.

Keeping in Touch
If you cannot be with a child on a holiday, planning for a phone call in the morning is a great way to make the child feel special, and this will help the child feel better about being away.

Avoid Gift Contests
Some parents will engage in competitive gift giving and try to give bigger and more expensive gifts than the other parent. In addition to coordinating schedules, coordinating and discussing gifts is a good way for divorced parents to avoid competition.

WPTV.com, "Keeping the 'joy' in the holiday season for families of divorce," Connie Colla, 12/15/2010
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parental Alienation Syndrome Gains Increased Recognition

parental alienation.jpgParental alienation syndrome, or PAS, is the result of one parent engaging in an effort to isolate, denigrate or alienate the other parent. Cases involving parental alienation syndrome often involve children becoming hateful or fearful of one of their parents after a divorce. The consequences to both the alienated parent and the child can have devastating life-long effects.

PAS is recognized by most family law judges, but many judges are not aware of its serious effects and do not know the best way to address and prevent PAS. However, there is a strong movement in the psychiatric community to promote awareness of PAS and classify it in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is an official catalog of mental disorders.

One of the leading proponents for including PAS in the manual is William Bernet, a psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University who has said PAS "causes horrible outcomes for children." Not only have studies shown that PAS causes long-term harm to children, children who are affected by PAS effectively lose half of their family and half of their heritage.

Psychologists say that PAS cases range from mild to severe. Mild cases involve a parent who is unaware of what he or she is doing and will stop alienating behavior when they learn how harmful it is to the child. Moderately harmful cases involve a parent treating the other parent like an adversary and asking a child to spy on the other parent. Severe cases involve narcissism or a strong fear of abandonment and an obsessive hatred for an ex-spouse. In severe cases, the alienating parent's hatred for his or her ex-spouse is stronger than the instinct to protect their children from harm.

Source: Denver Post, "Recognizing parental alienation syndrome," Mary Winter, 12/5/2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mel Gibson in Court Again in Child Custody Fight

Mel Gibson has had a brilliant film career and seven kids with his ex-wife, but it is his eighth child he had with his ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, that has kept him in the headlines lately. In late September, Judge Scott Gordon ordered Mel Gibson to pay $20,000 per month to Oksana in child support for their one-year-old daughter, Lucia. This was an increase of the previous amount of $5,000 monthly.

This month, Gibson and Grigorieva have twice been back in family court fighting for custody of their daughter. In an earlier proceeding, Gibson argued that he should be allowed to deduct a housing payment from the $20,000 child support payment. He has been paying $6,000 monthly for the home Grigorieva shares with her mother and Lucia. Judge Gordon ordered that Gibson pay the full $20,000 in addition to the $6,000 and ordered that he pay $60,000 in back support.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Michael Douglas's Wall Street Money Safe for Now

Michael Douglas's Wall Street Money Safe for Now


In 1987, Michael Douglas starred as the infamous Gordon Gekko in the hit movie, "Wall Street." Gekko had an uncanny talent for separating people from their money. Now, Douglas's ex-wife, Diandra, would like to separate Michael Douglas from some of his Gordon Gekko money. From 1977 to 2000, Michael and Diandra were married and they had one child together. In 2000, they divorced and as part of their settlement agreement Michael agreed to pay Diandra half of all the proceeds from film, television, and stage performances he did during their marriage. Diandra would also argue that she is entitled to half of any income related to those performances.

As a result, she has sued Michael Douglas for half of his earnings from the sequel to "Wall Street" made this year, "Wall Street: Greed Never Sleeps." After all, Michael starred in the original while they were married and he reprised his role as Gordon Gekko in this year's film. Had the role of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film gone to another 1980s actor like Tom Selleck as Gekko P.I. or Harrison Ford as Indiana Gekko, Michael Douglas would not have been offered the role in the 2010 sequel.

Michael Douglas takes the position that Diandra is not entitled to earnings from post-divorce movies, whether they are sequels or not. Earlier this month Diandra's lawsuit was dismissed, but this will not be the end of the story.

Although they were divorced in California, Diandra filed her lawsuit in New York. A New York judge ruled that California was the proper place for the lawsuit because California has more familiarity with the legal and factual issues on the Douglas divorce. It is important to point out that this dismissal is not a decision on the merits of Diandra's claim, so she will be able to re-file her lawsuit in a California court.

As this story demonstrates, property division in divorce can be one of the most complex issues to resolve. The Douglas divorce was finalized in 2000, yet they are still arguing over marital property division. Ultimate resolution on this issue is going to have to wait until a California court has its say. All indications are that the decision will depend on an interpretation of California's unique marital property laws and the language in the Douglas's settlement agreement.

Source: Bloomberg: Michael Douglas Ex-Wife's 'Wall Street' Suit Is Tossed Over Venue Issue; Karen Freifeld, 11/15/2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prenuptial Agreements: A Growing Trend in Family Law

When we think of prenuptial agreements, often the first thing that comes to mind is a celebrity or a business mogul like Donald Trump. However, a recent study done by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) shows that prenuptial agreements are not just for the rich and famous anymore.

Often times, property division is one of the most contested aspect of a divorce, whether or not the couple has substantial assets. Sometimes called antenuptial agreements, premarital contracts or simply prenups, prenuptial agreements are contracts entered into before marriage between spouses. The agreements detail how property will be divided in the event of a divorce.

The AAML study reported that 73 percent of attorneys have seen an increase in prenuptial agreements over the past 5 years. Of the attorneys who responded, 52 percent also saw an increase in women requesting prenuptial agreements. Why the increase? Are people becoming less trusting in the 21st century?
Possibly, but the increase in prenups has more to do with the economic situations of the parties. Many of the people requesting prenuptial agreements are entering a second marriage after a previous divorce. They have been through one property division contest, and would like to avoid another.
However, prenuptial agreements are not just for remarrying people. Many people tying the knot for the first time are requesting prenups as well. Since 1980, we have seen the average age that people marry for the first time increase. For men, the average age has climbed two years and is now at 26.8 years old. For women, the average age has increased three years and is now 25.1 years old.

People are not marrying immediately after school as much, and are spending more time working before marrying. This gives people an opportunity to earn more, and bring more property to a marriage. When people bring more assets to a marriage, they want to protect them.

Whenever a couple divorces, a court must divide their property between the spouses. While prenups are a good tool to prevent property fights, they can often be subject to interpretation by the courts. Whether or not you have a prenuptial agreement, experienced family law attorneys understand Georgia marital property law, and can help you understand your property rights.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune: More couples saying 'I do' to prenups; Jeff Strickler, 10/27/2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lil Wayne Slapped With Paternity Suit While in Jail

Lil Wayne Slapped With Paternity Suit While in Jail

On behalf of Edwards & Associates posted in Father's Rights on Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just days ago, Lil Wayne was released from jail after serving time for an October 2009 weapons charge. While he was still in jail, Lil Wayne received an unwelcomed message. The grandmother of an 8-year-old boy has filed a paternity suit against him claiming he fathered her grandson in 2002. If he is found to be the father of the boy, he may be on the hook for child support.

A court order required him to submit to a DNA test before September 10, but since Lil Wayne did not leave prison until November 5, the judge has pushed the DNA test deadline back to December 9. It is presently unclear why it is the grandmother, and not the mother of the child, who filed the paternity action.

We don't have any information on if Lil Wayne has acknowledged this child, or would like to be a part of the boy's life. If this is indeed his child and he would like to have visitation, it may become more complicated. For example, in Georgia, paternity can be established by DNA testing. However, paternity is only part of the issue if a father would like to be involved in his child's life. Paternity does establish that a man is a child's biological father, but that only obligates him to support his child. If a father wants to have visitation or custody rights, he must also request legitimation from a court.

Legitimation is the only way, apart from marrying the mother, that a father can have legal rights regarding his child. Without legitimation, a father can be required to pay child support, but the child's mother can deny visitation and communication with the child. Legitimation has some additional benefits for the father and child, including inheritance rights and the father's name being on the birth certificate.

Source: CBS: Lil Wayne a Free Man, but Was Hit with Paternity Suit Behind Bars, Says Report; Caroline Black, 11/10/10

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mother Arrested After Defying Child Custody Order

Mother Arrested After Defying Child Custody Order

On behalf of Edwards & Associates posted in Custody on Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A mother had lost custody over her 1-year-old daughter. She was ordered to turn the baby girl over to the child's father. She chose instead to make a run for it. Her plan was to pick up her other child at daycare and leave the area, but the daycare staff became suspicious and alerted authorities.

Monday morning, the mother was arrested and charged with interfering with the child custody rights of the child's father. The child, unharmed, is now being cared for by her father.

Child custody can be a highly emotional issue for obvious reasons. But, it is unfortunate the lengths some people will go in child custody fights. In this case, the mother could not or would not accept a court order and instead took the law into her own hands. Had she been successful in her attempt, she might have been committing parental kidnapping and would have prevented her baby from having her father in her life. Since she was thwarted in her attempt, she is being held in jail without bail and has greatly damaged any chance she had of regaining custody.

As this story illustrates, when a court makes a decision in the other party's favor, taking matters into your own hands is highly self-destructive. When a decision goes against you, experienced family law attorneys understand that child custody decisions are always subject to modification.

If a parent can show there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the welfare of the child, then the courts are willing to modify child custody orders. Some factors that can contribute to a change in circumstances include one parent moving, a change in a parent's life style, or the wishes of the child. Family law judges do have a great deal of discretion in making child custody decisions, and the process of obtaining or modifying a child custody order can seem confusing, but experienced family law attorneys are available to help.

Source: TBO.com: Pasco mom arrested after abducting daughter, authorities say; 11/8/2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Former Major Leaguer Arrested for not Paying Child Support

Former Major League outfielder Elijah Dukes has fallen on hard financial times. On Wednesday, he appeared in court, clad in an orange jumpsuit. He offered the Judge Liz Rice tears and apologies in a, but he could not offer the approximately $143 thousand he owes in child support.

At a past hearing in May, Dukes informed the court that he had spent all but $1,500 of his retirement account. The judge ordered him to pay what he had in child support, but Dukes did not pay and failed to appear at several later hearings. On Monday, Dukes was arrested on contempt of court charges.

Judge Rice said to him, "Mr. Dukes, we're not holding you in jail because we like to see you in an orange jumpsuit. All we want you to do is honor your commitment to this court and your family." She ordered Dukes to be released, set a new hearing for November 22, and ordered Dukes to bring financial records. Judge Rice added, "You can't just throw a bunch of documents at your lawyer and say, 'You do the Accounting.' You do it."

The case of Elijah Duke's illustrates what can happen when a parent ignores child support obligations. When a father's financial situation changes, and he can no longer afford his child support obligations, he cannot simply ignore it and hope it goes away. That strategy often leads to an arrest for nonpayment. Family law judges are willing to work with a father who is going through financial difficulties, but when a father does not pay, and does not inform the court, judges are also willing to issue an arrest warrant.

When a father's financial situation takes a turn for the worse and he can no longer afford to make child support payments, an experienced family law attorney can help. Family law attorneys understand that when an involuntary loss of income happens to a father, as has happened to Elijah Dukes, a lowering the child support payment is made possible by bringing a motion to modify to the court.

Source: St. Petersburg Times: Former Tampa Bay Ray Dukes offers tears, excuses, but no child support; Dan Sullivan, 11/4/2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dwyane Wade's custody battle begins

Dwyane Wade's custody battle begins

Associated Press

The appointed attorney for Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade's two young sons has recommended to a Chicago court that the NBA star be awarded custody of the children.

Wade and ex-wife Siohvaughn Wade returned to court on Wednesday, this time to begin the trial that will decide custody of their boys, ages 8 and 3. Attorney Lester Barclay, the boys' representative, filed a pretrial memo outlining three recommendations he plans to make during trial, with one caveat being Siohvaughn Wade should agree to undergo "extensive therapy" as part of any scenario.

"At trial it is my intention, based on the best interests of my clients, the minor children ... to be with" Dwyane Wade, Barclay wrote.

The court does not need to follow Barclay's advice, though it's fairly common for the suggestions of a child's representative to at least be weighed in such cases.

Barclay's recommendations included residential custody primarily with Dwyane Wade; joint custody with at least one of the boys attending school in Florida; or sole custody for the 2006 NBA finals MVP.

The Heat guard signed a new six-year contract worth about $107 million with the Heat in July, doing so on the same day longtime friends and fellow NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami roster.

Dwyane Wade was awarded "physical possession" of his sons in June by another judge in Chicago, who found that an emergency order was merited because Wade's time for visitation with his children "has been frustrated on an ongoing basis as a result of continual interference" by his now ex-wife. Their divorce was finalized in June, although custody and financial matters remain undecided.

In the June ruling, the court cited three instances, one in March and two in May, where Dwyane Wade's visitation schedules were altered by his ex-wife. Siohvaughn Wade has made claims that her sons are abused when in their father's custody.

Following a break for Rosh Hashanah, the trial will resume Monday with opening statements and other motions. Siohvaughn Wade is expected to be the first witness when testimony begins Tuesday.

Dwyane Wade expects the trial will last for at least a full week, which means he may not return to South Florida until just before the Sept. 28 start of Heat training camp.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Billionaire Divorce -- $100K a Month in Child Support

Billionaire Divorce -- $100K a Month in Child Support
10/22/2010 10:05 AM PDT by TMZ Staff

Ex-MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian is used to writing big checks, so it may only come with a wince that he has to pay $100,000 a month in child support -- for one kid!

Kerkorian -- who had one of the nastiest and richest divorces ever from ex-wife Lisa Kerkorian -- has been fighting Lisa's bid to drastically increase support for their 12-year-old daughter.

So who woulda thunk? Kirk and Lisa settled ... and TMZ has obtained a copy of the agreement, in which Kirk agreed to double the current monthly support, which had previously been set at $50,000.

Child support king Michael Trope managed to squeeze out an additional $10,250,000 in retroactive child support for his client, dating back to 2002.

As part of the deal, Lisa agreed to drop a civil suit she filed against Kirk -- which could have been worth tens of millions of dollars.

And here's the most incredible part -- Kirk may not even be the biological daddy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A divorce attorney who's a perfect fit

A divorce attorney who's a perfect fit

How to find a family lawyer tailor-made to suit your divorce's unique needs.
By Diana Shepherd

"So far, Jane's divorce has cost us about $120,000. It'll probably be closer to $150,000 by the time the dust settles." Micheal, a Chicago-based architect, is speaking about his fiancee's extremely bitter split with her ex-husband. "We hired the best divorce lawyer money could buy, and it was worth every penny," he asserts forcefully.

On the other side of the coin is Susan, an assistant editor at a Toronto newspaper. "We each entered the marriage with nothing, and we left with nothing," says Susan. "No kids, no money, no investments, no assets. Since we managed to remain on good terms throughout our separation, we opted for a do-it-yourself divorce. Our divorce agreement basically consisted of us saying, 'You take the microwave, I'll take the TV set'," she adds.

If you're like most separated North Americans, your situation is probably somewhere between Jane's and Susan's: you've acquired some assets -- or children -- during your marriage, and you and your ex are relatively civil to one another most of the time. You've also probably never had occasion to retain a divorce lawyer before, and may have no idea how to go about finding the divorce lawyer who's right for you.
The search begins

"Unfortunately, many people spend less time searching for a family lawyer to handle their divorce than they do shopping for a new car, home, or apartment," says Lester Wallman, a partner in the New York family-law firm Wallman, Greenberg, Gasman, & McKnight and the author of Cupid, Couples & Contracts: A Guide to Living Together, Prenuptial Agreements, and Divorce (Mastermedia). "It's shocking when you consider that their future, money, property, and the custody and support of their children may be forever affected by the quality of the divorce lawyer they choose."
More information on divorce lawyers:
Choose the Best Lawyer
Your Divorce Team
A Solid Relationship
Your Divorce Lawyer: Who's In Control?
The A-Team

Finding the right divorce lawyer is critical for your divorce and you can begin your search by talking to those you know: ask for recommendations from a close friend or family member (your friends and your family -- not your spouse's) who have been through divorce themselves. If you can't get any personal recommendations, there are professional organizations that offer family-lawyer referral services, such as The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (312-263-6477, www.aaml.org), The American Bar Association -- Family Law Section (800-454-8432 or 312-263-6477, www.abanet.org), and The Law Society of Upper Canada (800-268-8326 or 416-947-3330, www.lsuc.on.ca). Ask for two or three names of local lawyers who devote their practice to family law. Also, check your phonebook for the number of your local Bar Association.

Visit a library and take a look at the "Martindale-Hubbell" -- a seven-volume compendium of lawyers categorized by state and ability. Read the biographies, and make sure the attorneys you select specialize in matrimonial or family law. You could also visit a courthouse in order to see lawyers in action; call the clerk's office to obtain dates and locations of cases and hearings.

"How much" lawyer do you actually need? The best (and most expensive) litigator money can buy, or someone who can handle the whole thing quickly and inexpensively? Is it important to find a lawyer who's "compatible" with you: one who understands and respects your thoughts and feelings about your divorce? Or can -- and more importantly, should -- you handle your divorce yourself?

Your answers to these questions will be determined by your own unique circumstances. Here are some basic guidelines to help put you on the right track.

Finding a divorce lawyer

Choosing which divorce lawyer will represent you may be the most important decision you'll make during your divorce proceedings. As in any profession, there are good divorce lawyers and bad divorce lawyers. It's up to you to do your homework -- and to ask the right questions -- to determine which group your family attorney falls into.

"The ideal family lawyer lets you participate in a discussion about your situation and is not afraid to tell you at the outset advice and information you may not want to hear," states Michael Cochrane, a Toronto-based family lawyer and divorce mediator with Ricketts Harris, and the author of Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law (John Wiley Canada, 1999). "After spending 30 minutes with this divorce lawyer, you can answer three questions: Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do I respect his or her opinion? Does this person respect mine?"

Look for someone who:

* Practices matrimonial or family law. A divorce lawyer who specializes in taxation, even if he or she's your best friend, isn't going to be much help to you.
* Can work with other professionals. As a family-law attorney, he or she must be able to work with accountants, appraisers, and other expert witnesses to track down and evaluate assets.
* Has a lot of experience. If your divorce lawyer is fresh out of law school, make sure he or she has an experienced mentor at the firm -- one with an excellent knowledge of relevant divorce law -- to go over his/her cases.
* Is a skilled negotiator. If your case can be settled without a protracted court battle, you'll probably save a great deal of time, trouble, and money.
* Is firm. If you do end up going to court, you don't want your divorce lawyer to crumble at the first obstacle.
* Is reasonable. You want someone who'll advise you to settle if the offer is fair, and not to have the case drag on and on to satisfy your need for revenge.
* Is compatible with you. You don't have to become best friends, but you must be comfortable enough with your lawyer to be able to tell him or her some of your deepest, darkest secrets. If you can't bring yourself to disclose information relevant to the case, you'll be putting your lawyer at an extreme disadvantage. "It's important to find a family lawyer you can work with -- one who's on your wavelength," confirms James C. MacDonald, a partner in the family law practice of MacDonald & Partners in Toronto and founding chairman of the national family law section of the Canadian Bar Association. Your family lawyer isn't your therapist or confessor, but he or she does need to be aware of all pertinent facts in order to do a good job for you.
* Is totally candid. Your lawyer should be up-front about what he or she thinks your divorce will cost, if there are holes or any problems with your case, and whether or not you have any aces up your sleeve.
* Is not in conflict with your best interests. Don't share a divorce lawyer with your spouse; don't hire your spouse's best friend (even if he's a friend of yours, too), business partner, or any member of your spouse's family to represent you -- even if you're on good terms with them. Aside from the obvious conflict of interest involved, you'll have created enemies -- and probably a whole new family feud -- before your divorce settles.
* Is more than a pretty face. This may seem painfully obvious, but given our frail human nature, it bears noting here: don't choose a lawyer based on physical attractiveness. You're looking for competence -- not for a date on Saturday night.

Choose a Specialist

In each divorce, different issues come up that require special attention; so it is best to find a divorce lawyer who concentrates on the specific issues that may arise in your divorce. Here are some examples:

* Men's/Fathers' Rights. "To find a good fathers'-rights lawyer, my first piece of advice would be to pick up the Yellow Pages," says Henry James Koehler, a leading Beverly Hills fathers'-rights lawyer. "Call every lawyer listed under 'divorce' and ask them if they win custody for fathers. If they say 'yes', ask them for a consultation." Koehler also suggests asking them for phone numbers of their clients so you can call them to share ideas and problems and to learn the technique of this particular lawyer. "Ask questions like: 'Does he settle? Does he fight? Does he build a team out of himself and the client?'" Koehler advises. Some lawyers, however won't provide clients referrals in order to protect their clients' privacy.
* Women's/Mothers' Rights. As a woman, you may have the right to a share of the assets (including your husband's pension), the family business, or property attained during the the marriage, whether you worked outside the home or not. "A women's-rights attorney can help women get past the gender stereotypes to ensure they receive their fair share," says Arlene Coleman-Schwimmer of the Beverly Hills law firm Coleman-Schwimmer & Warren. "A women's right lawyer knows the language and the issues and has the experience to get past the barriers that women face in divorce."
* Custody. If you believe custody of your children will become a major battle, then going to a lawyer who concentrates on custody issues is very important. "Finding a lawyer that has an expertise in child custody will help achieve the most favorable outcome," says Susan Cartier, a partner in the Connecticut firm Cartier and De Matteo. "You want someone who has the experience and a good working knowledge of the law surrounding custody. Without this knowledge of the specific legal process the children involved could be negatively impacted."
* Small Business. If one or both of you owns a small business, you should "seek a lawyer or a firm that has knowledge of businesses and corporations as well as family law," says Gemma Allen, a partner in the Chicago law firm Ladden & Allen. "Having the knowledge will guarantee that you get your fair share. Your lawyer will have to look at the worth of the business, cash flow versus debt, and evaluate corporate partnerships, real estate, and your liability."
* International. If your divorce deals with out of state/country property, or if there is a threat of having your child removed from the country, hiring a family lawyer who knows international divorce law and policies is essential. "Not every lawyer can handle cases such as these," says Lawrence Bloom, a New York divorce lawyer who regularly handles international cases. "You need someone who has the experience and the knowledge of other countries' divorce laws and views on custody and property."
* Bankruptcy. If one or both of you is facing bankruptcy, hiring a divorce lawyer who understands bankruptcy law can save you lots of time and money. "When bankruptcy occurs within a divorce, it can complicate things," says David Neale, of the Los Angeles family-law firm Levene, Neale, Bender and Rankin. "You will want someone who has the know-how to serve your best interests -- and that includes knowing the law around bankruptcy to ensure that your case isn't put on hold due to the federal matters."

Little firm, big firm

You also need to decide whether you'd like to be represented by a sole practitioner or a full-service family-law firm. Your choice will be partially dictated by your spouse's choice: if the divorce is relatively easy and friendly, you can probably agree on what kind of representation you need. If the divorce is very bitter; if there are children, money, or large assets at stake; or if your spouse is just plain "out to get you", consider hiring a "top gun" -- whether that be a well-respected individual or a team of lawyers at a prestigious firm.

The main advantage to hiring a sole practitioner is that you know exactly who will be working on your case; in bigger firms, the lawyer you speak to initially may not be the one who does the bulk of the work on your case. You will get to know your sole practitioner well, which should make office visits or phone conversations a little more comfortable.

"Many people prefer to have this kind of one-on-one relationship with their lawyer," says Lois Brenner, a Manhattan divorce lawyer and co-author of Getting Your Fair Share (Crown Publishers). "Divorce is a very personal and psychological thing. Having a closer connection with a family lawyer allows a client to feel comfortable and offers him or her the chance to give input." A sole practitioner will usually be less expensive than a big family-law firm, although some top practitioners can be quite pricey.

If you're looking for a divorce law firm to represent you, remember that they come in all types and sizes. A firm can be three lawyers and a few paralegals, or 100 lawyers and more than 20 paralegals. You can hire a general practice firm that deals with various areas of the law and has a smaller department that handles divorce and family law, or a matrimonial firm that handles only matrimonial matters. "In this world of specialization, it can be essential to have an attorney or firm that deals with family-law cases on a regular basis," says Bernard Rinella, a Fellow of the AAML and a partner in Rinella and Rinella, one of the oldest matrimonial law firms in Illinois. "A general practitioner wouldn't know the everyday workings of divorce law that a matrimonial attorney would deal with daily."

Donald Schiller of Schiller, DuCanto and Fleck, the largest family-law firm in the US, agrees. "In a divorce, there's a lot at stake and a lot of issues. Having a family-law firm allows a client to have a huge fund of knowledge and several divorce lawyers to back them up on every aspect of divorce law."

A full-service firm can give you access to specialists in other fields if your case requires it. "You can get everything done in-house," says Malcolm Kronby, a Certified Specialist in Family Law practicing at Epstein Cole and the author of Canadian Family Law (Stoddart Publishing, 1997). A full-service firm can handle complications such as shareholders' agreements, business organization or reorganization, tax-driven settlements (including asset transfers), establishment of family trusts, real-estate transfers, or estate planning. There may be a number of people handling your case at a big firm, which has its own set of pros and cons. One advantage is that you get the experience of a senior lawyer while lower-priced associates, paralegals, and legal secretaries handle some of the standard elements of your case, saving you money.

But most importantly, Cartier stresses the importance of looking at your individual divorce lawyer's ability handle your case. "Size doesn't always matter," she says. "If your particular lawyer listens to your wants and needs and does all he can to achieve them, it doesn't matter if he is with a law firm of two or of fifty."

The initial interview

The outcome of your divorce proceedings will change the course of your life forever, so invest the time and money to find the lawyer who will do the best job for you. "When looking for a lawyer, you should interview two or three prospective professionals before deciding who'll represent you," advises Phyllis Soloman, a New York City lawyer and the former president of the National Conference of the Women's Bar Association. Remember: it's your responsibility to retain a lawyer who's not only good at his or her job, but one whose personality and outlook are compatible with yours.

Here are the questions you should ask during your initial interview:

* Do you practice family law exclusively? If not, what percentage of your practice is family law?
* How long have you been practicing?
* What is your retainer (the initial fee paid -- or, sometimes, the actual contract you sign -- to officially hire a divorce attorney)? Is this fee refundable? What is your hourly fee?
* What is your billing technique? You should know what you're paying for, how often you will be billed, and at what rates.
* Approximately how much will my divorce cost? The divorce attorney will only be able to provide an estimate based on the information you provide -- and your realistic estimation of how amicable you and you spouse are. If you think your case is extremely simple, but your spouse's divorce lawyer buries your family attorney in paperwork, you can expect your costs to increase.
* What do you think the outcome will be? Remember, you're looking for truthfulness here -- not to be told a pretty story.
* If your spouse has retained a lawyer, ask your prospective lawyer whether he or she knows this lawyer. If so, ask:"Have you worked with him or her before? Do you think the divorce lawyer will work to settle the case? And is there anything that would prevent you from working against this lawyer?"
* What percentage of your cases go to trial? You actually want to choose a family-law attorney with a low percentage here -- a good negotiator who can settle your case without a long, expensive court battle.
* Are you willing and able to go to court if this case can't be settled any other way?
* How long will this process take? (Again, the answer will be an approximation.)
* What are my rights, and what are my obligations during this process?
* At a full-service firm, ask who will be handling the case: the lawyer you're interviewing, an associate, or a combination of senior and junior lawyers and paralegals?
* Should I consider mediation? Ask if your case -- at least in the initial stages -- might be a good one for mediation. If there has been violence in the relationship, or one spouse is seriously intimidated by the other, this may not be a viable alternative.
* Should I consider Collaborative Law? "In a collaborative practice, the clients themselves conduct settlement negotiations with their lawyers acting as advisors to the clients instead of taking charge of the process," explains MacDonald, who is the founder and current president of the Toronto Collaborative Family Law Group. "Each party has to find a collaborative lawyer to represent him or her." MacDonald recommends Collaborative Law for most divorce cases -- except when violence or vengeance is involved.
* What happens now? Do I need to do anything? And when will I hear from you? Finally, if there's something you really need to know, or if you don't understand something the lawyer said, don't be afraid to ask for clarification. "There's no such thing as a stupid question," says Susan Cartier. "If there is something you want to know, ask. It's your life on the line." Bring a list of questions with you to the initial interview; that way, you'll know if all of your concerns have been handled.

Sometimes, despite their best efforts, people end up choosing the wrong lawyers. "Normally, a client will gravitate to the lawyer who will fulfill his or her needs -- whether that be for a tough litigator or low-key negotiator," observes David Wildstein, who heads the matrimonial practice at Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer in NJ. If it's clear that you've chosen the wrong lawyer, he says, don't compound the problem by sticking with them to the bitter end. "You'll either prolong the process unnecessarily, or end up with an unacceptable settlement," says Wildstein.

What your divorce lawyer needs to know

You'll also need to provide information to your prospective lawyer during your initial interview. The better prepared you are for this meeting, the more you'll get out of it. Just as you're searching for the ideal divorce lawyer, the lawyer is hoping you'll be the ideal client: calm, businesslike, competent, and well prepared. "Ideal clients are organized; are willing to work together with me to attain their goals; and are willing to listen to my advice, pay their bills on time, and settle if possible, instead of tapping into their children's college fund," says Soloman.

Of course every case is unique, but the following checklist will give you an idea of what information your lawyer is looking for during your first meeting. You need to disclose:

* Why you are seeking a divorce. What caused your breakup? Are you sure you want to end the marriage, or is the visit to a lawyer meant to be a wake-up call to your spouse? "You need to be sure that you actually want a divorce," says Wildstein. "If you're secretly hoping for a reconciliation, then you and your lawyer are working towards different goals."
* Personal data. Bring as much personal data about you, your spouse, and your children (if any) as you can gather. Write down your names (maiden name too, if applicable); your home and work addresses and telephone numbers; your ages and places of birth; your Social Security Numbers; your states of health -- both mental and physical; your Green Card(s) and immigration papers (if applicable).
* Facts about your marriage. When and where did you get married? Did you sign a prenuptial agreement? If so, bring a copy of the agreement with you. Have either of you been married before? Bring the details of your previous divorce(s) with you.
* If there was there any abuse in the marriage. Your lawyer will need to know if you were ever a victim or a perpetrator of abuse. Despite the fear you may have revealing this kind of information, your silence will prevent your lawyer from doing his or her job in representing you. Knowing about the abuse also allows your lawyer to acquire orders of protection for you and your children.
* Whether there will be custody or access issues. Do you have children, and are there issues that will involve them -- such as custody, joint custody, and access? "If so, be prepared to discuss these issues in some detail on your first visit to your lawyer," says Philip Epstein, senior partner at Epstein Cole in Toronto. "This is more important than financial information, because until you know what's happening with regard to the children, you can't plan anything with respect to your settlement." Kronby agrees, but notes that "some couples are able to defer custody issues and get the financial issues out of the way first."
* Financial information. What assets and debts did each of you bring into the marriage? What are your incomes and what are your expenses -- jointly and individually? What are the names and addresses of your employers? How much money do both of you have invested: in the bank, the stock market, etc.? Has either of you invested in insurance or a pension plan? What property do you own (a house, car, boat, income property, etc.)? Was the property purchased before or after the marriage? Do you have a mortgage, and how much is still owed? Prior to your appointment, create a budget detailing how much you spend every month on items such as housing, food, clothing, personal grooming, gifts, vacations, etc. If you have children, and expect to be their primary caretaker, make sure you factor their costs into your budget.
* Legal documents. Bring copies of prior or pending lawsuits, bankruptcy suits, judgments, and garnishments.
* What you want to get out of your divorce. Be very specific about your goals in terms of division of property and other assets, custody and visitation, and support payments. Telling your lawyer that "I just want my fair share," or "I want to take that cheating louse to the cleaners!" will not help him or her to assess your case.

Should I handle my own divorce?

People are attracted to do-it-yourself (also known as Pro Se, which is a Latin phrase meaning "for yourself") divorces because they are supposed to save both time and money. Unfortunately, most divorces are relatively complicated -- involving complex property transfers and their tax implications; plus the issues of support, custody, and access if children or an unemployed spouse are involved. You'll also have to be able to prove grounds for your own divorce.

If you want to try the pro se route, there are some resources available to help you. Check with your local community college, adult education center, or community center to see if they offer classes on divorce. There are some low-cost legal clinics that will fill out your forms and review your separation agreement to make sure the paperwork is complete before it's filed with the court.

"Lay people can get themselves into more trouble when they try to handle their own divorce because they don't know the procedural ropes, where to file, etc.," cautions Connolly Oyler, a family lawyer and past-president of the Santa Monica Bar Association in California. "They also don't know substantively what they're entitled to. There are a hundred and one pitfalls."

If you do create your separation agreement yourselves, both you and your spouse should each retain an independent lawyer to check all papers before signing -- even if the divorce is "friendly" and you think your agreement is very straightforward.

A quality do-it-yourself kit or book will provide a good introduction to the divorce process. If your divorce is very simple and completely uncontested, a kit may be all you need. But if things turn nasty, or you suspect your spouse is trying to trick you into agreeing to a settlement that really isn't in your best interests, you'll need to consult a lawyer -- who may have to charge you even more money to undo what you did prior to retaining him/her.

For more articles on asistance with the correct divorce lawyer, visit http://www.divorcemag.com/articles/Divorce_Lawyers

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Georgia finally catches up with technology

Georgia finally catches up with technology! Pleadings can be served electronically via pdf format. Download the law in pdf format here. www.tiny.cc/zri25

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is Facebook becoming a 'tool' for cheating spouses?

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- Ken Savage says that, at first, he welcomed his wife's new interest in Facebook.

She had recently recovered from a bout with depression and dependence on prescription drugs, and he thought reconnecting with old friends would help get her out of her rut. But he says he became increasingly suspicious of her social networking activity when she began hiding her computer screen when he entered the room.

Savage soon discovered his wife was using the site to meet up with an old boyfriend -- an increasingly common occurrence as more and more adults join Facebook.

Savage, 38, of Lowell, Massachusetts, is the creator of FacebookCheating.com, a website he started in 2009 shortly after he discovered his wife's affair in an effort "to help others cope with someone cheating on them as well as shine light upon someone who is using Facebook to cheat."

A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years. More than 66 percent of those attorneys said the No. 1 site most often used as evidence is Facebook with its 400 million registered users.

Another recent survey by Divorce-Online.com of more than 5,000 attorneys says Facebook is mentioned in about 20 percent of divorce cases.

"As everyone continues to share more and more aspects of their lives on social networking sites, they leave themselves open to much greater examinations of both their public and private lives in these sensitive situations," Marlene Eskind Moses, president of the AAML, said in a statement of the survey's results.

Savage, who says he has nothing against Facebook and uses it regularly to connect with childhood friends, told HLN's "Prime News" Wednesday that the networking site is simply "a tool for an affair."

He says that if there is trouble within a marriage or a relationship, "the affair's going to happen anyway," but Facebook "makes it much easier."

Stacey Kaiser, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, says she estimates Facebook plays a much larger factor in divorces

"It's not just your everyday affair," Kaiser told "Prime News." "When it comes to something like Facebook, you are reconnecting with a long-lost love. All those teenage feelings, those college feelings come back again, you feel young again, and it drives you to do something you don't normally do."

Savage, who is separated and living apart from his wife, says communication with your spouse is key to keeping your Facebook page as a place to network, not coordinate illicit rendezvous.

"In the beginning when we first got on Facebook, we would openly talk" about shared friends' new babies and other milestones posted on the site, Savage told HLN.

"When it got real quiet, that was the problem," he said.

Brenda Wade, a clinical therapist whose self-proclaimed mission is to cut the divorce rate by half, says the mistake most couples make is placing priorities on material things rather than partnership.

"We need to put that energy, that time, that money into the relationship," she told "Prime News." "That's where you want to feel the excitement and the rush."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Facebook is divorce lawyers' new best friend

Facebook is divorce lawyers' new best friend
Whatever you share online can (and will) be used against you in court

by Leanne Italie

Forgot to de-friend your wife on Facebook while posting vacation shots of your mistress? Her divorce lawyer will be thrilled.

Oversharing on social networks has led to an overabundance of evidence in divorce cases. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says 81 percent of its members have used or faced evidence plucked from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites, including YouTube and LinkedIn, over the last five years.

"Oh, I've had some fun ones," said Linda Lea Viken, president-elect of the 1,600-member group. "It's very, very common in my new cases."

Facebook is the unrivaled leader for turning virtual reality into real-life divorce drama, Viken said. Sixty-six percent of the lawyers surveyed cited Facebook foibles as the source of online evidence, she said. MySpace followed with 15 percent, followed by Twitter at 5 percent.

About one in five adults uses Facebook for flirting, according to a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But it's not just kissy pix with the manstress or mistress that show up as evidence. Think of Dad forcing son to de-friend mom, bolstering her alienation of affection claim against him.

"This sort of evidence has gone from nothing to a large percentage of my cases coming in, and it's pretty darn easy," Viken said. "It's like, 'Are you kidding me?'"

Neither Viken, in Rapid City, S.D., nor other divorce attorneys would besmirch the attorney-client privilege by revealing the identities of clients, but they spoke in broad terms about some of the goofs they've encountered:

— Husband goes on Match.com and declares his single, childless status while seeking primary custody of said nonexistent children.
— Husband denies anger management issues but posts on Facebook in his "write something about yourself" section: "If you have the balls to get in my face, I'll kick your ass into submission."
— Father seeks custody of the kids, claiming (among other things) that his ex-wife never attends the events of their young ones. Subpoenaed evidence from the gaming site World of Warcraft tracks her there with her boyfriend at the precise time she was supposed to be out with the children. Mom loves Facebook's Farmville, too, at all the wrong times.

— Mom denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.

The disconnect between real life and online is hardly unique to partners de-coupling in the United States. A DIY divorce site in the United Kingdom, Divorce-Online, reported the word "Facebook" appeared late last year in about one in five of the petitions it was handling. (The company's caseload now amounts to about 7,000.)

Divorce attorneys Ken and Leslie Matthews, a husband and wife team in Denver, Colo., don't see quite as many online gems. They estimated 1 in 10 of their cases involves such evidence, compared to a rare case or no cases at all in each of the last three years. Regardless, it's powerful evidence to plunk down before a judge, they said.

"You're finding information that you just never get in the normal discovery process — ever," Leslie Matthews said. "People are just blabbing things all over Facebook. People don't yet quite connect what they're saying in their divorce cases is completely different from what they're saying on Facebook. It doesn't even occur to them that they'd be found out."

Social networks are also ripe for divorce-related hate and smear campaigns among battling spousal camps, sometimes spawning legal cases of their own.
"It's all pretty good evidence," Viken said. "You can't really fake a page off of Facebook. The judges don't really have any problems letting it in."

The attorneys offer these tips for making sure your out-loud personal life online doesn't wind up in divorce court:

What you say can and will be held against you
If you plan on lying under oath, don't load up social networks with evidence to the contrary.

"We tell our clients when they come in, 'I want to see your Facebook page. I want you to remember that the judge can read that stuff so never write anything you don't want the judge to hear,'" Viken said.

Beware your frenemies
Going through a divorce is about as emotional as it gets for many couples. The desire to talk trash is great, but so is the pull for friends to take sides.

"They think these people can help get them through it," said Marlene Eskind Moses, a family law expert in Nashville, Tenn., and current president of the elite academy of divorce attorneys. "It's the worst possible time to share your feelings online."

A picture may be worth ... big bucks
Grown-ups on a good day should know better than to post boozy, carousing or sexually explicit photos of themselves online, but in the middle of a contentious divorce? Ken Matthews recalls photos of a client's partially naked estranged wife alongside pictures of their kids on Facebook.

"He was hearing bizarre stories from his kids. Guys around the house all the time. Men running in and out. And there were these pictures," Matthews said.

Privacy, privacy, privacy

They're called privacy settings for a reason. Find them. Get to know them. Use them. Keep up when Facebook decides to change them.

Viken tells a familiar story: A client accused her spouse of adultery and he denied it in court. "The guy testified he didn't have a relationship with this woman. They were just friends. The girlfriend hadn't put security on her page and there they were. 'Gee judge, who lied to you?'"

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mr. Moms become more common

Mr. Moms become more common
By Lauren Russell, CNN
June 20, 2010 7:48 a.m. EDT

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) -- Atlanta radio personality Jimmy Baron describes the events that left him unemployed as a perfect storm. In 2006, the radio station where he had worked for 13 years was bought and the new owner cut his pay by 60 percent.

He quit and began looking for work. A few offers came in, but not what he was looking for. Then, the nation's economy tanked, and -- for the next three years -- all the offers dried up.

Baron describes that period as horrendous, emasculating, one of the worst of his life.

Finally, late last year, he got the offer he was looking for as a morning DJ at a classic rock station in Atlanta. But on his first day back in the workforce, he realized there was a downside to the new job -- he hadn't been in the house when his son woke up, and he missed his old role of Mr. Mom.

While unemployed, Baron and his wife, who worked from home, had been equal caregivers.

"You get to know a child on a completely different level," he said about the hours he spent each day with 3-year-old Micah.

As women's pay has approached -- and sometimes exceeded -- that of men, Mr. Moms lounging at the playground are becoming more common.

Fathers are the primary caregivers for about a quarter of the nation's 11.2 million preschoolers whose mothers work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 8.6 million men were unemployed in May, 34 percent more than the 6.4 million women. The Great Depression was the last time men's unemployment figures were that much higher than those for women, said Stephanie Coontz, the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families. The Chicago, Illinois-based organization describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families.

And during the 1930s, when housework was considered women's work by many, even unemployed men tended to be less involved in homemaking and child care, she said.

But early data suggest that men aren't rejecting homemaking at the same rates in this downturn, she said.

And some men are leaving the work force by choice. An estimated 158,000 married fathers with children younger than 15 left the labor force for at least a year to care for their family while their wives went to work, according to a Census Bureau report based on data from last year.

But a father being at home more -- whether by choice or, like Baron, because he has no alternative -- can be a hard thing for the man as well as the outside world to accept. Neighbors wonder when the man will quit babysitting and get a real job, and teachers still address childrearing concerns to the woman, Coontz said. Finally, women tend to have a hard time viewing their husbands as equals and not just assistants in the home, she said.

"It's because we have had, for 150 years, emphasis on men as experts, as breadwinners, and women as experts on nurturing," Coontz said.

During his three years off the job, Baron said, he found it difficult to answer the inevitable question, "So, what do you do?" in social situations. He also found it difficult to get used to being the only man when he and Micah joined his friends at at the pool or park.

During one of those long afternoons, he vowed that he would help other Mr. Moms when he returned to a job. Recently, he launched monthly "Dads between Gigs" get-togethers for care-giving dads and their children.

"Regardless of how dads end up in the situation of being caregiver, whether they choose it or not, it's still kind of a mom's world taking care of kids all day," Baron said. The events are a good way for men to get their needed guy time, he said.

Coontz said that a father becoming more involved with his children is a positive thing for everyone involved.

"Boys are more empathetic, and girls grow up more confident in their ability to tackle nonstereotype fields, like math or science," Coontz said about children with involved dads.

The best family dynamics develop when a wife and husband share the roles of caregiver and breadwinner, Coontz said. Partners who share responsibilities tend to have more stable marriages than do parents who play exclusive roles, she said.

It's healthy for both partners to have a life in and out of the house, and it's good for the children to see that as well, she said.

Coontz said men may want to consider another incentive in deciding whether to lend a hand with the laundry: Women tend to feel more intimate when their partners are involved with childcare and housework.

Monday, May 24, 2010

We're Moving! (Not very far)

We are moving to the 12th floor of our same building. Check on our progress here, which will be updated daily.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

10 tips for fathers going through a divorce

#9 – Put the new romance on the back burner

One of the most common things that turns a normal (read: inexpensive) divorce into an contentious (read: expensive) one is bringing another woman into the situation. Your current wife is already pissed off, so why may it worse by throwing your new, yoga-teaching girlfriend in her face? She might get so upset that she keeps you from your children. Is it right? No. Will it happen? You bet.

There is only so much your attorney can do to calm down the situation once you have inflamed it. Your parents are in town, and they would love to see their grandkids, but it’s not your parenting time. How likely is it that your ex will be nice and switch times with you if you brought new girlfriend to pick up the children one week after you separate. Be smart. The best decision is to wait until the divorce is concluded before you engage in a new relationship. Or, at the very least, be discreet.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

10 tips for fathers going through a divorce

This is the 1st part of a ten-week series giving fathers advice on how to best manage their divorce cases.

Tip #10. Get a memory

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ~From the television show The Wonder Years

I can't tell you how many men who are in my office for divorce consultations who look like a deer caught in headlights when I ask them their date of marriage or their children's birthdates. At the risk of stereotyping, women tend to be much better at knowing this information off the top of their heads. They know their children's birthdays, their social security numbers, teacher's names, principal's name, daycare worker's name, the pediatrician's name...you get the point.

Men, for some reason tend not to know this information. Referring to your son's teacher as "the cute blonde" will not win you any points in court. How do you expect to win primary or joint custody if you do not learn and retain this valuable information? Do you know your child's favorite toy, or did you always let your wife pack the to go bag? Do you know your children's favorite foods or the only way to stop your 2 year old from crying incessantly in the car is to give her Apple Cinnamon Cheerios?  An involved dad knows these things.

Keep a journal if you have to of important dates, events and tidbits about your children. This will help you refresh your recollection later if you have to testify in court.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Going Through a Divorce - Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Children

Going Through a Divorce - Everything You Need to Know to Protect Yourself and Your Children

By S Matthews

Going through a divorce is never an incredibly happy time, but there are ways to make it as stress-free as possible - and protect yourself and your interests while you're at it. Even if your divorce is a relatively amicable one, you still want to get the best deal you can, and hopefully protect yourself and your assets now and in future.

Top Ways to Protect Your Finances
Don't forget to change your will. Many couples forget to do this after the divorce. Don't.

When an imminent divorce is inevitable, there are simple ways to protect yourself from the financial fracas that will ensue. Get your finances in order and you'll be on your way to surviving the battle without any deep monetary scars...
* Open an individual checking account. Do this as soon as possible. Not only will it help your credit rating, but will also help you sort out who has what.

* Establish as much credit as possible. Credit is vital when it comes to borrowing money, and credit scores can affect future properties you may rent and even the type of job you get. Make sure you don't suffer any fall-out from your spouse's lousy credit rating, and do as much as possible to establish a solid credit rating of your own. If you've never had a credit card of your own before - and many women haven't, believe it or not - get on the horse as soon as possible.

* Track down credit cards. Make sure your spouse isn't charging things to your name, or on a joint credit card, which could affect your rating. Track down and cancel any joint accounts. This can be difficult if they are not being sent to your home address. You can freeze accounts by telling the credit card companies that you are going through a divorce.

* Take care of the mortgage and other loans. If you will continue living in the house it's important that only your name is on the mortgage, and vice versa. The divorce proceedings will sort out who is paying for what. Transfer the car to one name as well through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and sort out who is paying for what loans.

* Keep track of all investments etc. Go through all you and your spouse own with a fine-toothed comb, and make copies of every single financial document you unearth. This can include mortgage and life insurance documents, 401(k) statements, tax returns, bank statements, money market accounts etc. Also, make sure your name is on every legal document, especially the title or deed of property the two of you bought together.

* See if you qualify for alimony, support and/or maintenance. Support isn't based solely on gender - both men and women can get it. Similarly, you don't need to have kids to receive it. Don't make assumptions, get the facts. Speak to a divorce lawyer as soon as you can.

* Save money. You never know when you will need it, so now is not the time to be a spendthrift. Squirrel away what you can in your individual bank account - it might soon come in handy!

* Consider mediation as opposed to litigation. A lot less time-consuming - and costly. If it works, this is usually the best - and more financially viable way - to come to an agreement for everyone concerned.

* Don't forget to change your will. Many couples forget to do this after the divorce. Don't.

* Hire a financial planner with a specialty in divorce. They can advise you what to do next as far as asset division is concerned based on your current situation.

Top Ways to Protect Your Children
Your children should be top priority when it comes to a divorce, so don't make things worse by acting badly. Children do best when both parents stay involved in their lives, so keep this in mind next time you feel like telling your ex to jump off a tall building or move to the North Pole. Here are other ways to make your kids deal better with your divorce...

* Explain that it's not their fault. Don't let your kids grow up thinking they could have done something to prevent Mommy and Daddy from splitting up. Tell them it has nothing to do with them, and that both of you still love them more than anything.

* Answer their questions as honestly as possible. That doesn't mean telling them that Daddy had 12 affairs and is in love with a woman half his age, and that he enjoys dressing up in high heels and a pink feather boa when they're asleep. What it does mean, however, is being as honest as possible, while not involving them in things they don't really need to know.

* Keep things as amicable as possible in front of them. Airing petty grievances in front of the children and arguing constantly will only backfire in the long run.

* Aim for shared custody arrangements, if possible. Children benefit from being with both parents. Make sure they have two happy, harmonious home environments and try to have both parents as involved in their lives at school as possible. Encourage your child to maintain a close relationship with the other parent, and encourage each other to be as active as possible in your children's lives, without canceling appointments and trying always to be on time.

* Avoid the temptation to quiz your children about what is going on in the other parent's life, and don't use them to carry messages back and forth between you. They don't need the added responsibility, and it's not fair on them to feel they have to take sides or be in control of your relationship with your ex. Also, resist the urge to say bad things about the other parent in front of the kids.

Top Ways to Protect Yourself Personally
When all is said and done, you still have a life to live - on your own. Flying solo can be a liberating experience, once you've got over the shock of the divorce. Make it easier on yourself by following these simple tips...

* Make sure you are employable. If you haven't worked for years, don't panic. Speak to a career counselor or life coach about re-doing your resume. Maybe all you need is to take a few courses or have an internship to get back on top of things. Maybe not: your life experience will count for more than you think!

* Have lots of friends and family around you. Don't suffer things on your own. Seeing a film or visiting an art gallery can take your mind off your problems, if only for a few hours. Ask for support if you need it and try to enjoy the little things in life.

* Seek new friends. Many married couples rely on other married couples for companionship, and often are left high and dry when they venture out on their own. Starting a new hobby can help you develop new interests and meet new people while you're at it.

* Resist the rebound. While having new relationships can be fantastic, don't jump into a full-time romance immediately. Take the time to look around and enjoy yourself. Don't let friends set you up on a date, at least for a while. Being on your own is important - for now.

Going through a divorce is never easy, but there are ways to minimize both the pain and the hassle. If you play your cards right you can make the whole process run as smoothly as possible - and make sure your future is financially secure as well. Take your time and get the help you need, and keep up a positive, optimistic outlook. Good luck!

Sarah Matthews is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a Healer at Yodle Local or more Health & Medicine articles at Yodle Consumer Guide.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=S_Matthews

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Facebook, MySpace and Twitter Evidence in Custody Battles and Divorce

In this new age of technology, watch what you put on the web. Did you friend your soon-to-be ex wife's aunt and forget about it because she never posts? If so, then you can be guaranteed she will be gleefully printing pictures and posts on your page and handing them to her attorney for evidence against you. Did you playfully suggest on Facebook that you want to "leave the kids at home and get smashed tonight?" Then, be prepared for it to turn up as Exhibit A at your trial.

Edwards & Associates recently won custody for a father at trial. Included as primary exhibits were her Facebook and Myspace pages. Of particular interest were several scantily clad pictures of the young mother of 4, and posting of her announcing that she "goes to the club too much" and that she "was drinking IN THE CAR on the way to the club." She turned bright red and said that was her personal business. The Court did not agree and stripped her of custody and ordered her to pay child support. Here is a great recent article printed in the AJC.

Facebook a treasure trove for divorce lawyers

By Larry Hartstein

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
9:55 a.m. Thursday, February 11, 2010

As if divorce lawyers needed more ammunition.

In a new survey, 81 percent say they've seen an increase in the use of Facebook and other social networking sites for evidence in divorce cases. Notes to lovers, compromising photos -- Facebook provides a wealth of incriminating information.

"Every client I've seen in the last six months had a Facebook page," said Ken Altshuler, a longtime divorce lawyer from Portland, Maine, who is first vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "And the first piece of advice I give them is to terminate their page immediately."

Sixty-six percent of the attorneys surveyed by the AAML called Facebook the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, followed by MySpace (15 percent) and Twitter (5 percent).

"Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny," said Marlene Eskind Moses of Nashville, the group's president. "If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence."

Altshuler cited a couple cases in which Facebook proved key:

A woman was getting divorced from her alcoholic husband and seeking custody of their kids. The husband told the judge he had found God and hadn't had a drink in months, but Altshuler found a recent Facebook photo showing him "holding a beer in each hand with a joint in his mouth," the lawyer said.

Then there was the custody case in which his client's ex-wife claimed to be engaged. She was trying to show she'd provide a stable household for the kids.

But the same woman had posted on Facebook that she'd broken up with her abusive boyfriend and "if anybody had a rich friend to let her know," Altshuler said.

The ex-husband's friend gave him the posting; he was still Facebook friends with the ex-wife.

"People don't think about who has access to their Facebook page," Altshuler said. "A good attorney can have a field day with this information."