Tuesday, November 8, 2011

iPhone GPS app assists husband in uncovering wife's cheating

iphone-gps-app.jpgThe new iPhone may be having an impact on at least one divorce case. Recently, a suspicious husband utilized an iPhone 4S app to determine that his wife was cheating on him, and the app did confirm his suspicions.

He bought a new 4S iPhone for his wife, and loaded a "Find My Friends" app onto it. His wife later told him that she would be visiting a friend in a certain part of town. The app, however, which has a GPS function, showed him that she was actually in a different part of town, visiting a man with whom she was apparently having an affair.

The app he used is designed to assist in such things as keeping track of children, staying in touch with traveling companions, or being able to find friends in order to get together with them.

The husband had previously suspected that his wife had been meeting this other man, but had been unable to prove it. The iPhone app displays the location of an iPhone user's friends and family on an onscreen map.
The wife in this case had no idea that her husband had installed the app on her new iPhone, and therefore did not shut it off for privacy. Her husband sent texts to her at various times, and it became apparent to him that she was lying to him about her location.

Screen shots of the GPS maps of his wife's locations and of their back and forth texts could possibly be used as evidence in the divorce proceeding. However, obtaining evidence in this fashion can pose legal risks. Our readers may recall a story from last December, in which a man who accessed his wife's e-mail account in order to find out if she was having an affair faced criminal charges for doing so.

Source: The Christian Post, "iPhone 5 Release: iPhone 4S App Helps Man Catch Cheating Spouse," Fionna Agomuoh, Oct. 20, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

How to tell your kids about your impending divorce

Telling your kids about your divorce is a highly sensitive subject and should be handled as such. No matter what the age of your child, a clear understanding on how the divorce will have no bearing in the change of feelings or love towards them is what is of most importance. It's best to decide a time to break the news to them so that should they have questions or want to discuss it, that you will be available to them.

While breaking the news of a divorce isn't an easy task, honesty and calmness are important when discussing it. It will serve no use to speak poorly of the other parent or speak poorly of the marriage in general. It can be as simple as telling a child that mom and dad are deciding to get a divorce because they can no longer live with each other.

It is important that a message of this sort is followed up and emphasized with the reassurance that both parents love their child very much and that part will never change. Assure your child the divorce has nothing to do with them, because ultimately it doesn't.

Children are smart and intuitive, and they will most likely suspect trouble far sooner than you would expect. That is why honesty is the best policy. When their fears of divorce do become confirmed, there needs to be an open line of communication. Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, but a positive parenting structure should always remain intact.

Source: Huffington Post, "So You're Getting Divorced. How Do You Break The News To The Kids?," David Wygant, Sept. 7, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Frank McCourt ordered continue alimony payments

On behalf of Edwards & Associates posted in Alimony on Friday, September 23, 2011
The next phase in the complex divorce trial involving Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of Major League Baseball's Dodgers, is not slated to take place until November. Until then, a judge ruled that Frank McCourt must continue issuing alimony payments of $225,000 per month to his ex-wife.

The couple had been married for 30 years before divorcing. The divorce became official in October of 2010, but some issues were left unresolved.

Once details are hashed out in court, the guidelines of the alimony payments and the monthly amount he owes could change. This is just one of the issues to be discussed in the proceedings, overseen by Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon, with the aid of two retired judges. Judge Gordon is devoting so many resources to the McCourts' divorce because it deals with a large amount of assets.

The trial, slated for Nov. 17, 2011, will settle any unresolved issues remaining in the divorce.
Judge Gordon also recently supervised the alimony negotiations between lawyers representing the McCourts. Frank had been requesting a reduction in the amount of alimony he needs to pay based on the fact that his income has been reduced because the Dodgers have filed for bankruptcy.

The primary focus of the pending divorce trial is the ownership of the baseball club. Jamie McCourt is claiming half a stake in the team, which she argues should be considered marital property. McCourt is lobbying for sole ownership of the team.

If the judge grants McCourt's ex-wife a share of the team, it might force McCourt to sell the franchise. The Dodgers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in June, and Major League Baseball is controlling the team's day-to-day operations until the matter is settled.
Until the bankruptcy process is completed, the judge is not going to make a decision on the status of the team's ownership.

Source: Reuters, "Dodgers owner to keep paying $225,000 a month to ex-wife," Alex Dobuzinskis, Sept. 14, 2011
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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Many states embrace change in alimony laws

Americans tend to have a general idea about the rate of divorce in the country, but new information gathered by the recent Census allows Americans to view divorce with a new light. According to the new Census information men and women in the South and West have higher divorce rates than men and women in other areas of the country.

According to the latest information, the general divorce rate among men and women in the United States is comparable. Divorces became final for 9.2 of every 1,000 men in the United States, and divorces became final for 9.7 of every 1,000 women. As divorces were broken down according to region the rates began to differ.

Divorces occurred at a higher rate in the South and West. In the South divorces became finalized for men at a rate of 10.2 for every 1,000 and for women at a rate of 11.1 per 1,000. Divorce rates seem to be connected to the rate of marriages in a given region. According to a family demographer at the Census Bureau, divorce rates in the South tend to be higher because marriages rates are also higher in the South. The Northeast had the lowest rate of divorces, but the rate of marriage is also lower in the region.

The report entitled, "Marital Events of Americans: 2009" is the first report to review and analyze marriage, divorce and widowhood among Americans ages 15 and older. The information used in the study was gathered from the 2009 American Community Survey. Prior studies on divorce and marriage in the United States were based on information collected from marriage and divorce certificates filed at the state level.

Source: Reuters, "More untie the knot in South, Northeast divorces least: Census," Molly O'Tolle, Aug. 25, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Single fathers successfully lead many households in Georgia

Professional man taking his child to school or daycare.jpgFathers play a crucial role in raising children, and data from the U.S. Census backs that up. Census data showed that Georgia fathers are taking child custody following divorces and legitimation proceedings at an increasing rate. Families led by single fathers shot up 45 percent in the recent census. Those headed up by single mothers took a 35 percent hike in the last decade.

This trend is not unique to Georgia. Since 1990, the number of single dads has shot up from 1.5 million to 2.79 million. This figure does not include the number of gay men that are raising children and cannot officially marry, thus slightly skewing the figure. However, this is also an issue involved with calculating the number of families led by single mothers.

Professionals attribute this trend to the fact that society may be bucking traditional gender roles that state men focus on work and women base their daily lives around raising children. Men are finding themselves capable of becoming the primary caregiver to their children, and not designating that role for a woman.

At the same time, a number are women are discovering that they don't need- or in some cases, necessarily want - to be the sole provider for a child when a marriage disintegrates.

The increase also speaks to the fact that Georgia courts are becoming more open to giving child custody to a man. Experts say that there is little difference between single mothers and fathers as they face similar responsibilities and time constraints.

As the census data demonstrates, the important roles fathers play is becoming increasingly recognized by Georgia courts and society as a whole.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "More single dads in charge," Gracie Bonds Staples, 18 June 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Terrell Owens sued in Fulton County for child support

terrell-owens 2.jpgIn May, we discussed how the ongoing National Football League lockout could affect athletes' child support and alimony obligations. During the lockout, most players will not be earning the same amount of income they were making at the time their support obligations were calculated. This could harm their ability to pay.

Now, we are receiving reports of just such a situation in Fulton County. Melanie Paige Smith, an ex of NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, submitted court papers on June 20 against Owens, claiming he will not pay all the $5,000 he owes her for monthly child support.

Allegedly, financial advisers for Owens have told Smith earlier that he no longer intends on paying the full sum. Smith's attorney alleged that Owens has "failed and refused to pay the full amount of child support in June 2011." Smith's attorney has also said that Smith doesn't begrudge Owens, but would like to continue receiving the amount the couple had earlier agreed upon.

In addition to the full amount of child support, Smith is also requesting that Owens pay her attorney fees and other expenses incurred in the efforts to enforce the court's May 2007 child support order.

Meanwhile, Owens is on the mend after undergoing knee surgery. However, he is a free agent and won't be able to join a new team as long as the NFL lockout is still in effect.

The NFL lockout has put many players like Terrell Owens in a precarious situation. If they simply stop paying court ordered child support, they can be held in contempt of court, which can have serious consequences. However, there are other options available for people who have suffered an involuntary loss of income. A parent who has experienced an involuntary loss of income can request a downward modification of child support payments from a court.

If you have questions about how your child support payments are affected by the loss of a job or a loss of income, an experienced family law attorney can help you understand your legal options and defend your rights in a court of law.

Source: Associated Press, "Woman says Owens fails to pay some child support," Jeff Martin, 6/29/2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Allen Iverson's wife rebounds divorce petition

Allen Iverson's wife rebounds divorce petition

allen-iverson.jpgWhen a professional athlete divorces, the divorce can be very complicated and there can be a great deal of money and assets at stake.

For the second time in 16 months, the wife of Allen Iverson has filed for divorce in Fulton County Superior Court. The ex-NBA player, who recently had a run-in with law enforcement officials in Atlanta, left his high-profile NBA position in March near the time of the first divorce petition.

Court papers declare that Tawanna Iverson first approached the courts about dissolving her marriage in March 2010, not long after her husband decided to exit the Philadelphia 76ers for the rest of the season. At the time, Allen Iverson said he had to quit the team in order to care for one his five children, who was ill.

Shortly after Allen Iverson left the 76ers, and around the same time that he had been served the first divorce papers, he was stopped by Atlanta police for a failure to signal traffic violation. Police ran a check on the 2007 Lamborghini and found that Iverson, who owned the car for two years, was still driving with the original dealer tags. Reports say Iverson became agitated and used expletives in his conversation with police.
According to Allen Iverson's lawyer, the first divorce filing, which had cited that the marriage was "irretrievably broken," had been dropped. The attorney chose not to reveal why the petition was withdrawn. Both Iverson's attorney and his wife's lawyer were close-mouthed about the reasons given by Tawanna Iverson for the second petition filing.

The former NBA star has transitioned to playing pro basketball in Turkey in the last few months, although he has let the media know that he is interested in returning to the NBA. It's uncertain whether that desire remains, in light of the new divorce petition.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Allen Iverson's wife re-files for divorce," Alexis Stevens, 6/15/2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More single dads in charge  | ajc.com

Data: Single-father families outpace ones led by single mothers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 

Andy Kuklinski and his son will likely spend this Father’s Day with friends, cooking barbecue and, well, just having fun. Except for time around their apartment complex swimming pool, it will be an otherwise uneventful day. But this 40-year-old Dunwoody dad doesn’t need much these days to be happy.

 Ziad Minkara of Kennesaw has had custody of his children — twins  Zaka (left) and Zayn, both 12, and Amneh, 14 — for three years. According to recent census data, the number of single-father households in Georgia is on the rise.
Ziad Minkara of Kennesaw has had custody of his children — twins Zaka (left) and Zayn, both 12, and Amneh, 14 — for three years. According to recent census data, the number of single-father households in Georgia is on the rise. 


Jabril Mujahid-Alexander, 47,  of Tucker— with his son, 5-year-old Ja’Far, and 3-year-old daughter, Halimah, at the Georgia Aquarium — sees challenges and rewards.
Family photo Jabril Mujahid-Alexander, 47, of Tucker— with his son, 5-year-old Ja’Far, and 3-year-old daughter, Halimah, at the Georgia Aquarium — sees challenges and rewards.

Just being with little Yusuf, 5, is more than enough.

In managing the day-to-day care and supervision of his son, Kuklinski recently joined the ranks of an increasing number of metro Atlanta single fathers.

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the rise in the number of Georgia families led by single fathers in the past decade outpaced the rise in single-mother families for the first time since 1970.

Indeed, among the fastest growing types of households were those that include a father and kids without a wife, which were up some 45 percent, compared to those with a mother and kids but no husband, which showed a 35 percent jump.

Experts say the numbers reflect not only a shift in court and societal attitudes about child-rearing but women for whom motherhood has become less important.

It shows that perhaps more men are able and willing to be primary caretakers — and more women are recognizing that they don’t want to or can’t, and are therefore letting their children go, said Julia McQuillan, a sociology professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

McQuillan said that society has this notion that work is very important to men and parenting is very important to women, but fatherhood is very important to many men.

“To me, this trend suggests that not only do men say it’s important, they are doing it,” she said.
Matthew Weinshenker, an assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, said the state trend mirrors what’s happening nationally, where the number of single dads has almost doubled from 1.5 million to 2.79 million since 1990. In addition, those same census figures, he said, show single dads are older than single moms on average and have higher incomes.

Weinshenker noted that what the census cannot detect is that some “single fathers” are gay men raising children with or without a same-sex partner. Estimates of how many are vary widely, he said, “but there is little doubt that increased acceptance of children raised by gay parents is a small but noticeable part of the rise in single fatherhood.”

Whether they are the sole custodial parent like Kuklinski or share custody like Jabril Mujahid-Alexander and Tom Morgan, more men are willing to bring home the bacon, fry it and feed the kids if they have to.
For his part, Kuklinski said he’s been the primary caregiver of his son since January, when he and his wife started divorce proceedings after a decade of marriage. “It’s been the best six months of my life,” he said recently.

Ziad Minkara of Kennesaw became sole caretaker of his children three years ago. He admits the family had to make adjustments.

“When something like this happens, your whole world stops, but you shift gears and go forward with the minimum impact on the daily life of the kids,” Minkara said. “That’s what’s important.”
Minkara, a real estate investor, is the father of 12-year-old twin boys and a 14-year-old daughter.
“Having to juggle everything I do and still be there for them has been hard but rewarding at the same time,” he said.

Until recently, Morgan, 44, of Sandy Springs, also had full custody of his two daughters.
“It was just kind of a hellish period,” he said immediately following the divorce from his wife.
For three years, Morgan said, he and the girls went it alone. When their mother became more stable, he said, they decided to share custody. “She has them half the time, I have them half,” he said. “It’s not easy, but it works.”

Although there are more single fathers than ever, dads say they still get odd stares when people find out they are the primary caregiver.

Jim Higley, who recently won the title of “world’s greatest dad” in a national contest, said he regularly encounters people who seemed puzzled and intrigued by his decision to raise his children alone.

Higley, widely known as the “Bobblehead Dad” from his weekly parenting column in Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal, took over sole parenting responsibilities of his children about five years ago, when he and his wife separated and then divorced.

When he first assumed that role, Higley said he tried to be supermom and superdad.

“It was an impossible task, and I constantly found myself falling short,” he said. “Somewhere along the way, I realized that, in order for me to give my kids what they required, I simply needed to focus on being the parent my kids needed me to be.”

Higley said that once he stopped worrying about how others saw him, he was able to focus on his kids and, depending on their needs, either be soft and nurturing or hard-nosed and firm.

Although not that different from many of the challenges single mothers face, single fatherhood doesn’t come without its struggles.

For instance, Mujahid-Alexander of Tucker, who shares custody with their mother of his 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, said he had to turn down a swimming outing recently for his son because he didn’t believe he could watch both kids at the same time. And Kuklinski said he has had to give up a few dates.

Despite the challenges, they said giving up that place in their children’s lives was unfathomable.

“I grew up in a two-parent home. I have no concept of what it would be like without two parents and I could not see my children growing up like that,” Mujahid-Alexander said. “That wasn’t acceptable.”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Can a long commute hurt your marriage?

atlanta_traffic-sized.jpgIt is bad enough that Atlanta traffic eats up our time, our gas and our patience. But according to a recent study, traffic problems may also be taking their toll on our marriages.

The drive from Gwinnett County to Fulton County is not an experience that many people in the Atlanta area relish. The phrase root canal comes to mind. In fact, Atlanta is known across the country as being a hotbed for traffic jams and congestion. Experienced family law attorneys have heard their clients' many reasons for divorce, but a recent study indicates that all congested roads lead to divorce.

Researchers tracked the commutes and marriages of two million couples in Sweden from 1995 to 2000, and they found that the risk of divorce goes up 40 percent for people who have long commutes. Granted, Georgia does not share that much in common with Sweden. Georgia is hot, and Sweden is not known for its balmy weather. Additionally, long commutes are relatively new to the Swedes, while we have been dealing with them for years. However, the research does have some implications for married couples regardless of where they may live.

The researchers found the rate of divorce increased the most during the first few years of long commute times. By five years, the rate of divorce appeared to level off. The researchers also noted that most of the long commuters were men. This often compelled women to seek jobs closer to home so they could shoulder more of the household responsibilities. It appears that the addition of a commute, like other significant life changes, can add stress to a marriage and lead to divorce.

Source: The Local, "Long commutes 'bad for marriage': Swedish study," Rebecca Martin, 5/24/11

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Dodgers' McCourts go back to divorce court

By Edwards & Associates posted in Property Division on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

frank1.jpgThe 2011 baseball season has seen its highs and lows for the Atlanta Braves. Although some fans have been upset by the team's inconsistent performance, they can take solace in the fact that the Braves are not facing the same troubles that the Dodgers are facing. Major League Baseball has already assigned a watchdog to the Dodgers to keep an eye on the team's day-to-day financial condition. In the latest chapter in the property division contest over the Dodgers, the former wife of Dodger's owner Frank McCourt wants the baseball franchise to be sold to keep the team from being taken over by the league.

Jamie McCourt, Frank McCourt's former wife, has filed a claim in Judge Scott Gordon's courtroom to force the sale of the Dodgers. The judge in the case is familiar to the McCourts. Last December, while presiding over the couple's divorce proceedings, Judge Gordon threw out a post-nuptial contract the McCourts had signed in 2004 that would have given Frank McCourt full control of the team.

The ex-Mrs. McCourt said the team has been mismanaged since she was fired as a Dodgers' chief executive by her ex-husband. Her goal, according to court papers, is to get the most value for the franchise for everyone involved, including her ex and the fans. A hearing for arguments on the property division issue is set for June 22.

Media reports say the team is having trouble paying the bills and there are rumors of impending bankruptcy, but Frank McCourt says he's got the financial problems solved. McCourt asserts that the team has cut a $3 billion deal with Fox television for game broadcasts that will bring in a team-saving first payment of $300 million.

The rub for McCourt is that the league must approve that television deal before it becomes reality and that's not something MLB Commissioner Bud Selig says he will do anytime soon. Selig says he won't make any decision on the matter until he gets the results of two separate investigations into the Dodgers' finances. 

Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight, "Jamie McCourt seeks immediate sale of the Dodgers," Mark Lamport-Stokes, 5/19/2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Grigorieva to drop charges against Mel Gibson

oksana_grigorieva_mel_gibson.jpgAs Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva fight their child custody battle, ugly personal conversations and events have been made public. Early in the case, Grigorieva pursued domestic violence charges against Gibson. However, Grigorieva has recently decided to drop these accusations. The couple's problems have not been much of a secret. As with many cases in the public eye, private conversations and interactions have been made public through the media.

Grigorieva says she dropped the accusations to show that she is able to be a good co-parent to the child, as the couple is currently working on a co-parenting plan. To show good faith, she is also looking to have the restraining order against Gibson lifted, so the two can once again have contact.

Gibson never admitted to the domestic violence charges, but did enter a "no contest" plea to one battery charge from last year. He will be undergoing 52 weeks of anger management counseling, and the plea allowed him to avoid admitting guilt.

Even though many things have been leaked, most of the details of the case and the sheriff's investigational findings into the couple's relationship have been tightly sealed. Attorneys on both sides state that they do not wish to make this personal information public because of the affect doing so might have on the couple's young daughter as they continue the custody battle. Because of this tight secrecy, many rumors about the couple have surfaced, and no one is sure whether Grigorieva plans to pursue a civil suit against Gibson once the custody arrangement has been determined.

The child custody dispute between Mel Gibson and Oksana Grigorieva demonstrates how difficult child custody issues can be to resolve. Thankfully, not every child custody case is as high profile or as public as their case is. Nevertheless, every child custody dispute is important. Every child custody case presents its own unique issues and requires its own unique solutions. If you have questions about a child custody issue, an experienced family law attorney can help.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Support modifications for pro athletes pending

child support.jpgNational Football League players were locked out in March. National Basketball League players are expected to join them in June. Players for both groups are at the mercy of ongoing contract negotiations between team owners and players' unions. Right now, neither side is budging and sports agents are becoming edgy.

It's estimated that up to 80 percent of all pro-athletes are paying alimony, child support or both. Many players' financial advisors are reminding their clients that no pay equals no way to pay those bills and are recommending that players ask for support modifications.
Despite high salaries, many players are unprepared if the checks suddenly stop coming. Those who do pay support often have thousands to tens of thousands of dollars deducted each month.

Should an NFL player suddenly stop making an average yearly salary of $1.8 million, financial times could quickly become tough for all those dependent on that money.

When the ball teams don't pay the bills, players must pay and that includes health insurance. The NFL trade association says that could run about $2,000 each month for many. When those costs are multiplied by court-ordered health care costs for children or exes and the costs can run double, triple or more.

When a spouse or parent has a child support or alimony obligation, that obligation was initially calculated by looking at his income. When a parent or ex-spouse suffers an involuntary loss of income, those support obligations can quickly become too much to afford. Simply failing to pay child support or alimony can result in a contempt hearing and the possibility of jail time.

When a person suffers an involuntary loss of income, experienced family law attorneys understand the importance of requesting a downward modification from a family law judge. A successful request for a modification can reduce child support and alimony payments and eliminate the possibility of a contempt hearing.

Source: Bloomberg, "NFL Players Poised to Cut Alimony, Making Wives Industry Dispute Victim," Scott Soshnick, 5/9/20114

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Atlanta producer sued over child support payments

JermaineDupri.jpgA woman living in the Atlanta area is suing Jermaine Dupri alleging the rapper and producer has not paid her court ordered child support. In March, a Fulton County judge found Dupri to be the father of Sarai Jones' now-seven-month-old daughter based on the results of a paternity test.

Dupri was ordered to pay Jones a lump sum of $7,500 plus an additional $2,500 each month for child support. Dupri's lawyer has declined to publicly comment on the lawsuit.

Dupri has had a successful career in hip-hop as a rapper and a producer, producing multiple hits for artists, including Kriss Kross, Mariah Carey and Usher. Forbes.com ranked Dupri as one of the top earners in the industry, earning $12 million in 2006.

However, a local TV station has reported that Dupri may be in a tough financial situation. WSB-TV has reported that Dupri's Atlanta mansion was going through the process of foreclosure before the auction of property was called off. WSB-TV has also reported that Dupri may owe the Georgia Department of Revenue more than $490,000 in back taxes.

When a family court judge calculates a father's child support obligations in Georgia, the judge looks at the income of both parents. In child support cases involving high-income fathers, the amount of child support owed can be quite high. However, many high-income parents see major fluctuations in their income from year-to-year and even month-to-month. A child support obligation can rapidly become unaffordable when a father's income drastically falls.

In situations involving involuntary job loss or an involuntary income, downward modification of child support can be requested from a court. If you have questions about a modifying child support obligations, an experienced family law attorney can help.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Economic conditions affect divorce rate in Georgia

Studies have shown that more marriages end in divorce during a national economic recovery than during a financial crisis. Couples thinking about leaving a marriage tend to feel too uncertain about holding onto a job, selling a home, dividing assets and the extra costs associated with getting divorced to make such a drastic move, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

During the peak of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, couples modified their budgets along with their wishes to breakup. In the recession's first year, the U.S. divorce rate dropped 24 percent, plunging by 57 percent in last year of the crisis. Since the financial recovery began, statistics for marriage dissolutions once again started to creep up, especially among wealthier Americans whose individual stock portfolios have recovered sooner than the overall economy.

The U.S. has the highest divorce rate in the world with almost 5 divorces for every 1,000 people. Twice that many people decide to marry, although during the 19-month recession, even engaged couples delayed wedding plans. A 2009 Pew research poll found that, for adults 35 and younger, 15 percent suspended marriage for economic reasons and 14 percent delayed the idea of having more children.

One area of the economy that has not yet seen a turnaround is the housing market. Many couples who had been hoping for better housing values before divorcing, have become impatient waiting for the price of homes to increase. Weighing the chance that it may take years for economic recovery to affect the value of real estate, many husbands and wives who have been thinking about calling it quits are no longer postponing the move to make permanent divorce plans.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Public opinion supports equal child custody rights for fathers

father and son on bed.jpgIn the past, we have discussed the outdated myth that child custody disputes should usually be resolved in favor of the mother. In Georgia, family law judges are required to consider the best interests of the child first and foremost. The use of the best interests of the child standard demonstrates that there has been progress made towards making custody decisions more gender neutral. However, concerns remain about how gender bias can affect fathers' rights in child custody cases and the law is often slow to change in order to catch up to prevailing views in society.

Recent studies are showing that public opinion is growing increasingly in favor of equal custody rights for both fathers and mothers.

The studies were conducted by psychology professors and students at Arizona State University. In one study, the researchers analyzed the results of elections and public opinion polls and found that there is now great public support for dividing child custody equally between both parents.

A second study went even further by questioning prospective jurors in a local jury pool. The study gave the jurors a series of hypothetical situations and asked the jurors how they would divide child custody when both parents were requesting as much time as possible. In one hypothetical situation, the mother provided 75 percent of childcare duties before the divorce. In the second hypothetical situation, the father provided 75 percent of the childcare duties. In the third hypothetical case, the mother and father divided childcare responsibilities 50-50.

The researchers found that the jurors strongly favored equal child custody for both parents. In the hypothetical case with the 50-50 split, 69 percent of jurors favored equal child custody rights for both parents. Of the rest of the respondents, almost all of the jurors favored having the child live with the mother and spend a lot of time with the father.

Interestingly, the prospective jurors favored equal time even in the hypothetical cases involving a 75-25 pre-divorce division of childcare responsibilities. The study also found no difference of opinion between male and female respondents in the study.

This study is good news for advocates of fathers' rights in that it indicates that public opinion is solidly in favor of an equal division of child custody rights when all other factors are neutral. However, it is important to note that child custody decisions are often made by judges and not by jurors. Judges must consider the best interests of the child when they make child custody decisions. Therefore, it is very important for parents to put their best cases forward by working with an experienced family law attorney when they are faced with a child custody hearing.

Source: Medical News Today, "Public Favors Equal Custody For Children Of Divorce," 5/3/2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Halle Berry says judge was needed to resolve child custody case

berry.jpgHalle Berry had been with her boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry, for about 4 years when they broke up about a year ago. The couple never married. At the time of their breakup, it appeared that they were trying to end their relationship amicably. However, the issue of child custody was not easily settled.

In 2008, Berry and Aubry had a daughter together. In December 2010, Aubry filed a petition in court seeking to have his paternity over their daughter legally recognized. This was a necessary step for Aubry because the law does not automatically recognize a father's rights if he never marries his child's mother.

After several months of legal maneuvering, Halle Berry recently announced that she and Aubry have resolved their child custody dispute peacefully. In an interview with Extra TV, Berry expressed her relief at resolving the dispute in a peaceful way and she added that the fight was never about whether or not Aubry would be able to spend time with their daughter. However, it appeared the couple was at an impasse and needed help to reach a resolution.

When recently announcing a resolution had been reached, Berry said, "We both know a child needs both her parents. But what I want to say about it is sometimes, as a couple, you reach an impasse. We needed a court and a judge to help us work out some of the delicate issues, and I'm so happy we've arrived at that place." Berry has not publicly disclosed the details of her child custody agreement.

The child custody dispute between Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry is an example of how couples can reach an amicable resolution through the court system. Although it appears that they agreed on the general issues in their case, they needed the help of the legal system to work out the details.

Source: Press Association, "Halle's happy custody resolution," 4/22/2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wall Street III: Diandra Douglas' Lawsuit Never Sleeps

michael-douglas-on-gordon-gekko.jpgIn November, we wrote that Michael Douglas' "Wall Street" earnings were safe for a time after a judge threw out his ex-wife's lawsuit. If his ex-wife, Diandra Douglas, has her way with a renewed lawsuit over marital property division, his earnings for a film he made 10 years after their divorce will be split 50/50.

Michael Douglas returned to court this month to contest the renewed lawsuit brought in New York court involving his earnings for the 2010 film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." The case was previously dismissed last November when Judge Matthew F. Cooper decided that California would be the proper venue for the lawsuit.

Diandra Douglas is arguing that New York is the proper venue for her lawsuit because both she and Michael have ties to New York. She believes that she should be awarded 50 percent of Michael's earnings from the 2010 film under the divorce agreement. Their divorce agreement awarded her half of all earnings for Michael's acting work during their marriage, which officially ended in 2000.

She is arguing that because the 2010 film was a sequel to the 1987 "Wall Street" film that Michael made during their marriage, and because Michael was reprising his role as the greedy Gordon Gekko, she should be entitled to half of his earnings for that film. Michael Douglas' attorneys are arguing that the divorce agreement did not include any future films released. To date, Diandra Douglas has been awarded an estimated $50 million in the divorce settlement.

Judge Cooper noted that the original divorce papers clearly state that the California court system retains jurisdiction over the case. Michael Douglas' lawyers are arguing that not only should Diandra be "ashamed of herself" for returning to court on the matter, they believe she was awarded what she deserved when the divorce was finalized years ago.

This is a rather unexpected move for Diandra Douglas. When Diandra's lawsuit was dismissed in November, it appeared that the next logical step would be for her to file suit in California. However, it appears that Diandra really wants her day in court to be in New York.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Michael Douglas Ex-Wife Back in Court on 'Wall Street' Suit," Karen Freifeld, 4/12/2011

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ex-wife 'fries' her own claim for alimony with Facebook posts

dorothy_mcgurk--300x300.jpgIn the past, we have written about how common it is for Facebook evidence to be used in divorce cases. Statements made on Facebook and other internet sites often count as evidentiary admissions, which can be introduced in court to prove or refute a specific issue. A recent divorce case illustrates this principle in the context of an alimony claim.

The ex-wife requested lifetime alimony from her ex-husband. If she had her way, she would receive $850 per month for life. The basis for her claim was that she had been disabled in a car accident in 1997 and was unable to work.

In court, she claimed she could not work and was rarely able to leave home. If true, these facts could give her a plausible claim for alimony. After all, alimony is designed to help support an ex-spouse's standard of living after the marriage. If she could not work, then she would need help from her ex-husband.

However, the ex-wife had a belly-dancing hobby. She spent a few hours each day belly dancing at home and outside of her home. When she was not belly dancing, she spent a large amount of time writing about her belly dancing on the internet.

When a Facebook friend asked her why she wrote about belly dancing without ever posting pictures, she responded, "Gotta be careful what goes online, pookies. The ex would love to fry me with that."

Indeed, you do need to be careful what you post on the internet when you have a divorce case and a claim for alimony. However, her ex-husband did not need pictures of her belly dancing. The ex-wife's words were enough for her ex-husband to "fry" her claim for alimony. Her words alone showed that she was not disabled as she claimed.

The judge refused to give her lifetime alimony. Instead, she will receive alimony for only two years and at the reduced amount of $400 per month. The judge also awarded the husband 60 percent of the proceeds of the sale of their house and ordered her to pay thousands in attorney fees to compensate her ex-husband for the expense of defending against her unreasonable tactics.

Source: New York Post, "'Disabled' woman seeking alimony revealed to be belly dancer," Dareh Gregorian, 4/16/2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Abducted child found in Europe and returned to her father

article-1376280-0B9A3BFA00000578-50_468x565.jpgParental child abduction is a very serious issue that affects fathers' rights and the child custody rights of parents in Georgia and across the country. The problems of parental child abduction become significantly more complex when a parent takes a child out of the country in violation of a child custody order.
In the past, we have written about the problems many fathers face when their child is taken to a country that has not signed the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, which is an international treaty that requires recognition of valid child custody orders across international boundaries. Now, we are seeing reports of a story that demonstrates how international parental kidnappers are treated when a foreign country recognizes the Hague Convention.

A five-year-old girl who was abducted by her mother was missing since June 2010 has been safely returned to her father, Bijan Richard. The girl's mother had taken the girl during a parental visit and left the country. Richard received word from an informant in Germany who met the girl's mother. She told the informant conflicting stories about Richard, so the informant did some research on the internet and found that the girl had been abducted away from her father.

Acting on the informant's tip, Richard recently traveled to Germany to find his daughter, only to return to the U.S. after being unable to locate the 5-year-old girl. Last Wednesday, Richard received a call from his attorney. His daughter had been found and her mother was in police custody.

Richard flew back to Germany and met his girl for the first time in almost a year. She flew into his arms and yelled "Daddy!" Richard remarked it was almost like the day she was born all over again. Richard missed the last 10 months of his daughter's life, but he is grateful that she is now home where she belongs.

Meanwhile, the girl's mother is facing felony charges of violating a child custody order. She is presently in custody in Germany and is awaiting extradition to the United States.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Charlie Sheen's creative child custody agreement

Charlie-Sheen-Custody.jpgFollowing the divorce of Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller, the two have reached a child custody agreement in what was expected to be a long and bitter battle between the two. In the tiered agreement, Sheen will get the twins every other weekend during the first 60 days. In the following 60 days, Sheen will have the boys an extra day each week. If all goes well, the remaining time will include time with Sheen every other weekend as well as Wednesday morning through Thursday morning.

One of the most important issues of the custody battle was the question of both parents' stability and ability to bring the boys up in a healthy and nurturing environment. The creative custody agreement required that each parent submit to a random drug test three times monthly. In addition, both parents must employ a nanny that will be present with them when they are spending time with their children.

In terms of Sheen's girlfriends, or "goddesses," they are not permitted to show any signs of affection to the children in public. Otherwise, they are allowed access to the children. Finally, neither Sheen nor Mueller are permitted to be photographed with another romantic partner with the twins present. This photograph clause includes Sheen's "goddesses."

This child custody agreement shows how family law attorneys can incorporate creative solutions into child custody agreements when couples are faced with tricky and potentially devastating custody battles following a divorce. If Sheen and Mueller let this matter be decided by a judge alone, the terms of child custody and visitation would likely have looked quite different.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Alimony versus child support in divorce

is-alimony-out-of-hand.jpgApril is now in full swing in Atlanta. For the optimists among us, that means opening day of the baseball season. For the realists among us, that means tax season.

With April 15 is just around the corner, many of our readers will be curious about how divorce and taxes interact. We would like to share some of the basics of divorce and taxation with you.

A well-structured divorce takes taxes into account. One of the most common tax issues that come up in divorce is how to structure payments from one ex-spouse to the other. At first glance, alimony and child support seem very similar. After all, they are both payments sent from on ex to the other. However, alimony is very different from child support when taxes are considered.

In most cases, the amount of alimony paid is deductible for the paying spouse and it can lower the paying spouse's tax bill. In tax jargon, alimony is considered an "above the line" deduction, which means you can claim it even if you do not itemize your deductions on your tax return. However, alimony is generally considered to be taxable income for the spouse who receives it. In order to be eligible to claim an alimony deduction, the alimony must be ordered by a written divorce or separation agreement or order.

The IRS has also developed some guidelines for preventing people from using alimony to pay for what is really child support. That is because child support is not deductible on your taxes. Child support does not give the paying spouse a tax deduction and it does not count as taxable income to the receiving spouse.

When writing a divorce agreement, experienced family law attorneys understand how important the tax implications can be. If you have questions about alimony, child support or taxes in a divorce, an experienced family law attorney can help.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

McCourts may be working on a divorce settlement

McCourts may be working on a divorce settlement

McCourts.jpgIn the past, we have written about the divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt. The McCourt divorce serves as an example of how high the stakes can be in divorces when there are substantial assets involved. The McCourt divorce will ultimately determine the ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of baseball's most valuable franchises.

In December, we wrote that Judge Scott Gordon threw out a controversial property division that would have given Frank McCourt complete ownership over the team. When that happened, Jamie McCourt announced that the judge's decision gave her a 50 percent ownership stake in the team.

Immediately after the December decision, Frank McCourt's attorneys announced that they would pursue a second trial on the issue of ownership. They said they had an alternative legal theory that would give Frank complete ownership of the team.

With the 2011 Major League Baseball season underway, it now appears that the McCourts are earnestly working on reaching a settlement. Attorneys from both sides requested that a hearing scheduled for April 11 be delayed one month.

The one-month delay now gives both sides additional time to negotiate a settlement agreement that would end the property division contest between Frank and Jamie. Although we can't know exactly how the McCourts will settle their marital property dispute, past negotiations between the McCourts have focused upon Frank keeping the team and needing to compensate Jamie for her interest in the franchise. The parties appear to agree to this idea in principal, but they have been unable to agree to a dollar amount so far.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Frank and Jamie McCourt working quietly on a settlement," Bill Shaikin, 3/29/2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gender bias and fathers' rights in child custody cases

father and son on bed.jpgAn outdated myth involved in child custody cases is that parenting is instinctive and that it is a unique instinct found only mothers. The misconception that women are more qualified to be good parents places unfair expectations on mothers and the misconception diminishes a father's rights in child custody cases.
Courts are legally obligated to address the best interest of the child during custody cases. However, gender bias has still been known to exist, allowing custody case outcomes to sometimes favor the woman while disregarding the child's best interests.
Countless family lawyers have expressed concern over this issue stating that gender does not dictate the parenting abilities of an individual. Women should not be presumed to be a nurturing caretaker solely based on gender, and men should not be presumed to be emotionally distant or inattentive. Some lawyers have stated that, in child custody cases, the individual skills of the parents are often overlooked in favor of outdated beliefs about gender.

Unfortunately, the visitation rights of fathers can be affected by previous issues with the mother. Family lawyers have reported seeing caring, loving and involved fathers receive constricted visitation rights due to the actions of an aggressive attorney and a bitter ex.

Child custody decisions should always place the best interests of the child first and many fathers are the best possible caregiver for their children. When gender bias plays a role in child custody cases, it damages the lives of children by not considering their best interests.

Attorneys who specialize in advocating for fathers' rights understand the unique difficulties a father can experience in a child custody case. If you are a father who wants to be involved in your child's life, an experienced fathers' rights attorney can help.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The "Y" Factor: Gender Bias, Child Custody And The Great Parenting Myth," David T. Pisarra, 3/28/2011

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Supreme Court to decide right to counsel in child support cases

child support.jpgIn the past, we have written about the problems many poor parents face when confronted with a contempt hearing for non-payment of child support. Although, jail time is a very possible outcome in these hearings, lawyers are not provided in child support contempt hearings as they are in criminal cases that involve the threat of incarceration. Is there a constitutional right to an attorney in child support contempt hearings? A case addressing this issue is now in the process of being decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case in question involves a man who had been jailed for more than one year after he failed to make child support payments. The man stated that he did not have the money to pay his child support. He believes that if he had received a court-mandated attorney then he would have avoided jail time.

Last week, the justices of the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether there is a constitutional right to legal representation during child support enforcement cases involving the possibility of jail time. Currently, the law requires that only individuals involved in criminal court cases be provided with legal representation.

Some justices felt that it is difficult to mandate a blanket ruling to cover thousands of future child support hearings. Justice Anthony Kennedy stated that creating a law that requires court-appointed lawyers during child support cases would completely alter current domestic relations court proceedings.

Attorneys against the right to counsel in child support cases expressed their concerns over requiring states to provide attorneys in child support cases. They argued that requiring states to provide legal representation might deter the states from punishing parents who fail to make child support payments.

Others have stated that there are generally no lawyers present during a child support hearing and that requiring legal representation could disrupt the effectiveness of the proceedings.

Justice Scalia mentioned that he was frustrated with the proposal to require legal representation since it dismissed any other procedures that could satisfy due process and provide both sides with a fair hearing in child support cases.
Now that oral arguments have concluded in this case, the nine Justices of the Supreme Court will make a decision in the matter over the course of the next few months. A formal decision will be released in June.

Source: The New York Times, "Justices Grapple With Issue of Right to Lawyers in Child Support Cases," Adam Liptak, 3/23/2011

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