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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