Facebook page becomes weapon in custody battle

Social media sites are among the latest weapons that spouses are using to gain leverage in divorce and custody battles. A recent case from New York illustrates how.

A father who was fighting for custody of a four-year-old boy went to court with details from his wife’s Facebook page. The page was full of photos and status updates showing her sightseeing in Italy and eating seafood in Boston, which the father used to claim that she was frequently traveling out-of-state while he was busy raising their son.

The mother objected, arguing that the court shouldn’t be able to look at the profile because she kept it private and because she had “unfriended” her husband before they separated. [Read more…]

Child stays in daycare, not with family members

Some people might assume that it’s always better for a small child to be raised by family members, such as grandparents, rather than being in daycare. But a Pennsylvania appeals court recently awarded custody to a father, even though it meant the child would spend a lot of time in daycare instead of with the mother’s parents.

In this case, the wife’s parents lived in the couple’s home. When the couple had a child, the wife’s mother became the primary caretaker.

Conflict soon broke out over the wife’s parents’ alleged attempt to keep the husband from bonding with his new child. As a result, the couple agreed that the grandparents would move out, and they did. [Read more…]

Spendthrift trust is divided at divorce

A “spendthrift trust” is a trust that is set up to provide children or others with income while protecting them from potentially poor spending decisions. The donor who creates the trust gives a trustee – often a family member, lawyer or financial advisor – authority to decide how often to distribute the trust assets, usually with some guidelines from the donor as to acceptable uses of the money.

Spendthrift trusts protect the beneficiaries from impulsively wasting the assets. They can also protect beneficiaries by making it harder for creditors to collect the assets if a beneficiary has a business failure, lawsuit, or divorce.

But while a spendthrift trust can often protect assets in a divorce, it isn’t always foolproof, as a recent Massachusetts case shows. [Read more…]

School bus must go to both parents’ homes

A school bus must pick up and drop off children at both of their divorced parents’ homes, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently decided.

In this case, the father and mother shared legal custody of their daughter, alternating on a weekly basis.

Until 2010, the school district had provided bus transportation to both homes. But that year, in order to cut costs, the district announced that it would only bus students to one location. As a result, the school would only bus the girl to and from her mother’s home, since her mother’s address was listed on the school paperwork. [Read more…]

More grandparents seek visitation

It’s natural for grandparents to want to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives. But in some families, hard feelings can develop, and one or both parents may decide to exclude grandparents from seeing the children. Do grandparents have a right to go to court and demand “visitation”?

That’s a very difficult question, and the answer depends a great deal on the state where everyone lives and particularly on the specific family circumstances. But it’s a question that’s coming up more and more often, as grandparents – and in some cases, other family members – try to use the court system to gain visiting rights.

This issue frequently arises where there has been a divorce, and the parent who gets custody wants to limit the children’s exposure to the other parent’s family. The issue can also come up when one parent passes away, and the surviving parent doesn’t get along with his or her in-laws. [Read more…]

Husband’s increased pension may end alimony

When Michael and Kathleen Krupinski divorced back in 1990, a court awarded Kathleen one-third of Michael’s eventual pension benefits as a public school teacher, once he retired and began receiving the payments. Michael was also ordered to pay Kathleen $100 a week in alimony.

Michael continued his education after the divorce, and ultimately became a school administrator, which significantly upped his salary and the value of his pension. By the time he retired in 2010, he was making almost three times the salary he’d been making as a teacher at the time of the divorce, and he started receiving much higher pension payments than he otherwise would have.

Because of this, Michael went back to court and asked to have his alimony obligation terminated, in light of the fact that the increase in his wife’s one-third share of his pension more than made up for it. [Read more…]

Shared custody more important than short trip to school

When a Pennsylvania couple divorced, they were given shared custody of their son. Sometime later, the father moved to a new community 11 miles away. As a result, when the son was staying with the father, he had a longer trip to school. (The couple disagreed about how much longer the commute was, but it was arguably up to 40 minutes.)

The mother went to court and argued that she should be given primary custody because the longer commute was disruptive, and prevented the child from developing stable roots and routines. A judge agreed with her. But the father appealed. [Read more…]

College tuition conditioned on family counseling

A father who has an estranged relationship with his teenage son can refuse to contribute to the son’s college expenses unless the son agrees to participate in family counseling, according to a New Jersey court.

The father and mother had divorced years earlier, and the divorce agreement said that both parents would contribute to the children’s college expenses based on their ability to pay at the time the children were ready for college.

After the divorce, the father’s relationship with the oldest child soured. The father wanted to make things better, but the son refused to speak to him. [Read more…]

Be careful with personal injury claims at divorce

If you’ve been injured recently, and have filed (or are thinking of filing) a personal injury lawsuit – but you have also filed (or are thinking of filing) for divorce – it’s extremely important to coordinate the two types of claims.

That’s because the way the personal injury lawsuit is handled could have a big effect on how much of the proceeds you’ll have to share with your spouse in the divorce proceedings.

At a minimum, you should be sure to tell your personal injury lawyer all about the divorce, and tell your divorce lawyer all about the personal injury claim. [Read more…]

Redo your beneficiary designations if you remarry

We’ve often reminded people that it’s important to update all your beneficiary designations after you get divorced – including wills, life insurance policies, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement plans, and so on.

One thing that gets less attention, but is also very important, is to change your beneficiary designations again if you remarry. Failing to do so can create problems if something should happen to you unexpectedly.

For instance, a New Jersey man named Michael Fox bought a $100,000 life insurance policy in 1992 and named his wife as the beneficiary. After he got divorced, he changed the beneficiary designation, naming his sister instead. [Read more…]

Remarrying? Always consider a prenup

People who are remarrying after a death or divorce should almost always strongly consider having a prenuptial agreement.

When prenup agreements first became popular a generation ago, most people thought of them as a way for wealthy people to protect themselves in case they were marrying a gold digger. Today, however, prenups don’t have the same connotation. They’re often used as a straightforward financial and estate planning tool, especially by mature couples who are entering into a second marriage.

The number one reason that people enter into prenups when they begin a second marriage is that they have children from their first marriage, and they want to make sure the children will be well provided for in case they get divorced or in case they die before their new spouse. [Read more…]

Woman who lived with male tenant wasn’t ‘cohabiting’

Many divorce agreements say that a spouse can stop paying alimony if the other spouse begins “cohabiting” with someone of the opposite sex who financially supports them.

A colorful case in Florida involved a divorced woman who owned a two-bedroom townhouse. To help make ends meet, she took on a male tenant who paid her $400/month in rent. [Read more…]

Which spouse should get the house?

Aside from child custody, the most emotionally charged issue in a divorce is often who gets to keep the house. For most couples, a house is their most valuable asset, and it has an enormous symbolic value as well.

Sometimes the best plan is to try to keep the house. But not always. For many divorcing spouses, it’s smarter overall to allow the other spouse to keep the home (and the mortgage), and receive other assets instead. And some couples are better off if they jointly sell their home.

Here are some things to consider: [Read more…]

Alimony must be based on spouse’s ability to pay

Even though an ex-husband was earning far more money than his wife and the wife needed more money to get by, a divorce judge couldn’t order alimony if the ex-husband couldn’t reasonably afford it.

That’s the word from the Florida Court of Appeals.

In this case, Matthew Mills and his wife Tracey – who had one child – ran up significant debt during their marriage. When they decided to divorce, they were each in difficult financial straits and had debts greater than their incomes.

In addition to determining custody of the child, the divorce judge ordered Matthew to pay alimony, based on the fact that he had a much higher income than Tracey and that she had a need for it. [Read more…]

‘Legal’ marijuana could still hurt your custody case

Colorado, Washington and a few other states have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and many others have decriminalized it or approved it for medical purposes.

But just because someone is possessing, smoking or growing pot in a place where it won’t cause them to go to jail doesn’t mean there aren’t other legal consequences. Marijuana use can still be a big issue in a child custody case.

Regardless of whether marijuana smoking is a crime, judges still consider what’s in the best interests of a child when deciding on custody and visitation. [Read more…]

Parents often fight over children’s last names

Couples who are separating sometimes fight over what their children’s last names should be. As a general rule, the answer is whatever is in the children’s best interests. But deciding what those interests are isn’t always easy.

For instance, when New Jersey dad Paul Emma looked through his children’s school records, he was surprised to discover that his ex-wife, Jessica Evans – who had primary custody – had changed their last name from “Emma” to “Evans-Emma.”

He took the case to court, trying to undo the name change. Evans retaliated by asking a judge to change the children’s last name again, this time to simply “Evans.”

The judge ruled that since Jessica had primary custody, it should be assumed that whatever name she chose was in the children’s best interests. [Read more…]

States crack down on ‘re-homing’ of adopted children

A number of states are now cracking down on the practice whereby parents who have adopted children and then are unable to take care of them place them privately with another family.

No one knows how common this is, because there are no statistics. But it’s been known to happen, especially in cases where the child is from a difficult background in another country or has been mistreated by birth parents or at an orphanage. Such children may develop attachment issues and may act out, become violent, or have serious health or emotional problems. In desperation, parents sometimes try to find the child a different home.

The problem is that such private “re-homing” is unregulated, and the new parents are not subject to background checks or other safeguards. People who accept re-homed children may be pedophiles or may be unsuitable in other ways. [Read more…]

Can I start dating again before my divorce is final?

It’s normal for people who are getting divorced to want to start dating other people as soon as possible. After all, it may have been a long time since they were in a good relationship. They want to experience the hope and excitement of something fresh and new.

But if you’re still going through divorce proceedings, there’s a lot you should think about before you start playing the field. That’s because – depending on the circumstances – dating can be very detrimental to the divorce process.

Here’s a look at some of the problems that dating during divorce has the potential to create: [Read more…]

Gambling winnings may be withheld for child support

Ohio has become the latest state to withhold child support from gambling winnings.

Under a new law, anyone who wins $600 or more in the state lottery or at one of the state’s racetrack casinos will be cross-checked against a database of people who have unpaid child support obligations. Any money owed will be taken out of the person’s prize.

People who win at least $5,000 will also be screened for back taxes and unpaid student loan obligations. [Read more…]

Man who claims he’s the father can’t get a genetic test

A Maryland woman had a baby that was conceived when she was still married, but wasn’t born until after she got divorced.

After the baby was born, a man she knew claimed that he was actually the father of the child – and not the woman’s ex-husband. He demanded a genetic test to prove his paternity. The woman refused, and the case went to court.

The result? The man lost. The Maryland Supreme Court decided that whether the man was entitled to a paternity test depended on what was in the best interests of the child. And in this case, the man was unable to prove that it was in the child’s best interests to possibly be declared illegitimate. [Read more…]

Frankie Valli wins in divorce life insurance dispute

The California Supreme Court recently handed a big victory to Frankie Valli, the lead singer of The Four Seasons, in a dispute over life insurance with his ex-wife Randy.

While they were married, Frankie bought a life insurance policy and named Randy as the sole owner and beneficiary. A year later, the couple divorced. Randy claimed that since she was the sole owner, she should get to keep the entire policy, which was worth $365,000.

But Frankie argued that even though Randy was named as the sole owner, the policy was purchased with joint funds, so half of it belonged to him. [Read more…]

Divorce can’t be delegated with a ‘power of attorney’

When 80-year-old Beverly Marsico decided to divorce her 84-year-old husband Louis, Louis had no interest in participating in the proceedings. He asked his daughter by a previous marriage, whom he had designated as having power of attorney, to appear in court on his behalf.

But Beverly objected, and a New Jersey judge ruled that Louis had no right to avoid participating in his own divorce proceedings, even if he wanted to.

The judge said that the participation of the actual parties in a divorce is critical for determining the facts and resolving all issues equitably. [Read more…]

Parent with custody may have to pay child support

When most people think of child support, they think of a parent who doesn’t have custody paying money to the parent who has custody to help meet the child’s needs.

But a recent case in Illinois shows that child support can work the other way around as well.

When Steven and Iris Turk divorced, he earned about $150,000 a year and she earned less than $10,000 a year. Iris got custody of their two children, and Steven was ordered to pay child support. [Read more…]

What happens if a spouse simply ignores a divorce case?

What happens if one spouse files for divorce, and the other spouse just ignores it – doesn’t respond, doesn’t show up in court, etc.?

This actually happens more often than you might think.

In legal terms, if someone brings a lawsuit and the person who’s being sued doesn’t respond at all, that’s called a “default.” Most of the time, if someone defaults, they simply lose the case.

Divorce, however, is a little different. [Read more…]

In military divorces, sometimes the battleground is at home

Life in the military can be extremely stressful on a marriage. Deployments can keep a spouse away for months at a time, periodic relocations at unpredictable intervals can be very disruptive to family life, and the psychological stress of serving in a combat zone can cause problems even after a spouse returns from active duty.

It’s no surprise that, according to a Defense Department survey, military divorces have increased dramatically in the years since September 11, 2001.

Like a military marriage, a military divorce can be very complicated. It can create logistical, geographical and legal issues that wouldn’t even occur to most civilians. [Read more…]

Divorced mom sued for lying about who was the father

A man who claimed his ex-wife lied to him when she told him he was the father of her child can sue for damages, the Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruled.

The woman was already pregnant when the couple married in 1991. The husband claimed that she assured him at the time that he was the father. When the couple divorced nine years later, the husband was ordered to pay child support.

But he sued his ex-wife after learning from DNA tests that he was not in fact the boy’s biological father. He claimed his ex-wife knew all along that another man was actually the father. [Read more…]

‘Wrongful death’ payment can’t be tapped for child support

A woman whose ex-husband was killed in a motorcycle accident couldn’t collect back child support from the proceeds of a “wrongful death” lawsuit filed by the man’s estate, the West Virginia Supreme Court recently decided.

The estate negotiated a $300,000 settlement from the other driver’s insurance company. The mother argued that some of that money should be used to pay off the $60,000 in back child support the ex-husband owed her but never paid.

But the court said that under state law, a wrongful death lawsuit is intended to benefit a deceased person’s beneficiaries, and not his or her creditors. [Read more…]

Switch to working night shift might affect custody

A mother could get primary custody of her children after the father was put on the night shift at work, the Michigan Court of Appeals recently decided.

The parents had previously shared joint custody. The father argued that this arrangement should continue, since a different shift at work didn’t amount to a significant change in circumstances.

But the court disagreed, and said that given the facts of this case, the overall change in the children’s home environment as a result of the shift change had a substantial impact on their well-being.

Mother who turned children against father loses custody

Parents are frequently angry with each other during the divorce process, but it’s important to remember that children need both parents and that it’s not a good idea to express your anger through your children. Not only can this be harmful to your children, but it can affect your own legal rights as well.

In one recent case in Pennsylvania, a mother’s actions resulted in her losing custody altogether.

In that case, a judge determined that the mother had coached her children – ages 9 and 12 – to hate their father. She told the children to refuse to eat food he served, to kick him, to spit on him, and to actively disrespect him in numerous other ways. [Read more…]

Can spouses be forced to show how child support is spent?

The rapper Clifford Harris – who performs under the stage name “T.I.” – had two sons with his girlfriend Lashon Dixon before the couple split up. Afterward, T.I. was ordered to pay $2,000 per month in child support, plus private school tuition, medical expenses and other costs.

Dixon went back to court seeking an increase to about $3,000 a month. T.I. objected, and argued that Dixon was misusing the payments by living off the money herself instead of actively seeking employment. He demanded an accounting of how exactly the money would be spent if she received an increase.

Disputes about how child support is being spent are fairly common. But whether and when a parent can be forced to explain how the money is actually being used depends a great deal on the circumstances, and varies from state to state. [Read more…]

Student loan debt can complicate divorce settlements

As the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, so does the amount of student loan debt that graduates are saddled with going forward. Some 70% of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012 had student loans, and these loans averaged a startling $29,400. Many students who have also taken out loans for graduate or professional degrees are now leaving school with debts in six figures.

According to the Federal Reserve Board, Americans now owe more money on student loans than they owe on auto loans or credit cards.

So what happens when couples with significant student loan debt divorce? Who gets stuck having to pay off the bill? [Read more…]

IRS cracks down on alimony

If you’re paying alimony, you can declare the amount you’ve paid each year on your income tax return and receive a deduction. Similarly, if you receive alimony, you’re required to report the amount you receive during the year on your tax return as income.

Unfortunately, it appears many taxpayers are being less than completely precise when they report these amounts on their returns.

A recent government report identified a huge national gap between the alimony deductions claimed by payers and the alimony income claimed by receivers. And as a result, the Internal Revenue Service is cracking down. [Read more…]

Wife liable for husband’s ‘last-minute’ credit card charges

A Florida woman told her husband that she was planning to leave him after 27 years of marriage. Just days before she officially filed for divorce, however, the husband charged more than $13,000 to the couple’s Discover credit card to cover costs their daughter was incurring as she started college.

During the divorce proceeding, the wife argued that she had never intended to pay for the daughter’s college expenses, and that the husband had engaged in a sneaky maneuver to try to force her to share these costs. A judge agreed with her and ordered the husband to pay the entire $13,000. [Read more…]

Sperm donor may have to pay child support

Anyone who is thinking of having artificial insemination using a sperm donor – or of acting as a sperm donor himself – should talk with a family law attorney to fully understand the possible legal ramifications of the decision.

That message is underlined by a recent ruling from a court in Kansas.

The case involved a couple who found a sperm donor through an ad they placed on Craigslist. The donor – who never intended to play the role of father – signed a contract with the couple stating that he would assume no financial or any other parental responsibility for the child. [Read more…]

Can injury and disability payments be split at divorce?

Payments that relate to one spouse’s injury or disability can be very difficult to divide at divorce, because it’s not clear if they should “belong” solely to the injured spouse or to the couple.

Two recent cases from Pennsylvania show the kinds of questions that can come up.

The first case involved a man who was injured while he was married, but didn’t settle his personal-injury lawsuit until after he and his wife had separated. The man argued that since he didn’t get any money until after the split, the settlement should belong to him alone. [Read more…]

Income other than salary can affect alimony

A wife’s alimony payments could be increased when her ex-husband started receiving significant income in addition to his regular salary, says the Ohio Court of Appeals.

The husband was a highly paid executive with JP Morgan Chase who was transferred to Singapore. As a result of the transfer, in addition to his regular salary, he received a $149,500 bonus, a $104,300 housing allowance, a $25,300 “foreign assignment pay differential,” a $7,200 long-term incentive bonus paid out as dividends, and a $12,300 travel allowance. [Read more…]

‘Cohabitation agreements’ can be useful for unmarried couples

If you’re living with a romantic partner and you don’t have any immediate plans to get married, you might want to consider signing a “cohabitation agreement,” also known as a “domestic partner agreement.”

Cohabiting couples often enjoy many of the trappings of marriage, such as combined finances and property. But it’s important to realize that you have none of the legal protections of marriage, such as equitable distribution of property or support payments if you ever break up.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract designed to protect both you and your partner in the event that you don’t stay together, and enforce the promises you’ve made to each other in the relationship. [Read more…]

Divorce can be even harder when children have special needs

Divorce is emotionally difficult for everyone, and this is especially true when children are involved. But when a couple has a child with special needs, it can become even more complicated.

For instance, many parents argue over child-rearing decisions, such as where the children attend school, the activities in which they participate, and their religious upbringing. But when a child has special needs, it’s even more important for the parents to find a way to make decisions together, because there are simply more decisions to make – including special school programs, medical treatments, and many other concerns.

Custody can be difficult. A “typical” custody arrangement might find a child shuttling back and forth between parents on a regular basis, in order to keep both parents in the child’s life and maximize each parent’s time with the child. But this arrangement doesn’t always work well for special-needs children. [Read more…]

‘No-fault divorce’ doesn’t mean it’s okay to be at fault

Long ago, if a spouse wanted to end a bad marriage, he or she had to prove in court that the other spouse had engaged in some form of misconduct, such as adultery, cruelty, or abandonment.

Today, however, every state has some form of “no-fault” divorce, where a spouse can dissolve a marriage based on nothing more than “irreconcilable differences” between the couple.

But just because you no longer have to prove fault to get a divorce doesn’t mean that fault is irrelevant. Depending on the state and the circumstances, a spouse’s misconduct could result in losing child custody, paying the other spouse’s attorney fees, or a lopsided alimony or support award in the other spouse’s favor. [Read more…]

Child support sometimes counts as part of your income

Do child support payments you receive count as part of your income? The answer varies a great deal depending on the context, and it’s important to plan for this when you’re getting divorced.

For instance, when you’re calculating your federal income tax, child support payments do not count as income, which means you don’t have to pay tax on them.

On the other hand, if you’re buying a house and applying for a mortgage, a bank might consider child support to be income in deciding whether you’re qualified for a loan. Each lender is different, but some consider child support as a financial resource that’s available to you.

The bank might take into account how much child support you receive, how long you’ve been receiving it, and how long you expect to continue receiving it. It might also want to know if there’s a significant chance that your custody arrangements could change in the future. [Read more…]

Financial relief may be available while divorce is pending

Divorce can be expensive and take a long time to get through. It can also create significant financial burdens for spouses who were not the primary breadwinner, and who are now forced to manage a household by themselves.

In some cases, it may be possible to get a court to order the other spouse to make temporary support payments while the case is underway.

Such an order is often called a pendente lite order, and it has two purposes: to help a financially strapped spouse keep up with expenses while the case is ongoing, and to prevent the other spouse from gaining financial leverage in the divorce. [Read more…]

Who’s getting divorced these days? People over 50

The new face of divorce has gray hair.

While divorce rates overall have stabilized and even inched downward in recent years, the divorce rate among couples who are 50 or older doubled between 1990 and 2010, according to a study by Ohio’s Bowling Green State University.

What’s more, these so-called “gray divorces” now account for more than 28% of all marital splits – up from just 10% back in 1990.

The reasons for this trend are unclear, although some people have speculated that seniors are living longer and are more active than they used to be, and may be less willing to stick it out in a loveless marriage once their children are grown. Also, there’s been a significant increase in divorces that are initiated by older women, who may be more independent than in an earlier generation. [Read more…]

Divorcing spouses need to think about credit card debt

Most married couples have at least one joint credit card. And a great many couples don’t pay off their cards in full each month, so they have some credit card debt.

If you or someone you know is considering divorce, it’s important to think about what will happen with a joint credit card.

Although there are exceptions, in many cases the wisest move is to pay off the joint card if possible, cancel it, and open up your own personal credit card account.

Here’s why: In most states, if both spouses’ names are on the account, each spouse is fully legally liable for the entire amount of the debt. So canceling the joint card prevents your spouse from running up a lot of debt – either out of spite or for whatever other reason – for which you’ll then be legally on the hook. [Read more…]

No visitation rights for grandmother after adoption

A woman wasn’t entitled to visitation with her grandson after he was adopted by non-relatives, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled recently.

The boy’s biological parents had their parental rights terminated due to abuse and neglect. The boy was placed with the grandmother for a short period, but then moved to a foster home. The grandmother continued to visit the boy regularly after he was placed with the foster parents, but the foster parents asked the court to cut off her visitation rights once they formally adopted the child.

The grandmother argued that she should still be able to visit the boy if doing so was in his “best interests.” [Read more…]

Woman loses out when ex-wife suddenly reappears

Barbara Sullivan considered herself happily married to retired pro football player Thomas Sullivan for two decades before his death. After he died in 2002, it appeared his NFL retirement benefits would leave her in stable financial shape.

But four years later, a woman named Lavona Hill suddenly stepped into the picture, claiming she was Sullivan’s wife and was entitled to all the benefits.

As it turns out, Sullivan had previously been married to Hill. Several years before Sullivan married Barbara, he separated from Hill. But the couple never actually got divorced, which meant that Sullivan and Barbara – who was completely unaware of Hill’s existence – were never technically married in the first place. [Read more…]

‘Surrogate mother’ contracts are okay, one court says

A “surrogate mother” who agreed in writing to carry a child to term for a couple can’t change her mind later and keep custody of the baby, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently decided.

Monica Schissel was a childhood friend of a woman who couldn’t have children of her own due to battles with cancer.

She volunteered to act as a surrogate mother, carrying a baby to be fertilized in-vitro with her own eggs and the husband’s sperm. Monica and the couple signed a contract under which the couple would become the full legal parents of the child with exclusive custody. Monica also agreed to cooperate in a court’s termination of her parental rights and in her friend’s adoption of the child. [Read more…]

Divorce judge could resolve family business dispute

A divorce judge could have the final say about a business dispute between a couple who used to operate a family business together, according to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

The couple had owned a company that operated a motel. The husband was the president and the wife was the treasurer. One day, the husband fired the wife and replaced her with his daughter. He also changed the locks, removed the wife from the company checking account, and told the police not to allow her onto company property.

Not surprisingly, the wife responded by filing for divorce.

The divorce judge announced a plan to resolve all disputes pertaining to the business as part of the divorce, and issued a deadline for filing any claims. [Read more…]

Husband punished for hiding assets from ex-wife

A man divorced his wife in California in 1999, and soon fell way behind in his alimony and child support payments. He moved to Pennsylvania and remarried in 2006.

Shortly before his remarriage, the man acquired some valuable real estate from his mother. A few days after the wedding, he conveyed the real estate – along with ownership shares in his corporation – into a “tenancy by the entireties” with his new wife. That meant that he no longer owned the property individually, and a creditor couldn’t go after the property without his new wife’s permission.

Meanwhile, the man’s ex-wife filed a lawsuit to collect the overdue support. In 2008, a court awarded the ex-wife a judgment of $550,000. [Read more…]

Ways to reduce conflict in child custody

Some of the most contentious battles in divorce cases involve children. Parents are naturally inclined to argue over custody and visitation rights, but sometimes they also have different and very strong beliefs about how children should be raised. Parents may bicker over whether children should attend sleep-away camp, go to a certain church or school, play a sport, have limits on TV or computer time, and so on.

In addition, sometimes couples are still angry at each other and use child-rearing battles as a proxy for their own ongoing conflict.

While some disagreement is probably unavoidable, there may be techniques that can reduce the stress for parents who have high-conflict custody issues, and avoid the hassle and expense of constantly returning to court to battle over minor problems. For instance: [Read more…]

Health care reimbursements don’t ‘count’ for child support

A divorced father who was reimbursed each month by his employer for the amount he spent on family health insurance premiums didn’t have to count these payments as “income” when deciding how much child support he should have to pay, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled recently.

The couple had three children before divorcing. A judge ordered the father to pay $2,400 a month in child support. In calculating this obligation, the judge included as income the $935 a month that the father’s employer reimbursed him for family health insurance that covered the children.

The father appealed, and the state high court agreed with him. The court noted that the only reason the father received these reimbursements was that he paid the exact same amount to an insurance company each month as a premium. Since there was no reason to think that the father would continue to receive these payments if he didn’t pay for the health insurance, the court said it was wrong to treat the payments as part of the father’s disposable income.