How many of you reading this are trained project managers? For those of you that are, you know that when planning a project, a crucial step is to identify all contingencies and factors that could impact a successful outcome/smooth transition or implementation. It’s an exhaustive process requiring extreme focus and high attention to detail which is why those who are skilled in the art of project management usually command a lucrative salary and are in high demand by employers.
Unfortunately, most of us are not trained in this discipline and we begin to realize our limitations fairly quickly when we take on a project with many moving parts. With that fact in mind and a desire to best serve our clients and help the community at large, we seek to pinpoint areas that might be overlooked in the enormous project that is “divorce”.
For this installment, we’ll lead by asking, “What is your insurance situation?” We assume that you’ll be spending time hashing out the re-writing of wills and allocation of life insurance but what about the more immediate need of health insurance? In many marriages, one spouse maintains insurance for the entire family through their employer-offered coverage. Did you know that once your divorce is finalized, you generally can not stay on your former spouse’s plan? Your kids can but you cannot.
An article in Forbes addressed the question of divorce health insurance a couple of years ago and stated that, “Once the divorce is finalized, you (the non-employee spouse) can qualify for COBRA coverage, but remember: COBRA is temporary and lasts only up to 36 months. If you’re divorcing, (our) advice would be to get your own health insurance as soon as possible. Maintaining health insurance coverage is a major concern for many divorcing couples, and in fact, it’s one of the main reasons why some couples now opt for a legal separation instead of divorce. But, if you do decide to legally separate rather than divorce, please tread carefully. Some health insurance companies view a legal separation as essentially the equivalent of divorce, and so they will not continue coverage for a separated spouse. Do not take this matter lightly. Be sure to check with your health plan provider regarding their policies and restrictions. Health insurance companies have stringent requirements for when and how they must be notified of your divorce; and failure to do so could constitute insurance fraud. Your attorney can help you understand the laws as they apply to your specific case.”
The good news is that health insurance can be negotiated as part of a divorce settlement. In many instances, one parent is designated as the “primary caregiver” for any underage children in the family. Depending upon the ages, number and needs of the children, that spouse may not have the ability or time to take on the sort of employment that would provide insurance to meet their needs. Another consideration is skill and education. If one spouse has the skill, education and experience to command a position that offers better benefits, the insurance available to a spouse who may have worked to put their partner through school or stayed home with young children while forgoing their own education and opportunities to gain experience may be significantly less comprehensive as they enter the workforce. The rise in divorce of those over the age of 50 has added another group to this list. Spouses who did not work outside the home and may struggle to find a viable position even if they have an education due to age, advancements in technology and lack of experience. This is the demographic most in need of healthcare due to advancing age.
The American Institute of CPAs addressed this in an article on their 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy website. They state, “Because health coverage is such an important benefit, some divorce decrees stipulate that a spouse who provided health coverage for the other spouse or family during the marriage must continue to provide such coverage following a divorce. This is especially true if the other spouse didn't work outside the home and has no immediate access to health insurance. Neither an insurer nor an employer can deny such court-ordered coverage when children are involved. The spouse who carries the health coverage may have to pay additional premiums to continue coverage for (their) ex-spouse and (their) children, depending on the policy provisions. Some group policies will routinely allow (them) to continue full coverage for (their) family even after (their) divorce. Of course, this may change if (they) later remarry and want to include (their) new family on your policy. In any case, the premium for a group family plan may be less expensive than single coverage for two adults.”
A recent new factor in the insurance considerations of couples who are divorcing is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as “Obamacare”. We know that some of you love it and some of you hate it but we’re not here to debate that or discuss how it is funded. Let’s address the relevant facts. First of all, the ACA has eliminated the concern of finding a new plan if you have a pre-existing condition. It also makes it easier to purchase insurance if you don’t have an employer-offered option. We’ll file those two factors in the “pros” column. In the “cons” column, we have the fact that deployment of the program has been extremely problematic and there are continuing legal challenges that put the future of the program in doubt.
The point that we’re trying to drive home here is that there are many different options available to you if you find yourself in any of the situations outlined in this article. As it often is, the first step is awareness of the issue. Knowing some of the available options hopefully will bring you some comfort as well but the bottom line is, make sure to retain competent counsel to guide you through the “project” that is your divorce. Remember that when dealing with the emotions of a divorce, you are even more at risk of making painful mistakes than you would be under normal circumstances. Even if you are a successful project manager, a lot of your success is likely based upon knowledge of your particular field within project management. Think of your divorce attorney as a project manager who specializes in divorce. They can easily identify the milestones that must be reached, establish a timeline with goals and an end date and handle any change orders that may pop up as the project moves along. Take note that if that last sentence sounds like complete gibberish to you, you would be well advised to consult an attorney.
There are so many things to think about when making the tough decision to call it quits with your marriage. A telling statement about the emotions and strain that accompany a divorce is that many people who have gotten out of marriages that would be considered bad by anyone’s estimation will still say that it is the hardest thing they have ever done. Studies have shown that clarity of thought is difficult to achieve during times of great emotional distress and that is why it’s imperative that you have top notch council and support from family and friends as you navigate the tricky and stressful waters of divorce law. With those thoughts in mind, let’s address an aspect of divorce that doesn’t always apply to every divorce but is crucial in obtaining a favorable outcome. We’re speaking about geography.
If your spouse and you have only lived in and established residency in one state since you wed, this may not apply to you but you may still want to be aware of the information. We all have friends or family members who might need our guidance, support and advice at some juncture and you can never have too many tools in the toolbox when it comes to knowledge.
Maybe you got married in Vegas or you live in Washington State but had your ceremony in Portland, OR. Maybe you live in Jersey but had your ceremony in New York City. Live in Maryland or Virginia but held your ceremony in Washington DC? Does that make a difference? One of the primary population segments impacted by geography when divorce rears its head are those serving in the military. A military couple might have residency in one state but be stationed in another and on deployment somewhere else entirely. Perhaps you own property in multiple states? When you file for a divorce, jurisdiction does make a difference and can greatly impact the outcome.
In late 2011, ABC News put together a very informative piece about the importance of which jurisdiction you choose to file in. It contains some great information to consider. Did you know that some states treat adultery differently? In Georgia, for instance, adultery is a bar to alimony. ABC News interviewed Atlanta attorney Randall M. Kessler who at the time was chairman of the American Bar Association's Section on Family Law, a founding partner of Kessler & Solomiany and is an expert on these differing laws. Kessler pointed out that that's just one of many differences between one state's divorce law and another's. Kessler stated that “depending on your circumstances, on what advantage you seek or what penalty you hope to avoid, you'll be better off divorcing in one state than another.”
How about child support? If you reside in California, child support is typically 10 times what it is, say, in Georgia or Nevada," says Kessler. Alimony? Apparently it’s very difficult to get alimony in the state of Texas for men or women. When dividing assets, many states will just split them down the middle and each spouse ends up with 50% but in others, judges can choose to favor one spouse over the other. This is also true in the case of child support where gender bias still exists in some places and the mother will usually be favored over the father. While television and the internet may poke fun at those who reference areas of inequality in the area of men’s rights, there are clear examples where bias does exist and it is important for men who are going through divorce and custody hearings to be aware of when and where they might encounter a judge who may be predisposed to summarily dismissing their rights. There are many states where the father is given equal standing and consideration and it is worth your while to know which states do before filing or if you suspect that your spouse might be planning to file.
Divorce is not known for its simplicity and lack of emotional distress. With that in mind, perhaps the biggest component of the process to consider is which states are known for ease in their process. Cost is always a concern as well and fees tend to vary from state to state. Being aware of which states charge which fees could be very helpful. People who are getting divorced tend to want to just have it over with but some states impose waiting periods before or after the actual filing occurs. Being aware of these and how long they last in each state can potentially save you stress and help you to make a better, more informed decision as to where you file.
In 2011, taking these considerations into account, Bloomberg ranked all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia to determine the ease of getting divorced in each and they determined that New Hampshire was the winner based on ease of process while close neighbor Vermont was the most difficult. A telling quote from the article comes from Vermont Law School professor Cathryn Nunlist who stated that when people come to her seeking a divorce, she advises them to cross the state line and do it in New Hampshire, where it's significantly easier.
So, how easy is it to obtain a divorce in New Hampshire? Believe it or not, it can be done in a single day. There’s no “minimum processing time” or “required residency period”. That’s pretty easy when compared to nearly any state but when comparing to Vermont where a year of residency is required for couples as well as six months of separation during which the couple must live apart, it seems like barely a hassle at all. That’s not even the end of it. After the divorce is granted by a judge, there's an additional three-month waiting period before it becomes final. All in all, the minimum processing time in Vermont is 450 days and the cost of filing fees is $262.50 versus $180 in New Hampshire. When just comparing fees, South Dakota is the best bargain at $50 while Florida the worst at $409.
The Bloomberg article also notes many other differences across the country. Here is a sampling:
In Delaware, a couple isn’t required to live separately during the state’s mandatory six month separation period but they must have separate bedrooms. Despite that, sexual intercourse is allowed if it’s pursuant to "efforts to achieve reconciliation”.
Grounds for fault divorce (as opposed to no-fault) vary from "habitual intemperance" (Idaho), three years of desertion (Maine), one spouse's having made an attempt on the life of the other "by poison or any other means showing malice" (Tennessee), and "persistent refusal to have reasonable matrimonial intercourse" (North Dakota).
New Mexico and Mississippi are two of only seven states that, in cases of alienation of affection, give the cuckolded spouse the right to sue the lover of the other spouse for damages.
One spouse's having been an "idiot" at the time of marriage is grounds for divorce in Mississippi. In Indiana, two years of "incurable insanity" are sufficient.
In 1970 California became the first state to offer no-fault divorce and New York, the final hold-out, began offering them in 2010. No-fault divorces are very popular but in rare situations, for-fault divorces are still an option. Harry Gruener, head of the Family Law Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, says you'd be hard-pressed to find a single instance of for-fault divorce in Pennsylvania in the past 20 years. They tend to pop up when the initiating spouse has a point they want to prove such as emotional cruelty or inability to provide acceptably for a family.
So aside from states like New Hampshire that don’t require a certain period of residency, are there really that many people plotting to move to a state that does have a residency requirement but offers conditions favorable and pertinent to some people’s specific situations? "I see it every day," says Kessler. He cautions, however, that the approach can backfire: Judges look askance on venue-shopping. If the shopper's intent is discovered, the court may be prejudiced against him or her. Further, the judge may take pity on the deceived spouse, especially where an entire family including young children, has been uprooted to achieve the move.
What should a spouse do if he or she suspects a spouse is planning such a move? “Be suspicious”, counsels Kessler: "If you're not getting along, and if all of a sudden your (spouse) says let's move to Nevada--and you have no idea why--start thinking. Get some advice."
As in all other aspects of divorce, it’s important to realize one’s limitations in understanding the process. People don’t typically plan to get a divorce over a long period of time and in general, are not liable to think of every contingency. This is true regardless of their level of stress or emotion. When your future is on the line, as the old saying goes, you need to “get help from a professional”.
The “selfie” has become ubiquitous part of pop culture. It has become so pervasive that it has spawned a category of accessories (the selfie-stick) and sub-genres including “the gym selfie”, “the car selfie”, and now “divorce selfies”. There has been speculation that the rise of the selfie is a by-product of shifting values and cultural shift towards individualism. The emergence of the “divorce selfie” may also be a reflection of shifting perceptions of divorce.
The history of divorce stretches back to the 16th century and the Roman Catholic church. In the 1950s divorce carried a strong stigma. Couples who chose to divorce were often faced with ridicule and disdain. The societal pressures to avoid divorce were just a part of the challenges faced when deciding to terminate a marriage. In the 50s, divorces were only granted if one party could prove fault. This meant that adequate cause for divorce had to be presented before a judge. If neither party could show fault, the divorce would be denied. States such as New York, would only grant a divorce if adultery could be proven.
The requirement to prove fault existed until 1969 when then California Governor, Ronald Reagan, signed the first no-fault divorce bill. Governor Reagan’s bill has been cited as paving the way for other states to also adopt no-fault divorces. According to an article published by HG.org, “One of the principal outcomes of the no-fault divorce is that today, if one spouse wants a divorce but the other spouse does not, there isn’t much the resistant spouse can do to prevent it. Years ago when “fault” divorce was commonplace, some divorces were simply not approved by the court because the other spouse offered a valid defense to the accusation of fault.”
The implementation of no-fault divorces played a significant role in shaping the idea of the family structure well into the 80’s and 90’s. The archetype of the latchkey kid made it’s appearance as a societal norm via the mass media in the 80’s and continues to be a recurring character. The latchkey kid was a byproduct of the rise in divorce rates that occurred in the 1970s, peaked in the 80’s and perpetuated through the 90s. The concept of divorce evolved significantly over these three decades; it moved from stigmatized to a more socially accepted status.
Changing social perceptions regarding divorce have been accelerated by the widespread adoption of technology and social media. Both technology and social media have impacted divorce cases and it is no surprise that they are also being used to celebrate a divorce becoming final.
The emergence of platforms like Friendster and Myspace, gave rise to social media as a tool for image crafting. This has been magnified with the widespread adoption of other, more sophisticated, channels such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Social media is often the first place people turn when major life events happen so it comes as no surprise that some couples mark the end of their divorce with a selfie.
Guilt is a common emotion for parents going through divorce. That guilt can seep into relationships and become toxic to everyone involved. It is common for issues to surface before, during, and after the divorce; and the extent of those issues can jeopardize the ability of both parent and child to move forward. In some situations, the parent-child relationship can become regressive and lead to Parental Alienation.
Parents hold an immense amount of influence over their child(ren). Like Uncle Ben (from the Spiderman) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Parents’ influence is powerful, but can be dangerous if used for nefarious purposes.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation (or Hostile Aggressive Parenting) can be defined as: “ a group of behaviors that are damaging to children's mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent. These behaviors most often accompany high conflict marriages, separation or divorce.”
Being exposed to derogatory remarks directed towards the other parent can contribute to feelings of animosity for that parent; thus resulting in damage to the parent-child relationship.
These hostile behaviors are most often seen post-divorce, but are not uncommon in other cases involving separation. Children normally begin to feel anger, resentment, and aversion towards the targeted parent that can result in a broken relationship. These repercussions include the child expressing hateful feelings towards the parent, avoiding any form of contact, and/or refusing to associate with the parent.
The assertion of influence by the alienating parent toward the targeted parent can cause significant and long lasting damage to the child-parent relationship. The loss of affection can directly harm the parent and child emotionally and mentally. Sherrie Bennett, one of our attorneys here at Goldberg Jones, touches on this delicate subject in an article she wrote about Parental Alienation. She uncovers the causes for alienation, the guilt the child feels, and offers ways to cope with and resolve alienating behavior.
The last thing a parent wants is to be emotionally detached from their child. A child’s mind continues to grow by what it observes, or in this case; is manipulated to believe. Parents: it is advised that this is approached carefully and under the guidance of the appropriate professionals. This is not a challenge easily resolved—it will take patience and diligence. The child-parent relationship is what is at stake; “Try not to argue with or be defensive with your child. Talk openly about what your child is actually seeing and feeling, as opposed to what the child has been told to be the truth”(Lawyers.com).
The long journey to ending the divorce/separation process can take on more challenges than expected. Your emotional level and strength to push towards a better tomorrow will be tested. We advise you to keep the child’s and your relationship in mind. In the event where you feel overwhelmed and are needing legal advice to plan your next move; consult an attorney and understand your rights as a parent. It is a long journey to a new normal, but keep your eye on the prize; you will get there.
Providing a safe harbor for kids during divorce can be difficult, particularly if violence or abuse are part of the mix. Abuse can be take a variety of forms including verbal, emotional, and physical. If a child is living in a situation where there are constant fights and long term conflict, parents are not only affecting each other individually; but they are also affecting the child’s well being.
The court’s objective in deciding custody issues is to act in the best interest of the child. As mentioned by Colin, children are often not objective about what is in their best interest. While the court is interested in hearing all relevant facts regarding custody to determine what is best for the child—children are not allowed to choose where they will live after a divorce.
Custody cases often include the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL). A GAL is an attorney dedicated to representing the child(ren). The GAL will interview the child(ren) and factor their wishes into their recommendation to the court.
There is a persistent rumor that children at the age of 12 years old can decide where they want to go—this is false. In the state of Oregon the GAL will propose a plan to the court. If the case is complex, or serious physical or emotional issues are present, a Custody Evaluator can also be appointed to provide an in-depth analysis of the situation.
Divorce might feel like a negotiated war, and one of the biggest battles is having to confront the new reality and living situation with your child(ren). This new beginning can take some work to polish the scratched surface and make for a smooth transition into a new life with your child(ren)—but it is worth the effort.
TV personality Sherri Shepherd has been making headlines regarding a recent ruling in custody case. The Sherri Shepherd decision, issued in April by a Pennsylvania Judge, is just one of three cases that have been brought in regards to the dissolution of Shepherd and Sally’s marriage.
While Goldberg Jones is not involved in any of the cases regarding Shepherd and Lamar Sally, the parentage case highlights some important legal questions that are worth exploring. The case, as it has been reported, seeks to determine the legal mother of a child born to a surrogate in August 2014.
According to online sources, “ The couple separated in May 2014 and have since been involved in a custody battle over a now 8-month-old baby born via surrogate. Just last week, a judge ruled that Shepherd is the legal mother of the baby. Up until that point, the surrogate was listed as the legal mother on the birth certificate.”
At first glance, this case may sound like a plotline from Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, but it addresses some legal issues that have emerged with advancements in fertility options.
Surrogate pregnancies have opened the door to uncharted territory regarding legally establishing the mother. Any pregnancy carried by a surrogate should have a formal and legally binding contract between the parties.
In 2014, Sally commented in an interview that he and Shepherd paid a surrogate $30,000 to carry a child created using Sally’s sperm and a donor egg. Prior to the birth of the child, the couple split and Shepherd wanted nothing to do with the baby.
In Shepherd's case, the surrogate was listed on the birth certificate due to Shepherd s refusal to acknowledge the child. This led to the State of California initiating a child support action against the surrogate to recoup the costs of health insurance and other benefits paid by the state for the care of the child.
The Court’s acknowledgement of Shepherd as the mother reinforces the importance of protecting the interest of the child and the rights of the surrogate. While the decision names Shepherd as the mother, the court cannot force her to raise, visit, or participate in the child’s life. However, Ms.Shepherd will be responsible for financial obligations like support, day care reimbursement, etc.
According to online reports, Knick’s coach Derek Fisher has filed for divorce from his wife of ten years. While we do not have any involvement in this case, it has raised some interesting questions regarding the warning signs that may indicate a marriage is headed for dissolution.
TMZ Sports is reporting, “Derek Fisher's wife says she was completely "blindsided" when the NBA legend served her with divorce papers last month ... and was even more shocked that he moved all of his stuff out of their home in the middle of the night .”
Our managing attorney, Colin Amos, stopped by The Game 750 to chat about some of the most common warning signs of an impending divorce and the importance of not getting caught off guard.
Check out all of Colin’s commentary in the video below.
Who’s on Fire? Who is going to razzle-dazzle this tournament and take home the NCAA National Championship Trophy? With the Journey to the Tourney reaching its end, it is time to start predicting the teams that will duel it out to the end. However, the competition is not limited to the court—Goldberg Jones will be holding its annual Bracket Challenge.
Think your bracket has the best spread? Fill out the bracket at tournament.fantasysports.yahoo.com. Prove that your intuition and knowledge for the game and stats will prosper. You can begin filling it out starting March 17th and ending March 21st. The dominating bracket will win a $250 Amazon Gift Card, that’s just money in your pocket.
Similar to last year, the Bracket Challenge is a winner-takes-all event. So start crafting your bracket ASAP to ensure total domination. To keep up with the action; make sure to follow our Twitter and give us a “like” on Facebook. It will be absolute madness and there is no reason to miss out.
Be part of the action and join us in the most exhilarating tournament that keeps your eyes locked on the TV and internet statistics. Get your gear on, check the stats, craft your bracket, save your seat and let the tourney unfold.
Galimony is a non-legal term for spousal support that is paid by the wife to the husband. A quick search of Urban Dictionary also sites galimony as the alimony paid when a same-sex couple divorces.
Galimony is a riff off the term alimony, which has been replaced in the legal lexicon with “spousal support”. In a divorce, it is imperative to understand when, and how, spousal support is applied.
Spousal support is a tool used by the courts to level the playing field for both parties exiting the marriage. Spousal support can be negotiated and agreed upon by both parties. If no agreement can be reached, the courts can determine if (and how much) spousal support is awarded.
There are several factors that influence spousal support. Some of these factors are: ability to pay, length of marriage, disparity of income between spouses, and the standard of living during the marriage. This is not an exhaustive list and it is important to remember the court may take additional information into consideration.
Spousal support is modifiable, but, the standard for modification of spousal support is exceptionally difficult requiring a substantial change in financial circumstances not known or intended at the date of divorce. It is imperative to be very diligent in negotiation up front because fixing it later is very difficult.
Changing Information on Important Documents after a Divorce
If there is anything that is strongly advised by a lawyer; it is to update any shared important documents between you and your ex-spouse. It is common to get caught up in the emotional stress that comes with divorce, but there are important issues that need to be addressed immediately. Failing to make changes to your will, life insurance, etc. might just leave your ex inheriting your property and assets.
It is normal to want those you love and your children to be taken care of if something were to happen to you. However, if your will is not updated with your current marital status and the status to whom will inherit your assets, this could be beneficial for the wrong person.
Keeping your will up to date becomes a vital priority during a divorce. Every State is different when it comes to how a divorce will affect a will. Oregon and Washington both have a provision that states a divorce “will revoke all provisions in the will in favor of the former spouse”. This means your ex-spouse will be precluded from inheriting your assets. While this provision does provide some protection from your ex inheriting your assets, it can create a great deal of ambiguity in how your final wishes are carried out. It is always best to update your will to ensure that your intent is crystal clear and your wishes are accurate and explicit.
There may be an unexpected incident leaving you unable to make decisions for yourself or your family. Your will dictates what initiatives need to be taken in such an event. Usually, your attorney will take on this job just to make sure things are taken care of during your incapacitation. Additionally, you must appoint an executor who will be responsible for ensuring your wishes are carried out as they are stated in your will. It is also advised that you let the person know they will be named as the executor in your will.
When meeting with your lawyer to discuss your decisions and the division of assets, it is wise to come in with an outline of “who gets what”, and “who does what.” When deciding on an executor it is in your best interest to choose someone you fully trust and will comply with your wishes after your death.
Consult your divorce lawyer if your ex is being unreasonable with any sort of insurance plan changes. These are assets that need to be protected to ensure that your loved ones receive everything that was intended for them. If updating documents after your divorce is something you are currently dealing with then talk with a divorce attorney and your insurance companies immediately to avoid any issues that could emerge.