November 27, 2009

Does DNA Testing Change the Concepts of Fatherhood?

Posted in Child Support, Custody tagged , at 5:56 pm by demetriagraves

Many courts across the country are having to sort through the many complex issues that arise when DNA testing reveals that Daddy is not really my Daddy. Particularly in cases where a man thought he was the biological father and has been paying child support for many years and then DNA testing reveals that he isn’t actually the father biologically but because his name is on the birth certificate, he is the father legally.

This is especially difficult when the mother now moves in with the biological father and they raise ‘their’ child together. Should the legal non-biological father still be expected to continue child support, even though the child is not really ‘his’? In many cases, the legal father is obliged to continue to pay child support, especially if he wants to continue to have visitation rights etc. Though this begs the question of how much responsibility does the biological father have for this child that he has had nothing to do with for many years? In the scenario above, it seems that the biological father is having more the benefits of fatherhood with out any of the financial burdens or obligations. So how much should, the legal father be expected to support the parents of a child that is not biologically ‘his’. There is no legal precedent for recognizing two fathers of a child.

There have even been cases, where these legal non-biological fathers have won full custody of the child that they raised and thought of as their own since they were born. Legally, this is not too dissimilar to an adoption.

As DNA testing becomes more readily available, less expensive and more accurate it seems like there will be even more complex cases of this nature that the courts will have to entangle. How important is this biological factor really when you consider all of the successful adoptive parents? Does one man have more rights to a child that he has never raised because he is the biological father? And where does that leave the man who thought he was Daddy and wants to continue his relationship with that child. Should he be forced to continue child support payments even when the biological father is now on the scene?

Dividing Debt in Divorce

Posted in Child Support, Divorce tagged , at 5:50 pm by demetriagraves

With harder economic times over the past few years, there’s been a change for some divorcing couples which involves, dividing debt rather than the traditional division of property and assets.

Instead of working out who gets the car, the house, the new big screen TV, many couples who don’t have much left and are skating on thin ice financially, are now arguing over who should pay which bill. Rather than the divorce being about who get’s the marital assets, there’s been a shift over to more divorcing couples who are looking at what is the best way to distribute their marital debt. When couples are ‘upside down’ on their home value, often there’s more debts to distribute, rather than assets.

This is an important area to address as financial pressures are one of the most common factors that that divorcing couples attribute as being a major player in all the areas of life and relationships that can lead to a divorce. Many experts also agree with this assessment; for the most part, when couples are doing better financially they tend to be under less pressure to divorce. Or more commonly, financial difficulties tend to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in an already rocky relationship. Often financial troubles will lead into some of the other major break-up factors in a divorce, like drug and alcohol abuse and even infidelity.

When times are tough, leaving a marriage may be considered an easy way out of financial burdens. Unfortunately this can mean that the person who is left behind gets stuck with handling all the debt. So it’s important that you know how to protect yourself against this type of thing happening.

Even after a divorce or separation, the recent recession has seen an increase in the numbers of  people, who are trying to get their child support payments reduced or even suspended because of financial difficulties.

In these troubled economic times, it’s important that you have someone that you can work with, who you can trust and rely on to understand your concerns and help you to navigate a safe passage through any gloomy financial waters.

Jon & Kate’s Divorce to be Finalized Soon

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Divorce tagged , at 5:45 pm by demetriagraves

There’s been lots of media attention regarding the recent divorce arbitration hearing of Jon and Kate Gosselin. John arrived at the hearing with a bouquet of Roses for his estranged wife Kate which she turned down. Many have criticized this action as a media stunt to get attention.

The Goseselins were turned into celebrities by TLC’s reality TV series, ‘Jon & Kate plus eight’, which came to its own conclusion when the finale of the show aired recently. The show closed somewhat prematurely because of on-air squabbles and feuding, which fuelled the scandal of their impending divorce. The original concept of the show was to portray a wholesome family atmosphere, it did start off in this vane when it first aired two years ago and its many heartwarming images were a major contributing factor to the show’s popularity. When Jon and Kate announced their split in June their feuding spread to the tabloids and the shows days were numbered. Kate filed for divorce after numerous tabloid accounts of Jon’s infidelities.

Overall it appears that the marathon six hour divorce hearing went well and all indications are that their divorce will be final by the end of this year. The discussions in the hearing were to address unresolved marital issues including division of marital property and custody of their twins and sextuplets. Apparently Jon isn’t keen for the children to be part of any further TV filming and this was probably discussed in the hearing. Originally Kate wanted to continue with the show, but now it would be more about the kids how Kate copes as a newly single mother of eight kids. Jon’s opposition to further filming of the kids has put the possibility of further shows in question.

November 23, 2009

Is the Battle Over Ownership of the Dodgers to be Decided in Divorce Court?

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Divorce tagged , at 12:59 am by demetriagraves

Dodgers’ fans seem to be all ablaze regarding the upcoming divorce proceedings of the owners of the team, Frank and Jamie McCourt. One of the key assets that they are arguing over is who has ownership of the Dodgers. When Jamie McCourt filed her divorce petition she is laying claim to half of the team, she is also claiming unlawful dismissal when Frank fired her as chief executive of the Dodgers.

In Jamie McCourt’s petition, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, she claimed irreconcilable differences and asked for immediate reinstatement to the job from which  she was fired.

Frank McCourt countered with his own filing, asking the court to declare him the sole owner of the team at once, then handle the larger divorce case later.

The filings publicly revealed a power struggle months in the making and probably far from over.

Jamie McCourt portrayed the couple as reveling in an extravagant lifestyle. She is asking the court for $487,634 in monthly spousal support if she does not return to her job and $320,967 if she does.

Jamie estimated the net worth of the couple at $1.2 billion and the value of the Dodgers, including the stadium and surrounding real estate, at $800 million. If the court rules the team is community property the McCourts might have to sell the team if neither one can raise the money to buy out the other.

The consensus seems to be that it will be impossible for the McCourts to keep the Dodgers. Frank won’t be able to raise the money and if Jamie does have the backers, she won’t have the credit (or the credibility). The team will be sold, and each McCourt will walk with a hundred-million or two. The Dodgers will move on, merely pawns in much larger game.

How to Tell Your Spouse You’re Thinking of Divorce

Posted in Divorce tagged at 12:53 am by demetriagraves

While there’s no proven ‘boiler plate’ method on how this delicate subject should be approached, here are some common denominators that many experts agree on as the most pain-free way to broach this sensitive subject.

Many clients I’ve spoken to tend to put off talking to their spouse about this topic because they feel uncertain on how to best approach it. I recommend a common sense approach, though many clients ask the valid question, what constitutes common sense?

The Golden Rule of treating others the way you’d want to be treated is a key point to keep in mind. How would you want to be approached about this subject if the tables were turned?

Choose your time wisely

I think anyone would agree that when your spouse has come home from a long day at work, or when they are tired or hungry aren’t the best times to discuss any subject of importance. Some of my clients have even found that a successful action is to ‘set up an appointment time for a discussion’. This can be done by simply getting your Spouse’s agreement that there’s an important subject that you’d like to discuss and deciding on a time that works well for both of you to go over this.

A key to your success is also to make sure there aren’t any distractions when you have this discussion:

Make sure the kids aren’t around, turn off the TV, phone etc. If you’ve planned ahead, you should also have allowed plenty of time for this conversation. When your spouse is on the way out to a meeting or work, obviously wouldn’t be a good time to say, “By the way, I’ve been thinking about a divorce”.

Try not to let it deteriorate into an anger match

I know this is a difficult concept and obviously the conversation is going to get heated but if it degenerates in to a ‘slanging match’ of accusations, not much will be accomplished and you may both end up saying things in anger that you later regret. It’s okay to walk away and take up this discussion later when cooler heads prevail.

More communication not less is always the answer. It is possible to have an amicable divorce. It doesn’t have to turn into World War 3. This is especially important to consider when there are kids involved. Isn’t it worth making the extra effort to minimize any potential upset that the kids may experience when Mom & Dad suddenly turn into sworn enemies?


November 19, 2009

Deed for Lease may Help Ease Foreclosure Impact

Posted in Forclosure tagged at 1:30 am by demetriagraves

Fannie Mae has announced a program called “Deed for Lease” or “D4L” for short. This program is designed to help home owners who are facing foreclosure but may not be eligible for a loan modification. Deed for Lease allows a homeowner to turn over the deed to property in return for a guaranteed one-year lease or rental agreement priced at local market rates. This new program is a step up from a less formal initiative that Fannie Mae started last January which allowed foreclosed homeowners to stay in the house on a month-to-month basis.

The policy is aimed at minimizing the disruption caused by foreclosure proceedings, which puts families out on the street when their property is seized by the lender. With Deed for Lease, the family loses ownership, but can stay in the house. Put another way, they can walk away from the loan without walking away from the house, as they must do in a traditional foreclosure. The big advantage of the program comes from the money households save when they swap mortgage and other housing expenses for a rental payment.

What are the limits to D4L?
Here are some of the restrictions on Deed for Lease:

  • The homeowners cannot be eligible for a mortgage modification
  • The new rent payment cannot be more than 31% of the household’s income

This policy aligns with government-sponsored loan modification programs as another measure to keep people in “their” homes and off the streets. For the surrounding community, it also attempts to keep properties occupied. Empty homes have brought blight to many neighborhoods experiencing a high percentage of foreclosures, and this new policy does address that problem.

Is one year enough time on the new lease?
Many experts suggest the one-year lease agreement is too short a timeframe. Families are only guaranteed that twelve-month period in the house, after which the lease goes month-to-month. If the property is bought out of foreclosure during that time, the rights of the new owner could allow eviction of the tenant if they have other plans for the property.

On the positive side, perhaps the foreclosed owners could buy their property back at a reduced price (once they reestablish good credit or if they can come up with the cash). That may be a sweet deal if prices remain flat long enough.

Useful Links:
Fannie Mae Deed for Lease Information

Progress of Loan Modification Affordability Program

Posted in Loan Modification tagged at 1:26 am by demetriagraves

After starting slowly, the Obama administration’s mortgage relief program is now ramping up according to a recent government report. Currently 20% of eligible homeowners are getting relief but it’s still unclear how many of these may still lose their home.

In this effort known as “Making Home Affordable”, lenders are paid to lower a borrower’s mortgage payments. This program has struggled since being launched in March with lenders applying it sporadically throughout the industry.

As of the end of October, more than 650,000 borrowers, or 20% of those eligible, have signed up for trials lasting up to five months, the Treasury Department said Tuesday. The modifications reduce monthly payments to more affordable levels.

In California, about 130,000 homeowners have been enrolled in this loan modification program, which the President announced in February. This is about 19% the state’s homeowners who were either two payments behind or in foreclosure at the end of last month, according to Treasury Department data.

Government officials say they are pressing mortgage companies hard to improve their performance. Still, many housing advocates have been disappointed with the $50 billion plan’s progress and say that getting a loan modification remains a battle. Many economists doubt the Obama administration will reach its broad goal of helping 3 million to 4 million borrowers within three years.

Most of the borrowers enrolled so far have been signed up for preliminary trial modifications for up to five months. To make the change permanent, they must complete a mountain of paperwork and show they can make their payments on time. The Treasury Department is meant to release data on the conversion rate into permanent modifications in the next few weeks.

Many mortgage services were low-cost operations, with staff in collections departments working to collect on payments from lax borrowers. Those and thousands of new staff, are now pursuing a different work activity – figuring out which of the thousands of borrowers may qualify for help.

Banks and other lenders, for the most part, have been slow to adapt to an unfamiliar climate of falling home prices and rising unemployment.


Shaquille O’Neal’s Wife Va’shaundya Files for Separation, Plans to Divorce

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Child Support, Custody, Divorce, Spousal Support tagged , , , , , at 1:15 am by demetriagraves

Shaquille O’Neal’s wife Va’Shaundya (Shaunie) has filed legal papers in L.A., even though the couple lives in Florida. Shaunie pulled her kids out of school in Florida recently and they are with her now in L.A. Shaq’s people think the sudden flight across country to L.A. is all about the money.

Why would Shaunie go to the other side of the country to file in L.A.? In California and in Los Angeles, there is no residency requirement to file for Legal Separation.  And if she files for Legal Separation, which she can later amend to a dissolution (divorce) after she meets the residency requirements, she can also request spousal support, and child support, etc.

The petition says that although Shaunie is filing for legal separation, she intends to file for divorce. She states “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for separation. THIS IS BECAUSE SHE DOESN’T MEET THE REQUIREMENTS YET.

Shaunie claims in her papers to be a resident of L.A. since November 8, 2009.
The date of separation is listed as 11-9-09. The couple has 4 minor children (between 3 and 9 years old). Shaunie wants full legal and physical custody of all the kids.

Shaq and Shaunie tied the knot on December 26, 2002 a total of 6 years, 11 months marriage. Perhaps it’s a case of the seven year itch?

It is the second time there has been a separation filing between Shaq and Shaunie – the first time was in September 2007, when Shaq filed for divorce. A few months later, the couple decided to withdraw the filing and try to work through their differences. It appears that idea was short-lived.

Shaquille is a 15-time NBA all-star is currently in the midst of his first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He owns four NBA championship rings between his days with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.

November 15, 2009

Tips for Avoiding an Unhealthy Divorce Agreement

Posted in Divorce tagged , , at 6:04 pm by demetriagraves

I’ve often been asked for some quick tips on how to avoid some of the uncertainties when you’re in the final stages of a divorce negotiation. While there is no handy check-list that will protect you against any unforeseen circumstances, it’s important to remember that this agreement will be legally binding for you and your soon to be Ex for many years into the future. So it’s worthwhile considering these main factors:

Watch out for Ambiguous Terminology.

A common example of ambiguous terminology that can cause future difficulties is- “the ability of the parties to pay.” Your ex-spouse may claim poverty or loss of employment just before the college tuition or camp bill is due. If they have no liquid assets to help pay these expenses, you may be forced to pay the entire bill! Be specific when it comes to how medical bills or extra curricular activities should be shared. Use percentages and dollar limits so that precise calculations can be made.

Clearly Define Emancipation.

What age do your children have to reach before child support payments end? Should there be payment adjustments for children attending college or not living with the custodial parent? Do you need to look at extended payments for children with special needs?

What Expenses do Child Support Payments Cover?

Generally, they apply to the “big three”- food, clothing and shelter. Camp, child care, braces, unreimbursed medical expenses, special religious celebrations, weddings, vacations-all are just a few of the many expenses that fall outside the “big three”. If you do not address these other expenses, you may quickly find yourself paying for things you never expected.

How Do You Defend Your Agreements?

Often, once legally binding agreements are made one party may end up not living up to what they agreed. What will you do to enforce your agreement when your ex-spouse refuses to reimburse you for a few thousand dollars of medical expenses? Filing legal motions are costly, time consuming, and usually invite counter claims. Having your agreements state that the “non-complying party” bear all legal costs relating to the enforcement of your agreement may prove very effective in convincing your ex to live up to his/her responsibilities.

I’ll take the time to make sure you fully understand the agreement before you sign off on it. I always like to discuss my clients’ life style and expectations. I understand that your children’s needs change from year to year and usually require more cash outlays as they get older. The hot topics outlined above can help assist you in avoiding an “unhealthy divorce agreement.”