January 26, 2010

More Fathers given Primary Child Custody

Posted in Custody tagged at 2:16 am by demetriagraves

Because I specialize in Family law, I’m always interested to review data that pertains to child custody cases. Recently I came across a report that shows that increasingly more fathers are receiving primary custody of their children after a divorce. It’s interesting that this trend moves away from the traditional perception that mothers are much more likely to gain primary custody of their children after divorce.

To give you some history on this subject; in the early 1990s most states discarded the Tender Years Doctrine, which led courts to grant custody to mothers in cases involving young children, though the practice of favoring mothers seemed to be persisting.
Currently there are different opinions on this subject but some reports suggest that a reliable estimate of the number of fathers who gain primary custody of their children may be as high as 50%.

This aligns with the trend of there being more stay at home Dads in families where Mom is the primary bread-winner, and household provider rather than Dad. It makes sense that as the number of Domestic Dads increase, the legal system should follow suit and be more wiling to award them with primary custody.

The recent economic downturn has also probably increased this trend as many men have lost their job. There are indications that in mid-2009 with the economy taking a beating, 75% of people who lost their jobs due to those economic circumstances were men. So if three quarters of those who lost their job last year were men, it makes sense that many of these out of work Dads may assume the role of staying at home and being the primary care giver to children.
In many of the custody cases I deal with it’s usually a former spouse who presents the greatest obstacle for one parent seeking contact with their children and being granted custody, rather than any perceived bias or trend of the courts. This is why it’s vital that you seek legal advice from an attorney who is experienced in handling family law cases, so that you can get the right advice early on and prevent any undesirable outcomes. My focus is and always will be on families and determining what is going to be best for the children. So that everyone can get on with their life after a divorce and there is minimal disruption to those younger members of the family as well as the adults.

Loan Modification Vs Short Sale

Posted in Loan Modification, Short Sale tagged , at 2:13 am by demetriagraves

When a homeowner is faced with an unaffordable mortgage payment there are two principal choices for the homeowner in today’s market to avoid foreclosure. These are either a loan modification or a short sale. I offer advice for clients in this situation and can help you work out what are your best options, whether it’s a short sale or a loan modification or something else. Many of my clients have asked me for a brief explanation of what’s involved in either a loan modification or short sale. In this article I’ll explain each and go over some of their pros and cons so you can get a better picture of which one might be best for you. Though, don’t forget I’m here to help you out with both of these, so don’t be discouraged as I can offer you expert advice on which option is best for your individual circumstances.

Loan modification:

A loan modification is best for homeowners that have a temporary financial hardship or have an adjustable rate loan, finding themselves unable to make the loan payments under current terms of the loan. A loan modification focuses on changing the interest rate or length of the terms of the loan (extending it up to 40 years) to make the current loan more affordable.

Reduction in the amount that is owed rarely occurs. So if you are upside down in your mortgage – you will remain so. In high foreclosure states such as California, Nevada, and Florida which have experienced a significant price drop, homeowners may find themselves with negative equity that may take years to recover. A loan modification will not solve this issue and some may be forced to do a short sale anyway if they need to sell in the future. There are some significant drawbacks to loan modifications, so choose carefully and get some legal advice before you pursue this approach.

Here are some little known facts about Loan Modifications:

1.53% of all loan modifications fail after 6 months
2.Strict qualifications may not make you eligible
3.Most loan modification companies charge money and offer no guarantees
4.You will remain upside down on your mortgage if you currently have no equity
5.Interest rates are fixed for only 5 years – subject to future inflationary rates
6.33% of all loan modifications result in HIGHER payments
7.May or may not result in reduced interest rate and loan terms

Is a short sale for you?

The short sale of a home is most appropriate if the home is truly doesn’t make sense to keep, with either unaffordable payments, or significant negative equity. Job loss, reduction of income, illness, divorce, or just a bad loan, are all valid reasons that homeowners are selling today. When the house is worth less than the mortgage balance, the sale of the home will not pay off the existing debt. One of two scenarios must happen: 1) The homeowner comes out of pocket to pay the shortfall amount for the existing debt to be extinguished or 2) The existing mortgage holder (bank) agrees to take a loss on their debt to allow the home to be sold, granting a short payoff. This is known as a short sale.

With the high negative equity situations, banks are electing to grant the short sale to sell the house. The banks are not required to do this -their other choice when homeowners have stopped paying them, is to foreclose. Ultimately if the financial numbers work, it may be cheaper for a bank to short sale rather than foreclose.

Why a Short Sale?

1.Enables the sale of the house without money coming out of pocket for closing
2.Allows for financial recovery during the short sale process
3.Releases you from your negative equity (upside down) position
4.Capitalizes on the bank’s current motivation to grant a short sale
5.May forgive taxes owed from the short sale
6.Provides quicker credit recovery than foreclosure
7.May allow you to buy another home at today’s bargain prices!

Closing Short Sales can be tricky – banks don’t make it easy. Most successful short sales are done using a team of real estate experts, but most importantly, a professional bank negotiator should be on the team. Nine out of ten unsuccessful short sales (ending in foreclosure) generally are real estate agents trying to negotiate their own deals. So once again make sure you get the right advice and know who you are dealing with. I offer a free initial consultation to anyone who would like further help in this area.

Dennis Hopper to divorce his fifth wife on his ‘deathbed’.

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Divorce tagged , at 2:10 am by demetriagraves

There are reports on the internet that actor and film-maker Dennis Hopper has filed for divorce from his fifth wife on his deathbed. The 73-year-old star of Easy Rider, Rebel Without A Cause and Apocalypse Now is battling prostate cancer and is reported to have less than a month to live.

Hopper and Victoria Duffy, 41, have been married 14 years and have a daughter, Galen, six. He is understood to be trying to cap the amount she will receive from his will at a quarter of his estate.

In court papers Hopper lists the date of separation as last Tuesday and offers to pay spousal support. He is also requesting joint legal and physical custody of Galen.

One report claimed Duffy had “barricaded herself in” to their California home while Hopper was in hospital.

There are allegations that sadly it’s all about the money and who inherits what, in particular getting Victoria out of the will.

“I wish Victoria the best, but only want to spend these difficult days surrounded by my children and close and friends,” Hopper said in a statement. Hopper has four children from his five marriages.

Dennis Hopper’s eldest daughter from a previous marriage, Marin, age 47 is reportedly behind his plans to divorce and is said to be heavily involved in the process. Marin never liked Victoria who is six years her junior and the fact that Marin will probably get more money from her father’s estate with a divorce, it’s understandable why she’d be encouraging the idea of divorce.

There’s much speculation that Dennis is acting under duress as he is apparently on heavy medication and may have little idea of what is going on and be unable to make key decisions. It’s expected that he would be on heavy painkillers that would essentially make him sleepy all the time and probably mentally incapacitated to some degree. So this brings up the whole question of him being of sound mind and that is something that will need to be determined.

January 16, 2010

Couples Breaking Up Forced to Live Together

Posted in Divorce tagged at 10:47 pm by demetriagraves

There’s been much discussion lately regarding current economic hardships forcing couples who are having marital difficulties into remaining living together in the same house. When the economy was booming it was much easier to sell the family home, possibly even, making a decent profit, allowing couples to live apart and subsequently get divorced with a financial cushion.

A new survey in the U.K has shown that more than a quarter of cohabiting couples that break up are forced to continue living together because of the effects of the recession. Two-thirds of people who continue to share a property with a former partner said they cannot afford to move, while one in forty couples are unable to sell their homes because of negative equity or being ‘upside down’ on their home. 9.9 million adults have claimed that either they or someone they know are still living with a partner, despite going through a separation or divorce, as they cannot afford to live alone.

The recession seems to be preventing even more couples from making a clean break when they split up, forcing an increasing number of couples to share a property when they might not under different circumstances, putting strain on otherwise happy relationships. Unfortunately, those same financial stresses that make the break-up process so difficult are often a key reason for the break up. And although people are aware of the negative equity trap that many divorcing couples face, even less are aware of the heartache this is causing cohabiting couples who have split up. Unfortunately relationships do break down which is painful enough, but being forced to carry on living with an ex-partner, even for a short time, must add real pressure to the situation.Traditionally when couples felt it was the end of the road for their relationship, one partner would leave. Now it seems that many couple are waiting until the pressure reaches boiling point before one partner decides they have to leave. This can mean that the partner left behind may be forced to rent out rooms to borders as a way of holding on to the family home, which they probably would have sold in a better housing market. Now because selling their home wouldn’t pay off their mortgage they are forced to hold on to the home as long as they can.

Traditionally when couples felt it was the end of the road for their relationship, one partner would leave. Now it seems that many couple are waiting until the pressure reaches boiling point before one partner decides they have to leave. This can mean that the partner left behind may be forced to rent out rooms to borders as a way of holding on to the family home, which they probably would have sold in a better housing market. Now because selling their home wouldn’t pay off their mortgage they are forced to hold on to the home as long as they can.

The possibility that so many of us has either experienced or knows someone that has experienced this situation, means this may be more widespread a problem than we realized. They key question is, are we as a society ready to accept the human cost that these difficult circumstances can bring?

My goal is to make divorce proceedings as painless as possible, allowing my clients to make a fresh start. This is why part of my action plan is to address any financial barriers that may be forcing unhappy couples to remain living together because of difficult financial circumstances. If you feel that this situation applies to you, don’t despair. There is hope and the best decisions can be made when you have the right advice.

Bankruptcy Filings on the Rise

Posted in Bankruptcy tagged at 10:44 pm by demetriagraves

Many of us have had the feeling that bankruptcies seemed to be on the increase, well here’s some hard facts to back up that idea. U.S. consumers and businesses are filing for bankruptcy at a pace that made 2009 the seventh-worst year on record, with more than 1.4 million petitions submitted nationally. This is an increase of 32% compared to 2008.

While experts believe some of the increase is due to a natural recovery as consumers and attorneys become accustomed to a recent overhaul of bankruptcy laws, the numbers indicate clear correlations to recession-weary regions. Arizona saw the fastest increase, a jump of 77 percent from the year before, followed by Wyoming (60 percent), Nevada (59 percent) and California (58 percent).

It’s a tragedy when individuals need to file for bankruptcy and unfortunately as businesses close due to bankruptcy, the number of the unemployed rises, potentially leading to more bankruptcies for families and individuals.

For three years, filings have been steadily rising back toward levels reached early in the decade before Congress overhauled the nation’s bankruptcy laws. The 2005 alterations made bankruptcy filings more cumbersome, a move that followed fears from lenders that some consumers were abusing the system to wipe away debts.

Bankruptcies surged to slightly more than 2 million in 2005 as consumers rushed to file before the new law took effect but then plummeted to 600,000 in 2006. They’ve been climbing ever since and in 2009 became the seventh-highest year on record, behind only the years 1998 and 2001-2005. The 2005 spike had been preceded by a steady climb from 1.5 million in 2001 to 1.6 million in 2005.

It’s naïve to think that changing bankruptcy laws will make the problem go away. When families or businesses are facing financial distress, changing litigation only tends to delay the inevitable. This is why it’s vital that you find an experienced attorney who can help you navigate through changes in litigation and ensures that any actions taken are in your best interests.

Many people don’t realize that there are two types of bankruptcy filings. Chapter 7 filings involve having the bankruptcy trustee gather and sell the debtor’s nonexempt assets in order to cover debts owed to creditors. A Chapter 13 filing is where debtors who earn a regular income can develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts.

I offer a free initial consultation where you can go over your options with an experienced attorney in confidence. A vital part of this process is being able to get all your questions answered and helping you figure out your best plan to move forward.

Billionaire Wynn Divorce Finalized

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Divorce tagged , at 10:41 pm by demetriagraves

Steve Wynn, the billionaire chief executive of casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd in Las Vegas, is officially divorced for the second time from his wife, Elaine.  Steve Wynn,   agreed recently to surrender $741 million worth of stock in Wynn Resorts to Elaine, in their divorce settlement. The split was finalized by a family court judge in Las Vegas.

The Wynns filed for divorce on March 5, 2009, and the case was immediately sealed to keep the details undisclosed to the public and to shareholders.

The new distribution of the 11 million shares, which were previously communal property, leaves the Wynns with approximately 18 percent of the company’s outstanding stock.

As part of the divorce settlement, the split couple also agreed to renounce their right to vote on behalf of the 24.5 shareholders of Aruze USA, a Japanese subsidiary of the gaming machine maker Universal Entertainment, which owns about 20 percent of Wynn Resorts’ stock.

The company’s stock is the most profitable of all US casino stocks but Wynn stock price took a hit with the announcement of the divorce settlement. Wynn stock dropped 1.31%, closing the trading day at $66.96.

Elaine and Steve Wynn married in 1963, divorced in 1986 and remarried in 1991. During their marriage, the couple had two daughters, Kevyn and Gillian, who are now adults.

Megarich couples ending their marriages could learn a lot from the Wynn divorce. As this is technically their second divorce, I suppose you could say that they’ve had some practice. Elaine owns more than 11 million shares of the company, shares which were once communal property. This means that she and Steve Wynn each have around a nine percent share in the company. The Wynns already sold off some shares last summer. While their marriages may not have worked out the Wynns still seem to have a good working relationship.

Elaine Wynn is the chairwoman of the national nonprofit Communities in Schools, and it’s reported that she will turn her professional focus to charity in the coming years.
Steve Wynn has been one of the most influential figures in the past several decades in the Las Vegas casino industry. Wynn also has been one of parties responsible for the recent boom in the Macau casino industry.

January 12, 2010

Considering a Divorce?

Posted in Divorce tagged , at 1:39 am by demetriagraves

The good news is that even though many couples who seek legal advice on divorce regard this as the final step to separation, this is often not the case.

In my experience, a surprisingly high number of those spouses who seek legal advice regarding commencing divorce proceedings, manage to work out their differences and avoid the whole painful process.  So don’t be afraid to seek advice on a divorce. It doesn’t mean that a divorce will eventuate and it may work as a catalyst for you and your spouse to get back into communication with each other and really sort out any marital difficulties that you may be having.

However, for those who really feel it is time to take the plunge, I can offer advice on how to reduce the trauma of divorce.

Here is some general advice on the subject of divorce:

·As the popular saying goes; it takes two to tango. It also takes two to create a breakdown in a marriage, so one party shouldn’t burden themselves with all the guilt.

· Don’t use children as pawns or to score points off each other. In the long term you are far more likely to damage your own relationship with your children than your ex’s.

· Use a family law attorney who can offer you a choice of different processes to help you resolve your dispute. Only some cases are ultimately resolved by contested court proceedings. You may be interested in mediation whereby the two of you work with a mediator to reach a mutually acceptable solution to all your issues, thus reducing the amount of money you have to spend on separate attorneys.

· You may want to talk to an attorney trained in the practice of collaborative law. This is a relatively new way of dealing with family disputes in which all negotiations are done in four way meetings of both parties and their attorneys.

· Choose your attorney carefully. Going for the cheapest deal may not be the best course of action in the long run. Make sure your attorney is someone you can work with and can fully trust.

· Be prepared to compromise. Sorting out arrangements for finances, housing and children can be very expensive. It is never, ever, worth arguing over the TV; you will pay more in the costs of so doing than it will cost you to buy a new one.

· However raw you are feeling, try and take the drama out of divorce and act with dignity. If you do this, you are far more likely to emerge from it feeling positive rather than broken.

Every case is different, if you have further questions, I offer a free initial consultation where I can go over your options in confidence.

Reeves Paternity Case Dismissed

Posted in Celebrity Paternity, Paternity, Spousal Support tagged , , at 1:35 am by demetriagraves

Just when we’d thought that we’d heard it all here’s another celebrity who has had to defend himself in court against a paternity claim.

A Canadian woman who claims Keanu Reeves is the father of her four children has had her case dismissed after a judge branded it “patently unbelievable.”

Karen Sala filed a suit against the actor and was seeking $3 million a month in spousal support going back to November 2006, and $150,000 a month in child support going back to June 1988. She is maintaining Reeves is the biological father of her four adult children.

She also alleged in an affidavit that Reeves agreed to take her to the Academy Awards and promised they would eventually marry.

Sala filed notice in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice family branch in May, asking for a declaration of parentage from the actor. According to reports, Sala has known Reeves since age nine, when he was seven, and briefly lived with his family as a teen after running away from home.
Reeves who grew up in Toronto said he doesn’t even know the 46 year old Sala. He took a DNA test which proved he is not related to any of the children, but Sala dragged the case back to court to contest the results. Sala also claims that the actor used hypnosis to tamper with the results of the DNA test that proved he was not the father of her grown-up children.
But Judge Fred Graham ruled in Reeves’ favor recently by throwing the case out, telling the court, “The applicant’s evidence is so incredible that it is not capable of acceptance by any reasonable trier of fact. A trial in this case would be a waste of limited judicial resources.

“It is evident that she (Sala) believes her allegations even though they are patently unbelievable to an objective observer.”

Sala was ordered to pay Reeves $15,000 for the legal bills the case has incurred.

Legal Separation, an Alternative to Divorce

Posted in Divorce, Legal Separation tagged , at 1:33 am by demetriagraves

Are you looking for another option besides divorce or an annulment of your marriage? Perhaps due to religious reasons, financial reasons or some other factor you and your spouse would like live apart and separate your finances but not end your marriage? In the State of California, you have the option of a legal separation.

Most people assume if they are not sure that whether they want a divorce, they should file for a legal separation – not true. A legal separation is not a trial separation and is not designed to give couples a time out if they are having problems.

One very common reason to seek a legal separation instead of dissolution (divorce) is to retain eligibility for medical insurance that would otherwise be lost by a termination of the marriage.

A legal separation proceeding is similar to any marriage termination proceeding in that a judgment of legal separation adjudicates support, custody/visitation and community property rights and obligations under the same standards and in the same manner as a divorce. It also establishes a means to separate your finances in the future.

A legal separation will not end your marriage nor will it absolve you of liabilities that were taken on by either party during the marriage. However, it will allow you and your spouse to live apart and start new lives. A court ordered legal separation will help you and your spouse define the parameters of child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and distribution of the property and liabilities of the marriage. All other court oversight available to divorcing couples are available to you and your spouse during your legal separation. Note that neither you nor your spouse can marry another person while this legal separation exists. You are both still legally married to one another.

There are several significant differences between a legal separation and a divorce. For instance, spouses must agree to a legal separation. If not, a legal separation automatically becomes a divorce. Second, there is no waiting period. In the state of California, it takes six months to become divorced. However, a legal separation can happen immediately. Finally, there is no residency requirement for a legal separation. A spouse does not have to live in the state for six months before filing the action. Most importantly, a legal separation will not allow the spouses to marry another.

A legal separation is not an appropriate lawsuit to file simply because a spouse is unsure about a divorce. If a spouse does not want a divorce, the filing of a legal separation almost always ends up in the other party requesting a divorce. If there is hope at all of reconciliation, it’s best not take legal action of any kind. Generally speaking, it is usually appropriate to file a legal separation only in a very narrow set of circumstances, for example: Divorce is against the spouse’s religion and neither party plans on remarrying; or the parties need to remain married for an additional period of time in order for one spouse to be eligible to claim an interest in the other person’s Social Security benefits; or one spouse has significant medical issues which prevents him or her from obtaining private medical insurance; or neither spouse has lived in the state long enough to file a regular divorce action.

In most situations, a legal separation is only a temporary solution and the action is filed with the intention of eventually obtaining a divorce.

Due to the many choices involved in a legal separation it’s important to find a family law attorney to help you through the process. Even if you are just considering your options at this point, it is important to contact a knowledgeable family law attorney. I offer a free consultation and can help you to understand your rights and protect them as well as helping you understand what would be involved in your legal separation. If you’re thinking of hiring an attorney for a legal separation, I’d like to help you go over your options and ensure that you’re making the right choices.