April 24, 2010

What is Family Law?

Posted in Family Law tagged at 8:21 pm by demetriagraves

It seems simple enough, but often I’ve found that many of the general public aren’t fully aware of what’s involved in the practice of family law, so here’s a brief outline.

Legal representation for any type of legal case requires that the attorney providing services understand the unique nuances of the applicable field of law. In the practice of family law, the stakes are often very personal, very high for those involved, and can be shrouded in emotion that can cloud judgment and drive outcomes. Because of the deeply personal challenges for those involved, it is essential to hire an attorney who specializes in the practice of family law; one who is experienced in facilitating the best resolution possible in the midst of, or perhaps in spite of, the personal and emotional barriers that exist.

Perhaps the type of family law that is evident to most people is divorce proceedings. An experienced divorce attorney helps the parties involved set aside the emotions of everything that has happened leading up to the divorce. Then the parties can approach the proceedings as a business transaction. It may not be a circumstance that the parties envisioned that they would be party to, but with the help of a skilled family law attorney the issues can be resolved.

All divorces are not created equal. Some are uncontested and others result in long and difficult battles. No matter what the level of the conflict, there are some consistent areas of family law that are related to divorce proceedings. These main areas of family law that are related to divorce are: property division, spousal support (alimony), child support and child custody and visitation.

In Property Division, the distribution of assets at the time of a divorce can be very complex. Retaining an attorney who is focused on a fair divorce settlement is essential to navigating these complexities.

Deciding who will have custody of the children and the conditions surrounding visitation is a highly emotional issue in a divorce. Each parent may have the best interest of the children in mind and yet have very different ideas about what is “best.” To facilitate the best outcome for the children and the parents requires that an attorney also be well versed in the specific factors that a judge must consider when deciding on custody issues.

There are formulas in place to help determine the amount of support paid by the non-custodial parent. A family law attorney helps to facilitate a fair child support obligation. There are also set guidelines outlined within the law that cover the subject of spousal support, which is also known as alimony.

Family court has jurisdiction over family disputes. One of the reasons family court is important is because it is designed to protect the welfare of children. Family issues like divorce and child custody can be sensitive. A lawyer who specializes in family law can offer you the right advice and help guide you through the process as painlessly as possible.

The key reasons why you’d want to hire a family law attorney are explained below:

Understanding: Your attorney has significant experience with family law and understands your situation. Also, your lawyer can offer you personal legal service and guidance to help you find closure.
The law is complicated: Legal issues can be complex and overwhelming. An experienced divorce attorney can explain family law and legal procedures.
Your lawyer will fight for you: A lawyer can make sure your voice is heard and that the issues you are concerned with are discussed.

If you have any further question about family law or the services I provide, you can set-up a free confidential initial consultation with me. I can go over your concerns and answer any specific questions that you may have.

April 23, 2010

Tiger and Elin – Still on Par for a Divorce?

Posted in Celebrity Divorce tagged at 9:10 pm by demetriagraves

While Tiger Woods is devoting time and energy getting back into competitive golf, wife Elin Nordegren appears to be spending hers planning an exit strategy from her fractured marriage, a move that could cost Tiger as much as $200 million.

Indeed, the five-month sex scandal seems now to be an almost insurmountable barrier to any reconciliation. Woods allegedly had affairs with an assortment of cocktail waitresses, Vegas hostesses, party girls and porn stars, including the 21-year-old daughter of his next door neighbor.

Still Woods appeared to at least be going through the motions to make amends. He offered profuse apologies, attended rehab, took a leave from professional golf and expressed his profound hope that he could save his six-year marriage, which has produced two children.

But in the weeks since he announced his return to golf, his relationship with Elin appears to have taken a turn for the worse. Multiple reports — now too numerous to be totally untrue — now claim that Elin is ready to move on. Elin has yet to spend one night with her husband since his stint in rehab.

While he got ready for the storied Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. Elin grew even more distant. She was reportedly furious because of his early return to golf, and was a no-show at the tournament. The two have since taken separate vacations.

In the latest developments, Nordegren is reportedly talking to lawyers in Florida and California, though there are reports that Florida is the most likely venue because the couple reside there most often. Florida divorce law encourages reconciliation and Tiger and Elin will have to attend mandatory counseling before a divorce can proceed in Florida.

A major issue in the any divorce will likely be a prenup agreement that limited Elin’s settlement to $20 million, but only if she stays in the marriage 10 years. She recently bought a $2 million estate, called Faglaro Mansion, on a secluded island outside of Stockholm. The island is only reachable by boat. Nordegren is also eying other properties in Sweeden, according to local press reports.

What ever settlement limits Nordegren faces because of a prenup, she will like make up for in child support payments, which are sure to be hefty given the lifestyle — multiple homes, private jets, chauffeured travel, full-time nannies –the children have enjoyed.

All told, she could reap as much as $200 million and perhaps more, according to various reports. Still anything can happen. With the size of their assets — estimated near $1 billion — it could take more than a year to unwind the estate.

If Sandra Bullock Divorces Jesse James, What happens with the Kids?

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Visitation tagged , at 6:42 pm by demetriagraves

The troubles in the marriage of Sandra Bullock and Jesse James have been headline news for the past few weeks. So far at least five women have claimed affairs with James. Bullock has moved out, and is reportedly ready to file for divorce.

It seems there are parallels here to the Tiger Woods scandal: A claim of sex addiction by the cheating husband, a stint in sex rehab, and more and more women emerging, over time, to claim affairs. Though, there is an important difference, too.

Elin Nordegren will very likely get primary custody of her children in the event of divorce – for she is their legal mother, has been their primary caretaker, and would likely stack up better than Tiger in any assessment of relative parental fitness.

In contrast, although Sandra Bullock has played a major caretaking role with respect to James’ children – especially his six-year-old daughter Sunny, from his second marriage – Bullock probably will not receive legal custody, for reasons I will explain, though she may be granted visitation.

Generally speaking, Jesse will attempt to argue that Sandra does not have any constitutionally-protected  rights, and therefore she will not owe any child support nor should she be allowed to visit with the children.  Sandra did not adopt the children but it is very clear and understood that she has played a BIG part in the daughter’s life, but at the end of the day she is not her “mother”

Under these basic principles, Sunny has two legal parents: her biological mother Janine Lindemulder, a porn star who was recently released from jail after serving six months for tax evasion, and Jesse James, who was married to Janine when Sunny was born.

James and Lindemulder divorced shortly after Sunny’s birth in 2004. In 2005, Jesse married Sandra Bullock. Bullock has, by all accounts, been an integral part of Sunny’s life since infancy. Sunny has lived in their home and, since December 2009, James has had sole legal custody of Sunny. In October 2009, after Lindemulder was released from jail, she sought to regain custody of Sunny. But James successfully fought off her attempt; instead, the court awarded full custody to James last December, giving Lindemulder only limited weekly daytime visitation rights.

As Sunny’s stepmother, Bullock is neither a legal parent, nor a co-custodian. However, her presence in the home and her relationship with Sunny were highly relevant to the court’s decision to allow James to retain full custody. And, as long as she remains married to James, and he retains custody of Sunny, she will have the chance to continue effectively (but not legally) parenting Sunny, just as she had been doing and rightfully so, as it would NOT benefit Sunny to abruptly remove Sandra from her life.  Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but Sandra could petition the court for “visitation” as a 3rd party, which could also have ramifications for her.

But what if she files for divorce? As a stepparent relationship is created by marriage – it terminates when the marriage is dissolved. Just like when a mother-in-law becomes a “legal stranger” to the person her son or daughter has divorced. Generally, a stepmother suffers the same fate with respect to a stepchild, when she divorces the child’s legal parent: After the divorce, she is generally a legal stranger to the child. Though, fortunately in California – that is not quite the case.

It is virtually impossible for a non-parent to successfully obtain legal custody of a child who has at least one fit parent. Visitation is sometimes possible – but may be hard to come by.

Fortunately for Bullock, California law also provides for visitation by a stepparent when he or she divorces a child’s legal parent. Under California Family Code §3101, a court may grant “reasonable visitation” to a stepparent during a divorce or annulment proceeding to dissolve the marriage that created the stepparent-stepchild relationship.

This visitation, however, may not be ordered if it would “conflict with a right of custody or visitation of a birth parent who is not a party to the proceeding.” This provision must also be applied in any particular case in a constitutional manner. It would not be enough for a court to determine, merely, that visitation time with Bullock would be in Sunny’s best interests.

Under this statute, Bullock could request visitation with Sunny even if she divorces James. But court-ordered visitation time for Bullock would have to come out of James’ time with Sunny, rather than out of her mother’s visitation time.

Given the apparently close relationship between Bullock and Sunny; the court’s seeming prior acknowledgement that Bullock is a good influence on Sunny; and the presence of a variety of destabilizing aspects in Sunny’s life, it is not far-fetched to predict that Bullock will be able to get some visitation with Sunny even if she divorces James. This same set of facts may, ironically, operate to the detriment of James, as he fends off yet another custody challenge by Lindemulder. James’ behavior and Bullock’s departure could be enough to give her a leg up in this round.

Broader relationships between stepparents and stepchildren after a divorce tend to be the product of mutual agreement, rather than court order. So ironically, attempting civil or even friendly relationships with James and Lindemulder might be Bullock’s best chance to maximize her visitation with Sunny.

The bottom line is that Sandra Bullock has an uphill battle if she plans to divorce James and maintain a parental-type relationship with Sunny. While court-ordered visitation is possible, Bullock may not legally be able to regain the kind of relationship she has had with Sunny without Lindemulder’s and/or James’ consent.

April 15, 2010

Larry King files for Divorce #8

Posted in Celebrity Divorce tagged at 6:23 pm by demetriagraves

It looks like we’re in for another messy public divorce with Larry King (76) filing for divorce number 8 on the heels of a scandalous split from his wife of 13 years Shawn Southwick (50). They have two children together, sons Chance Armstrong, 11, and Cannon Edward, 9.

Apparently minutes after King’s attorneys filed their court papers, lawyers for Southwick, who is a singer and TV personality, also filed divorce documents in Los Angeles, with both parties citing irreconcilable differences.

King has been married to seven different women, but this is his eighth divorce, because he remarried his third wife and then later divorced her.

Southwick bragged on the couple’s 10-year anniversary in 2007 that she was the only one of King’s seven wives “to have lasted into the two digits.”

The 5-foot-10 beauty made headlines when she entered rehab in 2008 for an alleged addiction to prescription painkillers. Apparently Southwick has taken medications because of her migraine headaches that she’s had since she was a young girl. She developed a dependency on painkillers as a result of being prescribed medication for the migraines.

The marriage reportedly crumbled after Southwick accused King of having an affair with her younger sister, Shannon Engemann, which Engermann denies. There are also rumors that their relationship has been rocky for quite some time, with them being seen arguing explosively in public a number times.

King is seeking joint custody of their children, while Southwick is seeking primary custody. Southwick has also asked for child support and spousal support and wants the couple’s Beverly Hills mansion, plus their houses in Provo, Utah, and St. George, Utah.

Are Parents of Twins More Likely to Divorce?

Posted in Divorce tagged at 6:20 pm by demetriagraves

The current divorce rate in America is between 41% to 50% for first marriages. That’s an average, of course, and the average fluctuates depending upon the age of the couple at the time of their wedding day. However a recent study in the UK has shown that parents with twins are more likely to end up divorced, broke and out of work. Married couples were 17 per cent more likely to divorce if they had twins or triplets rather than several children with gaps in between.

The high costs of having multiple children seemed to be one of the main causes for the large number of divorces. Two thirds of multiple-birth families said that they were significantly worse off after their babies were born, compared with 40 per cent of other parents. Nine months after giving birth, mothers of twins and triplets were 20 per cent less likely to have returned to work than mothers of single babies, the cost of childcare being largely to blame, according to the research.

The proportion of multiple births has soared as a result of in vitro fertilization and women giving birth when they are older, according to the research. One in 65 births now results in twins or triplets compared with one in 100 in 1970.

In this regard, the results of the study are surprising; the parents of multiple birth children are older and more established.   Apparently, the advantages of maturity and being established in a career fall by the wayside as a result of the demands of having multiple children.

Surely the stresses of raising a set of sextuplets and a set of twins must have contributed to the breakdown of Jon and Kate Gosselin’s marriage, but what about other families with multiples? While a great deal of research suggests that parents with twins and multiples have a higher divorce rate,  it’s interesting to examine the preliminary findings issued by Mothers of Supertwins (MOST) from an ongoing survey they’ve been conducting on “Divorce and the Multiple Birth Family.”

The survey began on June 25, 2009. As of this writing, they had surveyed more than 2,800 parents or guardians of multiples. Most of the participants were:

  • Mothers (97.5%)
  • US residents (93.4%)
  • Predominantly Caucasian (92.4%)
  • An average age of 32 when their multiples were conceived
  • In households with an average of 3 children, mostly families with twins (61%) or triplets (30%)
  • Married for the first time (86%)

Additional findings revealed that:

  • 4.3% of respondents divorced during the pregnancy or following the birth of multiples
  • More than 95% of marriages were intact
  • Approximately 82% of the respondents reported overall positive marital satisfaction

Overall, they found a divorce rate among respondents of 3.6% for parents of twins, 5% for parents of triplets, 9.2% for parents of quadruplets, and 4.2% for parents with quintuplets/sextuplets or more than one set of multiples.

MOST cautions that this study is ongoing and has certain limitations, but it is interesting to note that the findings thus far indicate a much lower rate of divorce among families with multiples than expected.

Nas back in Court – Civil Contempt Charge Dismissed

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Child Support, Spousal Support tagged , , at 6:17 pm by demetriagraves

The ongoing saga regarding the divorce of Nas and Kelis has a new chapter.  It may come as no surprise to some that Nas has been ordered to pay the backdated child and spousal support payments he owed.

According to reports, Nas says he’s focusing on music and his children after striking a deal to dismiss a civil contempt charge against him.

A Los Angeles judge dismissed the contempt allegation against the rapper recently after he paid nearly $50,000 in child support to his estranged wife Kelis.

Kelis’ attorney sought the contempt charge earlier this year after Nas fell $200,000 behind on child and spousal support payments. He was ordered in December to pay more than $51,000 a month to Kelis and their infant son.

The judge ordered that the rapper has to pay $47,249.42 in back child support and $40,454 in back spousal support. Nas’s wallet took an even bigger hit. He also has to keep payments of $10,000/month in spousal support coming until he pays off the $299,015.50 he owes Kelis. On top of that, he also must hand over $155,787.28 to cover her legal expenses and $48,549.83 for her accounting expenses.

It sounds like it’s time to cut another record Nas.

Both musicians have made statements to the media that they’re working on new music.

April 9, 2010

Winning Strategies of Dodger ‘Players’ in Million Dollar Divorce Case

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Spousal Support tagged , at 6:01 pm by demetriagraves

Hard hitting Dodger Owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, have begun the first inning of their divorce battle in the Los Angeles Court System and I’ve been asked to comment further on who has the winning strategy in regard to the million dollar settlement demands.

To determine this, one should look at how much is enough? The average American brings home around $2,500 a month, but Jamie McCourt, the estranged wife of Dodger owner Frank McCourt, is looking for much more than that. Frank McCourt has initially offered her $150,000 a month, to which she countered with $1,000,000 a month to pay for the lavish and debt-fueled lifestyle they each have become accustomed to. In addition to the divorce case, whose official proceedings just began in late March, is another case between the couple determining whether the rightful owner, or owners, of the Los Angeles Dodgers is both individuals. With stakes this high, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will win the case.

This is an extremely interesting topic, considering there is a huge difference between Temporary Spousal Support, which Jamie is requesting, and Permanent Support. The amount awarded in divorce proceedings can significantly increase for Temporary Spousal Support, given its brief nature. With Temporary Support, Commissioner Gordon has more discretion to consider not only the income of both Parties, but also the Standard of Living and the high wages of Frank which can change the normal scope of awarding spousal support. Jamie McCourt’s focus on the McCourts’ Standard of Living, which is luxurious to say the least, on Frank McCourt’s multimillion dollar income, and on the California Family Code Section 4320 Factors (generally reserved for trial) should help her case.

On the other hand, Frank McCourt’s team will counter that Jamie McCourt’s requests are unreasonable. Frank will argue, which his attorneys have pointed out, that Jamie is in ‘Fairy Tale Land’ and that their previous luxurious lifestyle does not support her request of 1 million dollars. The alleged continued use of private jets, luxury vacations, etc. by the McCourts does not help the situation! If Frank McCourt wants to paint a picture of his estranged wife’s unrealistic view of their Standard of Living, he has to tone down his current lifestyle to help his case.

As to which number, $150,000 or $1 million, would most likely prevail? It is important to note that the Parties have a very skilled Judicial Officer who will analyze every aspect of this case, and if the Parties cannot decide on a number, Commissioner Gordon will definitely decide for them. With disparate figures such as these, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether either Jamie or Frank McCourt will be able to strike a deal. Play ball!

Tiki Barber Separates from Pregnant Wife

Posted in Celebrity Divorce tagged at 4:32 pm by demetriagraves

Former Giants NFL star-turned-‘Today’ show correspondent Tiki Barber and his wife of 11 years announced this week that they’re separating. Nothing particularly scandalous there; people break up every day. However, it is alleged that Barber left wife his Ginny Cha for Traci Lynn Johnson, a blonde 23-year-old former NBC intern.

Oh, and Ginny is eight months pregnant and is expecting twins. Ginny is a former fashion publicist and full-time mom to the couple’s two sons, A.J., 7, and Chason, 6. Apparently Ginny found out about the relationship late last year when Tiki moved out of their home and into a bachelor pad.

Tiki and Ginny began dating 16 years ago when both were students at the University of Virginia. During Giants games, Tiki used to blow a kiss to Ginny in the stands every time he scored.

Barber, who recently turned 35, was hired by NBC just after he retired in 2007. This is apparently when he first met Johnson, who was working there as an intern.
“After 11 years of marriage, Ginny and I have decided to separate,” Barber said in a statement this week. “This decision was a painful one, but we are moving forward amicably and will continue to work together to raise our children with the love and dedication they have always known.”
The affair is particularly stunning in light of Barber’s long-standing disdain for his philandering father. He has railed against his own father for leaving his mother. “Not only did he abandon her, I felt like he abandoned us for a lot of our lives,” he said in a 2004 interview. “I have a hard time forgiving that.”

Barber has made no other comment on this brewing scandal. It will be interesting to watch this story for further developments. It sounds like we may have another celebrity divorce case on the horizon.

April 8, 2010

Jon Gosselin sues Kate for Custody of 8

Posted in Celebrity Divorce, Child Support, Spousal Support tagged , , at 9:01 pm by demetriagraves

Jon Gosselin has sued ex-wife Kate for primary custody of their eight children. The former reality TV star also wants spousal support and has asked the Berks County Court  to review his child support obligation.

Jon’s new lawyer, former assistant U.S. Attorney, Anthony List, has previously accused Kate Gosselin of neglecting the children because she appears on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”. List has further accused Kate of being “an absentee Mom” a charge Kate’s attorney rejected as “patently false.”

List is planning to use Kate’s TV appearances as evidence that Kate isn’t spending quality time with the eight kids. List also thinks Jon isn’t getting a fair deal in the child support department, claiming “$20,000 a month is ridiculous.” In addition to primary custody, List says he’s considering asking the judge to reverse the support obligation and make Kate pay Jon. He did not specify the amount.

In court papers, Jon Gosselin says his ex-wife “abuses” her authority when it comes to scheduling visits with the kids. He also claims an arbitrator failed to require Kate to provide documentation of the children’s expenses.

The Gosselins appeared on the TLC reality show “Jon & Kate Plus 8” until their marriage fell apart last year. They divorced in December.

Kate’s attorney, Mark Momjian has commented that Jon Gosselin’s filing seeking primary custody of his eight children is “defective on a number of levels.”  Momjian is preparing a response to the filing.

Jon is asking that the Pennsylvania court, among other things, “set an appropriate custody schedule that is in the best interests of the children” and review the current child support agreement.

Jon filed the complaints just weeks after Kate’s first appearance on “Dancing with the Stars.”  Kate is returning to TV along with her eight children for a show titled “Kate Plus 8” and another series called “Twist of Kate.”