October 27, 2011

Could Your Small Business Survive A Divorce?

Posted in Divorce tagged at 8:11 am by demetriagraves

There are many couples who are running small businesses together and it’s not uncommon for them to be faced with big decisions as to how best position the company for success.  What happens, however, when the couple decides that it is time to end their personal relationship and divorce becomes a serious reality and not just a possibility? Many couples find that being both husband and wife and business partners can be challenging. That challenge is increased several times over when a divorce works its way into the business relationship.

According to information from the National Federation of Independent Business, there are more than one million husband-and-wife partnerships running businesses nationwide. When divorce becomes a reality, the couple, their legal representation and even the judge can have a tough time sorting through all the material.

For those who may not know, divorce law is centered on the idea of marital property, whereby, anything acquired during a marriage is in all likelihood consider marital property.

In the event the husband or wife was running the business and the other spouse was at home raising kids or working elsewhere, it does not matter. The law will look at this scenario as the partner not inside the business still in some manner contributed to its success. That being the case, the person more removed from the business is still entitled to their fair share of the company, oftentimes half.  In instances where one individual had the business prior to the marriage, but kept it during the married relationship, any increase in revenue during the couple’s time together is viewed as marital property.

So what are some of the possibilities that can come out of a divorce involving business partners? Among the three most common are:

  • Buyouts – While some divorced couples do continue working together, many find it’s not doable. If that is the case in your situation, would you consider a buyout of your business partner? An accountant can help provide you with the financial details of such a decision, whether in fact it will all be done at once or over time. Remember, however, losing one of the partners could have a major impact on the business, so think it through.
  • Staying in business together – While this one may not be at the top of your choice list, it can prove amicable in some instances. Given the fact you are not likely a very rich and large corporation, it doesn’t mean you cannot put in place a board of directors for the business. By doing so, you get an unbiased opinion (hopefully they’re not playing favorites) and can move along and do what is best for the company.
  • Putting the business up for sale – This can be an unpopular decision, but sometimes it is best for all parties involved. It is important for divorcing couples to remember that less than 50 percent of small business put up for sale actually sell. Selling the business should be a last option given that you have hopefully been successful financially up to now with it. If the business is bringing in good revenues, both parties may be advised to work out a situation so that scenario can continue.

At the end of the day, both involved parties need to ask themselves if they could see a scenario where they could be divorced from one another, yet continue to work together on a regular basis.

If you are considering a divorce but aren’t sure of your options I offer a free initial consultation where I can answer all your questions and help you determine the best way to proceed.

October 20, 2011

California Passes Divorce Law For Same Sex Couples

Posted in Divorce, Family Law tagged , at 7:23 am by demetriagraves

The California legislature has just passed a bill, which was signed into law in October by Governor Jerry Brown that allows same-sex couples to divorce who got married in California but now reside in another State. Or couples that have always resided in another State but came to California to get married when same-sex marriage was available in California and are now wanting a divorce but are unable to get a divorce in their home State. The bill is titled SB (Senate Bill) 651.

One aspect of the battle over same-sex marriage has been the lack of access to divorce courts for same-sex married couples that reside in non-recognition states. Judges in many states have refused to grant divorces to lesbian or gay couples who went elsewhere to get married or have relocated from the state in which they got married, on the grounds that granting a divorce would constitute a form of official recognition of their marriage. Most of these couples are not asking a judge to grant them any property or spousal support based upon their marriage, since they’ve usually already settled those issues – they just want to get an order of dissolution. And the couples have good reasons for wanting the court order. Even if they have resolved their financial affairs, they need to get a divorce so they can be free of future liabilities and so they will be able to marry or legally partner a new romantic interest.

The legal origin of these problems stems from what is referred to as the “domicile” rule, which means couples ordinarily can only get divorced in the state in which they reside at the time of their break-up, regardless of where they lived when they got married. The purpose of this rule, which goes back more than a century, is to prevent nasty spouses from evading the divorce rules of the state they live in, by simply hopping across the state line to get a divorce in another state. For example, if a husband in New York didn’t like the property rules imposed on him by the New York court, it would be unfair to his wife if he could simply drive a few miles away to a more lenient state and file for divorce there.
While these rules may make sense for heterosexual couples who can always get a divorce in whatever state they live in, they wreak havoc for couples who live in states that won’t grant them a divorce under any conditions – even if they’ve reached a property settlement with their spouse. This is a vivid example of where the denial of the right to marry ends up as a denial of the right to get a divorce.
The new law will go into effect in January 2012. It provides that if a couple got married in California but lives in a state that won’t grant them a divorce (which is presumed if the state doesn’t recognize their marriage), the California court will have jurisdiction to grant them a dissolution. The divorce case will be filed in the county where the couple got married, and the dissolution is supposed to be adjudicated “in accordance with California law.”
There is a lot that remains unresolved in this new legislation, especially what it means to adjudicate a divorce in accordance with California law if the spouses are not residents. But for those who have been able to reach their own private settlement agreement, this will enable them at least to obtain a formal dissolution. And, while there is also some uncertainty on the details, chances are the dissolution will be honored in other states, even non-recognition states. This will allow the ex-spouses to enter into contracts as a formerly married person, and to be treated once again as an unmarried person.

October 13, 2011

Steps to Take If You’re Planning a Divorce

Posted in Divorce, Family Law tagged , at 12:11 pm by demetriagraves

Some couples who postponed getting a divorce because of the poor economy are finding they can no longer wait. If you’re among those planning to leave your marriage, there are important steps to take as soon as possible.

1. Get informed. In some marriages, one spouse handles the finances and the other has limited knowledge about the family’s assets. Copy print documents and computerized records about all of your family’s financial assets as early in the process as you can. Sometimes when your spouse learns you have hired an attorney, that’s when documentation can disappear.
2. Move money from joint accounts. Consider transferring some money from joint accounts into an account in your own name if you have little or no funds in your individual accounts. This ensures that you have money for groceries and other necessities in the event your spouse removes funds or limits your access to joint accounts. This is especially important if your credit cards and other accounts are all held jointly, as your spouse might close them in retaliation for you seeking a divorce. Make sure you talk to your attorney first before making this decision, however.
3. Consider whether you need to close joint accounts. If your partner is spending money wildly on drugs or indulgences, consider closing or canceling your joint accounts so your spouse cannot run up unpaid balances.
4. Try to talk constructively with your spouse. See if you can have a logical, thoughtful, and constructive conversation with your spouse about your lives after divorce, especially if you have children. Go to your attorneys with any ideas you have for moving forward.
5. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, file a domestic violence complaint to document what’s been happening at home. You can go to the clerk’s office at the courthouse to file or after hours you can call the police or go to the magistrate’s office. The judge or magistrate can sign a temporary restraining order removing your spouse from the home and protecting you until the matter can be heard with all parties present. If the judge then believes the allegations of abuse, he or she can sign a protective order that is in effect for one year.
6. Do not let verbal arguments get out of hand. I see good people who wouldn’t be inclined to domestic violence end up there. If you start having a heated argument, walk away before there is any shoving, grabbing or physical contact whatsoever. Don’t say things you’ll regret later.
7. Avoid arguments with your spouse in front of your children. What you say about your marriage or spouse in front of the kids could damage them for a lifetime. If you love your children, keep your adult problems adult and don’t involve the kids.
8. Sometimes, litigation is not the answer. Consider alternative ways of resolving disputes, such as mediation or collaborative law. These methods lessen the pain for you and your children. Hire an attorney who will help solve your problems and get results, someone who sincerely wants to help you resolve the case without painful and expensive litigation if that is possible.

If you’d like more information on the best way to proceed. I offer a free initial consultation where you can get your questions answered.

August 26, 2011

Divorce Pranks

Posted in Divorce tagged at 12:13 am by demetriagraves

Divorce pranks seem to be a growing trend, but unfortunately while it seems that they may make you feel better in the short term, the long-term consequences can be very damaging and it won’t help your case. There’s been a lot of recent media attention regarding a divorce prank carried out by Danny Larivière who was ordered to haul away the boulder he’d gleefully dumped on his ex-wife’s driveway just a day earlier. Plucked from a quarry and lugged by front-end loader in the dead of night, the 20-ton rock was spray-painted with fluorescent orange birthday wishes for “Isa,” then topped with a pink bow. “She never had a rock big enough for her tastes, now she has one,” was Mr. Larivière’s response. The prank has earned Mr. Larivière possible mischief and harassment charges – another ugly turn in his lengthy, acrimonious split from former wife Isabelle Prévost.

Couples who are going through a divorce process, often find it’s the worst time in their lives and sometimes the pressure gets to them and they do things they wouldn’t normally do. Like taking hammers and screwdrivers to a spouse’s car.  Another common prank is strewing their exes’ lawns with garbage or playing hide-and-seek with precious items. Or running up huge bills on joint credit cards.
While Mr. Larivière’s boulder stunt has been widely treated as a gag, the recipient rarely sees it that way. They see this as an invasion of privacy, or that their former spouse is unhinged, somehow. This story is a powerful example of how family litigation can leave an enduring legacy of bitterness, despite the outcome. This is not a joke – this was retribution, this was a public humiliation of the wife, despite the fact that the court case ended last year and the husband won joint custody.
So why do spouses do it? The party that is doing the pranks often feels like they are the victim. They’re not getting the vindication they’re looking for, especially in the division of assets. While pranks can bring temporary euphoria to the mischievous spouse, they can also have dire consequences for litigation and spousal support. All of these things typically backfire. They’ll look very bad to a judge, and I always urge my clients to take the high road. Divorce pranks should be avoided in all circumstances.

August 18, 2011

Stay at Home Parents Finances During Divorce

Posted in Divorce tagged at 8:51 pm by demetriagraves

What happens financially, if you find your marriage is breaking down and you’re not the the primary bread winner? This is a question many people find themselves asking. Last year there were approximately five million stay-at-home mothers in the United States. Plus it seems that the numbers of stay-at-home fathers are on the rise. The Census Bureau estimates the the number at 159,000, which has tripled over the last decade. Some say that’s a gross underestimation, because it fails to account for nearly 2 million more fathers who are now primary caregivers due to the recession as well as fathers who only work part-time so they can still care for their children.

Whatever the exact numbers, stay-at-home parents are vulnerable to substantial financial risk during divorce. There have even been reports that unemployed men face a greater danger of being left by their wives, particularly working wives. And though a wife’s employment status had no bearing on risk, neither does the law provide stay-at-home parents sufficient protections either, especially under our unilateral divorce laws.

In practical terms, if the breadwinner leaves, the first risk faced is lack of immediate access to funds. Even if you have a joint bank account, your spouse might decide to open a new one in which to deposit paychecks. Joint stock or savings accounts may require joint approval for withdrawals. This could leave stay-at-home parents hostage for money until they are able to secure a temporary order of support as well as funds with which to defend themselves.

New York recently recognized the inherent unfairness of this financial disparity when it came to the ability to defend oneself in a lawsuit for divorce. It amended its domestic relations laws to establish a rebuttable presumption that the monied spouse be required to pay for the non-monied spouse’s attorney and experts during the pendency of litigation. In other states, stay-at-home spouses without independent means are generally subject to the proper exercise of discretion by the judicial system to award them sufficient funds both to defend themselves and for support.

The financial risk stay-at-home parents face when it comes to spousal support can be even more troubling. When no-fault was instituted, permanent spousal support awarded to spouses who had given up their careers to become stay-at-home parents began to fall out of favor, permanent spousal support being deemed incompatible with the clean break idea behind no-fault. Unless you’re the victim of spousal abuse or have been married ten years or longer, or have physical or mental disabilities. Even then it is limited in amount and cannot exceed three years. Then there’s all the issues of child custody and child support to be worked out.

When you start looking at all these factors it can seem overwhelming. This is why you should consult with an experienced Family Law Attorney, sooner rather than later if you find yourself in a situation where there might be a divorce on the horizon. This will help make sure that you and your family are protected and you can weather the financial storm that can often accompany divorce proceedings. I offer a free initial consultation where you can get your questions answered.

August 4, 2011

Divorcing – Important Financial Steps

Posted in Divorce tagged at 2:28 pm by demetriagraves

When working with clients who are considering divorce, many people say that, they don’t know where to start and of course, embarking on a divorce is a major step in one’s life and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Often, clients I work with are concerned about protecting their assets and the financial implications of a divorce. So I thought I’d cover some important financial steps that should be considered as vital preparation steps when deciding to move forward with a divorce.
1. Take inventory of all financial documents and records. It’s critical that you immediately gather all your financial records, including bank account information, mortgage statements, credit card bills, wills, trusts, etc. Make copies, and then find a secure place to keep them. Don’t keep these records in your home. Take copies to a trusted friend/family member, or use a safe deposit box that your spouse can’t access.
2. Begin securing funds for legal and other professional fees. If your spouse controls all access to the family funds, this can make it difficult (if not impossible) for you to have the resources necessary to get the legal help you may need. Unfortunately, choking off the money supply is a common tactic, one that often forces one spouse to sign a divorce settlement agreement that is totally lopsided in the other spouse’s favor. Avoid this kind of financial squeeze. Be proactive. Make sure you have funds that are secure and available only to you.
3. Open new accounts in your name. Don’t use the bank where you have your joint accounts. Go to a different bank, and open a new checking and savings account in your name. Your divorce attorney may instruct you to withdraw up to half of your joint funds (state law will dictate what you can and cannot do), and you’ll need to deposit those funds in your new accounts. Open a new credit card account in your name, too. Proceed with caution, but do proceed –moving forward as a single person will require that you establish good credit and solid financial footing.
4. Get a copy of your credit report. And, consider monitoring it, too. By keeping an eye on your credit report, you’ll know if your spouse is running up charges on any joint credit cards, or if they’re dissipating marital assets in some other way. Plus, you’ll also be able to keep tabs on your all-important credit score.
5. Open a post office box. Once you have hired a divorce attorney and have opened new accounts in your name, etc., you’ll be receiving mail that you will want to keep confidential.  Open a post office box, and give yourself peace-of-mind knowing that your mail is being delivered to a secure, locked box that only you can access.
6. Change your will, medical directives/living will, etc. Most states won’ t allow you to completely disinherit your spouse until after the divorce is final. But, you can take steps to prevent them from making medical decisions on your behalf or inheriting all of your assets should you die before the divorce agreement is signed. Remember, you’ll also want to change beneficiaries on life insurance policies, IRAs, etc.
At first, divorce can seem overwhelming. But, completing these six steps will go a long way to help you feel more in control and better equipped to make thoughtful, reasoned decisions. You want to emerge from divorce in the best shape possible, with your assets protected and a sound long-term financial plan in place. If you are considering divorce and would like some more advice on what’s involved and how best to move forward, I offer a free initial consultation where you can get all your questions answered.

July 29, 2011

NewlyDivorcedDating.com

Posted in Divorce tagged at 4:24 pm by demetriagraves

Many of my clients who go through divorce want to make a fresh start and often that involves the desire to date again and find a new partner. So I’m excited to to let you know about a new website that is launching soon called NewlyDivorcedDating.com. Here’s a press release from NewlyDivorcedDating.com that gives you more information.

NewlyDivorcedDating.com, the Newest Social Networking Site to hit the Internet, set to go Live August 26, 2011

NewlyDivorcedDating.com was created in 2008. The Company was started out of personal experience and an ever-growing trend developing in the United States.  According to the Enrichment Journal the Divorce Rate in America for first, second, and third Marriages are as follows:

41% for first marriages,

60% for second marriages, and

73% for third marriages.

When people get or go through a divorce break up and/or separation there are certain challenges you are faced with. One of the main challenges that everyone faces and dreads no matter who what is, dating!  After being out of dating scene, in some cases many years, people can find it extremely hard to adapt and learn how to survive.  That’s when the idea of NewlyDivorcedDating.com was born.

NewlyDivorcedDating.com helps bridge the gap between our Members and the Dating world by giving individuals a safe and secure place to search for love, companionship, friendship, or just someone to talk to who understands what divorced individuals have been through or are going through.  However NewlyDivorcedDating.com did not stop at dating.  As we conducted more research we found that dating was not the only major challenge associated with divorce, break up, and/or separation.  Individuals needed access to resources like, Divorce Attorneys, Therapist, Real Estate Agents, Fitness Consultants, and much more.  The second aspect of NewlyDivorcedDating.com focuses on providing a repository of proven Resources to help make the transition to post divorce life as smooth as possible.  The last and one of the most important goals of NewlyDivorcedDating.com is for our Members to have fun.  Dating is supposed to be fun and we are here to eliminate some of the challenges so you can focus on finding a new relationship and have fun during your search.

Individuals that are interested in learning more about NewlyDivorcedDating.com or becoming a Member, can visit http://www.newlydivorceddating.com.  If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns please send them to info@newlydivorceddating.com.  Thank you and we look forward to you becoming a part of our Community.

July 14, 2011

Cheaters Beware – GPS Tracking Upheld by Court

Posted in Divorce, Family Law tagged , at 5:52 pm by demetriagraves

A New Jersey appeals court recently ruled that straying spouses tracked by GPS does not constitute an invasion of their privacy.

County Sheriff’s Officer Kenneth Villanova, sparked the debate when he sued his wife for invasion of privacy during their divorce proceedings, claiming the GPS invaded his right to privacy and caused him “substantial and permanent emotional distress.”
Initially, the officer included private investigator, Richard Leonard, hired by Mrs. Villanova, but dropped his suit against the wife and pursued the private eye. Apparently Leonard recommended Mrs. Villanova buy the device after he was unable to tail the police officer on his own. Two weeks after the device was installed, Leonard caught the officer leaving a driveway with another woman.
Appellate Judges Joseph Lisa, Jack Sabatino and Carmen Alvarez said no direct evidence proved the GPS, installed in the plaintiff’s glove compartment for 40 days before he noticed it, captured Villanova in any secluded places where he had a right to expect privacy. The device only tracked Villanova’s movements on public streets, and that information was then passed on to Leonard via Villanova’s wife, said Judge Lisa.
There are currently no state laws governing the use of GPS tracking devices. Villanova’s suit was the first of its kind.
This ruling does not affect law enforcement officers, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit that will determine whether police need to obtain a warrant signed by a judge before installing GPS trackers on the citizen’s vehicles.
Following an arrest and conviction on cocaine charges, Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. nightclub owner, argued that the warrantless use of the GPS device clearly violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed and tossed Jones’ conviction in August 2010 “because it was obtained with evidence procured in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Jones asserted that police used a GPS device to track his every move for at least a month prior to his arrest. The Amendment, which falls under the Bill of Rights, also requires law enforcement officers to have probable cause in order to secure search warrants. A ruling on the matter, which the Obama Administration disagrees with, is expected by October.

July 2, 2011

Gay Marriage & Divorce in NY

Posted in Divorce tagged , at 4:00 pm by demetriagraves

The New York Senate has now approved same-sex marriage – joining New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and the District of Columbia – two years after a similar bill had been defeated. New York is the largest state to allow couples of the same sex to marry. State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat in his first year of office. Twenty-nine states have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage, and 12 others have laws barring such marriage.

As New York’s same-sex couples head to the altar to celebrate their newly won right to marry, they can take comfort in the fact that, if it doesn’t work out, their right to get divorced in the state just got a lot easier as well. With New York state being the last state to introduce ‘no fault’ divorce last year. Officials predict that about 21,000 gay and lesbian couples will marry in New York in the next three years. Based on the state’s current divorce rate, about 1,800 of those marriages will fail. Courts in the state already allow gay divorces there because the state recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere.

In fact, same-sex divorce was first recognized in New York in 2008, when an appeals court found that a same-sex marriage performed in Canada could be legally recognized in New York for the purposes of dissolving the union. But without a formal law on the books, same-sex divorce in the state has proceeded on a case-by-case basis, creating some degree of uncertainty for same-sex couples looking to undo their unions. Since same-sex marriages are now legally equivalent to heterosexual unions, same-sex couples’ right to divorce will be rooted in New York’s Domestic Relations Law, rather than cobbled together out of court rulings and individual judges’ decisions. If same-sex couples married in New York leave the state, however, they may run into trouble getting a divorce, especially if they end up in one of the 30 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Interestingly enough, same-sex relationships are no more susceptible to divorce than their heterosexual counterparts. According to a 2008 report from the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, annual same-sex marriage divorce rates were about 2 percent, nearly identical to the rate for opposite-sex marriage.

One issue that remains unresolved by the same-sex marriage vote is child custody, where one partner is a biological parent but the other has failed to adopt the child.

June 15, 2011

Divorce Do-Over

Posted in Divorce tagged at 11:26 pm by demetriagraves

Wouldn’t it be nice to get a divorce do-over if you’re not happy with the outcome. Like when you paint a room, and then decide later that you just can’t stand the color and need to repaint. Or when you have your hair done but the final result doesn’t really meet your expectations. So you visit another hair stylist and hope for a better result. But, as you might expect, in divorce, it’s not so easy to “try again.” In divorce, no one usually gets a do-over. Of course, some people have a hard time accepting the kind of finality that comes along with a signed settlement.
An interesting case that raises the question of a divorce do-over is the divorce between Steven Simkin and Laura Blank. This case seemed to be more or less standard-fare when it was settled back in 2006 – despite the fact that he is a partner at one of the country’s most prominent and powerful law firms and the division of property involved millions of dollars of assets. Like most non-celebrity divorces, it’s likely that this one would have stayed out of the limelight, except for one thing: Steven Simkin is now requesting a do-over.
After the divorce, Simkin continued to keep a sizeable amount of money invested with Bernard Madoff. By contrast, Blank was no longer interested in keeping any of her money with Madoff, and she opted instead to receive her divorce settlement proceeds in cash (some $6.6 million).
Although Simkin continued to invest with Madoff after the divorce was finalized, now that the Ponzi scheme has been exposed, he’s arguing that he is the victim of fraud. Reportedly, Simkin’s assets have diminished considerably and as a result, he has filed court papers to revise the terms of his divorce settlement.
The cornerstone of Simkin’s suit is a legal term called “mutual mistake”, by which an error of both parties to a contract leads to the identical misconception concerning a past or existing fact. But, is this contract law principle enough to cancel the terms of a divorce settlement? Divorces are settled every day based on an estimation of asset value. Every day, asset evaluations are completed.  Terms are set. Compromises are made. Divisions are agreed to. Divorces are finalized.
Of course, in certain cases spousal support and child support can be modified(either up or down) when due to a substantial change in financial circumstances. However, changing a property settlement agreement and the division of assets was thought to be impossible. However, this case seems to be changing that view. At first, a trial judge dismissed Simkin’s suit. However, that decision was reversed by a New York Appellate Court that ruled 3-2 in favor of Simkin.
So the case is back in the courts again and many now see it as a landmark test for contract law. If the Simkin-Blank settlement can be re-opened, why can’t others? Every divorce settlement involves the evaluation of current assets, and there’s an implicit understanding that the value of certain assets may change over time. Can settlements be revised whenever one party suffers a loss? What happens when one party benefits from a significant gain?
Stay tuned. This case has intrigued family law attorneys and other divorce professionals for months, and it looks as though the debate is going to continue for some time.

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