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Celebrity Divorce Wrap-Up

Divorce is not something to be made light of. It is a long and painful process for most who have the misfortune of undergoing such. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that we’re all just human and that it happens with people of all walks of and statuses in life. This is why it’s sometimes important to note celebrities who have in fact been divorced. It reminds us that even the accomplished and famous are subject to the same laws of reality as the rest of us. So without further ado, here is the latest scoop.

Adam Arkin (Sons of Anarchy) and wife Phyllis Lyons have filed for divorce.  Phyllis Lyons has cited irreconcilable differences and is attempting to prevent Arkin from seeking spousal support.  They have an 8-year-old son together and have been married since 1998.

Famed art collector Charles Saatchi and celebrity Chef Nigella Lawson soon to divorce.  This one is less amicable than most celebrity divorces as Saatchi was seen ‘choking’ Lawson in June. According to Saatchi, the photos of him grasping her throat were misinterpreted and Lawson failed to defend him on this.

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Fighting Like Cats and Dogs: Pet Custody in a Divorce

Many of us consider our pets to be like our children. We don’t think of them as property, but as a member of the family; so when a couple divorces, the question arises: who gets to keep the family pet? We have seen this issue played out in the media when celebrities get divorced. For example, when Britney Spears and her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, divorced in 2006, they had a bitter battle over custody of their two dogs.

How do courts handle this sensitive topic of who gets to keep the beloved family pet? Under the strict interpretation of the law, a pet is considered to be personal property and is treated like any other property such as a car or microwave. However, courts are beginning to treat pets as more than just property. Judges are taking into consideration what is in the best interest for the dog, as they would with a child custody case. Although rare, some courts will even grant joint pet custody to the separating spouses. In these cases, the couple must come to an agreement regarding issues such as vet care, travel arrangements, doggie daycare, and end-of-life decisions.

While some judges still base their decision on who originally acquired the animal, the trend seems to be changing towards awarding the pet to the individual that can provide the best life for that animal. This includes taking into consideration each spouse’s financial security, time available for taking care of the pet, and a strong emotional bond between the dog and the owner.

One way to avoid a bitter dispute over pets is to include them in your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. This will ensure that the issue of pet custody is already settled in the event of a separation or divorce.

Dividing Real Estate in a Divorce

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In addition to child support, alimony, and child custody, one of the major issues that comes up during a divorce is how to divide real estate between the two soon to be ex-spouses. To be clear, real estate refers to any land, houses, and buildings that the couple owns.

For most divorcing couples, the primary concern regarding real estate is their house. Which spouse gets to keep the house? How will the other spouse receive their fair share of the property? In most cases, the first item on the agenda is to determine the value of the house. If the house has little or no value due to debt, the house might go to the spouse that is willing to take on the debt. If neither spouse wants the house, they can choose to sell the house and divide the proceeds after all debt has been paid.

In situations where the couple has children, it is common for the children and the parent with primary custody to remain in the house while the other spouse moves out. For this type of arrangement, the spouse that stays in the house will have to find a way to give the other spouse his or her share of the house’s equity. For example, if the mother decides to live in the house with the children, she can refinance the house in order to pay her ex-spouse his share of the house’s equity.

If the couple cannot come to an agreement, the issue can be taken to court and a divorce judge will divide the real estate according to state law. Property and real estate division is handled differently from state to state, but they generally fall under one of two categories: community property or equitable distribution. In a community property division model, property that is owned by both spouses is divided equally, while separate property is awarded to the spouse that owns it. In an equitable distribution model, the property is divided fairly but not always equally between the two spouses. For example, a judge may decide to give the house to the mother because she has primary custody of the children and the father makes significantly more money that she does.

Prenuptial Agreements: Protecting Property Before a Divorce

Unfortunately, we live in a world today where a significant number of divorces occur every year. No one expects that his or her marriage will end in divorce, of course, which is why many couples forgo signing a prenuptial agreement.  We often hear of celebrities getting a prenuptial agreement. It makes sense given the large amounts of money and assets that celebrities often possess. However, celebrities should not be the only ones considering a prenuptial agreement. This legal document can be quite beneficial for the ordinary American couple as well.

In short, a prenuptial agreement lays out the business and financial affairs of a couple if they decide to divorce. For example, a prenuptial agreement can keep certain properties of each spouse separate so that if they do divorce, the ex spouse is unable to claim that particular property. A property can entail almost anything such as interest on retirement accounts, a family heirloom or a family home.

In addition to protecting certain property, a prenuptial agreement can also protect a spouse from being legally responsible for an ex spouse’s debt that was acquired prior to their marriage. This is critical in situations where one spouse has a large amount of debt, while the other spouse does not. A prenuptial agreement would protect the financial future of the spouse who is not in debt.

Certain arrangements cannot be incorporated into a prenuptial agreement. For example, a couple cannot decide issues about child custody or child support in the prenuptial agreement. This is because it is not possible to foresee the circumstances at the time of the divorce. If the separating spouses cannot come to an agreement, the courts will decide on the issues of child custody and child support based on what is in the child’s best interest.

Overall, a prenuptial agreement can save couples time and money, should they decide to get a divorce. It is a useful document that can protect property and also limit the financial obligations for each of the spouses. 

Blending Families

Forming stepfamilies is a common practice nowadays in America. A recent survey claims that about 1/3 of all divorces will form stepfamilies. When you remarry as a divorcee or a widow, most often children will be part of the package, whether they are yours or the other person you have chosen to enter into a domestic partnership or marriage. With this new marriage, you have chosen to take on another family; there will be choices to be made and you may even have to change the way you perceived your married life to be. These choices and new outlooks will have a compound effect on many aspects of your new life with a new family.  While these new changes mean adjustments to everyone involved, there are some things that can help blended families to work towards unity, work out differences, and live together successfully.

The first and most important step is communication. Clear and safe communication outlets need to be established before day one, especially between the biological parents and the step parent. Knowing who the disciplinarian is is a good example. Many children will not listen to the step parent because they are not their biological parent, so it is best if the biological parent be the disciplinarian from the start. Communication needs to be open and honest, and happen regularly. Build trust from the start. Have family meetings to discuss concerns and suggest solutions, as well as to create some family bonding activities.  Also, keep ALL parents involved, whether biological or step. Communicate often with each other and be on the same page. Consistency is important when trying to build a routine within new, blended families.

Rituals are another important thing to remember. Discussing as a family activities in which to do together to build better relationships is a great idea. Resolve to do this and be consistent, making these activities things you do as a family every week. Follow the link to some good ideas for family bonding activities:

http://familylawfacts.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/the-resolutions-of-a-family/

Family Law Terms and Definitions

After perusing the site, you might have questions regarding some of the terms within these articles and how California actually defines these terms. Below is a list of the terms that have been used repeatedly and are good to know as you continue to read up on these topics.

Annulment – the legal invalidation of a marriage or domestic partnership by a court of law; reasons to petition for an annulment include, but are not limited to: the illegal age of consent by one or both parties, temporary insanity of one or both parties, or the possibility that the union was forced.

Child custody – used to describe the relationship of the child/children under the age of 18 after the dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. It includes who the child/children will live after the end of a marriage.

Child support – money that is given by a parent to the other parent to help financially support the child/children.

Domestic partnership – two people who are not married, yet have entered into a permanent, long – term, sexual relationship. They live together and share domestic duties. This type of relationship is common in same – sex relationships. In California, this union is legal once a Declaration of Domestic Partnership is filed by both parties with the Secretary of State.

Domestic violence – any type of emotional, physical, and/or sexual act of violence directed towards a spouse or domestic partner. This includes, but is not limited to: coercion, threats, intimidation, and assault.

Legal Separation – an arrangement made within a court of law, by which both parties of a marriage or domestic partnership agree to remain legally together, yet live apart. Usually couples choose this due to issues within the marriage or domestic partnership, and it gives them the time and space needed to decide whether or not to stay together.

Mediation – the process of negotiation during the dissolution of a marriage whereby an unbiased third party is involved.

Nullity – see annulment.

Parentage – the decision by a court of law as to who the parents of the child/children are that were born within a marriage or domestic partnership.

Paternity – the determination by a court of law as to who the father is of the child/children that were born during a relationship, marriage, domestic partnership, or otherwise.

Spousal and domestic partner support  – also known as alimony, it is the duty set out by a court of law for one of the parties within a marriage or domestic partnership to financially support the other spouse or domestic partner for a given amount of time.

Visitation – a limited form of child custody, whereby one parent is allowed to visit the child/children at a given time, which was predetermined in a court of law. This parent is usually the one who does not have sole custody of the child/children.

Civil Unions vs Marriage: Pros and Cons

A civil union provides a couple the option of enjoying the same basic benefits of marriage.  However, there exists much confusion over what exactly a civil union is.
So, what are the pros and cons of civil unions?

Pros of a Civil Union over marriage
· The same right to federal benefits
· No religious affiliation (which may be a pro for non-religious couples)
· In some cases, civil unions are the only option (same-sex partners for example)
· Civil unions provide an alternative commitment for couples where one or both partners find the concept of marriage daunting

Cons of a Civil Union as opposed to marriage
· Socially, civil unions still don’t convey the same
· Certain unions may only be recognized in that state (same-sex unions for example)
· The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents same-sex couples from receiving federal-level benefits
· No religious affiliation (which may be a pro for religious couples)

On average, the benefits of a civil union are generally less generous than those of an actual marriage (taxes, health insurance, social security survivor benefits for example).

Prenuptial Agreement s – A few Reasons for Them

Some scenarios where a prenuptial agreement is ideal include:

One partner is far wealthier than the other

This ensures that one partner is not simply marrying the other over wealth

Avoiding incursion of debt

A prenuptial agreement can ensure that one partners incurs the other partner’s debt

One partner is a partial business owner

If a marriage ends, the ownership of a business may be “up for grabs,” much to the dismay of company stakeholders.

These are just a few scenarios of course. While a prenuptial agreement may seem unromantic, it’s important to note that the number one cause of marriage failure is finances. A prenuptial agreement can relieve some of the pressure on finances difficult times may impose.

Why Divorce Law?

Unfortunately, divorce law tends to get a bad reputation.  But the fact of the matter is that marriage is in many ways the fabric of our society and its implementation (and the unfortunate dissolution) requires an established law.  A good divorce attorney can actually help this painful transition.  Divorces need not be long, drawn out and combative.  Divorce attorneys provide for many alternatives including collaborative law, which essentially avoids some of the more negative aspects of divorce procedures.

Divorce Rates–Highest and Lowest Divorce Rates by State

Not too long ago, The Wall Street Journal compiled data on divorce rates across states.  Nevada topped the list with the highest divorce rate.  Massachusetts had the lowest.

States with Highest Divorce Rates

  1. Nevada
  2. Arkansas
  3. Wyoming
  4. West Virginia

States with Lowest Divorce Rates

  1. Massachusetts
  2. District of Columbia
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Iowa

Indiana and California divorce rates were not available for this study as divorce rate statistics for California were incomplete.