By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

Here are some bizarre divorce settlements to consider from CNN.com:

  • Zsa Zsa Gabor claimed that she received 5,000 Gideon Bibles as part of her divorce from hotel mogul Conrad Hilton.
  • In a story that sounds like a plotline from Boston Legal, a British Court rejected a husband’s demand that his wife give him back the kidney that he gave to her some years before.
  • Nobel-laureate economist Robert Lucus had to give up half the cash prize from his Nobel Prize in 1995 to his ex-wife. Had he received the prize in 1996, the terms of the divorce settlement would have given him exclusive rights to the prize money.

If there is any lesson to be learned by these bizarre stories, it’s that a divorce settlement can include just about any term, provided that the parties can agree on a price.

MySpace, Facebook and Divorce 

Social Networking and Child Custody

When parents divorce, they often have to find new ways to communicate with each other about their children.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to pass a notebook along with the children when they go for parenting time.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to set up an account at   ourfamilywizard   to keep track of important dates on a shared schedule. 

 MySpace and Facebook

One thing that is NOT a good idea, however, is to use online social networking services, such as Facebook or MySpace     as a soap box to talk about your former spouse in a negative way. 

 Social networking sites allow you to share content with family, friends, colleagues, strangers, anyone with access to the internet.  There is great potential to help you keep in touch with people, but it also has great potential to help you alienate people and look like the worst possible parent. 

 I urge you to resist the temptation to find out where your former spouse is posting online, and even more, I urge you to resist the temptation to respond to anything he or she posts.  Do not start a passive aggressive flame war by posting on YOUR site in reaction to something posted on his or her site.  There is no good that can come of this. 

 Take the High Road during your Divorce or Child Custody Case

If you need to vent, do so over the telephone or a cup of coffee to a friend or trusted family member.  Do not post it publicly and permanently on a website where people will see and judge you for it.  People do not know your whole history, and posting a one-word essay on the unfitness of your former spouse is not likely to make anyone agree with you – they are more likely to turn against you.

 Social networking gives you the opportunity to practice taking the high road, and to make choices that are concerned with the best interest of your children.  That includes refraining from fighting or vilifying the other parent in a way that will only vilify yourself.

A Family Law Lawyer Comments on Michael Jackson and Child Custody 

Michael Jackson and Child Custody

With the death of Michael Jackson, there has been significant speculation as to what will happen with the custody of his three children.  In his will, Jackson designated his mother as the children’s guardian.  However, a guardianship designation in a will does not supersede the rights of a parent.   As to the two older children, at least, the children’s mother, Debbie Rowe, may have superior rights to Jackson’s mother.   Ultimately, the California Court will have to determine if it would be detrimental to the children’s best interests to be placed in the custody of Ms. Rowe.  See this story on the BBC:  Michael Jackson Child Custody

 Debbie Rowe and Child Custody

At this time, there is no custody dispute.  Ms. Rowe has filed no suit, and the children are in the custody of Jackson’s mother.  As a family law attorney, I am happy to say that parents are usually motivated by the best interests of the children in these circumstances.   If a parent has not been part of the child’s life for a significant period of time, they may not be motivated to step in if there is a more suitable custodian.  They may, on the other hand, want to negotiate some quality time with the children.   In this case, even if Ms. Rowe does not want custody of the children, the death of their father may provide her with an opportunity that didn’t exist prior to Jackson’s death to be part of her children’s life.  

 Of course, there is a potential jackpot here, since Jackson’s estate may provide the children’s custodian with access to a very large amount of cash.  

 Finally, since Ms. Rowe is not the biological parent of Jackson’s youngest child, who was the product of a surrogacy arrangement, additional complications may surface.    

Jennifer Moore
Moore Family Law, P.APlymouth, MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com

 

Meeting Your Attorney 

The Initial Consultation

When you are dealing with any legal matter, — divorce, child custody, estate planning, or something else; you will of course have to meet your lawyer.  While every attorney handles this meeting in his or her own way, here is one take on how that meeting would proceed.  

First, you’ll have to find their office!  Be sure to ask, or to map it, or to get directions on the phone.  You do not want to be late to this meeting or arrive flustered by a frustrating chase around unfamiliar streets looking for an office.  Some attorneys do make house calls or visit you at some spot convenient for you, but most prefer to meet you in their office.  That this is “their turf” and not yours may be part of their approach, in order to ensure that you are capable of making some commitment to what can be an exhausting, long-term, and expensive relationship – hopefully resulting in you prevailing in your lawsuit, obtaining your divorce, drawing up and instituting your estate plan.  Your prospective attorney may want to see if you’re up to at least some inconvenience and effort on your own part. 

First Impressions Matter to You – And to Your Lawyer

OK, you’re in their office.  Pay attention.  Are you greeted immediately and courteously?  Are you expected?  Is this place like the offices on “Boston Legal” or “L.A. Law?”  Probably not!  So, being realistic, you’ll want to assess this first impression when you decide to employ this attorney – or not. 

The first person you meet may be your attorney, a paralegal, or an office staffer.  You may be handed a form to fill out, offered coffee, tea, or bottled water.  You may be asked if you have brought any paperwork relating to your matter.  Eventually – hopefully soon! – You will be invited into your prospective attorney’s office.  

Bear in mind that the law is not just about statute, litigation, and precedent.  It is also a very psychological matter – so you’d be advised to be aware not only of your intellectual, mental interaction with this person; but also of how you feel about him or her.  Do you have a battle ahead over, say, child support?  If so, do you want a lawyer who is a compromiser / nice guy; a battleaxe / bulldog; or something unique you can’t quite put your finger on yet?    

How Your Family Law Attorney Might Proceed

She would ask what brought you to her, giving you a chance to expand upon your motivation; and asking more directed questions to bring out what might be important to your cause.  It’s a back and forth question and answer format.  The law can be abstruse and non-common-sensical at times, so by all means ask questions back.  The point is to build some trust between you now, if possible. 

She will talk about the attorney – client relationship and confidentiality. 

She will outline what she sees your case to be and give some generic raw legal advice.  You cannot expect her to lay out her entire role for you here – especially since the initial client interview is often free to you.  This is an interview in both directions, actually:  you are trying to see if she is the attorney for you; and so is she. 

She will talk about the legal process you face.  In some jurisdictions and for some types of law this can be very standardized; in others, not. 

She will talk about two basic strategies in almost any case:  settlement (no trial) or trial.  Neither one is perfect and both typically involve both some work and some compromise.  

The attorney will explain the business of the law.  You have to pay the fee to get the advocacy you need.  

Finally, the lawyer and you will end the interview.  He or she will let you know what follow up you can expect – usually a letter or email. 

Is This the Lawyer for You?

That’s it!  Now, it’s time for you to make a choice – this attorney?  Another?  Drop the whole plan?  Good luck! 

Thomas Moore

Office Manager

www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth, Minnesota

Thomas.Moore@MooreFamilyLawMN.com

JON AND KATE DIVORCE?

June 16, 2009

JON AND KATE DIVORCE? 

There’s been a lot of news about Jon and Kate Gosselin, the parents of sextuplets and twins who have documented their life on TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus Eight (http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/jon-and-kate/jon-and-kate.html).  It’s juicy gossip.  Jon is accused of infidelity.  Kate is accused of having a volatile temper.  It appears they are headed for divorce.    Lime Life reports they spent their 10th Anniversary apart.  http://www.limelife.com/blog-entry/Jon-and-Kate-Gosselins-10-Year-Anniversary-Apart/6438.html.  The National Register claims that Jon wants to quit the show. http://www.nationalledger.com/artman/publish/article_272626504.shtml

 Would Jon Get Child Custody? 

It’s all great gossip.  What makes the potential for divorce particularly enticing for the gossip mill is that there is a good chance that Jon, a stay-at-home father, would assume primary custody of the children.  Kate has been spending a lot of time away from home on business related to her books and publicity for the show, while Jon has stayed home to care for the children.  Kate is also rumored to be a less than ideal parent–although I have a hard time judging anyone’s parenting skills, much less a mother of eight young children.  

What About Jon and Kate’s Marital Property?

In all likelihood, Jon’s infidelity is less important to a court than Kate’s parenting skills.  But, how do you value the Gosselin estate?   How do you split it up? 

As we obtain more information, I will attempt to interpret it here.  

Jennifer Moore
www.MooreFamilyLawMN.com

Plymouth,  MN
jennifer.moore@moorefamilylawMN.com