January 20, 2010
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.
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.
June 19, 2009
Should You Avoid Divorce For Sake of the Children?
Marriage, Divorce… and the Effect on the Children
People fall in love, get married, have kids, and then… they’re out of love, but they still have the marriage and the kids. You can get a divorce. The marriage can be dissolved so that the legal ties that bind are no longer there to hold unhappy and unwilling partners together. However, your children will always be a connection the two of you will share.
It’s a tricky question of whether to avoid divorce or separation just for the sake of the children, however. Recently on the “Today” show website http://today.msnbc.msn.com a contributor, Dr. Ruth Peters, wrote an article titled “Should you stay together for the kids?” www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13924018/ It’s a good look at the complicated issues that can affect your decision.
Marriage, Divorce… and the Effect on the Rest of the Family
Myself, I think that if you’re unhappy and engaging in an unhealthy relationship, you are teaching your children that it’s ok to be unhappy and to have unhealthy relationships. How you live your life will affect your children more than giving them an occasional talk that includes “Do as I say, not as I do.”
One Good Co-Parenting Link
Every county in Minnesota requires that divorcing parents take a class on co-parenting after divorce. Hennepin County lists its on its website the www.courts.state.mn.us/district/4/?page=647 Divorce Education Requirements page . www.courts.state.mn.us/district/4/?page=647
This education requirement is not about teaching you how to parent: you obviously have figured that out by this point. The class will teach you how to effectively co-parent with someone you are no longer married to, which is far more important than people often anticipate. The class is more than worth the time you will spend in it. My clients often come back and tell me that they wish they could make their former spouse attend the class three more times.
Moore Family Law, P.A.
June 16, 2009
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!
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.