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Global Guide to Divorce

Jack Jack the Cat

Legal Issues on Divorce

Avoid these Legal Traps in Divorce

It is easy to make some mistakes during divorce and not realize that some rules are being violated. Some common legal traps of divorce that trip up people occur when they do not realize that they are violating basic rules.

During the divorce proceedings, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • A big no-no is taking a child across the state line or out of the country, even during the proceedings. Permission is required from the other parent and a notarized statement if going abroad. I got accused of planning a trip overseas without my ex being informed of it ahead of time. Luckily all of our communication went through a mediator and he resent the original e-mail that he had indeed notified my sons’ father.
  • When selling something that was bought with marital funds, check with your attorney regarding the legality of this first. I apparently violated this by selling my sons’ play structure without my spouse’s permission during divorce. My children and I were moving out of the marital home during our divorce and the realtor said to get rid of it ASAP. I put an ad in the newspaper and let the boys split the $100 received for their play structure. My spouse was livid and my attorney gave me a lecture. I insisted that my ex would have to collect any money he felt that was owed to him, directly from his sons.
  • As you are finalizing your divorce, put as much detail as possible in the divorce decree. It is the little items omitted that can cause bumps in the road when the divorce has been finalized.  Please read more

Using Social Media during Divorce and Beyond

During divorce and family break up be careful what you do on social media and other online sites. It can stop you moving on, and could even mean losing time with your children.

Shared care

You may be selective of what goes on your social media sites, but that does not mean your friends are too. They may be posting party pics from the hen party or birthday bashes. Looking like the party girl is not going to help you look like a responsible parent when making shared care arrangements.

Remember friends may not have strict privacy settings or may share intimate details with their pals. Put on your site, or allow friends to post, only what would be okay for your family to view. If you have a spiteful ex, don’t give him ammunition from social media sites to use against you. Stay off dating sites until the divorce is finalized. I heard of a man who posted on a dating site he was single with no children, when he had two sons. A single family friend spotted it and a copy got to the mum, her solicitor, the sons’ therapist and the custody evaluator. The father ended up with limited visitation and no overnights.

Avoid vengeful and makes disparaging comments about your ex. If he says abusive things to you, or tries to discredit you online, keep a record, in case you need evidence through the courts.

Preparing for Divorce

Your marriage may be turbulent – but you may not be sure if you want to jump ship. Whatever the outcome may be – reconciliation, separation or divorce – there are steps to take in the interim.

–  Get a hold of financial records including tax returns, bank and credit card statements.

Find retirement and investment accounts, plus a life insurance policy. Make copies and put them in a secure place and on a flash drive for easy access. Gather information on loans, mortgage or rent, and other monthly expenses to get a full financial picture. Scrutinize joint credit card statements to see if your spouse has been buying presents or spending marital money on a lover. Some spouses have been successful in getting these expenditures reimbursed during divorce proceedings.

If there seems to be chunks missing, then possibly your spouse has been liquidating assets or “giving” them to family and friends. After the divorce, these “gifts” would be returned to your ex-spouse. During financial disclosure in divorce, a forensic accountant may be brought on board to investigate any financial discrepancies.

Obtain a credit card in your name only. If you have one already, then remove your spouse as a signer on it, if she has that privilege. Having a credit card in one’s name helps to build up a credit rating which is especially crucial once single again. Order a credit report to correct any mistakes, see what the number is, or if your spouse has caused it to take a nose dive for some reason.

If you find yourself in an emergency, then a credit card is invaluable. I could not have managed during the six weeks from when my husband left, until the interim support started, without it.

–  Open a bank account in your name only to ensure that you have access to funds when the divorce commences.

I had not done this, so did not have any cash. I had to ask my mum for a hand-out.  Joint accounts can temporarily be frozen during divorce, so you want to make sure to have a cash fund available.

Set up direct payments from your joint banking account to utilities, mortgage lender, the phone company and other services so they get paid in case it is not frozen during proceedings. It makes life easier if one is not scrambling to pay these before interim support starts. Since I had worked at our jointly owned business, I did not have an income stream to make these payments and received disconnection notices. If they had been automatically paid, this would not have happened.

If you sense that a divorce is imminent, then cut down on expenses and tuck away the amount that you would have spent on lunches out, clothes etc.

Keep close tabs on bank accounts or investment balances, to make sure that your spouse does not withdraw a large amount and then immediately file for divorce. Some savvy women bought themselves gift cards to grocery stores and to other necessary places when feeling that their marriages might be ending soon.

Some women had facelifts and breast implants done while still married right before heading for divorce. A few furious husbands tried to get a partial reimbursement for these procedures, but were denied, since they were done while still married. I put off expensive dental work that I could have done during marriage. It was not covered, so I had a big bill for it when newly divorced.

A little pre-planning can make for a smoother divorce. One’s solicitor will appreciate having financial information right in the beginning of the proceedings.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine



Ways to Negotiate Child Support

States have a formula to determine the amount of child support, but this is not an arbitrary figure. Negotiations can increase this amount. Parents have the right to come to their own agreement on child support and not rely on their state’s guideline. Submit the agreement to the court in order to make it official, in case there is difficulty in collecting it at a later date.

  1. Child support is non-modifiable (no changes allowed) or modifiable (may be changed at a later date). I chose non-modifiable because I did not want to deal with any divorce issues again. If it looks like your spouse might be in for a big promotion, or his artwork is starting to sell, then modifiable may be the right choice. Then you can go to court when this happens to ask for an increase. If your husband has a good job and you think that might change, then you may choose non-modifiable so the rate does not dip. The judge looks at the potential earning ability of both parents as part of determining child support.
  2. If the state’s guideline for child support seems too low, consider working with your spouse on this issue. If you are having a court divorce, it is hard to know how the judge will rule on it. Perhaps a spouse would take a few more household items and artwork in exchange for a slightly higher child support amount. Go online to your state’s “calculator” to get an idea of what to expect before the negotiation. Wish I had done that.
  3. Get documentation and financial records pertaining to your children together for negotiations. Figure out your expenses including your rent (the kid’s shelter), food, clothes and activities to show why you would require a higher rate for support. Offer proof with receipts paid for lessons, activities, and other expenditures relating to the children.  Please read more….

Custody Evaluation during Divorce

What is the Custody Evaluation Process? The whole process takes several weeks before a custody determination or Parenting Plan is done. The Custody Evaluator interviews the parents and children separately. The Custody Evaluator may request that you bring to your first meeting, a history of your marriage, specifics on children, and if there was infidelity or abuse. She is not a therapist and this is not the time to spill your deep, dark secrets. All of you will undergo extensive personality testing, including the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Index).

Do answer these questions honestly and not how you think the Custody Evaluator would want you to. My friend Jerry’s friend administers this MMPI and he took this test as an experiment. First go around, Jerry answered how he thought his friend would like it and what would make him appear great. Then the second time, Jerry did the MMPI honestly, with how he perceived himself. What a difference between the two. The test administrator told Jerry that he got very low marks on the first test. When he answered exactly how he felt, he aced it and was rated a happy, stable person.

When I took the test the thing that helped me to be seen as a “happy person” is that I did my testing outside in a lovely courtyard. The birds were singing, flowers blooming, so I was in a calm state taking these battery of tests. See if you could take your tests outside of the office with nature around you. Do meditate, watch a comedy, or whatever it takes to get you in a calm, centered state before doing each test. The results of these tests help determine shared time in custody, so do not do them in a panic. You may be asked to say what the Rorschach Inkblot pictures seem like to you. If one conjures up several images, do pick the happier one, the circus over a crime scene. Other tests are to draw a picture with each short paragraph, or tell a story around a picture shown. Again pick the more positive ideas for these tests, no blood-sucking zombies, please. A psychologist advises people to think of a happy scenario for each of these stories and drawings. The dos and don’ts of custody evaluation     Please read more…

Tips to Avoid Post-Divorce Complications

Many people expressed surprise that once divorced, the relationships with exes were anything but over. They felt waltzing out of the court room or solicitor’s office meant freedom and a totally new life. Post-divorce experiences with former spouses depend upon many factors, such as being caught up in the blame game, or wanting to extract revenge. Sometimes laying low and staying off your ex’s radar is a viable solution.

Are you giving your former spouse ammunition by spreading your divorce story all over town? My divorce solicitor said “Don’t talk about your ex at all to anyone. Anything said can come back and bite you on the bum.” She does not even share personal aspects about herself to casual friends. This solicitor has witnessed many horror stories with post-divorced people blabbing too much to others. I followed the WWII saying, “Loose lips sink ships” as my motto.

Hazel got slapped with a slander suit months after her divorce. She had been tight lipped post-divorce and did not see this coming. Slander is making false statements about someone else to a third party. Even though the onus is on the person initiating this lawsuit to prove the allegations are false, it still involves time, legal expenses, and stress to the person accused. Slander can lead to defamation which endangers some else’s reputation, job with potential financial loss, and standing in the community. If the person filing a defamation lawsuit proves false statements damaged his livelihood then hefty fines and possible jail time can be given to the former spouse. Do not even whisper any rumors, just keep your mouth shut. Hazel called her collaborative solicitor who could not defend her on this post-divorce charge although helped Hazel get a new one. The new one worked with both parties and drew up a legal gag order for BOTH of them. Hazel guessed the leaks were the two sons who talked to teachers and friends’ parents. Also well-meaning friends defended Hazel to her ex’s co-workers, so a lot of gossip was passed along too. Hazel plugged these leaks by threating her boys and friends to keep quiet. She did most of her confiding after that to a psychologist friend and her life went more smoothly.

Libel is stating false allegations through writing. It also includes oral remarks made through the media, such as radio interviews. Celebrities occasionally sue newspapers for reporting what they say are untrue stories, such as having an affair. Then it is up to that media source to prove that it is a fact. Sometimes there is a private settlement and the celebrity drops the charge. Your solicitor or mediator will strongly warn not to post anything damaging about your former spouse on social media. Just do not mention your ex on any site to avoid possible libel. Do not let anyone take compromising photos of you or post comments that could be misconstrued or misinterpreted on social media. Photos and comments regarding excessive partying on social media can and have been used as evidence post-divorce to go to court to amend custody arrangements. You want to be viewed as the reliable parent you are, and not someone whose priority is mainly elsewhere (nightclubs).

There are abusive ex-partners who do not want to let go no matter what. One way to get out of their web is to relocate if this is feasible. This works well if you moved when getting married, do not have family ties in that city and can work in another locale. Keep your solicitor in the loop if lawsuits seem imminent. Respond, rather than reacting to whatever they may throw at you. One cannot change other people, only one’s own actions and responses. Rejoice when this type of ex-spouse remarries, because their focus may lessen on you. A supportive network and having fun is crucial in maintaining sanity post-divorce.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine







Quit-Claim Deed in Divorce

 A quit-claim deed ends a person’s claim or interest on a property (grantor). The property transfers to the recipient (grantee). In divorce situations when one spouse receives the marital home, then the other spouse often signs a quit-claim deed to make a clear transfer of it. This does not release responsibility for future mortgage payments for the grantor if both spouses’ names are on the mortgage loan. If the grantee reneges on the mortgage, then the loan company can go after the grantor who signed the quit-claim deed. Often, the grantee is required to refinance the house solely in her name during the divorce proceedings, to prevent this possible scenario for the husband at a later date. If you sign a quit-claim deed in your divorce, make sure your name is removed from any outstanding loan on the property.

When Elena bought her husband out of his share of a house jointly owned with her mother, the divorce lawyers had the husband sign a quit-claim deed. The house was completely paid, so no need for refinancing. Her mother owned a small house out of state, so the lawyers had the husband sign a quit-claim deed on that as well. The husband had no ownership interest in that house, but Elena’s lawyer did not want the husband to try to cause any difficulties post-divorce when the mother died.

When there is a business involved, a quit-claim deed is usually signed in a divorce. This may be when one spouse is buying the other out of a jointly owned company. This action is also done when one spouse’s parents own a business and it needs to be clear that their ex son or daughter-in-law will not be able to lay any claims to it post-divorce. A quit-claim deed prevents trouble down the road after  a divorce.

Obtaining a Passport for Your Child in divorce

There are subjects to bring up during the divorce proceedings to make life easier down the road. When  big issues, such as custody and division of property are looming in the forefront, it is easy to forget about smaller ones. If your child’s passport is up for renewal, or a new one needs to be issued, then have your spouse sign a notarized letter right then and there to give you permission to obtain one for minor children. There is a notary in every attorney’s office.

If you had an acrimonious divorce and now you want to take your child out of the country, this could be a touchy situation. If your child is 16 or older then she can get her own passport without both parents’ permission. If under 16, then both parents must go to the passport center together, with the necessary documents, such as a birth certificate. If this is not feassible, then one parent may give notarized permission for the other parent to obtain the passport for their child. If your child is close to 16 and her passport is expiring make sure that there is at least six months left on it. One family was turned away from getting into Argentina when their children had only a few months left on their passports.

If you have a judge involved in your child’s life then the US Passport Agency will allow a judge to send a statement giving permission for just one parent to obtain a passport for a minor. This could be the judge who presided over your divorce case. Your teenager can petition the court herself for the right to have just one parent obtain her passport. In one case a 15 year old had a judge for an unrelated issue. When his father refused to participate in his passport renewal, then that judge wrote a note on official court stationary to the US Passport Agency allowing the child to get a passport with just the mother. The mother had a notarized copy made and carried that with her when she left the country to avoid any complications with customs. When one parent takes a child out of the country, then notarized permission from the other one may be required by the airlines or customs. If you do not have contact with your ex-spouse, then e-mail the court designee (court moniter in my case) and carry their response that they notified the other parent. I took a copy of the court moniter’s e-mail and that worked well.

If you have your child’s passport in your possession and the other parent asks for it to plan a trip, be careful if you think that there could be a risk for kidnapping. Consult your lawyer if you are in this particular circumstance.

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody have distinct differences and it is important to understand these during divorce negotiations.

Sole Custody can be granted to one parent when the other or the partner is abusive or impared.  The courts across the country are moving away from granting this type of custody and are giving Legal Custody to both parents. In sole custody, the  one parent has complete say in the child’s decisions and does not have to consult the other one.  If one parent is completely out of the picture, then this is when sole custody is more likely to be awarded.

Legal Custody is usually granted to both parents and this allows them to make decisions regarding the child’s medical, educational, religious and schooling even if one parent is in jail.  The incarcerated parent can still have imput on the child’s upbringing. When a parent has alcohol or drug abuse, then visitation may be supervised, but legal custody can still be awarded.  If a parent makes important changes, such as a school, the other parent can take that parent to court if he was not consulted in this decision.  Although my children had visitation, I was reprimanded for not informing my son’s father that our child had gotten a job during our divorce. If the other parent is abusive, Legal Custody can still be awarded, with a court mediator being appointed.  Then all communication between parents would go through this person.

Physical Custody is granted to the parent where the child completely or mainly resides. This may be that the child lives with his mother during the week and stays at his father’s house on the weekends.  It also is awarded to a parent when there is no overnight visits or in cases where visitation is supervised.

Joint Custody is when the child spends part of the week at each parent’s house or alternates every other week.  It is close to 50/50 and often the parents live nearby to make it easier for the child schooling.

Instances of where  family members, other than parents, are awarded custody are becoming more common.  This is particularly  the case when both parents are impaired or incarcerated.  Then grandparents, aunts or uncles may be granted custody. I personally am seeing this more and more in the public schools. I am having to call a grandparent to pick up a sick child or  ask an aunt to obtain permission to give a medication.