Family Law Blog

Shared Custody of Children on the Increase

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fewer child custody arrangements these days involve the mother getting sole custody of the child. In an increasing number of cases, parents are settling for joint or shared custody of their children.

According to a new study which analyzed Wisconsin Court Records between 1988 and 2008, the number of mothers who were awarded sole custody of their children after divorce, dropped dramatically from 8% to 42%. During the same period of time, there was a significant increase in the number of joint custody arrangements.

Equal shared custody arrangements during the same time increased from 5% to 37%, and unequal custody increased from 3% to 18%. There was little difference in the proportion of cases that involved father-only sole custody. These cases hovered at approximately 10%.

The study's findings may be slightly misleading. They don't seem to cover children born into single-parent households. About 45% of American babies are currently born to unmarried mothers. The study only included those families that were split up after divorce.

In a shared custody arrangement, the parents decide to share medical, legal, financial, and other decisions involving the child. Physical custody of the child may be split approximately 50/50. It is not possible to accurately divide the amount of time that the child spends with each parent.

But the study does seem to confirm that it is no longer a given that the mother will be granted sole custody of the children during a divorce. Joint custody is far moving towards the center, and in the future could actually be considered the norm. For decades, mothers were awarded sole custody, because of the general belief that they were better caretakers. In recent years, the interests of the children have taken the forefront during proceedings to determine the outcomes of such disputes, and those interests very often involve time spent with both parents equally.

Stressful Marriage Can Increase Risk of Premature Death in Males

Friday, May 16, 2014

Men, who are in stressful or difficult marriages, may have a much higher risk of dying prematurely, compared to men in happy marriages. The surprising results of a new study find that men may be much more vulnerable to the stresses of a difficult marriage, compared to women.

According to the study which was conducted on Danish men and women, men who reported facing pressures from their wives were much more likely to die much before their time, compared to men who did not suffer such marital stresses. The results of the study prove several things. For one, marital stress, and conflict are incredibly stressful on a person, and contribute to negative physical, mental and emotional health consequences. A bad marriage can actually kill you.

It also proves that men may find themselves very ill-equipped to handle the kind of conflict that a demanding spouse can create. They may lack conflict management skills, and therefore, the stress may become simply too much for them to bear. Chronic stress is a risk factor for hypertension, cardiovascular problems, heart attack, and even stroke. All of these increase the risk of premature death.

Overall, married life is believed to be much more conducive to a person's physical, mental and emotional health. Married people are believed to be happier, more fulfilled, and even more financially successful than unmarried or even divorced couples. Overall, they're also believed to live healthier, and live longer lives. Successful people tend to be in satisfying marriages. However, if you are in a bad marriage, just the opposite can happen. A bad marriage could make you depressed, stressed, and develop a negative outlook on life. As the study shows, it could even kill you.

Divorce Risk Is Higher When Wife Gets Sick

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Many married couples probably do not take those vows to stick with your spouse in sickness and in health very seriously. Severe illness can put a strain on any marriage. However, when that illness involves the wife, the strain is much greater, increasing the risk of divorce.

According to a study that was conducted by researchers at the University Of Michigan, the risk of separation is much higher when it is the wife who falls sick during the marriage. The study was based on an analysis of 2700 couples. The researchers found that 31% of the marriages, in which one person fell sick, ended in divorce. However, the risk of divorce was much higher in those cases in which the wife, and not the husband, fell sick. The threat of divorce when the wife falls sick can be even higher, when the marriage involves senior couples.

The researchers analyzed couples in which one of the partners was at least 50 years of age, and analyzed for the presence of a number of diseases, including cancer, lung disease, heart disease and stroke.

They found that that 31% of the marriages ended in divorce, when one person was sick. Husbands were much more likely than wives to fall sick, and divorce was much more likely when the wife fell sick.

However, in all these cases, it may not be an unfeeling or callous husband who may be to blame. Very often, it is the woman who initiates proceedings for divorce. It is quite likely that women often feel like that they are not getting adequate support from their husbands, and therefore, rely on their family and friends for support during their illness. It’s also possible that men are simply not that comfortable in a caretaking role.

Marital Stress Linked to Depression

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Sometimes, a divorce is not just the most sensible decision to make, but also the healthiest decision to make. According to a new study, suffering marital stress may actually place a person at risk for suffering symptoms of depression.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University Of Wisconsin-Madison. The researchers found that people, who were experiencing marital stresses in their life, were less able to properly enjoy positive experiences. That is one of the classic symptoms of depression. These people were also much more likely to report other symptoms of depression.

Overall, marriage is generally reported to be a trigger for higher levels of mental health and happiness. Married couples do report greater levels of happiness, and higher self-esteem. However, when there are marital-related troubles, just the opposite can happen. Persons involved in marital struggles may suffer social stress as a result of their chronic marital conflict. Chronic marital stress could lead to depression.

There is no denying that a toxic and hostile marriage can contribute to negativity. As the marital struggles compound, spouses may begin to develop feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress, and this could affect other areas of their lives. You could find that your marriage problems are affecting you at work, and your ability to take care of your kids well, or be attentive to your children.

In such cases, making a clean and effective break from the marriage in the form of a divorce may be the healthiest decision that you could make. If you’re not ready for a divorce, try out a trial separation, which allows you and your spouse to spend time away from each other, and reassess your feelings, before you make the decision to divorce.

Children in Single Parent Homes Just As Happy

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Divorced parents, who have been worrying about the effect of their divorce on their children, will be relieved at the findings of a new study. According to the study, there isn't much truth to the oft-held belief that children, who are raised in intact homes with two parents, are much happier than children from single families.

The study seems to indicate that the quality of parenting is much more important than the quantity. The research was conducted in the United Kingdom, and found that children who were brought up by a single parent, or a step-parent did not report lower levels of happiness, compared to children who grow up with an intact family with their biological parents. The research was based on an analysis of more than 13,000 children, and found that the children's reported happiness levels had no association with their family structure at all. Children were much more likely to be happy when they got along with their siblings, and had fun and positive experiences with the family at weekends.

Among the seven-year-olds, approximately 36% said that they were happy all the time, and 64% reported being happy “sometimes” or “never.” Those levels of happiness remained the same regardless of whether the children were being raised in a single family structure, or by both biological parents. In fact, the researchers found no difference in the happiness levels, even when they controlled for social class of the children. The researchers said they found similar results when analyzing another group of children aged between 11 and 15.

The researchers found that it was the relationships that the children had with family members as well as friendships at school, that were much more likely to indicate their levels of happiness or unhappiness. For instance, bullying at school was much more likely to be linked to unhappiness reported by a child, than having a single parent.

Student Loans and Divorce

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Most young students now graduate with thousands of dollars in debt, and there may be important questions about who's responsible for paying off those loans in the event of a divorce.

The question of who is responsible for student loans is critical in light of the fact that in 2012, college students, who graduated with bachelor's degrees, graduated with approximately $29,400 in school loans. The average debt is much higher in the case of students earning advanced degrees. In a marriage where both partners have student debt, the accumulated debt is bound to be hefty.

For the most part, your student loan is yours alone, and your spouse will not be liable for it in the event of divorce. If the student loan was taken out while you were single, the loan remains yours alone to repay, which means that you may be in for a nasty surprise when you get divorced, and have to go back to living the single life again. Those monthly payments that you make will become burdensome when you take into account your daily household living expenses, including rent, groceries, utilities and other expenses that may have been shared when you were part of a marital relationship. That's why it's vital that you make a complete analysis of all your potential monthly expenses during the proceedings, as soon as you make the decision to file.

If the student loan was taken out while you were in a marital relationship, things may be a little different. You will still be responsible for your own student loan, but there may be exceptions. California is a community property state, and debts that are incurred during a marriage may be considered joint debt. However, exceptions are typically made in the case of student loans, barring some cases, depending on when the loan was taken out and other factors.

Are You Twitting Your Way to Divorce?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Persons who can't resist twitting their opinions regularly could be jeopardizing their marital relationship. A new study at the University of Missouri specifically focused on the risks to relationships from overuse of Twitter, and found that there was an association between relationship strain and Twitter use.

The association between Facebook and divorce has been investigated quite extensively. In fact, divorce lawyers have found an association between higher use of Facebook, and strain on a marriage, even ultimately leading to a divorce. In many cases, the result of such social media overuse is cheating on a spouse. In other cases, the relationship is strained because of the amount of time that one spouse may spend on the site.

Similar concerns also seem to exist in the case of Twitter. The results of the study published recently in the Journal Cyber Psychology, Behavioral and Social Networking found that excessive Twitter use leads to conflict between partners which can actually strain the relationship. There are a number of negative outcomes that were pointed out to in the study, including infidelity, breaking up, separation and divorce.

The researchers focused on 581 users of Twitter, who were questioned about their Twitter use, their relationship status, and the existence of any conflicts related to their use of the social networking site. All of the respondents were between the age of 18 and 67. The researchers found that subjects who admitted to being much more active on the site were much more likely to report relationship conflict, which ultimately often resulted in a bad outcome for the relationship. Persons admitted to cheating or fighting frequently with their partners over Twitter use.

As with any social networking site, Twitter use needs to be minimized especially since the platform works on bite- sized 140-character messages that can be exchanged between parties, increasing the risk of excessive use of the site.

Massachusetts Bill Could Ban Sex during Divorce

Saturday, March 22, 2014

An interesting bill that is pending passage in the state of Massachusetts could actually ban couples who are in the middle of divorce proceedings from having sex or even dating.

The legislation seeks to require that in divorce proceedings involving children, the party living in the home should not date or conduct a sexual relationship inside the home, until divorce proceedings are complete and all issues are settled. If the party does want to date, or have a sexual relationship inside the home, then he must seek the permission of the court.

The bill was originally filed in 2013, and must be considered by the state legislature by June 30. The bill was sponsored by State Senator Richard Ross who insists that he does not really support the bill, but has only sponsored it as a courtesy to one of his constituents. According to the constituent, he went through a bitter divorce, and believes that a bill like this would help protect children living in the marital home, during the divorce proceedings.

Obviously, this is just a bill, and for this to become law, it would have to be passed by the Massachusetts Legislature, and be signed by the governor. Whether the bill will pass the Legislature is anyone's guess.

However, this bill does raise one of the more important questions that people who are in the middle of a divorce often ask their attorneys - Does the divorce automatically put the brakes on dating, or are you free to see other people while the divorce proceedings have not yet been finalized?

The fact is that any personal or social relationships during a divorce can have a legal impact on your divorce case. For instance, it isn't uncommon for attorneys for the other party to spy on your activities to dig up dirt that can be used during the divorce proceedings, especially in child custody matters.

Hamm Divorce Finalized, Court Rules Tycoon Will Retain Controlling Interest

Monday, March 03, 2014

Billions of dollars’ worth of controlling interest in his oil empire was at stake as oil tycoon Harold Hamm, battled it out with his wife Sue Ann in their divorce case. Now, the judge has ruled in favor of Hamm, saying that he will not have to give up his controlling interest in the oil company as part of the settlement.

Hamm is the founder of Continental resources and a billionaire, and his controlling interest in Continental Resources was at the crux of the case. Hamm currently owns a 30% equity stake in Continental Resources, and news that he would have to give up his controlling stake as part of his divorce settlement, had rankled shareholders. Uncertainty loomed over the future of the company.

Now however, the judge has ruled as part of the order granting partial summary judgment, that the billionaire will retain as his own separate property more than 122 million shares of Continental. These are shares that he owned before he married Sue Ann. The judge has now ruled that those 122 million shares are considered premarital property belonging to Hamm.

Hamm’s marriage has been a volatile one. In fact, this is the third time that the couple has filed for divorce over the past decade. The couple has been estranged and living apart for the past 10 years, but so far, there has been no final statement on the kind of settlement that Sue Ann will receive. It is no doubt likely to be a very hefty settlement.

Next, the court will have to decide how to divide the value of the stock because it has grown exponentially over the course of their marriage. Until that decision is made, the tycoon must hold on to the shares, and will not be able to sell or transfer them.

More Senior American Couples Head to Divorce Court

Friday, February 28, 2014

Baby boomers are breaking records for divorce rates. According to data, American seniors above the age of 50 are now twice as likely to get divorced, compared to people of the same age barely 2 decades ago. Los Angeles divorce lawyers are increasingly coming across divorce cases involving seniors, who have been married for two or three decades or even more, who decide to end their marriage.

The reasons for divorce in the golden years can be quite different from those involved when the divorcing couple is in the 30s or 40s. In the case of a senior couple, it's not always financial reasons, or adultery that is the main cause of the end of the marriage. In fact, in the case of seniors, it's very often a parting of ways that usually begins to manifest itself when the children have grown up and left the home. Many seniors suffer from the “empty nest syndrome”, and may not be able to handle that their biggest accomplishment as a couple over the years - raising their children - is no longer the glue that holds them together. In the absence of joint interests or passions - which may not have mattered much when they were younger - an older couple may find that they have nothing in common anymore.

Additionally, compared to a young woman in her 30s or 40s, a senior woman above the age of 50 maybe well-established in her career. Financial independence does play a factor in an older woman's decision to file for divorce.

Back in 1990, according to experts, the rate of persons above the age of 50 getting divorced was less than one in 10. Currently, as many as one in four people consulting a divorce lawyer are above the age of 50.