Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced this week that they are ending their 11 year marriage. They termed their decision to separate as “conscious uncoupling.” While most people would just call it “divorce,” the fact that they were aware (i.e. conscious) of their need to separate for themselves and for their children is commendable. The ability to take ownership of the decision to end a marriage gives way to moving forward for each person. Many couples have not yet achieved that level of acceptance as a result of fear, reluctance, denial, anger or resistance. Despite the fact that the divorce process affects everyone differently, there are certain behaviors which can aid in the “uncoupling” process:
Executives, such as self-employed presidents of closely held companies, the C Suite (CEO, CFO, etc.), executive employees, officers, and directors, are charged with managing and directing other people in a company. These executives are trusted with significant responsibility including day-to-day operations and future direction of a company. As a result of this responsibility, their personal lives, if made public, may have an impact on the company they work for – particularly with respect to the issue of divorce.
When an executive is faced with divorce, the impact of the proceeding on the executive’s position within a company and the company itself may not receive the priority and privacy it deserves because divorce proceedings are a matter of public record in most states, including Illinois. Take for example the divorces of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, CEO, Hubert Joly, and oil mogul, Harold Hamm. Each of these had a public presence that quickly attracted media attention. This brought the public to the personal issue of divorce, as well as less than desirable attention to each of the companies the individuals worked for.
The public nature of divorce demonstrates the importance of safeguarding the privacy of an executive’s divorce. Moreover, there are a number of key considerations that warrant maintaining privacy for the executive, spouse, and company. For instance:
The Illinois Supreme Court just unanimously ruled the Illinois eavesdropping law unconstitutional. The law made it illegal to record any person, whether in public or private, unless they consented. Typically, the law was applied against citizens recording governmental officials; however, the issue of eavesdropping rears its head in divorce cases where frequently spouses investigate and record each other.
Annabel Melongo, incarcerated for almost 2 years, had recorded several phone calls with a court reporter about how to correct a hearing transcript. The Cook County States Attorney charged her with six counts of eavesdropping. What kept her in jail until trial was the $500,000 bond she could not afford. There was a hung jury after the trial and the States Attorney was going to try her again; Melongo filed her own motion to dismiss and the trial judge dismissed criminal charges against her. The States Attorney appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme Court which found the law unconstitutional.
Until the Illinois legislature approves a new eavesdropping statute there is no prohibition on eavesdropping in Illinois except as limited by federal law which only requires one party to a recording to authorize it. The now unconstitutional Illinois law required that both parties to the recording to so authorize.
Many people still think of a prenuptial agreement as something that wealthy families use as a form of “marriage insurance” to protect their riches. In fact, a growing number of people, from a broad range of income levels, are seeking out prenuptial agreements to help answer questions about their assets before they get married. In the process, they become better prepared to handle financial issues in their marriage, and safeguard themselves against one of the leading causes of divorce.
A prenuptial agreement can be tailored to an individual couple’s needs, and it is especially helpful when couples bring the following into a marriage:
A family business. Because family businesses typically are made up of multiple family members from different generations, any divorce dispute involving a family business can end up impacting a great number of people. A prenuptial agreement that specifies a spouse’s role in the company upon divorce or death can prevent costly litigation that could potentially drain the family business’ assets.
One of the pervasive urban myths that I have heard during my many years of family law practice is that children at the age of 13 have the right to choose which parent they live with. I have heard this from clients, prospective clients and even an occasional practitioner. This statement is unequivocally false. The preferences of a child are a factor that Courts are allowed to explore; however, great caution must be exercised in situations where the preference become the focus of a dispute.
In Illinois, custody or visitation/parenting time is to be determined in accordance with the “child’s best interests”. In determining a child’s best interests, the Court is required to consider all relevant factors. One of the many specific factor listed for the Court’s consideration if “…the wishes of a child as to his custodian.”1 Many courts have emphasized that any preference is but one of many factors and is not dispositive or binding upon the Court. As would be expected, in a disputed custody case the parents do not always agree on what the child’s wishes are and unfortunately, occasionally put the child in the middle to choose.
Over the last several months, the Illinois Appellate Court has had numerous opportunities to opine on what constitutes income for purposes of calculating child support under the Illinois guidelines. Under certain circumstances, retirement benefits, social security benefits, stock options sales proceeds, and loan proceeds have all been declared to be includable in the calculation for child support. In the case of In re the Marriage of Marsh, 2013 IL App (2d) 130423, the Court again revisited the issue, this time in the context of money a father received from the sale of stock. The Court ultimately concluded that the monies received from the sale of the stock were not income for purposes of calculating child support because the proceeds were received in exchange for an asset owned prior to the divorce.
Under these particular set of facts, pursuant to the judgment for dissolution of marriage, the father was ordered to pay the mother child support of $731 per month as well as 20% of all additional income. After the father received $275,000 of sales proceeds from the sale of stock and he failed to pay the mother 20% of the proceeds, the mother sought to hold him in contempt of court.
On January 28th, in his fifth State of the Union Address, President Obama announced the MyRA (rhymes with IRA). In his own words, “It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg. MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.”
While some additional details are still to be released, the MyRA is essentially a tax deferred retirement savings vehicle, styled after a Roth IRA. That means that the contributions are paid with after-tax dollars, but the earnings can later be withdrawn tax-free during your retirement.
The MyRA will be a government sponsored savings account, established by the Treasury Department. The investments will be very similar to savings bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government (hence the “no risk”). It is aimed at individuals who don’t have an employer sponsored 401(k) plan to save for retirement. The MyRA will be available to individuals with annual earnings up to $129,000, and to couples earning up to $191,000, and can be set up with a contribution as low as $25. You can then have payroll deductions as low as $5 automatically contributed to your account. The Obama Administration previously established a program that would allow payroll deductions to purchase Treasury Securities, so this seems to be an extension on that program.
“Client A” met with her attorneys for the first time less than one year before she passed away. She had a chronic illness and her doctors gave her just months to live. Stress exacerbated her condition. She claimed her husband was abusive. She sought help getting a divorce so that she could minimize her stress at the end stages of her life and so that she could distribute her estate as she saw fit. Her husband refused her request for a divorce. Knowing that the typical contested divorce is not resolved in the amount of time her doctors expected her to live, her attorneys petitioned the Court on an emergency basis and obtained a bifurcated judgment for dissolution of marriage.
Typically, a divorce is resolved under a single judgment for dissolution of marriage. Conversely, a bifurcated judgment dissolves the parties’ marriage but reserves other issues, such as property division, child support, maintenance, or custody (“bifurcated judgment”).
This article addresses the standard for obtaining a bifurcated judgment, recent cases that expand when bifurcation has been deemed appropriate, the date of asset valuation used in bifurcation cases, and considerations for practitioners faced with bifurcation issues.
Changing your name is a simple and easy process, and it can be the final step in moving on to your new life. You can shed the baggage of your former spouse by ridding yourself of your former identity.
However, if you do not want to change your name immediately you do not have to, and you can always decide to do it at a later date. Whether you were married for five years or twenty years, you were known as “Mrs. Robinson,” and that can be difficult to let go of, especially after going through an extremely emotional time in your life. Having a different last name than your children might create more instability for them as well. So depending on the circumstances, it might be better for you to initially maintain your married name and change it when your children are older.
Within the past month, the eyes of the nation have focused on developments in Utah regarding the validity of same-sex marriage in that state, which are likely to have a major impact across the country. Shortly before Christmas, a federal judge struck down the State’s ban on same-sex marriage, finding that it violated the due process and equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution. Immediately thereafter, Utah began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and more than 1,000 same-sex marriages were performed during a nearly three-week period until the United States Supreme Court ordered that the lower court’s ruling be stayed pending resolution of the matter by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The High Court’s ruling, however, raised the question of whether these marriages would be recognized as valid.
The latest chapter in this saga occurred at the end of last week, when the Obama administration announced that the federal government will recognize the marriages performed in Utah during that interim period. In responding to Utah’s ordering of its state offices to refrain from any actions acknowledging the same-sex marriages that were performed, United States Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that “for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” noting that “[t]hese families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”