Is Divorce Contagious?

While most people don’t begin a marriage expecting to divorce, separation can happen to anyone. People in certain social groups find themselves particularly at-risk for divorce if a friend or relative has gotten divorced. In some close social groups, divorce is actually contagious. After seeing a close friend divorce, some people start to question their own marriage, and many decide they are unhappy with it and would like to get out. According to a new study by Brown University, you are 75% more likely to separate from your spouse if you watch someone close to you go through a divorce.

Social Contagion

So what happens to people to make them want to get divorced after a friend does? Sociologists refer to it as the “social contagion”. This spread of information through a social group stirs up ideas and emotions in many people. Friends of friends can even be impacted by a divorce. The social link found with family members and friends demonstrates for researchers how friends in a person’s social circle can directly impact one’s health and behavior. Family members and friends often find themselves taking sides in a divorce, or they can be stuck in the middle of fighting parents and friends. This can add stress to their life, which can in turn affect their own marriage.

Divorce Aftermath

Once a person gets a divorce, they often end up marrying another person who has also been divorced. This is common for people who jump into a new relationship soon after allowing their marriage to end. People who divorce often find that their social circle shrinks significantly after their marriage ends. This happens when mutual friends “choose sides,” and pick only one person from the marriage to associate with. Some married people view a newly divorced person as a social threat and worry about marital poaching.

Preventing Divorce

People with a strong social network are less likely to divorce. If you have active conversations with your friends, and you focus on building strong, supportive friendships, you can reduce your likelihood of divorce. Marital stresses are different for each couple, which is why it is important to continue working on open communication throughout a marriage. Marriage is not easy work: it requires dedication, sacrifice, and an enduring desire to make the other person happy.

Many couples seek out marital counseling to help their marriage. Counseling services can be tremendously helpful for couples that need to find a way to communicate with each other. If you are in a relationship where the grass looks greener on the other side, marital counseling can be beneficial. A therapist can help you personally understand the emotions you are experiencing, and how a decision like divorce can impact you personally, as well as the people in your social circle.

Adult children in healthy, happy marriages, can have their entire world turned upside down when they learn their parents are divorcing. It can cause them to question their own relationship and their personal happiness. Taken too far, these questions can cause a person to question their own marriage, and wonder if divorce is right for them.

Derek Clifford writes on marriage, weddings, wedding gowns, tuxedos, prom attire and other topics; to view a great selection of bridal gowns readers are encouraged to visit Terry Costa.

Referrals to Family Mediation are Rapidly Declining

There are many reasons for the introduction of mediation into a legal matter. In addition to finding suitable alternatives for childcare and financial arrangements, family mediation can help to prevent long winded or drawn out court sessions.

The government introduced mediation as a vital part of the legal family process in an effort to abate those people concerned that the removal of legal aid would cause huge problems for the family courts, leaving them massively overworked and the clients suffering.

However, recent evidence suggests that the referrals to these mediation sessions have in fact dropped. Official statistics obtained by the Law Society Gazette show that the number of family mediation referrals fell by an average of 26% for the period April to June 2013 when compared with the same period in 2012.

The Reasons

Whenever a significant pattern or turn of events is records, then it stands to reason that experts will attempt to find a reason for the pattern.

In the case of mediation services throughout 2013, it is worth commenting that legal aid for private family matters (such as divorce or child contact) was removed as part of government cuts as of April this year.

Whilst Legal Aid is still available for mediation, for many other matters, it may not be applicable and whilst many of the referrals for family mediation Southampton might come from solicitors, if their numbers have also dwindled due to a lack of public funding, then it stands to reason that the number of clients they are able to refer for mediation would also drop significantly.

The Solution

As one of the government’s biggest ideas, it’s unlikely that people including legal practitioners will be able to forget that services such as Lamport Bassitt family mediation services exist altogether. However, a solution must be found to the low numbers.

In one case, there is the prospect that as of January 2014 family mediation will be compulsory. What this means is that any party wishing to start legal proceedings in the family court will not be allowed to do so until they have attended a MIAM, the name given to a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting. However, as much as this may be a step in the right direction, practitioners and legal professionals have expressed concern that this could be too late as many of the mediators who would provide the services would have gone out of business by then as a result of the lower numbers of people attending mediation.

A further suggestion comes from Lord MacNally in his March 2013 speech when he suggested, even prior to the release of the figures that mediators themselves have a large part to play in promoting their services to the legal profession and building relationships with firms of solicitors. He said, “I am looking to you, the family mediation profession, to bring family mediation into the mainstream as the first choice for families to help them make their arrangements post separation – and not just because they have to. Regardless of your background, mediation, the law, or social work, you can bring this about.”

If you require mediation services visit www.lbmediation.co.uk for more information about Lamport Bassitt Mediation Services.

How Military Divorce Differs from Regular Divorce

Military divorces are much like any other divorce. Two people decide they no longer want to be married, and go through the process of separating property, assets and determining child custody issues. However, the way these concerns are addressed, and the way things are separated between the two parties, requires a consideration of the military member’s lifestyle and benefits. Understanding how survivor benefits and military pensions are divided up, and how custody of children is determined, is important for both spouses considering divorce.

Child Custody

Many military marriages involve an active duty spouse and a civilian spouse. The lifestyle of these families adapts to the military world, with active duty personnel moving regularly for various deployments, and with the military spouse frequently away from home. Families that fit this description should be aware that the courts will rarely grant full custody to the active duty spouse.

When determining child custody, the courts always look out for the best interests of the child. It is understood that, while the active duty spouse is doing much for his or her country, the lifestyle is ill suited for raising children. Military families should assume that child custody will go to the non-active spouse, and this will likely include child support payments.

Division of Military Pensions

Active duty service members are entitled to a pension after 20 years of service. The courts answer the question how to divide up this pension in the case of divorce. Most military couples are aware that the non-military spouse is entitled to half of the pension after 10 years of marriage. However, not all are aware that this division is negotiable.

The couple can come to an agreement on the division of the pension in their own way. This includes if the marriage has been shorter than the standard 10 years, and it includes the possibility of a payout of less than 50 percent of the pension after the 10-year mark.

The 10-year and 50 percent standards are simply guidelines for the court to go on. The arguments presented by both divorce attorneys and the decision of the court can produce a number of different results. Each spouse may wind up with more, or less, than he or she was aiming for.

It should also be noted that only after ten years of marriage can the finance center pay the awarded portion of the pension to the spouse. If the non-military spouse wins some of the pension, but the marriage did not last for at least ten years, it is the responsibility of the retiree to make the payments to the ex-spouse.

Survivor Benefits

Some spouses make the mistake of assuming that the Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) – the payout that happens upon the death of the military spouse – will still go them in the event of death. While the SBP can be awarded to the divorced spouse during the divorce proceedings, this is certainly not guaranteed.

If the ex-spouse is not awarded the SBP, then he or she will stop receiving pension payments in the event that the military member dies. This is something to remain aware of during divorce negotiations.

Military Divorce Lawyer

Spouses considering a military divorce should seek the help of an experienced military divorce lawyer. This will help ensure the best possible results from the divorce.

Family Law Property Issues in Australia

(Victorian & Australian Law)

In recent times, the jurisdiction of property disputes in Family Law has broadened. Traditionally, property was only divisible between married or divorced couples. De-facto and same sex partners are now able to apply for a property settlement, though under different law. In the absence of agreement between the parties, an application for the settlement of a property dispute is made to the court, to be decided on the basis of need.

The settlement reached becomes legally binding and enforceable by the courts. Here’s a rough guide to what usually happens in these situations…

Applications

Parties can make a property settlement by agreement or, if agreement cannot be reached, make an application to the court for a property settlement. Applications for the division of property after divorce can be made to the Family Court or to the Federal Magistrates Court where a property dispute is worth less than $700,000.

Only parties who are or were married can make an application for a property settlement under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth). In the case of divorce, an application must be made within 12 months of receiving the decree absolute. De-facto and same sex partners can make an application under the Property Law Act 1958 (Vic) in the Supreme Court, County Court or Magistrates’ Court.

Once an application is made, the parties will be asked to attend a case conference, with the aim of settling the property dispute by agreement before it goes to court. Present at this conference will be the parties, any family lawyer involved and a court registrar. If this conference is unsuccessful, the parties will go to court.

Property disputes in de-facto and same sex relationships (domestic relationships) are dealt with under the Property Law Act 1958 (Vic). A domestic relationship is a relationship between two people (regardless of gender) who live together as a couple on a domestic basis but are not married. The domestic relationship must have existed for at least two years for an application for a property dispute to be made under Part 9 of the Property Law Act . If there are exceptional circumstances, for example children being born out of the relationship, this two-year period can be waived. The relationship must have ended after 8 November 2001 for Part 9 to apply.

Property

The type of property divisible in a property settlement includes assets, cash, real estate, investments, insurance policies and superannuation. Debts are also taken into account. In a domestic relationship, as governed by the Property Law Act , superannuation and retirement benefits are not included in a property settlement. In making an order for property settlement, the court calculates the total pool of assets of the parties.

The division of these assets is based on both contributions made by each of the parties to the asset pool and future needs. The contributions of the parties include non-financial contributions, which means a homemaker will not be disadvantaged in this assessment. Future needs takes into account who is responsible for the daily care of the children, earning capacity, age, health and the financial circumstances of any new relationship. The aim is to distribute the property fairly between the two parties.

If you believe your partner is going to dispose of assets before the total pool of assets is calculated you can obtain an injunction to stop the sale taking place. Bank accounts and proceeds from the sale of any assets that has already taken place can also be frozen.

Spousal Maintenance

A party can apply for ongoing spousal maintenance if they can prove they are unable to support themselves. This application must be made within 12 months of divorce. An application for spousal maintenance is often included with an application for property settlement so that all financial issues are dealt with at once.

Spousal maintenance cannot be applied for where a domestic relationship exists.

Enforcement

If an agreement is reached between the parties, they can apply to the court for consent orders. This will make the agreement enforceable by the courts in case of dispute. Consent orders, once made, are final. A party must prove fraud, impracticality or other exceptional circumstances if they wish the consent orders to be set aside or varied.

If a party is not complying with the orders made, an application can be made to the court for enforcement. In this application, the party applying must set out exactly what the problem is. The court will then decide whether an order is needed to enforce the existing order.

A family law property settlement is an important process to go through after the breakdown of a marriage or domestic relationship. A property dispute can be settled by agreement between the parties or resolved by the court. Each case is unique and will be considered by the court according to its own circumstances. The court will not consider who is at fault in the breakdown of a relationship. Rather, it will be resolved on the basis of fairness and need.

Florida Same Sex Separations and Collaborative Family Law

Though the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), state DOMAs were not affected by the ruling.  This means that same sex couples cannot get legally married in states, such as Florida, that enacted a DOMA.

This also means that gay and lesbian couples cannot get divorced in many DOMA states and oftentimes do not have any legal remedy to separate.  If the domestic partners did not adopt each other’s children, even if both partners had been considered the parents of the children, then child custody, visitation, and child support laws usually will not apply.  Equitable distribution laws (laws related to division of marital assets and debts) do not apply, so separating property and liabilities can get real messy, real quick.  Further, alimony and spousal maintenance laws do not apply, so a partner who spent years homemaking and taking care of children may suddenly become destitute.  So what are separating same sex couples to do?

Domestic partners who are dissolving their relationship should seriously consider entering into a collaborative family law process.

Collaborative family law is a form of private dispute resolution that allows clients to enter into agreements and achieve results that could never be attained through a court process. Each client retains a separate attorney who advises and counsels the client and helps in the negotiating process.  A neutral facilitator, who is a mental health professional or mediator, helps the clients focus on their interests, such as the welfare of clients’ children, continued relationships with each other’s family members, or financial stability.  If there are substantial assets or debts or a business, a neutral accountant or financial planner will be brought in to educate the parties in finances, help fairly and cost-effectively divide property and liabilities, and, if requested, develop a budget for the clients’ future.

As you can see, collaborative family law is a holistic process that takes into account not only the legal, but also the emotional and financial needs of the clients.

The crux of collaborative family law is that the clients agree at the beginning that they will not seek to resolve their dispute through court battles, but rather they will come to a mutually agreeable settlement through this private process.  The clients, and their attorneys, enter into a participation agreement which disqualifies the attorneys from representing the clients in any contested court action.  This provides a safe space in collaborative meetings because each client knows that the other client’s attorney is not conducting opposition research and is committed solely to helping the clients reach a mutually acceptable agreement.  This allows clients to feel more comfortable offering and listening to potential solutions.

In truth, the disqualification clause has much more of an effect on heterosexual couples who are getting divorced, rather than homosexual couples who are separating.  This is because, as stated above, most DOMA state courts just do not have remedies that would properly address the clients’ concerns, and so attempts to fight it out in court will oftentimes be dismissed.

If you are experiencing a same sex separation, make sure to speak with an attorney who offers collaborative family law, and check to see whether the attorney has received collaborative law training that meets at least the minimum Basic Training standards of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

If you have questions regarding a Tampa Bay collaborative family law process, or you want to learn more about your Florida family law rights, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover currently serves as Research Chair of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida and Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay.  Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit of Florida to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida) and has completed over 40 hours of basic and advanced collaborative family law continuing legal education credit.

 

The true cost of divorce in the UK

It is difficult to work out how to approach an article about the true cost of divorce in the UK.

For example, it would be possible to spend time discussing the emotional cost on both parties (as well as other people who might be affected, including any children), with this emotional cost generally increasing in line with the breakdown in trust and communication that is often associated with drawn-out legal disputes relating to a divorce.

It would also be possible to consider this from the perspective of the financial damage that is caused to a couple when they decide to separate, resulting in them needing to spread their assets and income much more widely in order to pay for 2 houses and separate lifestyles.

Each party to a divorce as also likely to have a view about how those assets and income that they consider to be their “own” ending up being shared with the other person, thus resulting in what they perceive to be an unfair cost. For example, any money from a recent inheritance might need to be shared with their spouse as well as part of their future income even after a divorce has been finalised.

Whilst all of the above issues are very important ones to examine when considering the true costs of a divorce, the aim of this article is to focus purely on the actual costs associated with the divorce process itself as I feel that these are often very unclear when the divorce process is started.

Part of the problem with addressing the issue of divorce costs is that in some ways this is similar to trying to establish the length of a piece of string as it is possible to spend anywhere from hundreds of pounds to tens of thousands of pounds on a divorce. To understand this, I will try to examine some typical scenarios for managing the divorce process:

1. DIY divorce

Whilst the removal of most forms of legal aid has essentially ended the possibility of a government-funded divorce, it is still possible to run the divorce process yourself. This will mean that the only costs associated with the divorce process are the court fee (which went up in July 2013) of £410, that now covers the full divorce process but that needs to be paid at the start of the process, and some minimal photocopying/postage costs. Whilst it is always advisable to consider whether independent legal advice would be appropriate, especially when there are children and complicated financial issues to discuss, there is no reason why someone who is comfortable with filling in forms and reading guidance notes should not consider a DIY divorce as an option if saving money is the priority and a very helpful government website can be found at https://www.gov.uk/divorce/overview

2. Online divorce websites

In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of companies offering to run the admin side of the divorce process via online websites, with some of these offering a divorce from as little as £37, although you will of course need to pay the £410 court fee and, if the divorce process does not go through as smoothly as hoped, you will then need to decide who to turn to for advice. Whilst I have had a number of clients who have used these websites with apparent success, this is only once the divorce process itself has been agreed in mediation, and it is important to consider whether you want to put something as important as a divorce in the hands of a faceless website rather than choosing to undertake a DIY divorce or instructing a solicitor to manage the divorce for you.

3. Fixed fee divorces

There has also been a growth in recent years in fixed fee divorces being offered by solicitors and it is likely that the competition in this area will become even fiercer in the coming years, thus leading to further reductions n the fixed fees. The advantage of these fixed fee arrangements is that you have some level of transparency with the fees involved but you will need to make sure that the £410 court fee has been included and check how the costs are likely to change if the divorce process is less straightforward than hoped e.g. if the other party defends the divorce or does not engage in the divorce process. If you choose carefully, then you should be able to find a suitable solicitor to process a straightforward divorce for somewhere between £1,000 and £1,500 including court fees.

4. Open ended divorce fees

When you instruct a solicitor to run the divorce process that is not on a fixed fee basis,  it is vitally important that you ask for clear guidance about costs and that you ask to be updated if it looks likely that the initial costs estimate will be exceeded. Failing to do this will leave you open to running up bills of thousands of pounds as your solicitor writes letters, makes phone calls and runs up additional costs at an alarmingly high rate, especially if there is any suggestion that the other party (0r their solicitor) is not in agreement with running the divorce process the way that your solicitor wants to run it. Ultimately, this could result in a contested divorce that costs each party tens of thousands of pounds,

Whilst the general examples above give a flavour of the choices that you have when considering a divorce and their respective costs, the big problem here is that all of these choices are designed purely to result in a divorce, thus meaning that there are often issues relating to the caring of any children that are unresolved.

Also, it needs to be understood that, unless a separate application is made for finances to be considered, you will not have resolved any issues relating to the finances, such as the ownership of the family home, the division of pensions and whether or not there should be future maintenance payments from one party to the other. Failing to address these issues at the time of divorce means that the window for one party to apply for a finance order remains open for many years and can lead to punishing legal bills in the future, not to mention the fact that it is likely that one or both parties will be in a financially vulnerable position without a court order to enforce any financial agreements that might have been reached either explicitly or implicitly.

It is therefore vitally important that you ensure that the finances (and children’s arrangements) are carefully considered during the divorce process and it is here that the true costs of divorce start to emerge. It is extremely difficult for the parties themselves to properly address the finances as the laws relating to finances are complex and there are many pitfalls to be avoided, with it being likely that the end result will either be one that is highly favourable to one party or one that damages the finances of both parties. It is also extremely difficult, if not impossible, for these issues to be dealt with by any online website or by any fixed fee package, as each situation will be unique, leaving just the option of open ended fees with solicitors and it is here where the true costs of divorce will become apparent. Some fortunate people who choose their solicitor carefully may receive all the advice and assistance that they need for a few thousand pounds each but there is a risk that the bills will exceed £10,000 per person and potentially go a lot higher, especially if any court intervention is required.

Of course, this is where family mediation can and should play its role. It should be possible for a suitably trained and experienced mediator to guide both parties through the divorce process (but with the parties completing their own paperwork or using one of the other options above once the divorce process has been agreed in mediation) and to, in the vast majority of cases, assist them to reach agreements about the children’s arrangements and the proposals for a full financial settlement, at a fraction of the cost that would be incurred between solicitors. It is likely that both parties will benefit from receiving some independent legal advice in parallel with the divorce process, as well as there being a need for any mediation proposals to be turned into legally binding agreements (or court orders) by a solicitor, but these legal costs should be comparatively very small.

Whilst each case is going to be different, from my experience it should be possible for all of the issues to be addressed properly within the mediation process for somewhere between £500 t0 £1,500 per person, with then just the court fees and some specific legal costs to add to this, giving a total cost of somewhere between £1,000 and £2,500 per person for the full process (but with there being additional costs involved if financial advisers or other experts are instructed during the process). As a mediator, I am aware that these costs are still significant for most people but I am also very aware of how much money will have been saved by both parties if they are able to reach agreements via the mediation process. I hope that this article goes some way to help others to become aware of the potential costs of divorce and to then enable them to make informed decisions about how to approach a possible divorce in the future without suffering from large legal bills or other unexpected and unnecessary costs.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I look forward to reading your comments.

 

Euan Davidson

Family mediator

Godalming Family Mediation

www.godalmingfamilymediation.co.uk

Understanding What Happens to Your Money in Divorce Proceedings

Rupert Murdoch has recently filed for divorce from Wendi Deng, his third wife. Even though it is unknown what caused the marriage of 14 years to end, people have speculated for months about the relationship of the couple. Deng, who is Chinese-born and Yale-educated, is accomplished on her own before ever marrying Murdoch, but that didn’t stop people from dubbing her as a gold digger.

Since the 82-year-old Murdoch runs a powerful conglomerate in terms of media, many people wonder what is going to come of his fortune. When you consider he has 20th Century Fox, Sky News Service, Fox Television, the Wall Street Journal, Harper Collins Publishing and many others, you can easily see just how much he is worth financially. Even though Deng stayed out of the public eye for much of their marriage, everyone wonders what the legal precedent is now that the divorce is underway.Shortly after they wed, Murdoch announced that Deng was going to step down from her role at News Corp. in Hong Kong. She never fully left the media world. She would attend meetings with Murdoch and his son to make sure everything went smoothly. During their marriage, she had two girls with Murdoch. He has four other children from his other two marriages.

According to her Yale profile, she is the co-founder of Big Feet Productions, which is an independent studio based in East London making games and applications for Apple. The divorce would effectively end Deng and Murdoch’s union and set a battle into motion for how much of the fortune she and the children are going to receive. His recent fortune was estimated at more than $11 billion. The showdown comes at a bad time for News Corp. They recently approved plans to split operations between two publicly traded companies.

Since Murdoch is the largest shareholder in the company, he will be the chairman of the two new enterprises. It is not yet known whether there was a prenuptial agreement signed between Deng and Murdoch before they were married. Even if there is, no one knows where it was filed at. Most people assume there was documentation filed to protect Murdoch’s fortune, especially when there was so much to lose.

Depending upon where the paperwork was filed, individual states will choose whether the terms are unfair or unconscionable and proceed with upholding the prenuptial agreement or making their own amendments to the document. Other countries may have their own set of rules and restrictions, but in the United States, things would be handled in the aforementioned manner.

A prenuptial agreement can do a lot for protecting the best interest of the parties involved, but the court and legal system will determine whether they are going to overturn the agreement or uphold it. In the end, lawyers and the legal system are the ones going to make the arguments and final decisions on what is going to happen. A trained lawyer will be able to fight in the best interest of the parties involved.

The Divorce Process: Where to Begin

Most couples do not begin their marriages with the anticipation of ever getting divorced. However, as statistics consistently show, close to half of all marriages end in divorce today. When a husband or wife decides to end his or her marriage, that individual may wonder what steps to take and how to begin the process. The process to get a divorce may take some time; however, following these steps can ensure that each party’s best interests are addressed and that the matter is settled as fairly as possible.

Start Saving Money

Because most couples share bank accounts, a husband or wife may not have immediate access to the funds needed to file for divorce. If possible, a person should try to set aside money out of each paycheck and save these funds for the divorce proceedings. It may take a few months to save enough money to file; however, without the needed money, people may not be able to file, especially if they do not qualify for free legal services through the state or social organizations.

Retain a Good Lawyer

People can certainly file for divorce on their own at the courthouse. However, in most cases, this idea is not advisable. A divorce lawyer is trained to advocate for clients and to ensure that each petitioner’s interests are protected. An attorney can help a client go through what is referred to as a discovery process where the couple’s assets are identified and the reasons for the divorce are solidified. Through his or her divorce attorney, a person can work toward a mutual agreement with the other spouse without having to go to trial. If, however, an agreement on the matter cannot be reached, a person can be well served by having an attorney by his or her side as the case goes through the trial process.

Finding a good divorce lawyer can be a relatively hassle-free process if people take several things into mind. With the Internet now a popular referral tool, people can search online and find experienced attorneys in their area. For example, a search would be done online for an Orlando divorce lawyer for plaintiffs in the central Florida area, to obtain a list of local lawyers knowledgeable in divorce law. They can consider previous clients’ online recommendations, as well as ask friends and family members for advice. Clients can also discover if an attorney can help by going to an initial consultation. Retaining a lawyer for the divorce can make this process less traumatic and difficult.

Make Lifestyle Adjustments as Necessary

As they approach a new life path, people may need to adjust their lifestyles accordingly. If a person does not have a job, for example, that individual could be urged to find employment and begin working before the divorce is filed. Having an independent income can make adjusting to post-divorce life easier. Likewise, if a person is under-employed or does not have benefits like life and medical insurance, that individual may be advised to look for a higher paying job and retain these benefits as soon as possible. People going through the divorce process must learn to rely on themselves rather than someone else for their well-being. Adjusting their lifestyle and planning ahead can ensure that they successfully rebuild their lives after they are divorced.

Knowing how to begin divorce proceedings can empower people who are no longer happy being married. Retaining experienced legal counsel and allowing a lawyer to advocate for them in court can be the most crucial aspect of the divorce process. An attorney can help a person come out of the divorce with their best interests intact.

Lisa Coleman encourages employing experienced legal counsel during the process of a divorce while handling the emotional transition into an adjusted lifestyle. Katz & Phillips, P.A., a client-focused divorce firm, is experienced in all aspects of divorce law and can represent and counsel a client through their divorce proceedings.

A Brief Introduction to Common-Law Marriage

(US family law and generally) Marriage has historically been a respected institution espoused by almost every society. Usually, marriage constitutes a legal and sometimes religious mandate between licensed officials to wed a couple, such that the union is recognized by the government and, in some circumstances, a religious entity. You can choose to marry under the auspices of a religious leader or go to your city hall, after obtaining a marriage license.

However, there are many instances in which a couple might choose to carry on all the activities of a married couple without having gone through the legal or religious formalities. This is known as a common-law marriage, and it has its origins in England and early America when priests and licensed marriage officials were few and far between. Getting to an official to be married proved a hardship or outright impossible for many couples, so the law set aside certain provisions that ratified a union between man and woman that ensured they held the same benefits and legal recognition as the more formal marriages.

Present Day Requirements and Acceptance of Common-Law Marriages

It is important to note that not all states recognize common-law marriages, although those that don’t will often respect the validity of a common-law marriage formed in another, accepting state should the couple move to a non-accepting state. The states that do explicitly allow common-law marriages are Colorado, Alabama, Utah, Rhode Island, Texas, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, the District of Columbia, Iowa, and Kansas. There are a handful of other states that allow common-law marriages with varying stipulations.

• Pennsylvania allows you and a spouse to have a common-law marriage if you’ve met all requirements before the first day of the year 2005; if you’ve cohabitated for this purpose on any date afterward, your relationship is not eligible and you need to get married formally.

• New Hampshire allows common-law marriages for purposes of inheriting an estate or will. Thus, if you or your significant other passes away and you weren’t married formally but adhered to the stipulations of the common-law variety, then you or your spouse are privy to the estate/will. In states where common-law marriages are not for inheritance purposes, then you do not automatically have any claim on inheritance-the family of the deceased receives primary consideration in the absence of a will.

• The only common-law marriages ratified by Ohio are the ones created before October 1991. After this date, mutual consent to live as husband and wife is not formally recognized as a marriage by the state and legal ramifications do not apply.

• Georgia only recognizes common-law marriages formed before January 1997.

• Idaho recognizes common-law marriages created before January 1996.

How is Divorce Handled in a Common-Law Marriage?

Somewhat asymmetrically, just because you don’t need a formal ceremony for cohabitation in a common-law marriage doesn’t mean you don’t need one for divorce. In fact, every state that accepts the common-law option requires you to undergo formal divorce proceedings, just like any traditionally married couple. All the issues that are normally dealt with in divorce proceedings must be handled by family court-alimony, child support, estate division, etc. It is important to realize that your rights to property division are not the same as in a traditional, formal legal marriage, and these vary from state to state.

About the author

Thomas Platt is a freelance writer who specializes in legal topics such as Medical Equipment Fraud, Medical Malpractice, Tax Fraud, Criminal Defense, Family Law and other topics as well.

Is there such thing as an amicable separation?

It has recently been reported in the Daily Mail that comedian Jason Manford and his wife Catherine have agreed to go their separate ways after having been married for 6 years with 3 children.

The article refers to the fact that it has been an amicable split and they actually decided to separate a year ago after simply “growing apart” but have remained friends. Indeed as a matrimonial solicitor dealing with the breakdown of marriages and divorce on a daily basis, I have come across quite a few ‘amicable divorces’ over the years. The most amicable fact to rely on for a divorce would be 2 years separation and both parties consent to the divorce taking place.

This could be the route that Jason and Catherine could be taking. It is however a myth that divorcing on the basis of 2 years separation is quicker than relying on another fact such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. All divorce proceedings follow the same procedure and should take the same amount of time.

There is also a common misconception that you can divorce someone on the basis of ‘irreconcilable differences’, which again would be a more amicable way to divorce your spouse, however that fact does not exist here. It exists in the USA and I believe  that if it were available in England and Wales, then most of the divorcing couples would issue a divorce petition based on ‘irreconcilable differences’. It would help to avoid inflaming an already difficult situation that divorcing couples find themselves in and there was an attempt to introduce a ‘no fault divorce’ in the 1996 Family Law Act, however it was rejected by Parliament. Therefore you can only rely on the facts of adultery and unreasonable behaviour if you wish to divorce on straight away as opposed to waiting 2 years or 5 years since separating.

Whilst I can definitely see why some couples may want to wait 2 years and issue an amicable divorce petition, most clients I speak to do not want to wait 2 years as they feel that their lives are being put on hold . There can also be risks in relation to the finances and parties acquiring assets since separation and whether their ex-spouse would have a claim to it or not. Whilst it is recommended for those that want to wait 2 years but wish to settle the finances that a separation agreement is prepared, this is not legally binding and it can be changed.