Billionaire Hamm’s is one of the biggest divorce settlements in history, but is it big enough?

American entrepreneur Harold Hamm, best known for his position as CEO of Continental Resources, has been ordered to pay his ex-wife, Sue Ann Hamm, $995.5 million in what has been referred to as one of the biggest divorce settlements in history. Although an enormous figure to most, it is only a fraction of Mr Hamm’s $14 billion empire and Sue Ann plans to appeal the decision on the grounds that it is inequitable. For this reason, the ruling invites an intriguing question – is the Oklahoma County Court’s decision reasonable compared to the conclusion that a court in England and Wales would have reached?

Oklahoma is an equitable distribution state when it comes to the division of property on divorce. This means that any settlement must be just and reasonable. In order to achieve this, a judge must take into consideration the contributions of each party during the marriage, as well as deciding what each ex-spouse needs in order to move forward following the separation. Also to be considered is the standard of living enjoyed by the ex-couple whilst they were married and any factors that are clearly relevant – such as a spouse’s ability to pay. As the 24th richest man in the United States, it is fair to assume that Mr Hamm wouldn’t exactly struggle to make payments to his ex-wife. One would also be forgiven for suspecting that the ex-couple enjoyed a rather comfortable standard of living.

Whilst equity is central to property division in Oklahoma, its synonym fairness is the main consideration of judges making financial orders following marriage breakdowns in the UK. But what exactly is fair? And would Lord Nicholl’s famous ‘yardstick of equality’, together with the S25 factors of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, place Sue Ann Hamm in a better position? Let’s consider the facts. Harold 68 and Sue Ann 57 were married from 1988 until Sue Ann filed for divorce in 2012. Although Harold made mention of the fact that the couple had been separated since 2005, in England and Wales a marriage of 17 years could be considered long for the purposes of financial distribution. The affair that Sue Ann alleged Harold to have had would be irrelevant in an English court, as only conduct with the ‘gasp factor’ would be taken into account. The ex-couple have two children together: Jane, 23, and Hillary, 20. Although a UK court would investigate their financial needs together with their earning capacities, the reality is that this would not be a huge consideration due to the fact that they are both over the age of minority.

In Oklahoma, a significant factor for consideration was how Mr Hamm acquired his fortune. Just your ‘regular’ multi-millionaire when he married Sue Ann, Harry went onto purchase one million acres of land leases, which saw Continental Resources become a major oil producer and in turn propelled him into billionaire’s territory. Oklahoma law states that money earned during a marriage can form part of a divorce settlement if made through skill, as opposed to ‘luck’, or a change in the economy in which case it cannot. Mr Hamm’s argument that he had ‘stumbled across’ his additional wealth fell short when Judge Haralson stated that Harold’s skill, effort and leadership had been the driving force behind the success of Continental Resources.

Although Mr Hamm’s argument was unsuccessful, looking at how wealth has been generated in this way would be completely alien in the UK. Whether by luck or skill, this amount of wealth would fall into the pot for consideration.

A consideration of the UK court would be the needs, obligations and responsibilities of both Harold and Sue Ann. Due to the extreme wealth of the couple, this factor is likely to be reviewed in conjunction with the standard of living enjoyed by the parties before the breakdown of the marriage. This is because the ‘needs’ of a party are extremely subjective and will therefore be very different depending on the lifestyle a party has become accustomed to. A UK court would be looking to ensure that Sue Ann would be able to continue living comfortably; however, the difficulty arises when trying to decide how much money she will need to do this. Realistically, the almost $1 billion that she is set to receive in Oklahoma would allow her to have a life of luxury beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Also relevant is the fact that Sue Ann Hamm was not a lady of leisure throughout her marriage. She was a lawyer in Harold’s company when the couple married, playing a significant role negotiating the company’s land deals. Her work could be found to be a significant contribution to the family, alongside Harold’s contributions. Also, if she stopped working to take care of the children (which is currently unreported), she could have an argument to be compensated for the loss of her career.

Taking all of the above factors into account, it appears that there could be a strong argument in the UK in favour of Sue Ann receiving an equal distribution. After all, she had a long marriage and contributed to the family’s welfare. In addition, Harold certainly has enough money to fund an equal split. However, the ruling of Cowan v Cowan[1] throws a significant curve ball into the equation. In this case, the Court of Appeal held that a stellar contribution by one spouse is enough to justify a departure from the yardstick of equality. Charman v Charman[2] seems to confirm that Harold’s $14 billion business could be viewed as stellar, hence creating a shift in his favour.

So what would all this mean for Sue Ann here in England? All the factors certainly point to potentially more than the 1/14th share she has been awarded. Some might say it’s no wonder she is trying her luck on appeal!

[1] [2001] 2 FCR 332 [2] [2007] EWCA Civ 503

The Legal Aid Reforms – What do they mean for Family Law?

In basic terms, legal aid helps people gain legal advice or representation when they cannot afford it independently. The legal aid system here in the UK is said to be one of the most expensive in the world, spending £2 billion per year. With the recession and cuts being made across most sectors, it is not surprising that there have been reforms and further changes proposed to legal aid. These changes are being put in place as a bid to try and save £350 million per year; however they have been the source of much controversy and even recently sparked protests. But what does all this mean for families who are trying to use legal aid? Gordon Dean solicitors in Norwich explain in more detail…

Changes to Family Legal Aid                    

In April of this year some alterations were made to legal aid that reduced the scope of the funding, legal aid pertaining to family law was significantly changed. Private family law issues such as custody battles and divorce are no longer eligible for legal aid. The exception being that such private family cases can gain access to legal aid if there is history of child or domestic abuse. Under such circumstances there must be evidence of such abuse to qualify for legal aid. In this situation, legal aid is only provided for the victim of domestic abuse and not the perpetrator. Of course, if legal action is needed to protect an individual or child from abuse, it is covered by legal aid.

The ministers intentions behind of the withdrawal of legal aid for most family private law was to encourage these kinds of disputes to be settled outside the courtroom, supposedly saving the courts time and money. Legal aid mediation for divorce proceedings and custody battles is still available. However it is means tested; there is a simple online government calculator that helps individuals see if their circumstances qualify them for family legal aid.

Options Outside of Legal Aid

Although, the changes may not be having the intended impact – in recent months there has been an increase in the number of parents applying to go to court for this matter and a decrease in the use of mediators in England and Wales. If individuals are not eligible for legal aid and do not feel mediation is the right option for them, a lot of solicitors offer payment packages which help to try and limit the cost and/or spread it out over time. Some individuals may also choose to represent themselves, although having an initial consultation with a lawyer is probably advisable – various organisations can help with this such as the citizen’s advice bureau.

More Proposed Changes

Further restrictions to general legal aid access are currently being debated; it has been proposed that there should be income restrictions. If the changes go ahead it will mean any individuals with excessive of £3,000 per month after essential outgoings, tax and mortgage will not be able to gain legal aid – neither will those who have lived in the UK for less than a year.

New Presumption of Parental Involvement: Is the law too concerned with appeasing the parent?

The welfare of the child has always been the fundamental consideration for courts dealing with child arrangements following a couple’s separation. The welfare checklist set out in S8 of the Children Act 1989 provides statutory guidance that requires certain factors to be considered. Amongst other things, the wishes and feelings of the child and the child’s needs are considered, so that the most appropriate arrangement is reached. Due to the subjective requirements of each child, extreme care must be taken to ensure that the specific needs of the child are met.

Consideration must be given to where the child should live and how often they should see or speak to each parent. Until recently, these matters were addressed through residence and contact orders respectively; however, these were replaced with the all-encompassing child arrangement orders in April 2014. The purpose of the amendment was to shift the focus away from the name of the order and towards the content. Too often, parents were being side-tracked and, instead of focusing on their child’s best interests, they were becoming fixated on becoming the parent with residence. By removing the concept of a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’, it was hoped that the focus would return to the child.

A further change to the law came into force on 22 October 2014, whereby S1 Children Act 1989 was amended to include the presumption that it is in the best interests of the child for both parents to be involved in the child’s life, unless evidence to the contrary is shown. Explaining the legislative changes, Mr Justice Hughes stated that, “No parent should be excluded from their child’s life for no good reason.”

But when has the law ever allowed this to happen? Surely it goes without saying that as long as it is safe to do so, then parental involvement will be encouraged? Judges have been dealing with parental disputes for many years and reported cases show that even when a parent’s conduct has been questionable some sort of contact has been maintained, as long as there is no risk to the child.

“As a result, one could be forgiven for thinking that the amendment brings nothing new to the table,” says Katie McCann, Head of Family Law for Kuits. “However, what it does do is shift both parent’s involvement from being a consideration to a presumption that is not to be strayed from without good reason.” As Mr Justice Hughes goes on to explain, “This is not about giving parents new ‘rights’ but making clear… that the family court will presume that each parent will play a role in the future life of their children.”

It is important to clarify that the changes to the Children Act do not create a presumption of equal parenting. Although this idea was considered initially when the above provisions were drafted, it did not come into fruition, and rightly so. A presumption of a 50:50 split in relation to parenting would not compliment the welfare principle and would be a potentially dangerous move in some cases. The risks attached to such a presumption are highlighted by Australian family law and the devastating case of 4-year-old Darcy Freeman, who died at the hands of her father in 2009. He had been given access to his children under the Australian shared parenting law, despite concerns from his ex-wife as to the safety of this. This tragic case emphasises that a presumption of shared parenting can easily jeopardise the safety of a child, without relevant checks and balances being in place.

“The UK law appears to tread with caution by expressing that the presumed involvement may be direct or indirect,” says McCann. “Although the importance of child-parent contact is acknowledged, the law is not prepared to endanger the child and therefore indirect contact may be appropriate where there is the potential of harm through direct contact. Although this approach appears to be balanced and sensible, the motives behind the recent amendments can be questioned. There is room to argue that the introduction of child arrangement orders and the insertion of the presumption of parental involvement are both for the benefit of the parent, as opposed to the child.

“As stated above, the involvement presumption has always existed and recording it in statute simply reassures parents that, unless there is a good reason to the contrary, they will remain involved in their child’s life. The introduction of child arrangement orders does nothing more than rebrand contact and residence orders by placing them in a slightly more modern and less stigmatising packaging. Massaging the ego of the parent that does not gain the label of a ‘residence order’ appears to be the main objective. By focusing on accommodating the parents’ feelings, it can be argued that the child’s welfare becomes less of a priority and this is unacceptable.”

The government do not accept that the focus has been shifted away from the child and explain that, on the contrary, the purpose of the changes is to ensure such focus remains intact. They claim that the aim of the legislative amendments is to promote a greater understanding of how the courts reach their decisions in cases relating to parental disputes. The hope is that, in doing so, parents will be persuaded to take a less rigid approach, secure in the knowledge that their involvement is desired.

“It is still early days and one cannot be sure of the effects, if any, of the legislative changes,” concludes McCann. “However, if the government’s outcomes are achieved, it is hoped that parents will stop trying to win the ‘custodial war.’ In turn, this will ensure that focus is placed on accommodating the child’s best interests and this, of course, is the ultimate goal.”

Steps to a stress free divorce

Divorce cases can seriously tug at the heartstrings of family solicitors but it can also be a very stress full process for all parties involved including the solicitor.

Taking the step to deciding on filing for a divorce will never come easy and can often be put off due to the of fear of how long the process can take and how much additional stress it can cause on the family.

The divorce process is actually not that difficult and can be made simpler with both parties staying calm and being fair throughout the separation.

Agreement from the start

Establishing who the role of the ‘Petitioner’ is going to be is the first step along with the alternative party being given the title of ‘Respondent.’

After the roles have been decided which will normally come quite naturally, it is wise to invest some time into looking for expert advice from some of the top divorce solicitors in London.

The Basics

The petitioner at the point of filing for the divorce application chooses the grounds of the divorce.

The most common grounds for divorce are often irreconcilable difference or for unreasonable behaviour.

Regardless of the grounds for divorce, proof and any necessary evidence is required from both the petitioner and the respondent. This is where the help of a divorce solicitor can help establish a valid reason for divorce.

Financial Matters

Financial matters can cause the biggest issues during divorce, however if the financial matters such as the separation of property can be decided with minimum fuss, the divorce flows through the process a lot easier.

The Process

The arrangements for children need to be set out in a statement known as the “Petition for Divorce” which is sent to the court

The court then processes the statement, the court will then send them onto the Respondent where it requires this party member to acknowledge and agree to the contents, known as “Acknowledgement of Service.” This then has to be sent on to the Petitioner who verifies the details of the Respondent and sends both the application and the affidavit back to court where the case will be considered by a district judge. If the judge agrees to the divorce, neither party is required to be present in court.

The Petitioner has to wait around six weeks before applying for the Decree Nisi, failure to do so means that the Respondent can take control and complete the divorce process.

This is the final step to divorce, however if the Respondent has to take control then the situation will become a lot more complicated then necessary.

The Decree Absolute is a vital legal document and needs to be kept for future reference or the possibility of marriage should either party wish to remarry after the divorce.

For more information on the divorce process, seek the help of family solicitors in London or contact your local solicitors for a face-to-face appointment.

New online survey shows significant rise in popularity of Marital Property Agreements (MPAs)

With the Law Commission proposing that marital property agreements (MPAs), covering pre and post-nuptial agreements, should be legally binding only last month, it is a fitting time to publish the results of a survey that has been undertaken (by Alex Porter, who announced the statistics first in full here) which analysed the work of legal professionals involved with MPAs. This project is part of a major study led by Dr Laure Sauvé from the University of Essex, School of Law. Her project will analyse the latest report by the Law Commission using a comparative approach. She is currently exploring the differences between English and French laws.

Increase of 73% in use of Marital Property Agreements UK

The online survey has shown that the popularity of MPAs is on the rise with an increase of 73% in their use over a 20 year period. In the last year 79% of respondents completed between one and five MPAs per month.

Little Application of MPAs in Court

It also revealed that very few MPAs are applied in full once they get to court: just 5% of respondents said courts applied the details of the MPA in full; 76% said courts applied the details of MPAs in part; and 19% said courts had not applied any details of MPAs. In terms of how many cases actually end up in court 40% of participants said they did not represent any MPA cases in court per annum, and 40% said they represent between 1 and 5 per annum. The level of litigation is therefore quite low against how many MPAs are being completed.

Those completing MPAs are mostly very wealthy. Looking at levels of capital and starting with women, the majority, 37% had between £25,001 and £100k, 23% had between £100k and £250k and 10% had over £250k.  Men completing MPAs had a substantially more capital, 30% had between £100k and £250k and the majority, 53%, had over £250k.

This means that 33% of women had over £100k in capital but 83% of men had over £100k. It is no surprise that most cases that go to court are big money cases as the majority of those who want MPAs are very wealthy.

The Law Commission is recommending qualifying MPAs be put into statute and the participants of this survey mostly agreed. 69% thought that MPAs should be binging on the courts so long as there were adequate safeguards. Only 7% thought they should not be binding and 24% were undecided. However an interesting anomaly is that 55% of participants thought there would be more litigation on the basis of misrepresentation or undue influence if MPAs were binding, so for law firms it is a win win situation, especially as the price of a MPA ranges between £350 and £20,000.

Not unsurprisingly 72% said they now advertise MPAs as they have become more popular. The use of MPA will no doubt continue to rise and whether or not there is a rise in litigation will surface in due course. Either way the extra revenue will be a welcome relief for family lawyers with the recent legal aid cuts.

The full results are available at: http://internschooloflaw.wix.com/mpasurvey#

 

Image credit: Richard G via Flickr

Putting an End to Domestic Violence: Uncovering Five Principle Causes

As a Chicago domestic violence lawyer, my first duty is providing all citizens with their Constitutional right to a fair trial, no matter what crime they have been accused of. I am also responsible for ensuring that those who are falsely accused are given back their freedom and their good name. However, I also see the pain of domestic violence – for the victims, the perpetrators, and those who are wrongly accused – and it has made me passionate about putting an end to the problem of domestic violence.

There is no one cause that can be called the primary or motivating factor in the crime. Domestic violence is not generally like other crimes such as theft or drug possession where there is an objective in mind. It is a psychological crime, and therefore one that is harder to understand. Nevertheless, researchers, psychologists, and welfare workers have come up with several primary factors in domestic abuse cases. If we work together to end these root causes, we can come close to seeing an end in this cycle of violence.

  1. Living in a violent environment and early exposure to violence. According to the Child Welfare Department, this is the single biggest cause of domestic abuse. Children who grew up in a violent household or who were themselves the victims of domestic violence are more likely to become perpetrators themselves. Similarly, children and adults who live in a violent neighborhood or who are more frequently exposed to our culture of violence through community standards, video games, music, and similar things are more likely to become domestic abusers. Of course, trying to put an end to this factor in domestic abuse is a daunting challenge, much like trying to find the beginning of a circle. However, putting more safe havens in place for domestic abuse victims and setting up more community outreach programs in violent neighborhoods could be a good and effective first step.

  2. Living with an unmarried partner. Research shows that women in a domestic relationship with an unmarried partner were more likely to become victims of abuse than their married counterparts. Of course, there are many married spouses who are victims, as well, so this will not end the cycle of violence, but public awareness of this little known fact could go far in reducing incidents of abuse.

  3. Religious differences. Research has also revealed that women in a relationship with a partner whose religious convictions are more conservative than her own (whether or not they are of the same denomination) are more likely to become domestic abuse victims. However, couples who regularly attend church are less likely to be plagued by domestic violence. Again, spreading word of this statistic could help to end the cycle of abuse.

  4. Mental illness. Experts warn that not all domestic abusers are ill, and that boiling every case of violence down to a mental disorder is problematic. However, there is a strong correlation between mental illness and domestic violence. Women with a history of depression, PTSD, and anxiety disorders are more likely to be victims, while men who have struggled with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and similar problems are more likely to be perpetrators. Mental health care is appallingly bad in this country. Even those with health insurance are often denied mental health care. Making treatment for mental illness more widely available in the U.S. could greatly reduce cases of domestic violence (as well as other crimes).

  5. Substance abuse. While addiction to drugs and alcohol does not cause domestic abuse, drug users and alcoholics are more likely to engage in domestic violence, and the two problems can often feed off of one another. Creating better, more accessible, and more affordable substance abuse programs could bring about a significant decrease in both drug and alcohol use and domestic violence.

As a defense attorney, I have seen the pain of domestic abuse firsthand, and my heart goes out to the innocent victims of violence. However, I also see the psychological pain of the perpetrators, many of whom have grown up with violence and abuse from the time they were born. Putting an end to domestic abuse will bring peace to victims, wholeness to abusers, and – hopefully one day – serenity to areas that are plagued by violence.

About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.

Spouse buying property in case of “marital separation in fact” (Spanish Law)

Spanish law query: Can one spouse buy and register a house in the case of a “marital separation in fact”?

If the matrimonial property is the community of property, this community continues to exist as long as there is no legal separation of the spouses or the dissolution of marriage by divorce or death of any of them (Art. 1392 Civil Code). Therefore, any property that either spouse acquired before the dissolution of the matrimonial regime, will be integrated within it and when to liquidate the company will have to be included in the inventory of all assets are split.

Consequently, the fact that there has been a de facto separation of the spouses (temporary or permanent), does not prevent the goods they buy are marital.

This is the general rule that must be taken into account, and therefore it is advisable to regularize the situation by granting marriage contract, if there is agreement between the spouses, or by filing the lawsuit for marital separation.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, may be some clarification:

  • In particularly serious cases, separation of fact for many years, there are judgments of the courts to recognize that what may be proprietary purchased the spouse who buys it. But those are not to serve as a general guideline.
  • All that is acquired free of charge (i.e., by gift, inheritance, unpaid assignment, etc) Has the exclusive character of the receiving spouse, even if you are married in community of property
  • If the purchase is made by a spouse stating that the money you invest in it is privative in nature (e.g. Because it justifies that money received by inheritance or donation, or that the money comes from the sale of a privative asset) , in which case the property you buy, but is in effect the conjugal partnership, will be privative. The justification that the money invested in the acquisition is privative must be documented, not only a simple statement or declaration of the buyer. And usually done by filing a previous writing inheritance or donation, in which up receiving money, or sales above deed, in which the spouse is listed as seller of a privative asset.

David Lorenzo-Spanish Lawyer UK

Spanish Law | Birchall Blackburn

www.spanishpropertiesintheuk.co.uk

Divorce: Making The Final Decision And Starting The Legal Process

It can be incredibly difficult to accept when any relationship finally breaks down, but when it is a marriage that has come to an end, it can be almost impossible to get your head around. What are the most common reasons for divorce? How do you know when it’s right to put a stop to your marriage? And when should you start legal proceedings? Here are a few brief tips to help you on your way during this difficult time.

Attending Couples Counselling?

The first – and most difficult – decision you’ll need to make is that it’s actually time to end the relationship, and while for some this will be clear cut and extremely obvious, for other couples it can be difficult to admit that it’s the end. One way of helping you make your decision is to attend marriage/couples counselling sessions. Although you may not think that sitting and talking to a stranger can help, many couples find it extremely useful; it allows them to tell their partner everything they’re feeling, with an independent individual present to stop things becoming too heated and to lead the conversation in the right direction. Whether the counselling sessions ultimately end in you giving the relationship another go, or admitting it’s over, they can be a useful tool to push you both into making a decision that otherwise could have been dragged out for years.

Deciding On Divorce

If you do decide to get a divorce, there are several things you need to be aware of. For one thing, your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK, you must have a permanent home in England or Wales, and you need to have been married for at least a year. If you’re eligible, you can then proceed with your divorce, and there are three main steps you need to take in order to get this in motion. First, you’ll need to file a divorce petition; this basically entails asking the court for permission, and you will need to state your reasons for divorce at this time. Then you’ll need to apply for a decree nisi and then, finally, a decree absolute.

Grounds For Divorce

As has been noted, when filing for a divorce petition, you will need to state the reason or reasons for the divorce. These are called grounds for divorce and you must show that there are good reasons or you may not be granted permission from the court. You can give up to five grounds for divorce, and they can include any of the following.;

  • Adultery – but you cannot use this as grounds for divorce if you found out about their adultery and then proceeded to live with them for six months afterwards
  • Unreasonable behaviour – such as domestic violence, refusing to pay towards things such as housekeeping, verbal abuse or taking drugs.
  • Desertion and living apart are involved in the other 3 grounds for divorce – you can cite this as a round the divorce, the fact that either you have lived apart for more than two years and both of you agree to the divorce, or if you’ve lived apart for more than five years and only one of you agrees to the divorce, or your spouse has deserted you entirely – though desertion is quite a neutral ground to divorce these days.

When looking for a solicitor to help you with the legal side of your divorce, make sure that you appoint a divorce specialist – and one who you feel comfortable talking to and who is able to listen.

Tim Bishop is senior partner of Bonallack and Bishop – specialist English divorce solicitors representing clients in Wiltshire, Hampshire, the South Coast and the Midlands – and online throughout England and overseas. For more information visit their specialist website at http://www.the-divorce-solicitors.co.uk,or call them on 01722 422300.

What to Do Before You File for Divorce in Florida

We all know that divorce is a complicated, emotional and stressful process. Even the most amicable of divorces can still be a difficult matter. Before you file for a divorce in the state of Florida, there are a few things you are going to need to do to get prepared. These steps will help lessen the trauma for all parties involved, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly.

Stabilization Courses

The State of Florida requires all parents with children to undergo special stabilization courses. These courses are designed to help the parents find a way to make the process less traumatic for the children involved.

Some of these courses are available online, but in most cases, you will need to attend an actual class before you can proceed. These classes will also help parents put their children’s needs first, and help both parties decide what type of custody arrangements are going to be best for everyone involved.

Your attorney can assist you in setting up attendance in these courses and provide you with guidance on how to arrange custody that suits the best interests of the children involved.

Equitable Distribution

The State of Florida practices what is called equitable distribution of property in divorce cases. Unlike other states that simply divide assets down the middle, the state will determine what is fair and balanced when it comes to the division of property.

It is vital to have an attorney who is well qualified to assist you in this process. While it would be ideal if all parties are treated fairly, in many divorce cases, this just doesn’t happen. It is helpful to make a list of all of your current assets, both joint and single, to determine just what is going to be on the table. A divorce arbitrator can be helpful in this situation, particularly if it is an amicable divorce. However, if it is a contested divorce, or both parties cannot come to an agreement on equitable property distribution, this is a where an attorney is a vital part of the process.

Financial Preparedness

Divorce can easily cause havoc in both party’s financial lives. In order to minimize the impact, it is best to begin splitting up your finances as soon as you can in the process. Determine who owns what in your shared accounts and withdraw the agreed upon amount and place it in new accounts that the other party cannot access. We all like to think that we know our partners and that they wouldn’t be tempted to drain a joint account, but it happens all too often.

Shared utility bills will also need to be split. If you have your partner as a beneficiary on a life policy, now is also a good time to start the process to change the beneficiaries.

This is not an easy process, and it can be emotional. However, if both parties can realize it is for the greater good in the end, typically, it can be easier to get your financial affairs in order.

Finding the Right Divorce Attorney

You will need to have proper representation during your divorce proceedings. Many people make the mistake of thinking that in a relationship where there are no children that they don’t need an attorney, but end up finding out too late they should have had representation.

Look for a divorce attorney with a proven track record in handling many different types of family law cases. If you are a man, look for an attorney that specializes in the rights of the man during the divorce process. All too often, these cases are skewed in favor of the woman, particularly when custody battles are raging. You will need to find someone who can defend you and what is best for your children.

Irretrievably Broken

Florida law states that divorces will only be granted if the marriage is proven to be “irretrievably” broken or if one of the parties is diagnosed as mentally incapacitated. Unlike a “no-fault” state where reasons for the divorce do not have to be given, you will need to prove to the court that your marriage is over and there is no hope for reconciliation.

Your attorney will be able to present your case to the State to show that the marriage cannot be repaired and begin the process of equitable distribution, while making sure your best interests are being served.

About the author:
James M. Burns of the Law Office of James M. Burns has served clients in Florida and Alabama for nearly two decades and brings a wealth of experience and legal savvy to your side when you need a staunch supporter and smart legal representation.

The Need for Greater Family Law Court Judgements

Many family law hearings in the UK are held in secret, but more will be published in the future, says the court of protection. Unless there are extremely compelling reason not to, judges will give permission to make the hearing public. More details will emerge from sensitive domestic disputes, even if some of them are anonymised. These new regulations will begin on the 3rd of February. Sir James Munby is the main man who has been pushing for these reforms to the family court system.

This move will improve public understanding about the court process, and hopefully incur greater faith in the system. Public debates about famous cases – such as the pregnant lady who was forced to receive a caesarean – are often misinformed because the facts aren’t readily available. False reporting isn’t always the fault of the media, if they can’t access the details of the hearing. With greater transparency, public debates and articles will be better informed of all the facts. This will hopefully create a less biased account of events.

The Decision

There are two types of judgements: normally published cases and possibly publishable cases. These categories provide the framework in which a decision is made.

The judge will only publish the hearing if he or she deems that it’s in the public interest to do so. Families under protection, children, and vulnerable individuals that can’t usually make their own decisions, will obviously continue to benefit from anonymity. A judge will choose to keep a judgement or case secret, if this would breach any important anonymity. In many cases, the judge will decide what is appropriate for publication – he or she is not allowed to publish information at the request of a party or the media. The judge must decide that it’s within the public interest.

Is That All?

Exonerated parents or anonymous parties may wish to discuss their experience with the media; sometimes this is advantageous to the case, as it can bring forward more evidence or witnesses. Otherwise, there are strict rules about what the media can or can’t publish from the family courts. Journalists can attend hearings, but they need to obtain the court’s permission if they want to report the case.

There may be details which a journalist isn’t able to publish, due to the sensitivity of the details.

In the court of protection, the hearings are private – the media and the public aren’t allowed in. This is to safeguard the rights of vulnerable people who would suffer unduly if the contents of the case were made public. It seems like this will happen more rarely in the future, as the government is on an anti-privacy binge.