August 28th, 2015
Do you have grounds for divorce if you find your spouse among the 37 million hacked users of Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people looking to cheat?
In DC, the answer is no. There are only two grounds for divorce in DC — six months voluntary separation or twelve months involuntary separation. But the court must still consider marital fault, among other factors, in deciding alimony and property distribution.
Maryland and Virginia have fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Adultery is a fault ground in both states. Using Ashley Madison by itself does not prove your spouse has committed adultery. But it is probably enough to plead adultery in a complaint for divorce. Then you have to obtain the evidence. You can use then use the court discovery rules to ask your spouse directly. Your spouse must answer under oath and penalties of perjury.
Your spouse may take the Fifth Amendment but the divorce court is allowed to presume this means that adultery was committed. And some spouses will lie. In addition, Maryland and Virginia require corroboration of the adultery by independent evidence. So you may still have to hire a private investigator to follow your spouse.
Despite what you see in the movies, the private eye doesn’t usually burst into the hotel room with a camera. You can use circumstantial evidence to prove adultery with inclination and opportunity.
The testimony for inclination might be, “I saw them holding hands at dinner and watched them go into a hotel.”
For opportunity, the detective would say, “I put a chalk mark on the tire of the car in the parking lot and it was in the same place when I returned in the morning.”
August 21st, 2015
Divorce lawyers are seeing an upsurge in business as a result of the hack attack on the Ashley Madison Internet dating site for married people.
The hackers posted names, street and email addresses and payments for millions of users, mostly men, since 2007.
“There’s definitely going to be a lot of people calling me in and wanting to quote-unquote know their rights,” Jacqueline Newman, a New York City lawyer, told Huffington Post.
July 29th, 2015
Dr. Murray Malin, an anesthesiologist, was 38 when he met Marcie Minenberg, 27. She went to law school but did not pass the bar exam and was working in a jewelry store. They wed, had one child, and divorced in Maryland after three years of marriage. At the time of trial, Murray had stopped practicing as a doctor due to a drug addiction.
The trial court awarded Marcie alimony of $3,500 a month, non-taxable to her, for five years. Murray appealed arguing that (1) the court could not award alimony that was non-taxable and (2) the court could not award alimony for longer than the marriage.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals agreed with Murray that the only alimony a court can award is taxable alimony. Parties can make alimony non-taxable, but only by agreement.
As for the length of alimony, the appeals court said there was no law against alimony that lasts longer than the marriage.
Malin v. Mininberg, 153 Md. App. 358, 837 A.2d 178 (2003)
July 24th, 2015
Country music stars Blake Shelton, 39, and Miranda Lambert, 31, announced their divorce this week after four years of marriage.
This was not like your mama’s broken heart. There were rumors of cheating, denied by both.
The tabloids said Blake was mixed up with another woman. I imagine her lips tasted like Sangria.
But rumors also surfaced that Miranda was involved with country singer Chris Young.
Young said “Aw naw, to another I will be true.”
July 13th, 2015
I was in another lawyer’s office the other day. There was not a single file nor paper in sight. Her desk was gleamingly naked save for a cup with pencils in it. The pencils were point up and freshly sharpened to exactly the same height. On the sidebar (yes, she had a sidebar), there were bottles of water on a tray with a glass pitcher full of crystal ice cubes. The coffee cups had the firm logo imprinted on them. I had the feeling if I looked closely enough, the ice cubes would too.
A clean desk indicates its owner has an organized mind and a disciplined approach to cases. After all, the practice of law is an obsessive compulsive type of job. You must pay careful attention to detail, deadlines and words.
There is another lawyer I know well who, despite his best efforts, has a rather messy office. It is filled with memorabilia, pictures, knick knacks and bric-a-bracs. There are papers and files all over his desk. These spill onto the floor which he uses as a filing system.
He reminds me of the clerk in the W.C. Fields movie who gets fired because of his rolltop desk over-stuffed with papers. But they have to hire him back when they can’t find an important contract. He sticks the point of his pencil into the stack of papers at the exactly the right place and pulls out the contract.
This lawyer with the messy desk is so good that he is in much demand. His file clerk cannot keep up with the files of clients clamoring for his time. His messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. He is unconventional and thinks outside the box. His creative solutions benefit his many clients.
Come visit my office sometime. Here, let me just move that stack of papers.
July 10th, 2015
The cases where the children refuse to visit a parent are among the most frustrating for parents, divorce lawyers, judges and therapists.
I’ve seen judges order months of reconciliation therapy. I’ve had one judge tell me, “I can’t send a crane to pickup the child and one house and drop them off at the other house.” Another judge said “A 15 year old can go almost anywhere they want on their own. A 15 year old can go to the bus station and buy a ticket.” None of these solutions are usually very satisfying to either parent.
Now one judge in Michigan has come up with a different idea. She is holding the children, ages 9, 10 and 15, in contempt for refusing to have lunch with their father and putting them in a juvenile detention center until they change their mind. The mother’s attorney has filed a writ of habeas corpus to free the children which is scheduled for July 15, 2015.
Read more about this case.
June 26th, 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision today legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. The decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who says in the last paragraph:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
June 24th, 2015
We went to a birthday party for one of our neighbors last night. Sooner or later at parties, people around me start telling me their divorce trainwreck stories.
One woman told me about how she and her ex fought over who would get the two kayaks.
“Why didn’t you take one and let your ex take one?” I asked.
“They were a matched pair.”
“ So,” I said, “Just buy another matched pair.”
“They were hand-made and unique.”
It ended up that the husband bought the wife’s kayak for $750.
More divorce trainwreck stories.
June 11th, 2015
Marriage is on the rocks for Marge and Homer Simpson.
The celebrity cartoon couple will legally separate in the upcoming season when Homer leaves Marge and the kids for his pharmacist.
No word on whom Homer and Marge will hire for lawyers, but we’ve got room for just one more good case.
April 17th, 2015
“Wherever a new disagreement emerges, so does new hope for enlightenment, on both sides of the fence.” — Mike Dooley, Notes from the Universe