Friday, September 9, 2011

The Pain of Divorce

Last night I was working at a pro bono clinic.   Slow night due to all the rain we have had.   Another attorney -- who does not do family law -- and I were talking.   He mentioned some scene in Entourage (a show I have not scene) where the agent says he would murder his wife rather than go through the pain of divorce.

Now, I get it.   Divorce is horribly painful -- both emotionally and financially.    It is basically saying that the people once in love now can't stand to live together.  All that warm fuzzy love turns to cold prickly hate.   It can get messy, even for the most calm, mature person.

Then there is the financial aspect.   You gotta decide who gets what and how much.    If you worked hard to develop your skills to advance in your chosen profession, it really sucks to hand half of it to someone else.   (Of course most people ignore the help the other spouse provided so that you could develop the skills to advance in your chosen profession).  

But murder?   Really?   That is the better choice?

Let's compare for a moment the two options.


Dividing up the stuff.   Sure your spouse gets half  (for the sake of simplicity, we are going with a straight division of property, MMV in each particular case).   But only the half that was earned up to the date of the divorce.   After that, you got all the rest of your life to accumulate more -- that your ex can't have.   If you do remarry -- Prenup is a really good idea to protect your new stuff.

Alimony.   Maryland has moved away from permanent alimony, and I believe so have most states.   Permanent alimony was a check to the spouse for the rest of the spouse's life or until the spouse remarried.   Not a lot of incentive to move on with one's life there.   Now, the courts favor something called rehabilitative alimony.   Rehabilitative alimony is only for a limited time until the spouse can get back on his/her feet and become self-supporting.   Incentive to get off one's butt and work, because the checks won't keep coming forever.   There are a lot of factors to consider in determining rehabilitative alimony:  length of marriage, age of kids if any, skills of the spouse, time needed to acquire a job or skills to become self-supporting.   But, the key here is that it ends at a definite date.   It is over eventually.   Then you never have to pay the spouse again.   Your ex can't come back and say "Oh I know I was supposed to be self-supporting by now, but I'm not, keep paying."  

In summary:   After a painful period of time, the divorce is over and you get to go on with your life, accumulating more stuff and keeping the money you earn.


You will get caught.   You will go to jail for the rest of your life.   You will not have the opportunity to enjoy all the stuff you managed to keep your spouse from having, you will not have any money to spend because you lost your job because you went to jail.   You will have no opportunity to recover from this because you will most likely die in jail.

In summary:   You never get a chance to recover from being an idiot for thinking murder was a good option.

Did I make that clear for everyone?  

One final note:   bet a family law lawyer is cheaper than a criminal lawyer in the long run too.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Another Divorce, Another Team

It was announced today that Arthur Blank and his wife of 16 years are separating.  Arthur Blank is the owner of the Atlanta Falcons.    He married his current wife in 1995 and bought the team in 2002.    The press release said the separation will have no effect on his business enterprises.  

The last time this happened was the McCourt divorce which engulfed the Dodgers.   The mess got so bad that MLB had to take over running the team.

Most NFL teams are owned by corporations, although NFL Bylaws require one person to have majority ownership.   The NFL wants one person making the decisions.   That person might then incorporate in order to protect assets or for other business reasons.   So, it sounds like everything would be protected in the event of a divorce.

I reached out to a friend who is a Georgia lawyer to see if GA is a community property state (He's also a Falcons fan).   No word yet from him on the news.

If Georgia is a community property state and he bought the team with marital funds, even if he incorporated, she has rights to the team.   (Or some share of it).   Here's why.   There might be a corporation that owns the Falcons.   But corporations issues shares.   If his shares have any value, they are a marital asset.   Which means they can be divided in the event of a divorce.   If GA is a marital property state, same thing essentially.

Now, it is possible that Blank bought the team with separate funds earned before the parties married.   If the source of the funds for buying the team can be traced to separate -- not marital -- property, then the team is free and clear.

Also, it is possible that unlike Jami McCourt, Mrs. Blank wants nothing to do with running a team.   She may relinquish her interest in the team in exchange for some other financial consideration.   Happens all the time in divorces.   Okay, usually not sports teams, but there is always something that someone really wants.

That is why practicing family law is so much fun.   You can get creative.   You can negotiate and think outside the box to reach a solution agreeable to all parties.    You don't have to go to court and pursue a scorched earth strategy.   In fact, court is not a good place to get what you want.   The court is bound by statutes, precedent and other considerations.   There may limits to what a court can grant.   But, a really good family law attorney can reach an agreement that a court could not grant, but is still enforceable and acceptable.

Here's hoping the Blanks go the peaceful route not the McCourt route.    Football just survived one nasty court fight, it does not need another one.