Thursday, November 22, 2012

Keep the Ex and the New SO Apart

Thanksgiving, that time when families comes together -- and custody handoffs occur.   Everyone wants the little angels to spend Thanksgiving with them, not the other parent.   But hey, there is a court order stating otherwise.   The Court Order controls.  

So, the split has occurred and everyone has moved on.   There is a new Significant Other in one parent's life.   Gues what, this new SO is NOT a parent.   They should not be involved in the Custody Order, the pick ups or the drop offs.   Even if the new SO lives with the parent.   If the pick up and drop off occurs at the house, the new SO needs to make his/herself scarce.   No confrontations at the front door, in the living room, in the driveway.

Did I say the driveway?   Yep, that is what happened to Halle Berry with her new fiance and her old boyfriend (who happens to be the father of her child).   Halle is already irked because she was not allowed to move to France.  Turns out dad has rights.   Go figure.   Money does not trump that.

So, Dad has the little cutie overnight and returns her today.   All nice and correct.  Until the new fiance decides to insert himself in the situation.    He approached Dad during the dropoff and tries to make nice.   Which seems like a good thing -- except it is not his job to do that.   He needs to stay out of the situation between Halle and Daddy.   It is not his business.

Now, what Dad did is not right.  He charged Fiance and started a fight.   A serious fight which ended with both men in the hospital.   Dad is also facing misdemeanor charges.   Which is wonderful example to set for his kid.   Fortunately, Halle rushed the child into the house as soon as the fight started.   But kids are not stupid.   She is old enough to know daddy and Mommy's new friend got into a fight.  

Yes Dad was wrong to treat a gesture of conciliation as an invitation to fight.   However, again, fiance needs to keep his nose of things that are none of his business.    I get more calls in my practice after the case is over where the new person in the other parent's life is causing trouble.   Talking trash, trying to take the parent's place in the kid's life, disciplining the kids, and generally interefering.   This could all be avoided if the new SO just understood - you have no rights to these kids so stay out of it.   If the parent insists on inserting the SO into the situation, rather than dealing with the other parent on his/her own, that is equally wrong.   The parents are the parents.  Period.   Keep others out of it.  

Or it leads to this -- someone going to jail.   And a child who feels horribly caught in the middle.

(okay, this one is not sports related, but it was too good a lesson to teach.   And it was Halle Berry, I am not dumb enough to miss the SEO implications of that)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Not Even Once" Means You Too, Ocho

Now airing is a new PSA against domestic violence.   It features various sports figures speaking out against domestic violence saying that you don't hit someone you love even once.   It features David Beckham (all too briefly), Eli Manning and others along with Barack Obama and Joe Biden.   It does not feature Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson.    Which is a good thing considering the events of this weekend.

Chad was arrested Saturday night after an altercation with his wife one month, Evelyn Lozada.   It began over allegations of cheating and ended with violence.   He claims she headbutted him, she claims he headbutted her.   She was the one with the laceration and went to the hospital.

All of this is allegations at this point.   We don't know what happened between the two or who did what to whom.   What you don't do when someone is furious with you is get in a small enclosed space.   Which is what they did.   They were outside the car at home and got back  in the car to talk.    Furthermore, if the fight is getting heated -- walk away.  There is no rule that says you have to continue a fight.

Some men will say she was asking for it.   No one asks to be hit.   If someone is provoking you to the point that you feel you have no choice -- you do have a choice.   Walk. Away.

You don't want to be set up.   Walk. Away.

Be the better person and don't get into a physical fight.    It doesn't solve anything.   It just makes things very much worse.  

"Not even once" was taken seriously by the Dolphins.   They cut Johnson on Sunday night.  Yes, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.   But your employer doesn't have to keep you employed.   If you get arrested as an NFL player or a barista at Starbucks you can lose your job.    Is your income really worth smacking someone upside the head?

Domestic violence is not acceptable.   It is not a way to resolve issues in a relationship.   It is about power.   Power that you think you have until the police put the cuffs on you and you find out who really has the power.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Divorce - NFL Style

The New Orleans Saints have been in the news a lot this offseason.   Not always for good reasons. Now they got another headline they probably didn't need.    Head Coach Sean Payton has filed for divorce.   The usual reasons of "irreconciliable difference" is cited.

Although he coaches in New Orleans, the filings are in Tarrant County, Texas.   This is due to a quirk of coaching in the NFL.    Coaching jobs can be short in duration.    Better to have one home for the kids while dad heads out to work.    Makes for not seeing a lot of dad during the season, but at least the kids aren't uprooted every few years.  

Mrs. Payton has counterfiled for residential and legal custody of the kids.   That means she wants the kids to remain in Tarrant County.    Legal custody means she wants to make the decisions about the kids' upbringing.    Joint legal might be preferred (at least in Maryland) but sometimes it doesn't work.    I can see a judge looking at the work hours of an NFL head coach and just saying, "Decisions about the kids need to be made in a timely fashion, Dad can't do that most months of the year, Mom gets to make decisions."   This does not mean Dad is cut out.   Dad still has a right to know what is going on with his children.   Period.   No hiding information just because Mom is the decision-maker.

At least with Payton's year long suspension from coaching, he will have time to devote to this case. On the other hand, it is a suspension without pay.    That could make calculating child support interesting.    If Dad technically has no income (I forget what Payton is doing this year to keep busy since he can't even attend the Saints games), how can he support the kids?   On the other hand, he is expected to work in order to be able to support the kids.    Since the Saints have said Payton is coming back as HC next year, a smart lawyer would ask the judge to calculate the child support on his contractual income.   Let Payton's lawyer argue against it.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fundraising for Cancer Research

I don't just snark about athletes and their family law troubles.   I also tried to get involved in helping others outside the law.    To that end, I have started a FirstGiving fundraising to raise funds for children's cancer research.  


The goal is to read 50 books by the end of the year.   I am seeking donations of $10 for every book I intend to read.   This means $500 for cancer research (more if I read more, in other words, the more I get, the more I read).  

Please help this very worthy cause.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Divorce is a Distraction

Football requires focus and confidence.   So do most other jobs.   Lose your focus in football and you get steamrollered.   Lose your focus in your average job and you could get fired.    Just ask Quentin Jammer how going through a divorce can affect one.

Jammer had a terrible 2011 season.   One reason he gives is that he was going through a divorce.   The drinking he admits to probably didn't help either.   But the divorce probably triggered everything else.

A divorce is a highly emotional time.   You are splitting from the person you once loved.   All that love and sense of lost (even if you want the divorce) get all caught up together.   It is a rough time.   In the meantime, you are expected to function normally and get through every day life.   Sometimes all you want to do is scream.

These are normal emotions.   What you can't do is let them overwhelm you.   You can't dwell constantly on the lost.   Or your current feelings for your spouse.   If you do, you will lose focus.   You will lose confidence.   It will definitely make a bad situation worse.

Get help.   Talk to a professional.   Do not natter on to your friends all the time about it.   First of all, they are not professionals, they cannot give you the advice you really need.   Also, if all you talk about is your divorce, your friends will soon get sick of being around you.   Then they won't be your friends anymore and you will be alone.   Again, a bad situation made worse.   Definitely do not post each and every feeling you are having to Facebook or Twitter.   The whole world does not need to hear the intimiate details of your life.   Your spouse's lawyer will have a field day with the posts.  

Accept your feelings as normal.   If you find yourself unable to cope, get professional help.   And hang in there.    Time heals all wounds.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tell It to the Judge

Oh this is so not a good idea.    T.O. is going on Dr. Phil to give his side of allegations that he owes $20K in child support.   Let's leave aside the fact that Dr. Phil is not exactly a nice guy who is understanding about people's shortcomings.    Let's focus on why this is a bad, bad, bad idea for T.O.

First of all, either he owes the child support or he doesn't.    There's not a lot of sides to this story.    There's a court order for the support and either he paid what he was supposed to pay or he did not.   If he did pay, his lawyer should be filing a Motion to Dismiss.   If he did not, what the heck is there to explain?

Which leads to second of all, you don't do your explaining on TV.   You do your explaining in court.   A TV audience is not a judge.   A TV audience cannot excuse you from your court order duty to pay child support.   Any explanation you give on tv is not going to impress a judge.

Third of all, what any explanation will do is give an explanation you are stuck with.   If you try to change your story later, the other party just has to produce a tape of the Dr. Phil show and say "That's not what you said before."    It's called prior statements.   Doesn't matter if you are under oath.

TV, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are not the places to plead your case.   It does more harm than good.   Once you are involved in court -- or think you might wind up in court -- shut up.   Keep your thoughts between you and your attorney.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Derby and DV

It's Kentucky Derby Day.   The fastest two minutes in sports.   The Kentucky Oaks was run yesterday.   Every sports blog has posts on the Derby and/or the Oaks.   DivorceField is not going to be left out thanks to jockey Robby Albarado.

Albarado was arrested yesterday morning on domestic violence charges.  Even the "Sport of Kings" is not immune from domestic violence.   Allegedly, Albarado got into a fight with his live-in girlfriend when she used his cell phone to call her family to leave him.    She went to the hospital the next day and was found to have a shoulder separation, dislocated collarbone and possible torn ligaments.   That's a little more than a tussle over the phone if her injuries were caused by the fight.

People argue.   People who should not be together get into arguments while breaking up.   It happens.   There are lots of emotions involved in a relationship.    What is never acceptable is violence.   Don't hit.  Don't grab.  Don't smack.  Don't touch in anyway.    If you feel yourself losing control in an argument walk away.  

Not all domestic violence incidents involve a loss of control.   Those are somehow worse.  But there is no such thing as a "minor" domestic violence incident.  Any violence in a relationship is not acceptable.  

Albarado found this out the hard way.   Not only is he facing criminal charges, but Horse Racing acted quickly. He is suspended indefnitely effective immediately.   Yes, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.   But being a jockey is a privilege.    Horse Racing can suspend him merely for the arrest.   This policy is to be commended.   Albarado won't be riding in the Oaks or the Derby.   Immediate consequences for unacceptable behavior may convince those who commit DV that they shouldn't do it.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't Tweet Your Divorce

Honestly people.   Some things should be kept private.    Your divorce and the whole mess you are going through with your spouse is one of those things.   But what can one expect from "Primetime?"   Yep, Deion Sanders is taking to twitter about his divorce.    He decided to tell all his followers about the difficulties he is having with his soon to be ex-wife.  This is such a bad idea.

First there are the evidentiary issues.   Twitter is not private.   Everything you post on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace (for the two users of MySpace left), linked in, Pinterest and every other darn social media site is pretty much public information now.    Which means it can be used by either party in the divorce.   There is no claim of privilege or privacy.   So, of above all, don't be posting advice your attorney gives you anywhere on the internet. That destroys attorney-client privilege.  

But also, don't be posting how you are going to mess your spouse up, how you are going to get the kids and make sure your spouse never sees them, or anything like that.   Don't even post like Deion Sanders did about an alleged assault.    It doesn't make your spouse look near as bad as you think it does.   It does make it you look like a big jerk.  Guess how well courts like someone that comes across as a big jerk?   Here's a hint -- not much.  

Second of all, your children will read your postings.   Your kids do not need to see you badmouthing the other parent in a public forum.    Believe it or not,  this does not make the kids love you more.   It just makes them feel caught in the middle.   It makes them feel like they are doing something wrong by loving the other parent.   Don't put your kids in that position.    Keep your feelings about the other parent to yourself.   If you must let it out, don't do it in a way that your kids can find out.   Trust me, that they will love you for.

Take the high road.   Don't post.   Be the reasonable one.   It's a lot easier to get the court to see your point of view if you are reqsonable.   It's not reasonable to be spreading tales all over the internet.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Child Support and Bankruptcy

Warren Sapp, a current analyst on NFL Network and former Buccaneer and Raider has filed for bankruptcy.   He filed for Chapter 7, which is the liquidation one, not the one where you set up a payment plan.   I don't do bankruptcy (too much math) so I cannot get into the ins and outs of the filing.   But one thing is interesting, he owes the IRS approximately $900,000.   He also owes --- wait for it -- child support in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars" according to the PFT article.   Interesting.

You see, child support is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.   That means, you can't sell your assets, pay what you can on your child support and forget about it.   Child support is for the support of the child.   If it could be discharged in bankruptcy, every person who owes child support would just file for bankruptcy.   Then be free forever from paying it.   Or at least the arrears.   It would be against public policy to let the person get away with it.  

Here is what I really don't get.   Sapp has rought $6.45 in assets and only $6.75 in debts.   He also currently has a job (the contract expires in August 2012).   All of this is according to PFT.    Why is he filing bankruptcy?   Most of his debt is not dischargable in bankruptcy anyway, so he will still owe the money.   Why not work out the other debts and move forward?   Why not control your spending?   (note to Sapp, you are not making millions as an athlete anymore).    I just don't see how a liquidation bankruptcy really helps him in the long run.  

Especially as he will still owe the child support.   If the kids are young enough, the child support obligation will be ongoing (child support ends at 18 in Maryland, generally, no college payments required).   So, if he doesn't get his spending under control, he will be right back in debt.  

Child support does not go away.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yet Another One

Yet another athlete is jailed for not paying child support.   Rather than write yet another post making the same point -- Pay Your Child Support -- I just created a new page.    On the page In Jail - Child Support you will find links to the stories on all athletes who have been jailed for not paying child support.    It will be listed by sport.   Former atheletes and current athletes will be included.    I really hope this remains a short list.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Child Support - Not a Difficult Concept

Although for some it apparently is.   Yet another former pro athlete facing jail for failure to pay child support.   This time it's Dennis Rodman.   He is the "colorful" former Bull, Spur and probably some other teams.  

Look, I get it.   Child support orders are based on your income at the time the order is entered.   However, if your income changes, see what your options are to change the order.   In Maryland, child support is modifiable based on a material change of circumstances.   Material change of circumstances means something big changed that affects child support -- like not being a pro athlete and making the big salary anymore.  

Get it taken care of before the arrears add up.   If one waits, the judge will not be amused.   In the Rodman case  his third wife (which is a whole other post) claims arrears of $800,000.    C'mon, how do you let it get that high without doing something about it.  

Rodman's excuse is that he is broke.   Which would be believable if he were not photographed all the time at parties all over the world.   How does he get to these events?  Walk?    Most likely these are paid appearances.   Which means he has income.   That means he needs to pay his damn child support before he pays for anything else.

One more time, for those who think child support is optional:   Pay. Your. Child. Support.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Only Three Things Are Sure - Death, Taxes and Child Support

A former Eagles player found out the hard way about two of those.     Freddie Mitchell, who has been out of football since 2004, was recently arrested on tax charges.   He was released on his own recognizance to resolve his back child support issue.    He apparently did not, so he is in jail for failing to pay child support.

Look, child support is a court order.    You have to pay it or you go to jail.   There are plenty of mechanisms in place to protect oneself if one cannot pay.    Failing to avail yourself of those mechanisms is just foolish.    A good family law attorney knows how to talk to the child support enforcement folks to work a deal.  

That is beside the fact that the money is for your kids.   Really, your kids should go without food and clothes because you can't get your act together?    Because that is who suffers if you don't pay child support.   Not your ex-spouse, not the spouse's new spouse, not the spouse parents, brothers, sisters, etc, who never liked you.   Not the friends who bad mouth you for not paying child support (hmmm, causal connection there).   It's the kids.  

I have heard every story in the book.   "Oh she is spending the money on herself, that is why I don't pay."   "Oh she is putting the child in daycare just to force me to pay more child support."    "She is taking the child to the doctor to run up child support and make me look bad."   "She never lets me see the kid, so why should I pay."    Guess what, none of those work with the court to get child support reduced.  Or to excuse not paying.    If she is really not letting you see the kid, then you take her back to court.   You do  not ignore your own obligations because she is doing wrong.    Two wrongs do not make a right.

It is simple -- Pay. Your. Child. Support.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Child Support Bounties

News broke this week that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty system under Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams.    He would pay defensive players $1500 for a take out (take the opposing player out of the game) and $1000 for  cart off (having a player carted off the field).    Such a system is strictly prohibited by NFL rules for obvious reasons.    There are rumors that Williams had bounty systems in place at both the Redskins where he was DC for many years and the Bills where he was head coach.   The League is investigating these rumors.   For more details, you can read or CNN/SI.  

These bounties were paid to the players in addition to their regular salary.   Leaving aside the salary cap issues, this affects the income of the players.   Now, I don't know for sure if any players owed child support or were in the midst of calculating child support, but if any were, this could have serious implications.   Every state is different in how child support is calculated.   It's not just your regular paycheck.    It can be any money you receive.   Maryland has a pretty expansive definition of income for child support purposes.   It includes, income from work. gifts, overtime, pension, divdends from stocks and bonds, social security benefits and the like.   The full list is found at Md. Family Law Code Sec. 12-201.    Bonuses can be included.   If a bonus has been earned in the past and is likely to be earned in the future, it is considered income.   The reasoning is that is for the support of the children, so the bigger the pot of income the better the children can be supported.

It is most likely that the bounties would be considered bonuses.   They were awarded for performing one's job in a certain way.    Kinda like a violent version of employee of the week.  

One could argue that there is no guarantee that a player would earn that bonus since it requires actual injury to another player.    However, given the nature of the sport, the counter argument is that injury is likely especially is one is trying to do so.  

If a player owed back child support, the bounties should have been garnished to pay that.   If a player is the midst of calculating child support, the bounties should be part of the calculation.    After all, it is for the kids.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Child Support and the Athlete

While researching one of my child support cases (not anywhere near the realm of a professional athlete's salary), I ran across an interesting case.   Antonio Freeman of the Eagles (at the time, he is more known for playing for the Green Bay Packers) was being sued by the mother of his child for an increase in child support.    He had an agreement with the mother when the child was first born.   He would pay $3500 a month in child support, pay all private school expenses, all medical and dental expenses not covered by health insurance and establish a college fund.   It is quite clear that Mr. Freeman fulfilled his side of the agreement.

Mom was a student and did not work.    One of Mr. Freeman's arguments was that an increase in child support would actually be supporting the mother, not the child.   I get this a lot.   The person paying the child support swears up and down that the person receiving the support is spending it on his/herself.   Here's the deal, the support does not have to directly support the child.   In other words, the kid does not pay rent to live in the house, the kid does not have his/her own jar of peanut butter and jelly or loaf of bread for sandwiches.   If child support goes to pay the mortgage, that's fine.   It is still benefitting the child.   If the child support is used to pay groceries for the whole family, okay.   The child gets to eat too.   If the money goes to car repairs, great.   Even if the child is too young to drive, they need to be in a safe car (it should be noted that Mr. Freeman bought the mom a car as agreed so she would have a safe car to transport the child).   It's about the KID and all the things that go into raising and caring for a child.   It's not about accounting.  

Here's the other reality check for payors and payees alike -- for most cases, the child support is not nearly enough to really support the child.   The good folks in the legislators who draw up the child support guidelines know that they are just making a best guess as to how to provide for the child.   Child Support is not the end of the support for the child.    At least in Maryland, the principle is both parents are expected to support the child.    The child support payment is that parent's share of the support.   The non-paying parent still has a duty to provide support for the child.   They just aren't writing a check to the other parent for it.   But, yes, raising a child means using some of your own money to support the child.  

Back to Mr. Freeman.   The trial court in this case was not amused to hear that the child got a lot of new shoes and clothes every month.   Nor did they think N'Sync concerts were necessary to a child.   The Court of Special Appeals disagreed.    There is a difference between a child's "needs" and a child's "necessities."    Necessities are food, clothing and shelter.   And sometimes that is all parents can afford to provide.   But in this case, the child was the child of a professional athlete who was making $1.2 million at the time of the agreement and was now making $3.2 million.    It's a cruel fact of life that rich parents can provide more things for the child than poor parents.  

Should child support be the great leveler and only provide for support at the most basic level for all children?    Of course not.    The justices of the CSA ruled that the "child is entitled to the standard of living of the economic position of the parents."   Rich kids are entitled to a better standard living than poor parents.   Perhaps "entitled" is not the best word.    But, children should not be punished just because their parents happen to be rich.   It is not the child's fault that the parents make more money than other kids' parents.    It's life.   To order less child support just because another child won't get as much makes no sense.  

Because disparity of incomes mean child support is different in each case, so too do the needs of the child expand when there is more money to spend on non-necessities.   The child attends private school, presumably with other children of wealth.   Should she not be allowed to attend the same events, participate in the same extra-curricular activities just because her mother receives child support than the other children in the school? Of course not.    Remember this is about the KID.    It's about making sure the child has the appropriate lifestyle.   In this case, this should be entitled to the same lifestyle as other children of professional athletes.  

Of course, some would argue that because the parents were never married, the child never was used to the father's wealthy lifestyle.   Bah humbug.   Do I really have to say who it is about again?    It is not about Mom and Dad and their relationship.   Again, the child should not be punished just because Mom and Dad never married.   It's 2012.    Newsflash, there are unmarried parents out there.   The child should not be relegated to the economic level of the mother just because that is who she lives with.   She has a rich dad.   She is entitled to that benefit.   So what if once the parents were married.   By the time you get to child support, the parents aren't living together anyway.   So should children of married parents be reduced to the standard of living of the parent who gets custody, if it is less than the other parent?   Or should the wealthy parent get custody just on the basis of wealth?   Think about that for a minute.   Again, the kids would be harmed based on what the parents did.  

One of Mr. Freeman's arguements was that his career would be short as a professional athlete.   This case was decided in 2002, he retired from the Packers in 2007.   The court reasoned it is even more important to have high child support now because of it, rather than using it as an excuse to keep child support low.   The idea being the Mother would save some of the money now for the child's care later (hey, one can hope).   That is why the college fund needed to be established now because he might not have the funds later.   However, his career has no  more guarantees than any other career.    As a lawyer, I could conceivably practice until my mind goes (let the easy jokes go people).   However, there is no guarantee how long that will be.   I could be hit by a bus tomorrow -- and the way I drive it is not that far fetched.   No person paying child support has a guarantee of making the same income in the future.   That's why one can petition for a downward modification as well as an upward modification.    It's not just the person who is receiving the support who has the right to petition for modification.   The person paying also has that right if there is a change.   If one loses one job, or is cut by the team, one can request the court modify the support at that time.    But there is no point doing it prospectively, none of us know the future -- not even the courts.

In sum, if you have the money pay up for your child's sake.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolution

Got a little behind in posting.   My trial schedule was a little unbelievable.   Then I was too exhausted over the holidays to do anything.   Sorry about that.

Here's what I missed:

Kobe Bryant's wife filed for divorce.   Apparently there was no pre-nup.   All I gotta say on that one is "What an idiot."   The guy makes millions because of his unique ability to play basketball, yet he does not protect his ass -ets by having a pre-nup.   This is the wife he had a lot of explaining to do back in 2004, that one cost him a big old ring.   This divorce could cost him even more.

Floyd Mayweather is sentenced to 90 days in jail for domestic violence.  Well, it's a start.   But 90 days is hardly getting tough on the crime of domestic violence.   He must report to jail by January 6.  Happy New Year, Floyd.

Okay, there are probably other stories.   I promise to do better in 2012.   More stories (provided the athletes cooperate), more analysis.   All provided in a timely analysis.

Hope 2012 is a wonderful year for everyone.