Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Missing Spouse

Oh this one comes up a lot lately.   I have no idea why there is a sudden run on people wanting a divorce after being separated for years.   I mean that literally, years.   Then they wander into the clinic or call my office wanting to know how they can get a divorce.   Usually no kids no property so pretty easy right?   Not so fast.   They have no idea where the missing spouse is.

You see there is this pesky thing called the U.S. Constitution.   The Sixth Amendment says no on will be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.   Now, in a divorce, no one gets killed, and you get liberty not be deprived of it.   However, divorce is about property.   Pure and simple.  Oh and money.   But for the purposes we are discussing now, let's just say money is property.   That means a decision about the property cannot be made by the court without due process.

What is due process?   Well that means the person is afforded a chance to make his/her case in court.  In order to be afforded the chance, one has to know there is a court case.   That means getting served with the divorce Complaint.   The spouse has to receive the documents.   If the missing doesn't know about the case, the court is not going to act.

What does this mean for the person wanting a divorce?   It means putting in some effort to locate the person.   One can't just throw up one's hands and say "I have no idea where they are."   It means knowing a last address.   It means contacting friends and family.   It means going on Facebook and doing a search.   If one doesn't put in the effort, the court is not going to make an exception in the case and proceed without proper notice.   And I can guarantee the attorney is not going to pay out of pocket to hire a private investigator or even do all the things I suggested for free.   If you want to pay an attorney to do the search fine.   But if you want the divorce but don't want to pay or don't want to put in the effort, it is not going to happen that simple.

Okay, you've made an effort, you did all those things.   You just can't find the person.   All is not lost.  You can still get what we call "alternate service."   But that is the last attempt not the first.   You would not believe the people who want to go right to posting at the courthouse.   In order to get to alternate service, the judge has to sign off on serving that way.   And no judge is going to sign off on just posting without any other efforts being made to locate the person.   Because the person has to know there is a court case.

If you want a divorce, get one sooner rather than later.   If you wait years, the other person can wander off.   Thereby creating huge headaches that a lawyer cannot wave their magic law wand and solve.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More on Fantasy Sports - What Else You Could Be Doing With that Money

If you saw my previous post, you know I am not a fan of Daily Fantasy Sports Sites.   I just see too many families already in debt and these sites only make it worse.   They make it seem so easy.   They have contests beginning at $1 and you could win a million.   Except those $1 contests don't have the $1 million prize.    I have seen a distinct uptick in cases involving gambling, where the track, casinos or DFS.   But the place of gambling may be different, but the outcome is the same.   Money lost that can be put to better use.

Let's see what else you can do with that money.   Here are some actual entry fees from one of the major DFS sites.     I did it for the basic entry fee then figured out if you entered that same contest for each week of the NFL season.   I chose NFL because I prefer football to any other sport.   Plus the season is pretty compact.    Just imagine these numbers over the baseball or basketball season.

Entry Fee
17 Weeks
To be fair, they also have some contests for $.25.   You want to enter a couple of those, have fun.   It's spare change (although even that adds up).    But no one enters ONE $.25 contest once.   You enter multiple contests to increase your chances of winning.   And you do it all season long.

Just at $5, you spent over the cost of the season, your monthly cell phone bill.

The $10 over 17 weeks is your electric bill for one month.

$12 is an extra car payment after 17 weeks.   You make that instead and you are reducing your principle which reduces the total cost of your financed vehicle in the long run.   

Let's get into the serious money here.   $100 is already your water bill or cell phone bill.   Just one contest instead of paying that bill.   Over the course of the season that is your mortgage payment.  

For $200 each week, you could pay off your credit card bill.   

If you saved that $300 over 17 weeks, you have a downpayment on a nice condo.

The sites do their best to make sure you don't realize how much you are spending.   Eh, what's 5 contests at $5 a contest?   Well, that's $25.  Which is a tank of gas.    Over the course of the season that is your car payment twice over.  You could pay your car insurance at once instead of each month.  

Interest rates might not be exciting, but if you can afford to put that much money into DFS each and every week, you have that much to put into savings for a real emergency.   You spend the equivalent of a tank of gas every week and then the day after the Super Bowl your car dies.   But you have no savings.  Now you have to get a new car with no money down.   It can be done, but you are financing the whole thing.   

$200 a week and you put that into your IRA tax free, by the end of the season you have maxed out on what you can put in in a year.   

The point is, you can put that money to better use for you than giving the money to the site owners for their benefit.   Like more ads every five seconds during the games.   

If you are married to someone who is just won't quit with these sites because he/she is convinced that the next contest will earn all their money back and then enough to pay off the debts, you need to realistically look at your situation.    It's not getting better.   Instead of paying off debt, you are adding to it.   You don't have to put up with it.   You can get out.   There might not be an easy out of the debt.   Maryland does not have "marital debt."   But at least you can put a line under what you can be held responsible for.   Talk to an attorney about your rights and ways to protect yourself.   

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Daily Fantasy and Divorce

No this is not a post about sex.   I hear enough about sex as it is, since the no fault grounds requires the parties not to have lived under the same roof or had sexual relations for at least 12 months.   Then there is the adultery grounds.   Just no more sex, please.

This is about Daily Fantasy Sports sites.   They've been in the news lately and Congress is investigating.   Oh goodie.   How many boxes of reports will that be?   Can we bet on the over/under?   Ooops sorry.   Anyway ...

That's the first issue.   Is it gambling or not?   Technically no.   The NFL and other major sports slipped in an exception to the Internet Gambling Bill that said fantasy sports is not gambling because it requires skill.   So does poker, but we can't have that on the internets anymore.   Besides, you really want to go into court and split that hair?   You think a judge is going to be amused?   You are putting money down on proving you can pick better players than the other people in your "league."   You can lose that money or you can win it back and then some.   If it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck ...

So, you actually have some skill at DFS and won big.   Yeah right.   The sites pay for all those ads with the losers money.   Chances are you paying for their kids to go to private school instead of your own kids.    You really want to explain to a judge that you didn't pay the mortgage because LeSean McCoy went out with a pulled hammy?   Or the guy who hit it big last week so you all picked him up was benched this week?  

Okay, okay, some people win so they can keep enticing people to play.   Guess what?   That is now income.    No wait it's not because I have losses too, you say.   Sure.   Still income.   As my good friend, Taxgirl pointed out in her great article on DFS, you will get a 1099 from the site at the end of the year with your winnings.   1099 is income for tax purposes.   And it darn sure is for child support purposes.   The Court likes to find money for child support and takes a broad definition of income.   In fact, it Maryland, Sec. 12-201 of the Family Code specifically states that "prizes" may be considered income based on the case.   So you can argue it's not gambling, but it is still a prize for winning.    Do it on a regular basis and I can almost guarantee a judge will consider it income.   And I give very few guarantees about things.

Fine, okay, it's income for child support, but surely not alimony right?    Well, maybe not.   But alimony is based on ability to pay after your basic necessities are taken care of.    Or as one judge put it in a case involving gambling, but not DFS, this is a luxury.   Luxuries you can skip altogether and use that money to pay your ex-spouse alimony.   Again, if you got money to put down on your "team" that means you have money to spare.    If you have money to spare, you can pay to help your spouse out.  It is that simple. Or you can put it away for your kids' college education.   Even with the low interest rates we have now, it's more a sure thing to grow over time than hoping that your favorite player doesn't get hurt.

Should you never use DFS sites?   Well, until Congress gets done, I wouldn't.    But, putting a couple bucks down for fun every once and awhile is harmless, if you can afford it.   Never ever bet the rent money.   And if you do it all the time, not only will you lose in the long run, but it will be considered income.