Articles/Blawg

I’ve presented these articles which I have written because I feel they offer good information for my clients. Reading them at your leisure will help you better understand your situation. If you have any questions regarding what you’ve read here, especially how it may relate to your own family law issue, please feel free to contact my office. We will be happy to arrange a consultation to discuss all your questions.

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Are You a “Free -Range Parent”?

For years we’ve heard about “Helicopter Parents”, a style of parenting many feel is the overprotection of children, perhaps to the detriment of children as they mature into adults. When I was a child, I don’t remember a label being placed on my parents’ “style” of parenting. In fact, I do not think they even knew what their style was back then.  They just did much of what their parents did – why not?  My grandparents were, and my parents are, good, productive people who loved and appreciated their parents.  They simply modeled what they viewed as good parenting in their own personal child rearing.  For me, it seemed to work, as I believe I am a good, productive person who loves and appreciates my parents.  But in the recent past, parenting has changed; one change being known as Helicopter Parenting.

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To Delay, Or Not to Delay, that is The Question

The decision to file for divorce is not just a legal action—a lawsuit—but also a deeply personal and important decision. In fact, it may arguably be one of the most monumental decisions a person may make in their entire life. Thus, it is not surprising that many people delay the act of filing for divorce. Some people may be in denial by the emotional weight of the act, or they fear the possible ramifications the divorce may have for their children. For others, it may be a religious or perhaps a financial reason to delay the divorce. Or, perhaps some people may simply find comfort in a new normal of living separate and apart from their spouse without the formality of a divorce.

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Tis’ the (Tax) Season

For individuals going through a divorce, or for those just contemplating a divorce, one of the big questions often posed by clients to divorce attorneys, as well as by prospective clients, is “should I file a joint return this year with my spouse”?

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Hypothetically Speaking: The Trump Divorce and Custody

On Thursday, March 15, 2018, the New York Post broke the news that Donald Trump Jr., and his wife, Vanessa Trump, are heading their separate ways after 12 years of marriage and five children, ranging in age from 10 years old to 3 years old. The couple alleged in a joint statement that their decision to divorce[1] was not acrimonious, and various news sources including but not limited to The New York Times, stated that Ms. Trump is seeking an uncontested divorce to end her marriage to the First Son.

The following day various online publications including Page Six, The Cut, and the Washington Examiner, reported that Ms. Trump hired well-known criminal defense lawyer David Feureisen to represent her in the divorce proceeding. It is interesting, that for a couple who is allegedly parting ways under so-called amicable circumstances, and for the brouhaha that is currently erupting over the fact that Ms. Trump filed for an “uncontested” divorce, that Ms. Trump has supposedly hired a criminal defense attorney to represent her in a family law matter.

With regards to custody of the parties’ 5 children, it will be interesting to see how this divorce proceeding plays out in the headlines as well as in the courts, especially considering Mr. Trump’s alleged personal embroilment in the current investigation regarding Russia’s influence in the 2016 election, as well as his colorful and arguably cutting presence, on social media.

In California, custody and visitation decisions handled by the courts are guided by the best interests of the child standard—a very subjective and fluid standard. Using the Trump case as the basis of a hypothetical based in California Family Law, how could the various allegations against Mr. Trump, as well as his online presence, affect his custody rights? This blog post will speculatively explain how:

Example #1: Mr. Trump’s tweets.

While many of Mr. Trump’s tweets from his twitter handle, @donaldtrumpjr, appear to be innocuous and merely supportive of his father, some of Mr. Trump’s tweets could arguably be construed as abrasive and controversial.

In a contentious custody dispute, it could be argued that the more caustic tweets reflect an inability of Mr. Trump to control himself, a powerlessness to put his own interests aside, and think of the bigger picture, i.e., the best interests of the children. Litigants in custody disputes must be cognizant of the fact that their social media presence will be assessed during the proceeding, and their social media posts may be used as evidence to show that their ability to make decisions in the best interests of the children is questionable. If the posts are erratic, damaging, and abrasive, it could be argued that those same qualities will be prevalent in one’s parenting abilities, too.

Example #2: Mr. Trump’s involvement in Robert Mueller’s investigation.

As Page Six reported[2], Ms. Trump’s divorce filing came the same day as special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed President Trump’s family business, demanding that the Trump Organization release information related to Russia. Mr. Trump runs the Trump Organization along with his brother, Eric Trump.

While no charges have been made, and only an investigation with much speculation is currently pending, Ms. Trump’s lawyers could possibly raise issue as to Mr. Trump’s ethics, honesty, as well as the children’s safety in arguments regarding the custody of the children.

For example, it could be argued the Mr. Trump’s controversial dealings and alleged dishonesty regarding his involvement with Russia’s interreference in the 2016 election could put the children at risk of danger from nefarious foes. In fact, just last month, a letter containing an unidentified white substance was sent to Mr. Trump’s residence, and opened by Ms. Trump, causing her to be taken to the hospital for evaluation. Ms. Trump may argue that Mr. Trump’s increasingly public persona could cause a safety concern for the children, and that the children are safer away from the public eye by being with their mother.

Conclusion

While we may never actually know how the Trump divorce pans out, as it is likely that this divorce may be sealed from the public, and the case may involve confidentiality agreements, the Trump divorce raises interesting hypotheticals as to how a public figure’s actions as well as those that are not public figures, as well as their social media presence, could weigh heavily in favor of the children having more time with the other parent in a contested custody dispute.

[1] Van Oorschot Law Group, PC is not involved in the case.

[2] https://pagesix.com/2018/03/15/vanessa-trump-files-for-divorce-from-donald-trump-jr/

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If You Willfully Break It, You May Not Be Able To Fix It

Family law cases are fluid and dynamic. The cases are influenced by a variety of constantly changing factors, some simple like the child’s age; some more complicated by the loss of a job, a promotion, or the receipt of a significant bonus. Yet, while life may change during and after a family law proceeding, what cannot change–without either a written stipulation signed by the parties to the action or a court order—is an existing court order.

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Make Alimony Great Again…or Not?

The recent sweeping tax law, signed by President Donald Trump, known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), among other things disposed of the 75-year-old tax deduction for the payment of alimony (also known as spousal support). The deductibility of alimony paid by a spouse meant the recipient of alimony was to pay taxes on the receipt of this money.  A recent article in USA Today does a good job of explaining the genesis of this new law and its impact, but succinctly states statistics that illustrate why the government has been irked by the deductibility of alimony:  “The Census Bureau says 243,000 people got alimony last year, 98% of them women. The Internal Revenue Service says 361,000 taxpayers claimed they paid a total of $9.6 billion in alimony in 2015, though only 178,000 reported receiving spousal support.”

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When the End is Only the Beginning

Unfortunately, in some cases, a final divorce judgment may not equate to the end of the divorce process, and the accompanying emotional turmoil. Sometimes, the end may be the beginning of more litigation.

Thus, while the marital status is terminated, custody and visitation rights are defined, support obligations are established; and, the property divided by the judgment, sometimes one party may still not be satisfied and will continue the litigation.

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New Year, New News: Telling Your Children About Your Divorce

A new year, for many people, is also often synonymous with a fresh start. Whether that means logging longer hours in the gym, commencing a new fitness routine or diet, the new year is almost like a cleansing—out with the old, and in with the new. For those considering a divorce, or, even for some people who have already started a divorce, part of the divorce process is discussing with your children about this major life change.

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Creative Custody Suggestions During the Holidays

The holidays, while going through the ebbs and flows of a divorce, may feel like one is mixing oil and water. While the holidays are considered a time of joy and happiness, a divorce, is well, not the happiest time for (most) people. Plus, when you add in the children into the mix of a divorce, things can become that much more murky, complicated and difficult.

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2018 Federal Tax Reform and The Effect on Family Law

The tax reform bill currently making its way through the U.S Congress could have potentially seismic effects on California family law. The proposed legislation, which repeals itemized tax deductions such as medical expenses, state income taxes, attorney’s fees, and unreimbursed business expenses, calls for notable changes to the tax structure of spousal support.

The current proposed changes to the tax code shift spousal support tax responsibility. If passed, spousal support payments may no longer be (1) tax deductible to the payor, and (2) taxable as income to the recipient. These changes will have significant ramifications for individuals who pay or receive spousal support. This proposed elimination of “above-the-line” tax deductions on spousal support will undoubtedly cause a ripple effect on California family law. Let’s look specifically at the effect of eliminating tax deductions on spousal support.

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