High Profile Cases

Prenups are not romantic, especially for the Prince and Princess

There is no question that a Prenuptial Agreement is unromantic (although I have heard of a man getting down on one knee to offer a prenup to his fiance). Whatever the reason a prenup may be desired (a bad first marriage and expensive first divorce, for instance), asking your intended to sign a prenuptial agreement is very unromantic. But then again, many things about marriage are unromantic. The decisions about the wedding, for instance, are often a struggle between the desire for the most beautiful, exotic wedding in the world versus the finances available. Or whether to even have a big wedding and invite everyone, or save the money for a first marital home? Even the question of who to invite to the wedding can be very unromantic and often the cause for dissention. Should a relative who has been unfriendly to the fiance’ be invited? Do step-parents walk down the aisle? So the issue of whether or not to sign a prenuptial agreement is not the only practical question an engaged couple faces. But it may be the most troubling. After all, isn’t the request to sign a prenuptial agreement bascially a nice way of saying I don’t trust you one hundred percent? Or at least, maybe it is a way of saying I don’t trust me, or us, one hundred percent. Either way it casts doubt on a couple’s certain belief that their marriage will last forever.

But many, about half of all marriages don’t last forever. And what really should be avoided is a contested divorce. And that is the one true potential benefit of a prenuptial agreement. It can avoid, or at least reduce litigation and the related costs.

So the issue of whether or not to execute a prenuptial agreement is a balance bewteen practicaity and romance. And for a couple being looked upon these days as the epitomy of romance, the Prince William and his bride, Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, it is understandable why apparently no prenuptial agreemen was signed (click here for press coverage of that issue). It is understandable why they may have opted for romance, but even so, it was a required consideration, and likely that the question at least caused the Prince to consider it. There is nothing wrong with weighing options, even if only for a millisecond, especially for a future leader (at least a future figurehead leader) of his country. But for a fairytell wedding, it seems a prenuptial agreement just would not have fit the storyline. And they are not the only ones to feel that way. These questions and emotions are not unique to British Royalty. In my practice I have seen this exact dilemma often, and can never predict whether a prenuptial agreement will actually be signed. But the process is intriguing and one of the most human endeavors I have the opportunity to witness from time to time.


NFL Lockout and child support continued

What will happen if the NFL Lockout continues? What happens to pending child support cases involving NFL players? What happens to the players who are paying thousands for child support but now have little or no income? Time will tell, but it is my guess that the longer it drags on, the more likely it will be that there will be child support reductions, significant reductions.

Awards based on earnings of several million dollars per year must now be adjusted to reflect earnings of a few thousand dollars per year. Is it worth it to a player to seek a reduction today? Maybe, but as the Lockout continues and the income remains at zero or close, players will have to reduce their expenses, including child support. Will the courts concur? Only time will tell, but the longer it goes, the longer players remain unemployed, the more likely it is that they will see their child support obligations reduced, in my opinion.


NFL Lockout and child support

So the NFL Lockout may begin at midnight (see story by clicking here)? What does that mean for players who pay child support (and mothers who receive child support)? In the short term, it probably doesn’t mean much. But if the lockout lasts a while, there could be some real child support consequences. The first obvious consequence is that players may not have the cash flow to remain current on their child support obligations. Hopefully they choose correctly and pay child support before some of their other ongoing expenses (car payments, etc.). Not only should child support be at the top of the list, judges who have the power to incarcerate child support obligors may be much less sympathetic to the NFL player who was paid millions and did not save for this “rainy day”.

The next concern is litigation, two types. The first type of cases that will be brought may be the ones seeking to enforce court orders against those who have stopped or slowed their payments. The second is the actions to be filed by players to seek a reduction (temporary or permanent) of their support obligations. While courts may or may not be sympathetic, such lawsuits at least show the court that the player is not ignoring the obligation, but instead is trying to make it reflect his current financial situation. Of course lawsuits cost money so before a player files, he must feel that the work stoppage will not be short-lived.

The third, and best course of action, is for players and the women to whom they pay support, get together and reach agreements. In this way, there could be an agreed upon temporary reduction. If the player is ultimately reimbursed the full salary, then child support would be fully reimbursed. Or once the situation is resolved, there could be renewed discussions and possible agreements prior to running to court. Of course, if there is no season, players should have (and spend) more time with their children. This can also be agreed upon instead of litigated.

But the best suggestion is communication. Child support obligors and recipients should always communicate. Communication, good, effective communication is almost always the best first step to resolution. It’s what we encourage at KSS Family Law, and what we hope all attorneys, advisors and counselors do.


DOMA no longer to be defended by Federal Government

The Obama administration moved closer to officially recognizing the right of same sex couples to marry. It was done in a reverse sort of way. As reported by the Washington Post “The Obama administration said Wednesday that it will no longer defend the federal law that bans the recognition of same-sex marriage because it considers the legislation unconstitutional….” (click here for full story from the Washington Post).

It seems the administration recognizes that sooner or later the fedral law defining marriage as between man and woman will be overturned. But in this manner, he seems to making it easier for the courts to make that determination, since it may take a very long time for the legislature to do so.

Like the ancient Chinese proverb says “We live in interesting times.”


Another foot in (or out) the door for gay marriage (or at least for gay divorce)

A very interesting case from Texas is in the news. A lesbian couple left texas to get married in Massachussetts. They returned to Texas and subsequently sought, and obtained a divorce. The Texas Attorney General then intervened, but so far that intervention has been been ruled as coming too late (click here for a link to the story).

Perhaps Texas law had previously not allowed gay divorce since it does not allow gay marriage (and in essence, granting a divorce to a gay couple basically acknowledges a gay marriage). While this case may not set reliable precedent, it does seem to be an indicator of where things are headed. And, had the court not granted the divorce, how would this couple have resolved their issues? Sticks and stones? It seems to me that allowing them access to the court to resolve their differences is what we should do in a civilized society. This debate is long from over, but it certainly is interesting.


2010, the year in family law.

As 2010 comes to a close, I can’t help but look back and realize how much “family law” was in the news (click on the stories for articles on each). There was the Goldman international custody case between U.S. and Brazilian citizens as well as gay marriage debates, laws and rulings nationwide, culminating with perhaps the most reported case of all, Proposition 8 in California (click for Associated Press Video).

There were countless celebrity divorce and family law cases in the news. Just think of Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods, Octomom, Kate Gosselin, Sandra Bullock and perhaps the biggest of all, The McCourts (Owners of the L.A. Dodgers).

There is the Tony Parker v. Eva Longoria case and the Charlie Sheen divorce.

It is time for the media to start looking back and summarizing the stories that made news. CNN has already written one on celebrities’ troubles.

Still, what continues to amaze me, is how interested the public is in other people’s lives. Have we become a voyeuristic society? Or do we simply take comfort in knowing that even those who seem to have it all are not immune from the same type of pain and emotional (and often financial and physical) agony the rest of us may endure?

As a family law attorney it is often difficult to see so much hardship. But our role as lawyers is to help reduce that pain. To counsel and to make a bad situation a little better, or at least tolerable. Often we are the only ones who can see the light at the end of the tunnel; that there will be a tomorrow. So perhaps the most important thing we can do is to reassure our clients that tomorrow does come. And look, here it is, 2011. Many people have suffered in 2010, but many have made it through to a new year. Here’s to hoping that things get better for those who had a rough 2010, and that those who didn’t, continue to be blessed in 2011 and beyond.


Is infidelity epidemic for athletes?

Is infidelity epidemic for athletes? I think not. But I do think that famous people have more opportunities for, are given more opportunities for, or are solicited more for extra marital relationships than the average person. Does that make it okay? No. Does that make it a little easier to understand, yes.

I am often asked why athletes or other famous people seem to have more extramarital relationships than the average person. First I am not convinced that is true. But second, if it is true, there must be some explanation, even if we don’t like the explanation. One such explanation is that the offer or opportunity is probably much more present for these high profile folks. Should they resist, sure. Are they human, sure. Is it human to cheat?????? Having sex is human. Seduction is human.

ESPN just wrote an article on this topic and interviewed me about it (that is what gave me the idea for this blog entry). You can see the article by clicking here. What is interesting to me is not the cheating, but America’s fascination with it. Stories of infidelity amongst the famous are always big news. Tony Parker, Tiger Woods, A-Rod, Bill Clinton and on and on. Why do we care? Perhaps it is because we expect more from our heroes. We expect that those whom we admire, those who are more athletic than the rest of us, more successful than the rest of us would also be more moral than the rest of us. After all, we are supposed to play by the rules, why shouldn’t they, especially when they already have so much. Perhaps the fascination is with the fact that the rich and famous are never satisfied, even though we would be if we had a tenth of their wealth, fame or success (but would we?).

To me the real issue is the relationship that is being hurt. If there is a family that is otherwise working well, extramarital affairs are quite an obstacle. In my experience, it seems that most such affairs start well after the marriage is on the down turn. Yes new relationships should wait until a marriage has fully ended, but we are not a patient species.

I do not have the answers, but I do enjoy asking the questions, which is a good place to start. Tell me what you thing by commenting.


Eva v. Tony, “upping the prenup”?

Just like the rumors in the Tiger Woods divorce, there are rumors that the first time Eva Longoria caught Tony Parker cheating, she asked (or told?) him that the amounts she was to receive in their prenuptial agreement, in the event of divorce, must be increased. And if true, he likely complied because he loves his wife, wanted to stay married and felt guilty.

Relationships are very interesting and are what makes the human world go around. Money as punishment? Is that right? Well it happens all the time. Personal injury awards grant a victim of a car crash money, but does money replace a loved one, or a fractured bone? Slander claims often result in money damages, but does that undo the damage to reputation? I would submit that this example of “upping the prenup” is a way to artificially incentivize people to be monogamous or faithful. Is it right? Who knows, it is not for me to judge. But just thinking about the concept is interesting, at least to me. We use money to incentivize, to punish and to reward. Shouldn’t we be able to accomplish what we want without that? If the cheated on spouse still loves the other and wants to stay together, why ask for more money? If the cheater is truly regretful, why not just give the other whatever he/she asks for? In the end it seems we are all individuals. Maybe I am jaded as a divorce lawyer, but even I believe there are many, many people who instead of discussing money would simply discuss the relationship. If they both want it to continue, it will, if not, then it’s over. But of course it’s never that easy, is it?


Learning from Mark Cuban’s brother

I was fortunate to be asked to present in Dallas to the Sports Financial Advisor’s Association. My co-presenter was…..Brian Cuban. I knew all about Mark Cuban, the maverick owner of the Dallas Mavericks. But Brian is a superstar as well. When I learned he was going to be my co-presenter, I started reading up on him (check out his site and his blog by clicking here). Interesting guy. He has put himself out there, on his blog, on Twitter and everywhere as a crusader for many things. He is very outspoken against hate crimes and generates a lot of much needed discussion on that topic.

The topic of our presentation? How can/does regular and social media affect our business and our entertainment/athlete clients? While I consider myself a novice in these areas, Brian is obviously an expert. He discussed aspects of social media I had not appreciated. But what really impressed me about him (and I realize this applies to many) is that he learned and understands the workings of, and value of social media……by doing it. He has created a niche for himself and a social media identity and a “brand”.

All in all, like many seminars, I learned a heck of a lot, and. More importantly, I met a heck of a lot of nice folks.


Why is the McCourt’s divorce unique?

Why is the McCourt’s divorce unique? Because lately the high profile cases in the news have been resolved out of court (Think Tiger Woods, Sandra Bullock and A-Rod). In fact, most high profile matters our firm is involved in are settled without any press and with very little expense. Actually going to trial with so many dollars at stake (and so much public reputation to lose) is becoming rarer and rarer. But the McCourts are there (click here for link to UPI story). No doubt the lawyers tried their best to guide the parties to resolution. Lawyers of that caliber always do. But when one party (or both) think their position is blatantly reasonable, or is an obvious “winner” in court (there is no such thing), it can be hard to settle a case. Some cases are just easier to try.

Unfortunately for the McCourts, it appears the court will decide their divorce which is guaranteed to make one, if not both parties displeased with the outcome.

On ocassion we encounter a stubborn opponent (opposing party or opposing lawyer). Even then, steps are taken to try to reach resolution. Mediation, settlement conferences and even pre-trial conferences with the judge are usually attempted to promote settlement. We also sometimes utilize a process known as Late (or Early) Case Evaluation. This process entails hiring a family law attorney who is respected by both sides to give everyone a “reality check”. Sometimes that does the trick. But when someone is truly unreasonable, the only way to resolve a case is trial. But even then, the good lawyers can only ease their conscience if they have truly attempted settlement first. But once settlement efforts are exhausted, trial becomes inevitable. Perhaps the one benefit of the McCourts actually going to trial is that others will realize how risky and costly trial can be, and thus become more determined to resolve their own cases privately. Let’s hope the message is sent, and heard, loudly and clearly.