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Mr. Kessler quoted by Reader’s Digest on the Worst Divorce Settlements

The Worst Divorce Settlements in History—and How to Avoid One of Your Own

The person who first said, “A good compromise is one from which neither party walks away happy”? was probably a divorce lawyer.
By Lauren Cahn

First, let’s face it: It’s never a win-win

Compromise is crucial to any good relationship, and generally speaking, the ideal result is both parties feel they’ve won, according to the American Management Association. But when you’re unwinding a relationship—as in a divorce—it’s pretty rare for anyone to walk away feeling victorious. “Apart from the emotional toll a divorce exacts upon the once-hopeful couple, there’s simply no way to split things up in a way that doesn’t engender at least some level of regret and resentment,” explains matrimonial attorney Rebecca Zung.

Sometimes it seems fine, until it’s not

“I know of divorce settlements where one spouse ended up with all of the investment funds, and the other ended up with all other assets (real property, bank accounts, etc.), and everything seemed fine… right until Bernie Madoff got arrested,” Georgia matrimonial attorney, Randall Kessler tells Reader’s Digest. “We all know how that ended up.” The more the investment-minded spouse had trusted Madoff, the worse the settlement became for that spouse.

“No trash talking” clause

Before uber-celebrity Jennifer Lopez could marry singer Marc Anthony, Anthony had to divorce his then-wife Dayonara Torres, and it appears that JLo took a serious interest in how that divorce settlement went down, according to Legal Zoom, which reports that the settlement included a clause forbidding Torres from speaking ill of JLo (at the risk of lawsuit and the payment of damages).

She lost her head

The most celebrated divorce in history, according to Smithsonian.org, is that of King Henry VIII versus…Pope Clement VII? It’s the Pope who Henry had to fight when he wanted to end his first marriage so that he could marry the younger, prettier Anne Boleyn. And it’s a fight that ended poorly for everyone. To marry Anne, Henry quit the church. Quitting the church quickly caused England’s way of life to unravel, for which the English blamed Anne. Within three years, Henry had grown disenchanted with Anne and had her beheaded.

Alimony escalation

William O. Douglas sat on the U.S. Supreme Court for more than 35 years (1939 to 1975), so you’d think he’d know better, but in 1954, his divorce settlement with his first wife included a clause whereby the more money Douglas made from writing books and giving lectures, the more he had to pay his ex in alimony. As Legal Zoom puts it, Justice Douglas was essentially on a “financial treadmill” for the rest of his ex-wife’s life (she never remarried).

Royalty-free?

Snopes had to step in regarding apocryphal stories that singer Marvin Gaye agreed to pay his ex, Anna, all royalties from his next album (Here, My Dear), including: Anna got screwed because Marvin didn’t give the album his best effort. Marvin got screwed because the album was a hit.

Neither is true. Marvin owed Anna a specific amount regardless of the album’s success. Although Marvin initially considered torpedoing the album, he ended up creating a record critics loved.

It could happen to you

All you need to win the lottery is a dollar and a dream, they say. And all you need to lose your winnings is to try to hide them from your spouse. That’s what The LA Times reports happened after Denise Rossi won $1.3 million in the California Lottery but decided she wanted it all for herself. Days later, she filed for divorce from her husband but didn’t mention the lottery winnings. When the truth caught up with her, the court ruled very penny of her winnings would go to Thomas.

Some people are just asking for trouble

Attorney Zung tells Reader’s Digest that the worst settlements she’s seen are the ones where people have been married a short time, there’s a great disparity between their incomes or net worth, and there’s no prenuptial agreement. “For example, a wealthy guy married a cashier. They were married only a year when he placed her name on the deed to their multi-million dollar home. When she left him, the court ruled that the home had been ‘gifted’ to her.”

Sometimes the law just fails to provide a reasonable result

In Nelson v. Nelson, attorney Zung fought hard for her client, a wealthy, older man who’d married his young massage therapist. Over their five-year marriage, the husband was generous, and the wife cooperated in her husband’s estate planning, including forming a trust in her name to own one of his real estate holdings. In the divorce, however, the court applied trusts and estates laws to find that the real estate was no longer “marital property.”

When smart people make stupid choices

Nobel laureates may be among the smartest people on the planet. But even they make questionable settlement choices. In 1988, Robert Lucas agreed to give his ex-wife half of the funds from any Nobel prize he might win in the future…with an expiration date of 1995. Turned out, that was the year Lucas picked up the prize. At least he’s in good company: All of Albert Einstein’s prize money from his 1921 Nobel win went to his ex-wife, Mileva Maric.

Maybe it’s wasn’t worth the aggravation

When Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced in 1996, there was lots of stuff to divvy up and a financial settlement that placed $22.5 million in Diana’s hands. But what no one could ever really get their head around was why Diana was willing to forgo her right to be called “Her Royal Highness.” She lost a variety of honorary military titles as well. Royal experts called the scenario unprecedented.

Worst case scenarios

“The worst divorce settlements are where the children are used as pawns,” April Masini, relationship expert and advisor on Relationship Advice Forum, tells Reader’s Digest. Other worst case scenarios include: (1) One spouse is in school, and the marriage ends soon after graduation: The spouses are equally on the hook for any student loans, but arguably, the graduating spouse has no duty to share future earnings. (2) When the marriage ends after unsuccessful fertility treatments: Viable embryos are “fertile ground,” as Masini puts it, for a custody battle.

Tips to protect yourself from a bad divorce settlement

Legal and financial analyst Jeff White of FitSmallBusiness.com had this advice for protecting yourself from reaching a regrettable divorce settlement:

  • Document everything: Make sure you document your financial resources, and those of your spouse, from before your marriage.
  • Tax consequences: Not all assets are created equal, even if their technical values are. Some assets will be taxed more heavily than others if you decide to sell, which means you’re actually getting less in your pocket.
  • Everything is negotiable: Don’t overlook any asset. Even if you don’t want it, you can use it as a bargaining chip for something else.


This article originally appeared on Reader’s Digest.


Mr. Kessler writes about divorce and “the need to be heard”

The December holiday season can emphasize the feeling of being underwater in relationships.

As a divorce lawyer, I find that holiday time is always a mixed blessing. Personally, I enjoy the fact that most courts take time off (so there are few trials) and most clients try to get along or at least to get through December with minimal confrontation.

The flip side is that the cases that erupt, especially during the holidays, are often the most contentious of the year. And that makes sense. If two people have so much anger or divisiveness this time of year, you know the issues are deep and difficult.

So what can we all do? Not just the lawyers, but our staff and our clients’ families, friends and support systems? Be patient and listen.

Perhaps it sounds naive, but I am of the opinion that most people going through a divorce or another family law hardship have a strong need to be heard and understood. Their pain may be deep and may never have been disclosed until now, and they need it to be heard. That is part of the catharsis.

So when our friends, our family members, our patients, our clients need to vent, let them. Then let’s all take a breath.

Sometimes there is no answer. There are deep-seated frustrations that may just need to be aired to someone, sometimes to anyone who will listen.

And if you don’t have the answers, that’s OK. If you want resources, they are everywhere. There are lawyers willing to consult, Internet sites, books, etc.

But sometimes “I don’t know” is an acceptable reply. It may even make the person feel better that someone he or she trusts, like you, doesn’t have all the answers. Divorce and family law matters are difficult. But having someone to share them with can make all the difference.

So if someone you know is going through such a situation, maybe just listen and help that person learn to simply take a breath.


Mr. Kessler quoted in Huffington Post on Divorce Lawyers Relationship Advice

Originally Published at Huffington Post
Married divorce lawyers have an interesting perspective on relationships. Sure, they’ve seen things get ugly for their clients, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re pessimists who’ve lost all faith in love.

In fact, their careers have arguably made them better partners. They know what unhealthy relationship habits look like, and they can try to avoid them in their own lives. Below, four married divorce attorneys explain how their work has informed their romantic relationships.

1. They don’t rush into marriage.
“My wife and I dated for nearly 20 years off and on before we married. It is the first and only marriage for either of us. Sometimes I am convinced that being a divorce lawyer made it take a bit longer for both of us to commit. Even though we lived together before marriage and knew each other’s families well, it took a while to finally tie the knot. At a time when many of my peers have divorced and remarried, having realized that they rushed into their first marriage perhaps too hastily, I know that I certainly did not really rush into mine.” ― Randy Kessler, attorney, married 12 years

Read the full article here.


An Insider’s Guide to the Fulton County Family Division

3 CLE hours, including 1 Professionalism hour & 1 Trial Practice hour

The Insider’s Guide Seminar is designed to give those who represent clients in Family Law cases in Fulton County a better understanding of the operation of the Family Division. Judges, Judicial Officers, and Staff Attorneys from the Family Division will discuss, in facilitated panels, their insights and suggestions regarding practice before the Division. Topics will include all facets of family law practice, with special emphasis on difficult cases. Each session will provide the opportunity for attendees to ask questions of the panelists.

When: 01/08/2018 | 8:15 am – 12:30 pm
Where: State Bar of Georgia, Room A 104 Marietta St NW #100
Atlanta, Georgia 30303 United States
Contact: Kristyn Girardeau | cle@atlantabar.org | (404) 537-4931

REGISTRATION FEES
Atlanta Bar Member: $75
Non-Member: $100
Student: $15

This event is eligible for the $75 Member CLE Coupon. If you would like to apply your coupon to this event, please use coupon code: clemembersavings at check out. ***Please be aware that this coupon is one-time use and cannot be partially redeemed. ***

Non-members must register via this registration form

PROGRAM AGENDA

8:15 AM:  Welcome and Opening Remarks
Judge Christopher S. Brasher, Chief Judge
Fulton County Superior Court Family Division 

8:30 AM:  Temporary Hearings, Discovery Disputes, and Trials, OH MY!
Panel Discussions with Family Division Staff Attorneys
Moderator:  Kyla Lines, Richardson, Bloom & Lines, LLC

9:30 AM:  Break

9:45 AM:  30 and 60 Day Conferences and Beyond: Making the Most of Your Judicial Officer Time
Panel Discussion with Family Division Judicial Officers
Moderator:  Gary Alembik, Alembik & Alembik

10:45 AM:  Break

11:00 AM:  Trials, Problems and Solutions in High Conflict Family Cases
Panel Discussion with Family Division Superior Court Judges
Moderator:  Randall M. Kessler, Kessler & Solomiany LLC

12:00 PM:  Concluding Remarks (Judge Brasher)

MAKE IT A 2 FOR 2
Bring a non-member to this event at the Atlanta Bar Member price and get entered into a drawing for multiple prizes, including free membership, discounts to area attractions and restaurants, and more! Visit the Atlanta Bar 2 for 2 webpage for rules and more information. Use #ATLBar2for2

Out-of-State CLE Reporting Policy: 

The Atlanta Bar Association reports all CLE credit on behalf of the attorney to the State Bar of Georgia. Attorneys seeking out-of-state credit will be provided with an attendance certificate upon request. The Atlanta Bar Association does not submit CLE credit on behalf of attorneys outside of the state of Georgia.


Randy Kessler nominated as Man of the Year

From an auto titan to a real estate maverick, the men who have shaped Atlanta’s past—and its future—couldn’t be more different in their professions and approaches, but they all share one common trait: a no-holds-barred approach to what they do. Along with actor Ed Helms, we celebrate 11 other gents we deemed Men of the Year.

Randall M. Kessler Law

A few years ago, during a break in a child-support trial in front of a jury, boxer Evander Holyfield started shooting the breeze with family-law attorney Randall M. Kessler and his partner, Marvin Solomiany. Soon enough, Holyfield was demonstrating a boxing technique, playfully throwing shadow punches that came within a hair of Solomiany’s face. “You’re not going to hit my partner, are you?” Kessler jokingly asked the pugilist, to which Holyfield responded, “I don’t hit anybody for free.” Here’s the thing: They were opposing him in court. “It’s been my experience that these celebrities have thick skin,” Kessler says. The lawyer’s personal practice involves about 25 percent high-profile athletes, rappers and other celebs. He’s represented more than a 100 NBA and NFL players, and gone up against Michael Jordan, Usher, Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Smith, T-Pain and many others he can’t reveal. He maintains collegial relationships with many of these men—sometimes even goes to games with them. Kessler fights against the stereotype that divorce cases have to be bloodsport, and that he’s out to eviscerate the opponent. “My job is to motivate the other side, as well as my client, to get matters resolved out of court in a fair way,” says Kessler.


Kessler Named Attorney of the Month by Attorney At Law Magazine July 2012

Attorney At Law Magazine July 2012 – DOWNLOAD PDF OF ARTICLE

Attorney at Law Kessler Cover

Gentle Strength
Randall M. Kessler is humble, personable and incredibly down to earth. It’s not until he begins to reveal the distinguished tenor of his professional notoriety, that his unassuming nature becomes more conspicuous.

As founder of family law firm Kessler & Solomiany, he’s had great success; especially when it comes to attracting media attention. He has represented numerous entertainers, athletes, actors, musicians, public figures, and high net worth individuals. His unassuming image is often captured by the eager lenses of press and paparazzi as he accompanies celebrity clients to court as well as to sporting games and events.

Kessler

Perhaps the most intriguing part, however, occurs afterward when Kessler relays the story with the same humility and tone that would be expected of a mere bystander. The celebrated family law attorney attributes his prosperity to good luck and timing. Kessler narrowed his firm to deal with family law exclusively in the late 80’s; just as divorce attorneys were becoming less stigmatized. Kessler feels content with explaining his dramatic ascendancy in family law via this happy circumstance.

“Back then there was a stigma to being a divorce lawyer. It was such a bad thing,” he said. “Now people realize divorce lawyers really do help people through a hard time and to prepare for their future.”

A valid point; however not all family law attorneys can claim to have had their talking mug captured by studio cameras and most certainly have not had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with such a range of personalities, including recording artists T.I. and Christina Milian, as well as athletes such as Terrell Owens, Andre Rison and Lance Briggs.

Dealing with celebrities and their spouses and partners is hardly glitz and glamour according to Kessler however.

“We try to treat them all the same, but the scheduling is very hard,” Kessler said. “Parenting time arrangements are tricky because we have to work around a concert schedule or football season. The NFL doesn’t take a break the same time school does.”

Kessler said that another aspect tied in with the phenomenon of handling high-profile litigation is a lack of access to your client. He said this can hinder communication and if allowed to go too far, the entire case as well.

“There are a lot more third parties involved with celebrities. If dad’s playing football, you have to work it out so that grandma comes in to help,” Kessler said. “You want to make sure you have a relationship with your client, but to communicate through a third party, that gets tricky. You both just have to be convinced that the third party is accurately communicating what the client wants.”

Kessler family

According to his calculations, roughly ten percent of the celebrity cases Kessler gets involved with are public.

“We had a jury trial against Holyfield,” Kessler said when asked of a case that stuck out in his mind. He had a change in child support.

Daytime and primetime syndicated news shows like “Nancy Grace,” “Dr. Phil,” CNN and the “Today” show feature regular appearances by Kessler. Although he admitted to increasingly attracting viewer recognition, he’s quick to deflect the credit.

“The truth is I’m across street from CNN,” he said. “They know I’m reliable and I’ll be wearing a suit.”

He said he was thankful for the opportunity to appear on reputable news programs because they are a high pressure exercise in thinking on your feet.

“The more you present in front of an audience, the better you are in front of a judge,” he said.

He added that perhaps the hardest part about being on TV was learning how to think in sound bites. Kessler likens it to presenting in front of a judge but more challenging.

“There are a thousand things I could say,” he said. “But I’ve got to narrow it down to what’s relevant, simple, understandable.”

Firm Foundation

Family law was always at the forefront of his mind, but Kessler dabbled in more generalized law at first.

“When I started, I handled family law cases,” Kessler said. “But if someone needed help with a DUI, workers compensation, or personal injury case, I did that too.”

As soon as he was able however, he made the full switch to his chosen concentration. “With family law, you play a big part in helping to shape the future in a positive way,” he said. “It’s a very empowering feeling.”

Kessler was young when he launched his own firm. He decided it was a good time to do it since he was a young, single man at the time with nothing tying him down.

“I went from getting business because people thought I was

young and hungry to people giving me business because they thought I was good at it,” he mused about his early years. “After two or three years I started only taking family law cases.”

Kessler said he had already had some experience in family law, and was pretty good at it.

“I felt like I was making more of a difference in an immediate way,” he said. “People were troubled, like all clients are, but there was a fix to it. I think it’s much better than a criminal case where you’re dealing with a crime, and there are not two parties that will continue to see each other.”

Matters of the Heart

There are challenges at times to dealing with something so potentially emotionally charged as a family law firm. Kessler said one of the hardest things is deciphering what’s best for the clients and the children.

“The kids go unrepresented, but I can’t in good conscience pursue a goal that’s harmful for kids,” he said. “Ultimately it’s their life, but I work really hard with my clients on their goals.”

The family law attorney’s affinity for giving back doesn’t end at the office, however.

Kessler is an active bar leader; having served the bar in many ways, including chairing the family law sections of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Georgia and the Atlanta Bar Association. In this capacity, he said he helps his clients, but he strives to help other lawyers help their own clients as well.

Kessler lectures regularly at Continuing Legal Education Seminars, but perhaps his most rewarding lawyer activity, is as a law school professor. He has taught a Family Law course at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School for the past decade. Although the added workload was a bit daunting, Kessler said he feels it is all worth it on those particularly enjoyable occasions when he sees former students in court.

“It is always refreshing to see them flourishing,” he said.

When Kessler begins talking about his own family, the lawyer reveals his ultimate soft-spot. He and his wife Valerie have been together 20 years, and married six. He and Valerie met one night at a friend’s party. He thought she reminded him of his first girlfriend.

The American Diabetes Association recently crowned Kessler “Father of the Year.”

“There are thousands of good parents out there and I was just one that they happened to hear of,” Kessler said of the honor. “I love the heck out of my daughter Jolie. She’s five; she travels everywhere with us.”

Therein lies the essence of Kessler’s success some might say. The family law attorney is a favored, go-to voice of authority with the media, and a popular choice among high-profile, red- carpet runners. However, ultimately what it comes down to is an inherent affinity he harbors for family.

“The greatest rewards are that I get to see people down the road,” he said. “Sometimes years later, I’ll run into a client at a park, ballgame, or the shopping mall. It’s good to see them back to normalcy.”

 

Randall M. Kessler

Founding Partner
Kessler & Solomiany
Centennial Tower, 101 Marietta Street, Suite 3500 Atlanta, GA 3030
https://www.ksfamilylaw.com/
404-688-8810
rkessler@ksfamilylaw.com

Family Law

  • Divorce and Separate Maintenance Proceedings
  • Child Custody, Visitation and Support
  • Alimony and Spousal Maintenance
  • Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
  • Grandparents and Third Party Custody/Visitation

Education

  • B.A., Brandeis University
  • J.D., Emory University School of Law
  • Bar Admissions
  • State Bar of Georgia
  • Georgia Court of Appeals
  • Supreme Court of Georgia
  • United States Federal Court, Northern District of Georgia
  • Supreme Court of the United States

Professional Memberships

  • Family Law Section, American Bar Association, 2011-2012, Chair
  • Family Law Section, State Bar of Georgia, 2011-2012, Chair
  • Family Courts Committee, ABA Family Law Section, Former Chair
  • Master in the Charles Longstreet Weltner Family Law Inn of Court
  • Family Law Review, State Bar of Georgia, Editor
  • Family Law Section, Atlanta Bar Association, Former Chair
  • American Bar Association, Standing Committee on Substance Abuse

Former Chair

  • Dekalb County Recorder’s Court, 2000-present, Judge Pro Hac
  • Emory Law School, Trial Techniques Program, Faculty
  • John Marshall Law School, Family Law, Faculty

Marvin Solomiany named Attorney of the Month by Attorney At Law Magazine 2015

Read the article about Marvin Solomiany being named Attorney of the Month.


Tax Proposal to Hit Divorcing Couples

President Trump’s tax plan unveiled this week will abolish tax deductions on alimony, and that could make future divorces nastier, writes MarketWatch.

“This will create a total reevaluation of divorce cases,” said Malcolm Taub, partner and co-chair of the divorce and family law practice group at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. “It’s major.”
Divorce lawyers say the higher-earning spouse will have more leverage to argue for lower alimony. “We settled a case this week in court where my wealthy client agreed to pay his dependent wife significant alimony because he could deduct it,” said Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based lawyer. “The deduction, as it stands, is a great motivator to encourage the higher wage earner to agree to help support the spousewith less income.”

The current tax rules allow for matrimonial attorneys to craft a settlement whereby it is possible to make larger payments to the payee spouse at a lesser after-tax cost to the payor, said Lisa Zeiderman, founding partner of Miller Zeiderman and Weiderkehr in New York. “This benefits everyone. The payor receives the benefit of a reduced tax obligation and the payee receives the benefit of more income than might otherwise be forthcoming if the payee spouse wasn’t receiving the benefit of the tax deduction.” The tax plan comes at a bad time for many Americans, especially those in the higher income bracket.Baby boomers accumulated more wealth over their lives and — for the most part — missed the worst parts of the Great Recession such as buying a home at the peak of the market. And they are also getting divorced in much higher numbers. The rate of divorce doubled among adults of that age group between 1990 and 2010 to one in four people, according to a study carried out by Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin at Bowling Green State University.


Mr. Kessler interviewed on HLN re the potential Harvey Weinstein divorce


Under Trump’s tax plan, divorces are about to get a lot nastier

The administration’s tax plan eliminates the tax deduction on alimony

There’s no longer a silver lining to paying spousal support.

President Trump’s tax plan unveiled this week will abolish tax deductions on alimony. This won’t impact people who have already agreed on their payment amounts but — assuming the GOP tax bill is passed by Congress — this new arrangement will be in effect for divorce decrees on Jan. 1, 2018 and thereafter. “This will create a total reevaluation of divorce cases,” said Malcolm Taub, partner and co-chair of the divorce and family law practice group at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. “It’s major.”

Divorce lawyers say the higher-earning spouse will have more leverage to argue for lower alimony. “We settled a case this week in court where my wealthy client agreed to pay his dependent wife significant alimony because he could deduct it,” said Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based lawyer who wrote the book, “Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future.” “The deduction, as it stands, is a great motivator to encourage the higher wage earner to agree to help support the spouse with less income.”

The current tax rules allow for matrimonial attorneys to craft a settlement whereby it is possible to make larger payments to the payee spouse at a lesser after-tax cost to the payor, said Lisa Zeiderman, founding partner of Miller Zeiderman and Weiderkehr in New York. “This benefits everyone. The payor receives the benefit of a reduced tax obligation and the payee receives the benefit of more income than might otherwise be forthcoming if the payee spouse wasn’t receiving the benefit of the tax deduction.”

Don’t miss: Courts use Facebook to serve subpoenas and divorce papers

So how much is written off or deducted? It all depends on how much the higher earner pays in income taxes. If the higher earner typically pays 39% in taxes, they deduct 39% of what they pay in alimony. If they make $1 million per year and pay $100,000 a year in spousal support then they only pay taxes on their remaining $900,000 in income. But if they are in a 20% tax bracket, then they only pay $20,000 in taxes on the $100,000 alimony and, thus, the government only gets $20,000 in taxes, Kessler said. Under the GOP tax plan, those deductions would be eliminated.

There are still some financial benefits that will remain for divorced spouses. Upon retirement, a person can claim spousal Social Security benefits based on the earnings of an ex-spouse, provided that the couple was married for at least 10 years and the claimant remains unmarried. If one partner is expecting a massive payday or bonus from a business venture, the other spouse may want to wait until after that income has been earned to divorce. (Inheritance by one spouse is not regarded as community property.)

The tax plan comes at a bad time for many Americans, especially those in the higher income bracket. Baby boomers accumulated more wealth over their lives and — for the most part — missed the worst parts of the Great Recession such as buying a home at the peak of the market. And they are also getting divorced in much higher numbers. The rate of divorce doubled among adults of that age group between 1990 and 2010 to one in four people, according to a study carried out by Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin at Bowling Green State University.