Friday, February 27, 2009

Alimony-- Craigslist to the Rescue

Craigslist has become known as a great Internet resource for buying and selling various goods and services. It is also a good place to look for a job or an employee. Apparently, a creative man has tried to find a way to save himself the money he spends each month on his ex-wife's alimony. Thanks to Robert M. Kisselburgh of the Mississippi Family Law blog for the following post:

"Man offers to pay for someone to marry ex-wife

"Imagine sitting at your computer and you are browsing the classified ads on Craigslist and suddenly you come across the following ad:

"'Nice well taken care of ex-wife. Mid 40's. Pretty and loyal. Never smoked and very little drinking. Will make someone a good companion (I know).... Will pay 10K to the man or woman who marries her in a way that stops me from having to pay her alimony.'

"There's the hitch. The man, trying to end his alimony payments to his ex-wife, is offering to pay a potential suitor to marry his ex-wife. Not being totally callous, the guy actually had some 'terms and conditions' for this transaction.

"'1. This transaction offer only valid if she is not aware of it.
2. Must treat her good, no abuse tolerated by me.
3. This offer is null and void if it is determined to be illegal in any way -- I am not a lawyer.
4. The end result must be that I am no longer liable to her for alimony and you make best effort to be good to her
5. This ad is not in any way intended to demean my ex-wife. She is a nice person and is a fine catch for anyone.'

"OOPS. I think the cat's out of the bag on condition #1. With news of the post hitting newspapers, she or some friends might find out. He might also have a problem with condition #3. At least he did not want to 'demean' his ex-wife in any way--what a guy.

"In Mississippi, if you are paying alimony to your ex, don't use this tactic to end the alimony. Not only will it fall flat in front of the judge, but you can be assured your ex will not find the humor in being marketed on Craigslist."

In Texas, there is a common misperception that there is no alimony. Actually, we can have a limited amount of alimony that can be court ordered, or the parties to a divorce can agreed to contractual alimony that is not as limited in either amount or duration. It is not unusual for a spouse to later regret an agreement to pay alimony that seemed like a good idea at the time.

A scheme like the one from the Mississippi blog is obviously doomed to failure, but so is almost any other plan to end alimony early. Alimony may have a lot of tax and income benefits for both parties and that's why we often use alimony in Collaborative cases and in other cases with substantial estates. What you should keep in mind is that an agreement for alimony should not be entered into lightly. The best course of action is for you and your attorney to work with a financial advisor to evaluate the tax consequences and to look for the best combination of settlement terms.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Woman Marries 23 Times

James J. Gross, of the Maryland Divorce Legal Crier, has a knack for finding interesting and offbeat stories that relate to marriage and divorce. I have reprinted the following item from his blog which got the information from The story about a true believer is really appropriate for the Valentine Day season .

"Linda Wolfe of Indiana, born Linda Lou Taylor 68 years ago, holds the Guinness world record for being the most married woman in history. She’s said 'I do' 23 times, according to Matt Bartosik writing for

"Linda’s first husband was George Scott in 1957, when she was 16 and he was 31. This was her longest marriage which lasted seven years.

"Her shortest marriage was for 36 hours to Fred Chadwick.

"In 1996, as part of a publicity stunt, Linda married Glynn 'Scotty' Wolfe in Arizona. Scotty was the most married man in the world. Linda was wife number 29 for him. But Scotty died the next year.

“'I would get married again,' Linda told The Indianapolis Star.

Do you know anyone who can top that?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

If You Don't Agree with Your Attorney

When you are working with an attorney to resolve a legal issue, trust and communication are essential to maintain a healthy and productive relationship. Even with those elements present, there can be problems between the client and an attorney. Sometimes there are disagreements between the two and the relationship becomes strained. What can you do about this?

1. Have a discussion. Sometimes the attorney-client relationship is generally fine, but a small problem or disagreement comes up. If it's important to you, talk to your attorney about it. It could be a simple misunderstanding which can be easily fixed. On the other hand, it could be a sign of a major problem and you shouldn't put off dealing with it. Don't let your concern fester and build up. Please address it early on so it can be resolved in some fashion.

2. Get a second opinion. Consult another professional. Most attorneys will not talk with you while you are represented by another attorney, but there may be some things you can discuss with a CPA, a counselor or some other professional. You can research some issues, but there are a lot of limitations and pitfalls involved if you do your own research on the Internet, so I hesitate to suggest it.

3. Change attorneys. There are plenty of attorneys around. If you are unhappy with the job your attorney is doing, it is probably better for both you and your attorney for you to change attorneys. You may have a quality attorney, but there just may not be a good chemistry. Just because the attorney worked well with a friend of yours doesn't mean that the attorney will work well with you. Different personalities may not blend into an effective working relationship. Sometimes communication styles aren't as comfortable for one person as they may be for another. Just change attorneys so that you are satisfied. By the way, an attorney may want to terminate a representation relationship for the same reasons.

The main message here is to take some action and address any issues that concern you. Give your attorney a chance to explain the situation or learn of your concerns. If all else fails, go ahead and make a change before you or your attorney go too far.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What are My Chances of Winning?

The one question everyone asks, or wants to ask, when starting out in almost any kind of litigation, is "What are my chances of winning?". Maybe in the movies or on TV, an attorney will answer with a percentage chance of success. If you hear an answer in real life in a family law case where the attorney actually gives the odds of winning, you should be concerned about the quality and experience of the attorney.

I can understand that it is a rational question to ask. Many people don't want to waste their time or money, don't want to unnecessarily alienate other family members and most of all, don't want to lose.

Why, you may ask, can an experienced attorney not give the odds of success? The answer is simple: each case is different. There may be two custody cases where both parents want primary custody. What are the odds of the father winning in either one? There's really no way to answer because the outcome depends on all the facts of the case, who the judge is, how the facts are presented, the quality of the witnesses is for each side, how well the attorneys do and many other factors. The same is true for every other type of case. No two cases are alike and there's no set formula to determine who the winner is. It's all up to the judge or maybe a jury. There are no objective standards to rely on.

Instead of pressing the attorney to give a prediction of success, a more productive conversation would be about these issues:

  • What is my real goal? Sometimes the real goal is to get a better visitation schedule or reduction in child support even though someone starts off asking for custody. Some reflection by you and the attorney about this issue can lead to the development of a plan that really relates to what's important to you.
  • Is it possible to achieve? If the goal is paying no child support, it may not be possible in one set of facts while it may be likely under a different scenario. Likewise a 50-50 arrangement of time with the children may be feasible if the parties work together well and live pretty close together. On the other hand, if the parents constantly fight (even post divorce) or if they live a considerable distance apart, for example, it is unlikely that the parents can share equal time with the children.
  • What can I do to improve my chances of attaining my goal? Doing some brainstorming for steps to take and then implementing the ideas can really improve your chances of success. If you are really committed to success and work in constructive ways, you will have a better chance of prevailing. (Of course, I can't tell you how likely it is that you will succeed.)

What should remember from all this? First, forget about calculating the odds of success for you case. Second, help yourself by following the above three steps. Good luck!