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Divorce Tips for Sonoma County Boomer Women

September 10, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

o-BABY-BOOMER-DIVORCE-facebook.jpgIf you're reading this blog, you're probably a Boomer. A study released in February found that Americans who are over 50 years of age are twice as likely to divorce as people who were that age 20 years ago.

No one wants to have a midlife divorce, but it happens.

Women tend to file for divorce more often than men. Their reasons range from a renewed focus on their careers to a sense of empowerment. Interestingly, men are more reluctant to leave a marriage while children are still living at home. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more working women than men have college degrees.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are cases in which a woman is more reluctant to leave the marriage. She may want to keep the family together to raise the children, or she might have taken a break from work to become a stay-at-home mom and is nervous about re-entering the workplace.

Social Security Tips for Divorced Women

Then there are women in their sixties or seventies who worry about Social Security. I have some good news that could lessen your worries in this regard. Women can receive Social Security survivor benefits based on the ex-husband's earnings provided you aren't remarried when you seek to collect them. In addition, he either has to be collecting his retirement benefits or you have to have been divorced for at least two years, and you must be at least age 62.

Here are some additional tips:

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Florida Gets Closer to Allow Same-Sex Marriage - Update on Gay Marriage Around the Country

September 2, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

images.jpgIn July, two Key West residents prevailed in a same-sex marriage case in a Florida district court. In that case, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia - similar to other judges -- characterized the ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately issued a stay on Judge Garcia's decision. When the men asked the appellate court to lift the automatic stay, the appellate court responded with a firm denial.

It was the couple's second attempt to lift the stay.

Consequently, Judge Garcia's ruling only applies to the residents of Monroe Count.

Update on the Status of Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.

So far, same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Those states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Same-sex marriages continue to be banned in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

These are the states where judges ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and yet state attorney generals have issued stays: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Colorado allows civil unions. In a civil union, couples enjoy many of the rights of a married couple. However, they are unable to enjoy a number of benefits, including Social Security benefits upon the death of a spouse.

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Gay Marriage Bans Overturned in Utah and Indiana

600x4179.jpgNot only has the tide changed on the issue of same-sex marriage, last year's US Supreme Court's pair of decisions has caused a tsunami to sweep across the shores and Midlands of this country.

Just last week, a federal appeals court in Denver ruled that gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry. If there is an appeal, the issue will head to the Supreme Court where justices will be forced to tackle the issue head-on.

The 10th Circuit Appeals Court that made the decision about Utah's ban on gay marriage also governs Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and New Mexico, where it is already legal for gay couples to marry.

Last Wednesday, the justices found little justification under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying. In fact, the justices found the opposition's arguments based on procreation and parenting skills lacking in merit.

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Gay Adoptions - Bans on Gay Marriages Ruled Unconstitutional in More States

Thumbnail image for gay-adoption.jpgA lesbian couple from Virginia has a lot to celebrate these days. Desiree Bryan recently gave birth to twin girls, but not in her home state. Instead, Desiree and her partner Stephanie drove two hours to the District of Columbia were Stephanie gave birth to two healthy girls.

When children are born in the District of Columbia to a gay couple, both parents' names are added to the birth certificate. However, the birth certificate is not considered legal proof of parentage. That is why within a few months, the mothers will return to the District of Columbia were Stephanie will be able to adopt the girls and share full parental rights with her partner, Desiree.

The women couldn't have equal parental rights if the child had been born in Virginia. However, a recent law allows the courts to grant adoptions to out-of-state lesbian couples when the children are born in the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia is one of few jurisdictions where second-parent adoptions can occur even when the parents don't reside there.

In addition, even in states that don't have gay-friendly laws, court rulings are enforced despite the state court that issued them.

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ACLU Joins Fight Over Same-Sex Marriage in Michigan

bilde.jpgYou may recall that a Michigan judge, not too long ago, stated his conviction that a ban on same-sex marriage violated the U.S. Constitution and issued an order invalidating the state's constitutional restriction limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

Following U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman's ruling on March 21, 2014, 300 same-sex couples jumped at the opportunity to marry until, that is, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, following a request by Attorney General Bill Schuette, temporarily stopped same-sex marriages in the state.

Shortly thereafter, Gov. Rick Snyder issued a statement noting that same-sex couples who had been legally married would not necessarily be afforded the same benefits as married heterosexual couples.

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Older Couples Have a Higher Rate of Divorce

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for divorcecakeFayMillar2.jpgNew studies indicate that the social scientists who read data on marriage and divorce rates have been studying the wrong data.

According to the Minnesota Population Center, it turns out that more people are splitting up these days, not fewer.

One-In-Two Marriages Do Not Fail

Who hasn't heard the statistic that one-in-two marriages fail? Well that proclamation, as it turns out, was based on shaky data. In recent years, we were also told that after divorces peaked in the 80s, the divorce rate has been steadily dropping.

That's not true either.

The American Community Survey - an ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year - started asking divorce questions six years ago, and the data gives little to no cause to celebrate.

It seems that the divorce rate is higher than previously estimated, especially among older people. Among younger couples, marriages tend to be more stable.

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Are Your Unvested Retirement Benefits Community Property?

US-Army-retired-logo.jpgAre unvested military retirement benefits considered community property?

That's the question a trial court dealt with in the divorce case of Daniel v. Daniel. In this case, Christen and Sean Daniel had married in 1995 and had three children. Just prior to marrying, Sean enlisted in the National Guard and at the time of his divorce, he had served 16 years and had reenlisted for an additional six years.

The parties handled all areas of their dissolution amicably except for the military pension. In court, a judge concluded, "Ohio law does not permit the court to divide a non-vested pension benefit."

The plaintiff argued that her ex-husband had reenlisted and would, therefore, be automatically vested by the time he ended his new commitment. Despite her argument, the court of appeals in Ohio affirmed the trial court's decision.

However, there was a lone dissent opinion issued. The dissenting justice argued the potential military pension was the only marital asset the parties had. Furthermore, while the other justices asserted that a valuation of the plan was necessary to make a decision, the dissenting justice disagreed with that conclusion.

Emboldened by the dissenting justice, Christen Daniel appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justices agreed with Christen Daniel. They even suggested that the parties follow this formula for dividing the benefits: the number of years in service compared to the number of years of marriage.

In explaining their decision, the justices wrote that the starting point in any divorce is the equal division of marital property. Furthermore, it noted that the statute the appellate court had relied on did not distinguish between vested or unvested retirement benefits. The justices remanded the case back to the trial court.

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Northern California Man Fakes Bankruptcy to Avoid Child Support

shutterstock_41419909.jpgDo judges take child support seriously? Oh, yeah.

Take the case of a businessman from Northern California who declared bankruptcy and hid assets just to avoid paying child support and alimony.

Steven K. Zinnel and his wife split up in 1999 and a contentious divorce ensued. He declared bankruptcy and it was finalized in 2005. He wasn't really bankrupt; he had moved his assets to shell companies in order to reduce his child support obligations.

The courts don't look lightly on people who hide assets, try to file bankruptcy, and attempt to avoid support payments. In fact, this particular father received a prison sentence of 17 years. In addition, he must pay a $500,000 fine and forfeit assets worth more than $2.8 million.

Call to FBI Leads to Arrest of Zinnel

Zinnel's problems began soon after he contacted the FBI and asked an agent to investigate his ex-wife for trying to get illegal access to his private health insurance information. When the FBI heard his ex-wife's side of the story, they became more interested in Zinnel's bankruptcy than her alleged offense.

The FBI discovered that Zinnel had laundered funds through a company owned by his attorney Derian Eidson. He and Eidson had set up a trust account through which he could essentially launder money from an investment in an electrical firm and some real estate. Furthermore, prosecutors discovered that Zinnel had placed much of his property in other people's names before and after his 2005 bankruptcy.

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The Long Battle of Same-Sex Marriage Recognition

scotus-gay-marriage.jpgLast week, the state of Arizona dominated the news. The state Legislature there passed SB 1062, which would have allowed people to claim their religious beliefs as a defense for discrimination against gays and lesbians.

After a public maelstrom of objections that emanated from both political parties, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the Republican bill last Wednesday.

State Sen. Al Melvin, a Republican running for governor in Arizona and who voted for the bill, was quoted as saying, "... it is a sad day when protecting liberty is considered controversial."

Arizona's History with Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In 1996, Arizona's legislature banned same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Eight years later the state's voters took another step toward preventing gay marriages in their state: They approved Proposition 102, which limited marriage to only a union of one man and one woman.

Despite the government's tough stand, a 2003 poll found that 53% of Arizonans supported same-sex civil unions, though 54% oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Last month, four same-sex couples filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking to have Arizona's definition of marriage ruled unconstitutional. The couples' complaint argues that the federal courts must declare Arizona's definition of marriage as unconstitutional based on the Supreme Court ruling last year. A rule has yet to be issued.

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Same-Sex Marriage Battle in Utah Continues

February 11, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

CA Same Sex Marriage.jpgSeventeen states now allow same-sex marriage; however, 33 states continue to ban it.

California's Path to Same-Sex Marriages

In California, the right to marry someone of the same sex took a circuitous route, involving political battles, appeals, and finally a reversal of the decision to ban gay marriage. Here's what happened. A proposition was passed allowing same-sex marriage in the state. Then Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage, was put to the voters and was passed.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that California's anti-gay marriage initiative, known as Proposition 8, was unconstitutional. Unhappy with that result, supporters of Proposition 8 appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In June of last year, in a 5 - 4 decision, the court ruled that the defenders of Proposition 8 lacked standing and, therefore, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted its ban, blocking same-sex marriages.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in California.

Continue reading "Same-Sex Marriage Battle in Utah Continues" »

What Happens to Your Saved Vacation and Sick Leave if You Divorce?

February 4, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

scales.jpgYou work hard for your money, and if you're employed by a public agency or a private company that allows employees to accrue sick and/or vacation leave, then the paid leave you accrue over time will eventually be converted to a cash payment when you retire.

So that cash, if you divorce, will be considered a shared asset and will need to be divided with your spouse.

Let's say you're the type of person who doesn't need to take vacations and who never gets sick. If you work for the County of Sonoma or the City of Santa Rosa for 30 years, when you retire you will not only have your retirement pay to look forward to but also a cash payment of your accrued sick and vacation leave.

That is unless you divorce.

In 2011, the courts in California ruled that if an asset is convertible to cash, then it's an asset that must be divided during your dissolution.

If a portion or all of it can't be cashed out and it has no economic value to the employee, then it won't be considered a shared asset.

The Struggle in Colorado Over Paid Leave

Continue reading "What Happens to Your Saved Vacation and Sick Leave if You Divorce?" »

Battles Over Same-Sex Marriages Continue

January 21, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Same Sex Battle.jpgLiving in California, we can sometimes forget how conservative other states are, especially in the arena of same-sex marriages.

Take Oklahoma as an example. A federal judge recently struck down a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in his state. In his 68-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern lambasted the state's ban, referring to it as arbitrary for "just one class of Oklahoma citizens."

He added in stern language that equal protection "is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions."

His ruling stemmed from a suit filed by two lesbian couples who sued federal and state officials in 2004. In 2006, the 10th Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue them, so the plaintiffs sued again, this time omitting the governor and attorney general as defendants.

Kern strenuously supported the two couples in his ruling. He stated, "Same-sex couples are being subjected to a 'naturally procreative' requirement to which no other Oklahoma citizens are subjected, including the infertile, the elderly, and those who simply do not wish to ever procreate."

He also pointed out how one of the couples had been in a long-term, committed relationship, owned property together and planned to retire together. Why should they be denied the legal standing of marriage?

Struggle Over Gay Marriage Isn't Over

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What to Do When Your Divorce Gets Messy

January 14, 2014, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

messy divorce.jpgAre you experiencing a messy divorce? The kind where tensions run high, financial threats are made, or allegations about child abuse are being lodged at you?

This may not be much consolation, but you're not alone.

People get irate during divorces. Pent up frustration about perceived slights tend to balloon. Fears about financial blackmail creep up. People become terrified about losing a portion of their income, the family home, their children, and their retirement funds.

If you were financially comfortable while you were married, you'll likely feel as though you have little to no disposable income for a while. Yes, you suddenly have attorney's fees and court costs to pay. However, it's also true that when two people split up, they each must begin to pay their own mortgage payments for their respective homes with half the income they were accustomed to enjoying.

Splitting Up Households Means Your Costs Will Rise

It's not exactly true that two people can live as cheaply as one but two people who live separately spend more money on just the basics of life.

Throw children into the mix and you have the added cost of child support, medical insurance and medical costs.

Some spouses may threaten that they'd rather see their attorneys get all of their money rather than their ex-spouses. Alternatively maybe an ex-husband threatens to reveal something that could prevent his ex-wife from getting a shared custody arrangement.

There are numerous issues over which a couple can argue simply because they are mad, they want to "get even," or they want the other person to suffer. With allegations flying and fears worsening, it can be difficult to remain calm when the financial and emotional foundation of your life is cracking. And that's the essence of an emotionally-trying divorce, right?

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Graying Boomers More Likely to Divorce

November 12, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

baby boomers.jpgWhen people think of divorcing couples, the image that most frequently comes to mind is a couple in their thirties or early forties battling over child custody and support.

Boomer Divorce Rate Is Also Higher in Remarriages

The overall national divorce rate has dropped in recent year. However, among boomers - the demographic known for protesting the Vietnam War and long hair - the rate has doubled, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University. Those who are 50 and above now have a 1 in 4 chance of having a marriage end in divorce court.

If you think mature people who have already been divorced are smarter before tying the nuptial knot a second time, you're wrong, sadly. The rate of divorce is 2.5 times higher for those in this demographic who remarry.

In the United States, the divorce rate is 45 percent, which is the highest in the world.
Among boomers who are even older - 65+ - the divorce rate doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent. Among women, the percentage tripled between 1980 and 2008, from 4 percent to 12 percent.

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Wedleases Make Big News But Would They Make Divorce Less Messy?

August 13, 2013, by Law Offices of James V. Sansone

Wedlwases.jpgAccording to the U.S. Census Bureau, couples are marrying at a faster rate than they are divorcing and that is good news.

Nonetheless, we all know the divorce rate is still higher than we'd like it to be and that the statistics for a lasting union deteriorate as couples enter their second, third and fourth marriages. If you take the film star Elizabeth Taylor as an example, her success at marriage didn't increase as she progressed to her eighth marriage. All of her nuptials ended in divorce court.

There's no doubt that it's easier to obtain a divorce today than it was back before 1970, when a divorcing spouse needed to allege that the husband or wife had been guilty of a crime or had committed adultery. In California, irreconcilable differences is a sufficient reason to substantiate the need for a divorce.

There does seem to be good news of late, however. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that divorce rates are decreasing (it was at 4 per 1,000 people in 2000 and 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2011) - and so are marriage rates (8.2 in 1,000 in the year 2000 and 6.2 per 1,000 in 2011).

Yet, if you look around your circle of friends and family, you know there is reason to be discouraged. Gone are the days when most couples made it to their 50th anniversary. These days, they are lucky if they celebrate their 11th year of marriage together.

With Still too Many Marriages Failing, Will Wedleases Become an Option?

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