TIL DIVORCE DO US PART: AMERICANS BORROW RECORD $3.5 BILLION FOR WEDDINGS IN 2017

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Alright the stats are in, and they’re mind-boggling. American adults never cease to amaze me in this kind of stuff. Here, more than one million borrowed money last year to pull off their dream wedding. The average amount borrowed to cover the costs was $3,082. To put this into greater perspective, out of 126 million American adults, last year more than one million (1.13 million to be exact) got married. And they borrowed a lot of debt to do it.

U.S. couples borrowed $3.48 billion for weddings in 2017. Most of the couples turned to credit cards or personal loans to finance their nuptials, an article on Finder.com says. Additionally, one in five (21.4%) U.S. adults borrowed cash from family and friends over the past year in order to see their wedding dreams fulfilled.

DON’T BORROW MONEY TO GET DIVORCED

Why bother? is what I ask. Family and friends are cash strapped as well. You don’t need to create the personal stress on a good relationship. Odds are you’re going to end up coming to see us for a divorce sooner or later anyway, so save your friends, your family, and your money for a rainy day. Invest in gold coins. Don’t go into debt over something unless there’s a greater return and a positive cash flow.

I’ve been telling clients for years that all marriages end up in either divorce or death, so what was your rush in this down-turning economy? “Fifty percent of those who get married end up in divorce,” I would say.

Well, I was told I was wrong on that one. I did the research, and okay, maybe I was a off by a few percentage points. It appears the divorce rate may actually be on the decline, but there could be many factors attributable to that like maybe the fact that the marriage rate is declining as well. However, considering all factors, I believe what Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., author, and expert on single people, says regarding the chances that a marriage will end in divorce. According to DePaulo, the divorce expectation rate for those of us who are presently married is probably somewhere between 42 and 45 percent.

In PsychologyToday.com DePaulo cites a 2014 New York Times article reviewing the national divorce rate. “It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce,” Claire Cain Miller wrote in that article. “It has not been for some time.”

BUT AGAIN, WHY BORROW AT A 55% TO 58% CHANCE OF SUCCESS?

Might as well just flip a coin then. Will we stay married … or won’t we? Heads you win, tails I lose. Do the math. Is it worth getting yourself in deeper debt to contractually bind you to a legal relationship that will end at some point anyway? Death or divorce, choose your weapon.

Right now the financial experts are telling us that the financial system is reaching crisis proportion. We’re being told to save as best as we can and to invest in real assets. We’re being told that the U.S. dollar as a paper currency is going to disappear; that we’re turning into a digital currency society. Experts predict, and financial trends indicate, we’re going to experience a severe credit freeze with banks. On top of all that, some of us are thinking of borrowing money to get married? Are we crazy? Are we American?

Good luck.

For those who must do it now, before it’s too late, there are sympathetic ears and advice. Blair Donovan writes for brides.com, giving some ideas about borrowing money for your wedding.

“First, assess the average loan period you are capable of in order to repay your debt on time,” Donovan writes. “Next, evaluate what the most reasonable interest rate might be. A higher interest rate may seem less daunting if your payoff period is short, as in the case of payday loans. However, if you need several months or years to pay back what you owe then a lesser interest rate may be the most sensible option to cover your wedding day expenses.” Or….

You can get married without borrowing. Have the wedding in a national forest with three witnesses, a minister, and a portable hot tub. Much less expensive without the bar tab and no room for in-laws in the tub. Or …

Forget about getting married, save the money, invest it wisely in undervalued assets, and just be friends. Dutch Treat worked great in the 90s, and it’d work just fine for the two of you heading into the Roaring 20s.

 

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FOUR IMPORTANT TIPS FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGES

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Having a successful marriage is a difficult proposition at best.  Marriages can be filled with the same duality of ups and downs that we face as individuals going through life.  Gay marriages offer the same pendulum of give and take, compromise and communication as their heterosexual counterpart, but they too more often than not end up in divorce.  And same-sex divorces might be even tougher these days than the marriage themselves.

This is due in large part to the fact that gay marriage is legal in only thirteen (13) states in our union and the District of Columbia.  So if a same-sex couple lives in one of the other 37 states, and wants to marry, they have to go to DC or one of the legal 13 to marry, then they return to their home state to live happily ever after, right?  Well, it’s not always that simple.  Many times, these couples face the realities of a marriage gone awry, and the parties decide to part and go their own ways.  But how do they divorce legally since their state doesn’t even recognize their marriage as being legal in the first place?

Thousands of couples potentially face this issue right now.  To obtain a divorce they would need to go back to a state that recognizes their legal right to marry and then establish legal residency there.  Or the state might impose other onerous requirements for their divorce.

Recent statistics indicate that same-sex couples divorce at half the rate that heterosexual couples divorce.  That figure is expected to rise as more gay couples seek divorce, and the states’ laws likely catch up with that rise.

The key to all this is to be smart.  And here’s four tips on how to be smart regarding same-sex marriages and divorce:

1) Before marriage, consult an experienced family law attorney When it comes to marriage and divorce, whether same-sex or heterosexual, there truly is nothing more important than a professional who is looking out for your best interests. Certified family law specialists are just that: family law specialists. Find one who can handle complex issues like estate planning and custody. There are also organizations such as Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights who can provide information.

2)      Consider creating a pre-nuptial (or a postnup, which is recognized in most states) agreement.  A written agreement between wedding parties can be important to help detail ownership of assets accrued by and between the parties during their relationship.  The truth is, all money and property issues can be settled without the need of a court or a judge.  All the parties have to do is sit down and agree to who owns what and who gets what in case of a split.  Such agreements are legally recognized in every state.  And even if the state you’re living in doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, ancillary matters such as financial issues can be settled which would allow the parties to move forward while awaiting the legal drama of their divorce to play out.

3)      If possible marry in one of the states or other jurisdictions that grant divorces without onerous residency requirements.  California is one of those states.  So are Minnesota, Delaware, and Washington D.C.

4) Regarding potential child custody issues, if either party should have a child during wedlock, the non-biological parent might consider legally adopting the child at the time of birth. Even if the same-sex marriage is not legally recognized by that state, the state will recognize the legality of the adoption.

Again, as in any legally binding relationship, homework and due diligence are important.  Know what you’re doing before you enter into legally binding contracts such as marriage.  Consult with a family law specialist.  Know the laws of the states you’re dealing with.  Be smart.  And build a legally and fundamentally strong foundation that will bring peace to you and your soon-to-be family.

U.S. SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN OPPONENTS OF PROP 8

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In the other major Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) case recently heard by the United States Supreme Court, a ‘Supreme’ Majority, in a 5 to 4 decision, held that the official sponsors of California’s Proposition 8 lack Article III (of the U.S. Constitution) standing to appeal the U.S. District Court’s order striking it down as unconstitutional or to defend its constitutionality in the 9th Circuit or in the United States Supreme Court.

The case of Hollingsworth v. Perry stems from when California voters had initially approved Proposition 8, which had amended California’s Constitution to provide that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid or recognized in California.  Two same-sex couples wishing to marry, immediately challenged the law’s constitutionality in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The District Court held Prop 8 to be unconstitutional.  When the state of California refused to appeal that decision, proponents of Prop 8 appealed.  The matter eventually ended up with the ‘Supremes’, when the USSCT granted certiorari.

In reaching its decision in the case, the United States Supreme Court made six (6) important legal findings.  They are:

1)      The United States Supreme Court has the power to decide only actual cases and controversies brought by persons who have standing to do so;

2)      A person must show that he/she has suffered a “concrete and particularized injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision”;

3)      Standing must be shown at all stages of the litigation, including appeal;

4)      Proponents lack standing to pursue either the appeal or the cert proceeding because they have no personal stake in enforcing Prop 8 beyond the general interest of any other California resident;

5)      Proponents cannot establish standing by asserting the rights or interests of third parties; and

6)      California Supreme Court’s determination that proponents had standing does not confer standing on them as agents of the state and cannot override standing requirements of Article III of the U.S. Constitution.

In all, the Majority held that proponents lacked standing to appeal in the 9th Circuit, and the 9th Circuit lacked jurisdiction to consider their appeal.

5 HELPFUL TIPS FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES WHO MARRY (or divorce)

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Did you know that there are now eleven (11) states across our union that have fully legalized same-sex marriage?  And – the United States Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear two very important test cases regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8 in California.  This all seems highly likely to result in even more same-sex couples marrying, and then divorcing.

Thus, it is important to understand that although the gay marriage laws in the U.S. change from state to state, divorce remains the same.  So it might be a good idea for any couples out there who are contemplating same-sex marriage to remember to do a few things first.  After all, prevention is the best medicine.

The five helpful tips for same-sex couples who want to marry are:

(1)  You might want to first think about generating a prenuptial agreement that would act to define any and all rights for both parties in case of divorce or death.  This could help keep both of you out of court to resolve property and other issues, regardless of whether that state recognizes same-sex marriages or not.

(2)  Make yourself aware of the recent state of the law regarding marriages in your state.  If you and your partner are planning on moving to another state after your marriage, then you’re going to want to know the marriage laws of that state as well.  There might be obstacles to what you’re trying to accomplish.  No two state’s laws are exactly the same, so you need to do your homework.

(3)  Find out whether the laws on child custody in your new state will somehow impact your rights to have access to your child in case of divorce if only one parent is the natural parent or if only one parent adopts the child.  Any future visitation and/or custody rights between you and your child could prove dependent upon such laws.

Remember that even though some of the states allow for same-sex marriages, while others offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, more than half of the U.S. does not allow same-sex marriage.  And most of these states don’t even recognize legal unions that might be recognized elsewhere.

(4)  Should you and your spouse move to a state that recognizes same-sex marriages, yet the relationship fails, then you should take the diligent precautions necessary to prepare for your divorce.  Conduct the appropriate research to find a respected family law attorney who fulfills your specific needs.  Expertise, experience, and reputation within the community are critical attributes for any good family law attorney.

In preparation for any potential relationship split, do whatever is necessary to secure all your financial records.  Make copies of anything you might consider important to your divorce.  Covering all income, expenses, assets, and debts could be crucial to saving time and money during the division of any property.  Your lawyer will thank you for doing this.  Also, make sure to preserve any cohabitation or other written agreements that may be used to prove your legal intentions.

(5)  It might also be a good idea to agree to the rights of both parties regarding visitation and/custody should any children be born or adopted into the relationship.  You’ll want to keep track of the amount of time you spend on your own with the child.  Make a diary of all that you have done for the child; any contributions or decisions you have been involved in on their behalf.  In some states, this could prove handy when seeking visitation or custody rights with the child.

In all, divorce is never an easy process.  Same-sex couples, like all couples, need to do the research before marrying and before filing for divorce.  This promises to help reduce the stress and expense that such a family law battle would most surely produce in family law court in any state.

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP AND SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AFFECTED BY CHANGES TO CALIFORNIA LAW

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The areas of domestic partnership and same sex marriage could not escape the recent modification of California’s legal codes.  Specifically, registration and dissolution were affected by the new legislation known as SB 651.  This new law amended two family law sections and added two more to remove the requirement that domestic partners have a common residence to register, permits establishment of a confidential domestic partnership, and permits same-sex spouses who married in California to petition for dissolution in California without the parties meeting regular residency requirements if neither spouse resides in a jurisdiction that will dissolve the marriage.

Existing law provides that two unmarried, unrelated adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring may establish a domestic partnership by filing a declaration with the Secretary of State if certain requirements are met, including that both persons have a common residence and that both persons are at least 18 years of age.  The law also authorizes two unmarried persons, who are not minors and who have been living together as husband and wife to obtain a confidential marriage license, if certain requirements are met.

SB 651 acts to eliminate the requirements that domestic partners have a common residence.  It also permits a person who is under 18 years of age who otherwise meets the requirements for establishing a domestic partnership to do so on obtaining a court order that provides that authority to the underage person.  This recent legislation also provides for the consent of the underage person’s parent or guardian, except under prescribed circumstances, and requires that the court order and the written consent be filed with the court clerk and submitted to the Secretary of State with a Declaration of Domestic Partnership.  The bill also requires the Secretary of State to establish a process by which two persons could enter into a confidential domestic partnership and maintain each confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership, and permits the Secretary of State to charge a reasonable fee for this service.

Existing law prohibits a judgment of marital dissolution from being entered unless one of the parties to the marriage had been a resident of California for 6 months and of the county in which the proceeding is filed for 3 months before the filing of the petition.  SB 651 now authorizes a court to enter a judgment of marital dissolution, nullity, or legal separation between persons of the same sex if the marriage was entered in California and neither party to the marriage resides in a jurisdiction that will dissolve the marriage.

SIGNED MARRIAGE LICENSE DOES NOT TERMINATE DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT

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An important California Appellate Court decision has come down recently regarding the termination of domestic partnership agreements.  In the case of Estate of Wilson (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 1284, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 699, the California Court of Appeal affirmed that domestic partners’ subsequent marriage does not invalidate their domestic partnership agreement.  The Court further ruled that the trial court in this case did not err in concluding that surviving spouse’s knowing waiver of right to inherit, which was included in the partnership agreement, prevented him from claiming spousal share as decedent’s pretermitted spouse.

In reaching their decision, the justices traced the history of California law regarding domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages.  In 2003, the Legislature enacted the Domestic Partnership Act, which gave to domestic partners substantially the same rights, benefits, and obligations that married people have, except for those that federal law, the California Constitution, or the initiative statutes reserve solely for married people.

The appellate panel also acknowledged that same-sex marriages were maintained as valid in Strauss v. Horton (2009) 46 Cal.4th 364, 93 Cal.Rptr.3d 591, even though the high court upheld Proposition 8, which limited valid marriages to those between heterosexual couples.  In the case at hand, the question was whether the couple’s marriage license invalidated their domestic partnership.

In reaching their conclusion in the case at hand, the justices determined that if domestic partners have the same rights and protections as married persons, their domestic partnership agreements should be entitled to the same treatment as the prenuptial agreements executed by married people under the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act.  In this case, the parties had a signed agreement that contained a specific waiver of the right to inherit each other’s property except through a living trust or will.  It also provided that the agreement could not be changed or terminated without a written instrument signed by both parties.

SUPREMES TO WEIGH DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT

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This past Friday, the United States Supreme Court considered ten cases that stood pending before the court, that could have a sweeping impact on the definition of marriage in the United States and on same-sex couples’ right to wed.  However, many legal experts believe that two of them are most likely for the court to actually consider.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, as it is called, has recently been struck down by two federal appeals court.  This means the Supremes are all but obligated to at least look at one of the cases to settle the dispute between Congress and the courts.

The case that appears most likely for the justices to pick is Windsor v. United States, which challenges the Defense of Marriage act, a law that Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law in 1996.  DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex married couples, even those in states that allow gay marriage.

The Windsor case was filed by Edith Windsor, a New York resident who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in estate taxes after her wife died because the feds wouldn’t recognize their marriage as valid.  New York is one of nine states (plus the District of Columbia) where gay marriage is legal.  The plaintiff argues that the federal government is discriminating against her by not recognizing her state-sanctioned marriage.

The main issue in the case appears to be equal protection under the law, which is guaranteed under the 14th amendment.  In her pleadings, Windsor argues that by singling out same-sex marriages and treating them differently from other marriages, the federal government is in violation of their rights.  Windsor further argues that since marriage has traditionally been regulated by the state, the feds have no business interfering with New York’s definition of marriage.

Should DOMA be struck down, the decision will widely affect gay couples who marry in states that recognize same-sex nuptials.  Most importantly, however, they would begin to qualify for the same federal marriage benefits other couples receive, such as Social Security benefits and tax breaks.

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