This morning my wife alerted me to an article in Harpers Bazzar last week called “If You Are Married to a Trump Supporter, Divorce Them” by Jennifer Wright.

“Supporting Trump at this point does not indicate a difference of opinions,” my wife said quoting the author. “It indicates a difference of values.”

“The problem is,” I replied, ”my spouse voted for Trump is not grounds for divorce in DC, Maryland or Virginia.

A new divorce client was in my office yesterday.  She didn’t cry as she was telling me her story, but she came close.

I was rummaging around the supply room next to the kitchen for some more ground coffee for the machine.   I happened upon a carton of tissue boxes.    I grabbed a box, went back to my office, and tossed them on my desk within easy reach of the client chair.

The tissue box is one of the most important things to have in your office if you are a divorce lawyer.  There are lots of tears in a divorce practice, but the stories are more interesting than say, “How do I get the most oil depletion allowance on my tax returns?”

Today I have already received calls from a client whose spouse said the police are on the way, a next-of-kin who wants to stop a cremation by an estranged spouse, and an opposing counsel who wants to enter into a consent order with respect to parenting time with the children.  It’s not even noon yet.  Better get another tissue box.

Can’t afford a divorce lawyer?   Need new furniture for your divorce apartment?  Plumfund.com is a website where you can ask people to contribute money for your divorce.

The site describes itself as “Free online crowdfunding for the people we love.”  It has different categories, from baby to funeral, to create a registry for your life events.

You can register your wedding and honeymoon under the Honeyfund category.  I found the divorce requests under “divorce” by using the site search function.

“Hubby, you know where I am, why don’t you visit me?” wrote Ms. Lin to her husband online.  She had moved out of his home because his family was unfriendly to her.

“I got into a car accident, I’m in the ICU!”

“Hubby, I’m in the hospital ward.”

“Hubby, why do you keep reading my messages but not replying?”

“Hubby, is it necessary for things to become so cold between husband and wife?”

“Hubby, are you just going to be so ruthless and not ask me anything?”

“Hubby, why do you treat me like this?”

There was no reply.  When Ms. Line recovered, she filed for divorce, and presented the messages to the judge.  The judge said that failing to respond to the messages showed the state of the marriage and the foundations of the union had fallen apart.  He agreed with Ms. Lin that it was heartless of her husband to read her messages without replying, and granted her a divorce.

When we were boys, my pal, Jerry, and I built a motorcycle one night. Somehow Jerry had gotten his hands on a motorcycle.  But it was in pieces scattered on the floor of his room. There were no instructions. Only a frame, a motor, gears, cables and hundreds of nuts and bolts. We had screwdrivers and wrenches. And we were young and insane with the possibilities of where that motorcycle could take us if we got it working.

We worked all night on that machine. We built it wrong, tore it down, bolt by bolt, and started over many times that night. We probably built a dozen motorcycles before we got it right.

By morning, we had a motorcycle. It didn’t look like much, but to us it was worth its weight in gold. We took it out for a test drive. That’s when we discovered a major design flaw. At the first stop sign, you had to disengage the clutch with one foot, and press the brake with the other foot at the same time, so there was no foot to put on the ground and hold the contraption upright.

That motorcycle taught me a lot about problem solving.  You have to keep working on it, all night long, if necessary.  This requires patience and persistence, focus and concentration.  You may have to tear down the solution and rebuild it several times to get it right.  Even then you may have to go back to the drawing board in the morning.  I’ve lost many night’s sleep solving chemical engineering problems, briefing cases in law school, and studying tax law. And now I’m solving problems in marriages, divorces and separations.  It’s as complicated as building a motorcycle.

Advice from a divorce attorney: You should take action after a divorce to remove bequests to an ex-spouse in your will and other documents.  If you fail to do so, however, there are laws that provide that the judgment of divorce eliminates prior bequests or certain beneficiary designations to a former spouse. See Va. Code Sec. 20-111, 20-111.1, 64.2-412; Md. Code, Estates and Trusts Article, Sec. 4-105(4); DC Code Sec. 18-109 and Estate of Roscoe H. Liles, 435 A.2d 379; 1981 D.C. App. LEXIS 355.

But what if your estate planning was done through a revocable trust and not a Will?  In Maryland as of October 1, 2016, a judgment of divorce voids any term in a revocable trust that would distribute assets to the former spouse or appoint the former spouse trustee or trust advisor.  Md. Code, Estates and Trusts Article, Sec. 14.5-604.  Virginia and the District of Columbia do not have a similar law.

The effect of all these statutes on the treatment of a now former spouse in an estate plan is uncertain and incomplete and may be frustrated by federal law spousal protections. The savings statutes are no substitute for careful review of estate planning documents and beneficiary designations, and corrective action to ensure that you do not unintentionally include a gift to your former spouse.

One of my clients was having difficulties dealing with her controlling husband in a divorce.  He was  always dictating times and dates when my client could see or call their child.

Finally my client said “enough” and started pushing back.  She emailed her husband a clear and strong statement of how things were going to be from now on.  When he didn’t respond, she wrote him that she would take his silence as acquiescence.

I call this “What would Helga Do?”  Helga was another client.   She was from Germany.  She had her own business.  In her 70’s she became a ski instructor so she could ski for free.

Helga did not allow a speck of dust to settle in her office.  Her books were balanced to the penny every night.  If she hired you to repair something, you better do it right.

My wife worked for her.   Whenever we are having trouble with someone, like a repairman or other vendor, we say, “What would Helga do?”  She would not put up with bad behavior.

Greg is talking to experienced divorce lawyer, Jeb, about property distribution in a divorce.

“We have separate bank accounts and that $60,000 is in my name alone,” Greg says.

“Doesn’t matter,” Jeb advised, “it’s still marital property.”

“What if I should spend the $60,000 before the divorce?”

“It depends on how you spend it.  If you buy a car or a Rolex, those items become marital property.  If  you buy consumables, then the money is gone and the court can’t divide it.”

“What if I give it to my brother as a gift?”

“That won’t work,” Jeb told him.  “The court can undo that gift.”

(to be continued)

 

Thirumoorthy Ramakrishnan, 53, and Subhashini Bala Subramanian, 49, met through a matrimonial advertisement in a newspaper.  They married in 1998.

Twenty days later, the wife was arrested for misappropriation of funds. The husband was questioned by the police several times which he claimed embarrassed him and caused tension in his life.  He claimed this amounted to cruelty and he filed for divorce.

Although the couple had lived together only twenty days, it took the court almost twenty years to grant the divorce.  The courts in India have a backlog of millions of divorce cases.

 

Jeb, the venerable divorce lawyer, sat in his office, trying to straighten his bow tie, when the phone rang.

The man on the other end, whose name was Greg, said he was going through a separation.  After some preliminaries, Greg said.  ”We’ve only been married for 13 months and she wants half of everything!”

“She’s not entitled to half of everything,” Jeb assured him.  “The court will only distribute marital property, and that means property acquired during the marriage.”

“So, if I made $150,000 during the marriage and she made $30,000, the court will distribute $180,000 between us?”

“Not exactly,” Jeb replied, “the court only distributes what is there on the day of trial.  So if you made $180,000 and spent $120,000, you saved $60,000 which the court will distribute as marital property.”

(To be continued)