The Million Dollar Post Nup

by James J. Gross

Pamela, a waitress from South Dakota, married Bruce Davis, a lawyer, in 1992.  They signed two post-nuptial agreements saying that she would receive $300,000 upon signing and a million dollars if they divorced plus $4,000 a month for housing and $750 a month for child support.

Fast forward to 2015.  Bruce sues Pamela for divorce in New York.  He is now worth 24 million.  She asks the court to set aside the postnuptial agreements.  She says she was pressured by her husband into using his drinking buddy as her lawyer to negotiate the agreements, she was not advised properly, and she did not understand what she was signing.

The court will hold a hearing on the validity of the agreements.  The court said that “the wife’s allegations raise an issue of fact as to whether the agreements were the product of the husband’s overreaching.”

Genius Argument Fails to Persuade London Courts

by James J. Gross

Randy Work and Mandy Gray married 22 years ago.  Randy  was an executive at Lone Star Funds and their marital estate was worth $225 million dollars by the time they divorced in 2015 in England.  The court split the money equally between

Work appealed and argued that he should receive 61% because of his special contribution.  U.K. judges have distinguished cases where success is of a “wholly exceptional nature” and people who’ve become very wealthy through ordinary means.

The three judge appeal panel ruled against Work, however, and upheld the lower court’s finding that the fortune was the result of “being in the right place at the right time, or benefiting from a period of boom,” not professional genius on the part of Randy.


Levitation as Grounds for Divorce?

by James J. Gross

An Italian man claimed in his divorce that his wife was possessed by the devil and could levitate.

According to an article by Jon Lockett in the Sun, the woman’s’ sister, a priest and a monk were witnesses to her floating off the ground and they also said she also threw a church pew at the alter with just one hand.

The judge granted a no-fault divorce to the pair based on one year separation.


Leave the Woodpile a Little Higher

by James J. Gross

One thing I learned in cub scouts and boy scouts was always leave the woodpile a little higher.  Sometimes we camped out at campsites that had a woodpile.  If you used some of the wood for your fire, you were supposed to replace it and add a little more than you took for the next camper.  By extrapolation, it also meant leave your campsite cleaner than you found it.

I thought of this as I was picking up my teenage sons’ clothes off the floor of their rooms, turning off the lights they left on, and putting their dishes in the dishwasher.  No matter which one of them I ask, it is always the other one that did it.  My comeback to them is going to be – leave the woodpile a little higher.

As I start work this morning, my thoughts turn to the clients I’m helping as they struggle through their divorces.  It occurs to me that each of us, as we pass through life, whether helping others through our work or raising kids, can leave the woodpile a little higher.


Getting Married on Valentine’s Day

by James J. Gross

Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Some couples pick that day to get married.  It may seem like a good idea.  But you may want to rethink it.

Economists at the University of Melbourne tracked a million couples.  They found that 11% of the people who got married on Valentine’s Day were divorced after five years and 21% were divorced after nine years.  This compared unfavorably to couples who were married on ordinary dates.

Other holidays and special number dates like January 2nd, 2003 (1/2/03) also resulted in higher divorce rates.

Pet Custody

by James J. Gross

You can get custody of minor children in a divorce but not a pet in Maryland, DC and Virginia and most other states.  The law views pets as personal property, with no more rights than a table, chair or lamp.

But if you live in Alaska, divorce court judges are now required to consider the well-being of the pet under a new law.  The court may award custody of a pet on the basis of what is best for the animal, not the human owners.

The law also allows judges to include pets in domestic violence protection orders.

Avoiding Divorce Month

by James J. Gross

January is “Divorce Month” and Tuesday will be “Divorce Tuesday” because it is the first day the lawyers’ offices will be open for business in 2017.  Divorces typically spike right after the holidays.

Will the divorce lawyers at Thyden Gross and Callahan be hearing from you in 2017?  Marriage therapist, Dr. John Gottman, says the number one predictor of divorce is contempt.

Contempt is rolling your eyes at your spouse.  Or calling their point of view ridiculous.  Feel disgusted with your partner or having other negative feelings about them is contempt too.

But contempt is fixable.  Avoid contempt signals like rolling your eyes, smirking, or making negative comments.

Allow your partner to be different from you and different from your expectations.  Learn to compromise.

Should I Get Divorced?

Google searches for “Should I get divorced” hit their highest for the year during Christmas week.

Searches for “Should I break up with my boyfriend” hit their highest for 2016 worldwide.

But trends for “Should I break up with my girlfriend” remained around average.

However, it was not all bad news.  Searches for “Should I quit my job” dipped to their lowest for 2016 over the festive period.

Suing for the Engagement Ring

By Michael F. Callahan

Mr. Dockendorf gave Ms. McGrath a two carat diamond engagement ring valued at $26,000 when he proposed.   Alas, the engagement was broken off and the marriage never occurred.

Dockendorf sued for return of the ring or its value.  McGrath moved to dismiss the suit contending the suit was barred by  Va. Code sec 8.01-220 which prohibits suits to recover damages for breach of promise to marry.

The Circuit Court held for Dockendorf and the Supreme Court affirmed.   The Court explained that the plain meaning of the words of the statute did not bar a suit to recover a gift made on the condition of marriage if that condition failed.  The statute barred actions for general  damages caused by the breach itself — injury to the affection and wounded pride, loss of opportunity, impaired prospect of marrying another, etc.

The Court did not discuss it, but the result was good for the diamond industry.  A prudent suitor might hesitate to spend big on an engagement ring if he could not recover the ring if his intended broke off the engagement — without throwing the ring at him in the process.

McGrath v. Dockendorf (2016)