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April 2011 Archives

Ex-Husband Wiggles Out of Alimony for Belly-Dancing Former Wife

A recent divorce case highlights the need for caution when it comes to a social media presence. In Michigan and beyond, husbands and wives who are contemplating divorce should be evaluating the messages they are sending to the online world.

Trysting Teens No Longer Required to be on Sex Offender Registry

Under a law signed Tuesday by Gov. Rick Snyder, no longer will teenage lovers be listed on the registry if they're convicted of having sex with 13-, 14- or 15-year-olds, as long as offenders aren't more than four years older. The new law takes effect July 1 for new offenders. This monumental change in the law took years of lobbying by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who sponsored the bill.

Social Security Benefits not Subject to Division in Divorce

On March 15, 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided, for the first time, that social security benefits are not marital property to be divided upon divorce. In the published case of Biondo v Biondo, the Court of Appeals determined that the federal social security law preempts a state court from transferring any of an individual's social security benefits (42 USC 407). In Biondo, the parties had been married for more than 40 years. Their consent Judgment divided the marital estate and required them to "equalize their social security benefits." When the defendant-wife sought a court order compelling performance of the judgment's social security provisions, the trial court did so, over Plaintiff-husband's objection. Husband subsequently appealed, and the Court of Appeals agreed with husband that federal law prevented the state court from enforcing the social security provisions of their divorce. The Court of Appeals did, however, determine that because no prior case law had removed social security benefits from the realm of marital property, the terms in the Judgment were a mutual mistake, and remanded to the trial court to decide whether it wished to modify the property settlement provisions in light of the instant decision. The Court held that the trial court may consider the parties' anticipated social security benefits as one factor, among others, to be considered when re-devising an equitable distribution of the marital property. This case will significantly impact divorce judgments going forward.

Divorce Trends Impacted by Economy

The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia reported that the recession has had an impact on the stability of marriage and divorce decisions, according to an article published in the February issue of Michigan Lawyers Weekly. About 58% of couples surveyed reported that the recession brought them closer together, while 38% of those contemplating divorce opted to "wait it out" to see if the economy improved before filing. Many couples are seeking the help of other professionals, such as bankruptcy attorneys and financial counselors, before heading to their divorce lawyer's office. Yet there are those too, who prefer to move forward despite the economy. Being unemployed or earning less money can have its advantages -- especially when it comes to calculating child support or determining alimony. If divorce filings follow statistical trends, however, divorce filings will increase as the economy improves.

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