A judge in rural Clinton County, New York, has decided that one deadbeat dad lacks appropriate budgeting skills, and has handed the dad, called Thomas M., a list of items he is forbidden from purchasing until he has repaid $14,000 in child support arrearages to his ex-wife on behalf of their two daughters. Thomas can’t buy cigarettes or alcohol, nor can he buy a hunting or fishing license or any other item that the judge considers not to be a necessity of life. He must have the Probation Department’s written permission to purchase certain other items, including furniture and clothing. Thomas’s lawyer questioned whether the judge had authority to make such an order, but the broad language of the applicable law certainly gives him a lot of leeway. Maybe if more dads were kept away from their internet service, hunting licenses, and restaurant dinners, there wouldn’t be $12.6 billion in child support arrearages.
A New York attorney, Steven Simkin, settled his divorce in 2006 by dividing property and assets equally with his wife, Laura Blank. At the time, the couple had a large sum invested in Bernie Madoff’s now-infamous Ponzi scheme. Mr. Simkin opted to leave his money there; his wife preferred cash, so he took $6.6 million in cash out of the Madoff account and paid it to her. She also got one of their houses and half of the rest of their assets.
The divorce had been final for more than two years when the Madoff fund collapsed, and Mr. Simkin immediately went to his wife and asked for a do-over on the distribution of assets. She refused. He took her to court, arguing the theory of “mutual mistake.” That theory says that when both parties to a contract are laboring under the same erroneous belief–for example, that the value of an item is much greater than it actually is–the contract can be cancelled. Mr. Simkin argues that because both he and his then-wife were mistaken in their belief that they had money in the Madoff account, their settlement agreement should be voided. Ms. Blank’s rejoinder is that there was no mistake and that the money was there at the time, as evidenced by Mr. Simkins’ ability to take out $6.6 million to pay her for her share. She says the only mistake was Mr. Simkins’ belief that the account would continue to have value in the future–a mistake made by many a divorcing spouse who retains certain assets based on a belief that they’ll continue to appreciate.
Does this seem like a simple question of Mr. Simkin regretting a bad decision? Apparently the courts don’t think so–the case is now pending in New York’s highest court, after a trial court held in favor of Ms. Blank and an appellate court overturned that ruling.
My favorite part is the claim of “extreme hardship” by Mr. Simkin, who earns at least $3 million annually as a partner at the law firm that is representing him in the divorce do-over case (for free).
Check back for updates when the New York high court rules on this interesting case.
A mother who suffered severe brain damage during the birth of her triplets can have in-person visits and Skype calls with her kids, a Southern California judge ruled this week.
Abbie Dorn, who is in a vegetative state after a series of medical errors during childbirth, lives with her parents in South Carolina after being divorced from her husband following her brain injury. Her parents petitioned on her behalf for visits with her kids, who live with her former husband in Los Angeles.
Attorneys for both sides praised the ruling, with the grandparents’ attorney calling it a victory for all disabled parents. The father was also pleased, having prevailed in his request to both limit and supervise visitation.
Anyone going through a divorce knows that it affects every aspect of your life, and that you can find yourself in need of just about every kind of resource, from legal information to where to store the stuff that doesn’t fit into your new apartment. Where can you find all of that information in one place? Entrepeneur Tom Kaufman aims to provide it at The Next Chapter Expo by offering one-stop shopping and education at the first-ever expo for divorced and divorcing spouses, in Denver on May 14, 2011. Kaufman says that he intends the event to include a long list of resources, whether you need a makeover or a tax expert. The expo will cater to both opposite-sex and same-sex spouses and will include both educational sessions and exhibitor booths. Interesting idea and we’ll be watching to see how it goes.