Will marriage matter for Owen Wilson’s baby?

Owen Wilson’s 5 month old son Robert and Robert’s mother Jade Duell are relocating to New York while Wilson remains in California, according to reports on Hollybaby.com, PerezHilton.com and popeater.com.

The parents have apparently known each other for a little more than a year, having met on an airplane. Wilson announced that he was going to be a father 4 days before Robert was born. In interviews he was excited to be a father.  But he has now reportedly told friends and media that he was not ready for a stay-at-home relationship with Robert’s mother; so better to move on honestly than cheat behind her back.

Stick-it-out or let-it-go decisions aside, how will Robert be affected by the fact that his parents never married each other? 

Luckily for the baby, marriage no longer determines paternity our country. Either birth certificates or paternity tests do.  If Wilson was voluntarily listed on the child’s birth certificate he is presumed to be the father with all of the attendant legal responsibilities of fatherhood.  The States (New York and California) cannot force him to stay home every night with the mom nor visit his son every weekend.  But they can make sure thatWilson’s earning capacity benefits his child. 

In this case that is some substantial earning capacity. Even if Wilson does not make the same amount of money every year of his career (some movies are more successful than others), courts will determine an average amount that represents his annual earning capacity and assign a percentage of that as child support to be paid on Robert’s behalf, probably to the mother while she is raising him.

Although nothing says the parties are required to submit their break-up to a court, since they were never married, Duell would be wise to do so.  She and Wilson may have reached any agreement they want for financial and visitation matters, and it may seem fair or even generous to her right now.  But as the reality of being home with a baby continues to grow – and as Wilson’s sense of obligation continues to fade – these arrangements may cease to be as attractive to the parties.

The benefit of bringing the matter to court now, while they are (presumably) amicable, is to give their personal agreement the enforceability of a Judge’s decree.  Failing to make a payment to a “baby momma” across the country may be easier to do if there is no possibility of jail time attached to it.

Likewise, as an unwed father,Wilson has no presumed rights in the life of his child. If the parties have reached an amicable agreement about the amount of time Wilson will enjoy the company of his baby, or how the mom plans to raise him, or any other pertinent questions, they would be easier to enforce with a legally binding agreement on the court records.

What We Love:  Robert’s rights are protected, not matter what his parents decide to do with (or without) each other.

When is it Alimony?

Alimony:  I interviewed a woman this week for a divorce. They have two small children. Her husband has been unemployed for 4 months and has begun drinking more (amount) and more (frequently).  She works full time to support the 4 of them.  They rent their home. She has a bachelor’s degree and does not make a lot of money.  But, she has suddenly become the primary breadwinner.

They are fortunate that her parents live nearby and provide free day care for the kids.

This was her first question: Will I have to pay alimony?

As a practical matter, probably not. He also worked for the first 6 years of their 6 and a half year marriage, so he has not (yet) become accustomed to his wife being the primary earner.  But, if she were willing to continue this for an extended period of time:  Maybe. And – eventually – yes.

The moral of this story:  If you think you are going to divorce the ungrateful person sitting on your couch, the longer you wait the worse it may be — for YOU!

What We Love:  This is a smart client. She is looking at the signs and being as proactive as possible in a really hard situation.

What’s with all the greedy old men?

Sixty-one year old Peter Frampton has filed for divorce from his 3rd wife, Christina Elfers. The couple separated on New Year ’s Eve 2010 after being married for 15 years.  Frampton’s filing grants custodial custody of their teenaged daughter to her mother and requests joint rights of legal custody.  The cause of the breakdown of the marriage is cited as “irretrievable breakdown.”  All very clean and neat.

Until you do a little background research on Peter Frampton. According to the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natalie-pace/peter-frampton-lost-at-lo_b_884214.html, Frampton’s three divorces are not what has put him in the legal history books for the state of New York, it was his successful suit to prevent having to pay palimony to former live-in girlfriend Penny McCall in the 1970s.

The case, McCall v Frampton, filed in New York Supreme Court, WestchesterCounty, 415 N.Y.S.2nd 752, states:  “McCall (plaintiff) sues Frampton (defendant) for damages and real property pursuant to the alleged breach of an oral contract. The plaintiff claims that acting on representations made by the defendant; the plaintiff left her husband, lived with the defendant, and devoted all her resources, time, and effort to the promotion and success of the defendant in his endeavors. The defendant moves herein to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.”

Frampton won that suit, despite evidence of his entire rock-star persona, and thereby some of the success of his breakout album “Frampton Comes Alive” was a direct result of McCall’s work on his behalf.

Meanwhile, 81 year old Buzz Aldrin is being sued by his 3rd wife and her daughter after he filed for divorce last week. http://www.tmz.com/2011/06/20/buzz-aldrin-lawsuit-starbuzz-company-unfair-business-practice-breach-of-contract-divorce-wife-lois-driggs-cannon-stepdaughter-assets/ Documents presented in this suit claim that Aldrin’s career had reached a standstill when he met Lois Driggs. She and her daughter, a Stanford graduate, began a business selling Buzz Aldrin paraphernalia and rehabilitating his career as a media star. According to msnbc: “in better times the astronaut credited her with helping him through his struggle with alcoholism and depression.” http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/06/17/6882767-buzz-aldrin-breaks-up-with-third-wife

Since filing for divorce from Driggs, after 23 years of marriage, he has frozen all of the company assets, claiming that she and her daughter no longer have the right to make living from the company they helped him found.

So here we are again – a celebrity who ignores other people who have helped him gain his success. Except that, in these cases, there is also the romantic interpersonal aspect, not just a business venture, to these relationships.  Where a “normal” person might look at this as an opportunity to be generous, recognize that McCall and Driggs were not only critical for financial success and stardom, but also someone with whom they were in love and take the opportunity to be gracious and generous. These celebs have used it as an opportunity to be even greedier, lumping the romantic break-up and the business relationship into one messy ending.

What We Love:  Aldrin and Frampton, it turns out, might both be jerks.  In a country in which divorce is every person’s legal right, no one has to stay married to a jerk.  Whether married 15 years or 23, these women have the right to move out and move on with their lives.

What do we make of Buzz Aldrin’s 3rd divorce?

Buzz Aldrin was 39 years old when he walked on the moon on July 20, 1969. He has spent most of his adult life as an american hero.  At 81, he has filed for divorce from his third wife. He married Lois Driggs Cannon on Valentine’s Day 1988. 

23 years of marriage, no matter how it ends, is a successful partnership.  The divorce papers site “irreconcilable differences,” which means that they do not want publicity attached to the causes of the breakdown of the marriage.  The reasons are their own, and apparently small enough that they can be successfully contained privately.

The couple had no children together. Aldrin’s 3 grown children were from his first marriage.  This was a marriage between adults. Much has been made of Aldrin’s ability to get physically and mentally healthy thanks to this third wife.  She is credited with helping him overcome alcohol addiction and depression. 

Just because they no longer choose to remain married does not mean that therelationship was not a good one.  This divorce can be a simple distribution of assets between friends, and everyone leaves better off than when they met.

Any relationship – marriage, friendship, business – in which two partners improve each other’s lives for more than two decades and then separate amicably is a noble accomplishment.  This divorce may be yet another testament to what a truly heroic man Buzz Aldrin has always been.

What We Love:  Mature adults making mutually supportive decisions, even as they dissolve their partnership. 

What is a divorce party and what does it have to do with The White Stripes?

The White Stripes’ front man Jack White and his wife of 6 years model Karen Elson, threw a party this weekend, to celebrate their wedding anniversary and divorce.

That’s right, an intimate gathering of friends in Nashville to help the couple celebrate their un-coupling.  How does this reflect on the marriage itself, or the people?  What message does it send to their children?  Is this worse than the “regular” type of divorces, where everyone goes their separate ways quietly?  Does this mean that they should stay together, if they can get along well enough to have a party together?

The truth is that some partners make better friends than spouses.  True happiness in life might come from the ability to realize the difference between a friend and a spouse and love that person for whichever they are to you.

Most states now give couples the right to file for divorce by citing “irreconcilable differences” as the sole reason to end the marriage.  The story behind those differences might be as sordid as a romance novel or as simple as best friends needing more space from each other.  If the parties can manage to bring their own level of discourse and drama down to a simple phrase like this, “irreconcilable differences,” much like a band breaking up over “artistic differences,” then all parties are able to move forward more freely with less hurt and baggage attached.

Consider the friends, family and children of White and Elson – they are free from having to decide who was “right” or “wrong” in the divorce. They never have to feel forced to choose sides after the divorce is complete, and they never have to feel awkward about inviting both people to the same event.  They already know that both White and Elson still have enough respect and esteem for each other to celebrate together.

What could be more comforting for the couple’s two minor children?  Or more calming for the couple?  No one has to worry about becoming the outcast in their own circle of friends or families.

Recommendations for throwing your own Divorce party:  Only invite people who are truly supportive of both parties.  Serve food that each partner loves (and the other never liked): Sushi and Italian?  Wild game and vegan?  Let your differences shine!   Take a moment at times throughout the party to stop and connect with the people you are most afraid of losing such as a trusted mother-in-law, your husband’s best man’s wife, etc. 

And, consider playing songs from this playlist, recommended by www.deathandtaxesmag.comThe Avalanches “Since I Left You,” Fleetwood Mac “Go Your Own Way,” Jeff Buckley “Last Goodbye/Unforgiven,” The Magnetic Fields “Yeah! Oh, Yeah!” Dinosaur, Jr. “Over It,” Prince “When You Were Mine” (beautifully described as a love that’s stronger than a relationship), Gwen Stefani “Cool,” Simple Minds “(Don’t You) Forget About Me,” and – of course – The White Stripes “We’re Going to be Friends.”

What We Love:  It is worth going to the site and watching the videos while reading the song descriptions.  Whether you have the break-up party or not, this flurry of empowering songs and videos helps put it all into perspective.


Do Celebrities Divorce More Frequently Than the Rest Of Us?

While no scientific study could definitively answer this question (define celebrity – Brad Pitt and other A list’ers only? Anyone who has had his or her fifteen minutes of fame – Nene Leakes?)   There are some indicators that certain celebrity names recur in divorce proceedings for reasons which may be completely unrelated to their celebrity status.

According to www.divorcestatistics.org, there is a higher rate of recidivism among divorced people. The more divorces you have had, the more you are likely to have!

While the overall rate in the United States seems to continue at about 50% of all marriages, according to the website: “The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%. The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%. The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%.”

There could be several reasons for this alarming set of statistics.  Maybe some people are better suited for marriage than others; but keep trying anyway.  Maybe Elizabeth Taylor, for example, loved the idea of being a bride but was not cut out to be someone’s wife.

There have also been psychological studies devoted to the idea that some people like the experience of falling in love, more than the work of being in a committed relationship.  Anecdotally, there are stories of people who have been engaged 10 or more times, purchasing dresses and making deposits; only to end the engagements before the weddings ever take place.

Some statistics support the idea that a first marriage between people in the early twenties (Olivia Wilde) are more likely to end in divorce (37%) than marriages between people in their mid to late 30s (6%) www.divorcestatistics.org (Hugh Hefner?!).  Early marriages leave more time for subsequent marriages.

There is also the folk wisdom that “cheaters cheat,” meaning somebody who leaves his or her first wife for you is likely to leave you for a newer model when the time is ripe. (Kelsey Grammer?)

Maybe people who have gotten into and out of one bad marriage relatively unscathed feel bolder to try the next marriage even if it may not be a perfect fit, knowing they can always survive another divorce.

Whatever the multiple and varied reasons behind the statistics, one thing is certain. Each divorce is a unique set of facts and factors between two people who never intended to be involved in a divorce.  Each divorce needs to be treated as carefully and tactfully as humanly possible so that the people who emerge on the far side have a real chance at starting again in a better situation.

What We Love:  The relative normalization of divorce in this country is what gives all marriages accountability.  People are no longer trapped in a bad marriage; making the decision to get out is the first – and frequently most difficult – step.

Kelsey, Camille, cocaine and custody: what is a judge to do?

Kelsey Grammer and Camille Grammer have been divorced for more than 3 months.  Kelsey is remarried, Camille is reportedly filming new episodes on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills while considering another spot on CNN.  Their two minor children together, ages 6 and 9, have been settled into their new lives.  Each child reportedly has two full-time nannies.

Apparently, Camille does not want her children having free and liberal visitation with their dad and his younger wife.  Or – some say – Kelsey does not want to have to pay child support.  Apparently, they divorced quickly in February, so that Kelsey could marry his newest wife, and left the difficult questions (asset division and custody) for a later date.  Now. 

What would a judge need to see in this file in order to assign one parent sole custody?  The common practice in most states is for children to have primary physical custody with one parent (in this case – so far – their mother), and both parents to have joint legal custody over the up-bringing decisions and finances of the children.  The non-custodial parent (in this case the father) would then have reasonable rights of visitation: frequently nights, weekends, and an occasional vacation. This general arrangement is presumed unless one parent or another can be proven to be an inappropriate parent.

Inappropriate parent, of course, is a relative term.  (Pardon the pun.)

Rumors and citations abound all over the internet – how many times has Kelsey been arrested for drunk driving, cocaine possession, violating probation? How often has he gone to rehab? With 5 marriages, public engagements and health scares, he may have spent more time in the tabloids than out of them.

While rumors following Camille (former Playboy model, drug binges) are less pervasive, they nonetheless paint a picture of a woman with questionable ethics, loyalties and motives.

Which one of these people would you want to raise your children?

Luckily, neither of them gets to raise any children but their own. A judge will mostly look for evidence that a parent puts the child in danger. Is the parent drunk or high while with the kids? Does the parent bring the kids to unsafe places like bars, fights or drug deals? Are the children left unattended while the parent has sex?

Are either of the parents, or their partners, convicted sex offenders?

If the answer to all of these questions is no, and if the children have no strong and valid desire to avoid one parent, then a judge will probably not terminate anyone’s parental rights.  Custody fights usually resolve close to what the truth already was – an uneasy balance between both parents’ rights.

What We Love:  First – that your children (and my children) are not being raised by Kelsey and Camille Grammer. Second – parents do not have to be perfect in order to be the right parents for their own children; they just have to keep their children safe from harm.

SNL Meets Mad Men – Who Says It Had to Hurt?

In a court order signed and finalized on May 13, 2011, Fred Armisen and Elisabeth Moss are divorced.  The couple met on the set of SNL in October 2008.  Moss was there with her AMC’s Mad Men co-star Jon Hamm, who was guest hosting. Moss, then 26, appeared in a few sketches for fun.  She and Armisen married a year later in October 2009.

It was Armisen’s second marriage.  He was married to English singer and songwriter Sally Timms from 1998 to 2004.  He has no reported children from either marriage.

Armisen (who is 44 years old) and Moss lived together 8 months before they separated. Four months later Moss filed for divorce and, with little or no fan-fare, they signed a separation agreement, hired two lawyers and got themselves divorced by the court of Los Angeles County.

While both of these actors are successful and well-known, neither is a huge celebrity. Either one could have used this turn of events to create as much media buzz as he or she wanted.  Legal separation and divorce carry temptations for an opportunity to blame your spouse for what “went wrong” or to lobby onlookers to take sides in the split.  Gossip magazines (much like curious friends) are usually willing to devote some time and space to any mud-slinging that divorcing parties may want to do.

Some might argue that a little tantrum and blame-throwing might have helped either actor’s career by bringing extra media attention (under the old adage that any publicity is good publicity, so long as they spell your name right).  Both Moss and Armisen have apparently elected, however, to follow a different path.  The quick and quiet marriage-separation-divorce leaves both parties relatively whole and un-scarred.

This allows both of them to spend less money on attorneys, less energy on unhappy events and all of their focus on moving forward – both professionally and personally.  It is probably smarter for their careers – and lives – that they chose this path.

What we love: Couples who divorce without rancor can become (or remain) friends. Hollywood, like any small town, is a good place to have friends.

What is it about divorce that frightens people?

Maria Shriver does not have to worry that a divorce will bankrupt her. She is probably not concerned about who will get custody of her children. She knows that she is capable of running her own successful career. Her children are no longer babies who need constant supervision.

She must have known since January when the mother of Arnold’s “other” child retired (read: took a handsome pay-off to disappear with her son) that he had been unfaithful. Not once, but in a huge ongoing household staff, Henry VIII, sort of way. No matter how big the Brentwood mansion is or how many nights Arnold stayed in Sacramento, Maria must have known for years that her husband was involved with someone else.

Yet, when they announced their separations and transitions over the past few months, neither Maria nor Arnold ever publicly used the word “divorce.” Whatever marriage they have apparently frightens them less than a divorce.
Arnold rose to fame as a body-builder, yet released films in which he pretends to (or actually does) smoke pot. Maria, who grew up as a member of the most famous multi-generational family of democrats, campaigned for her Republican husband. Maria, the investigative journalist, seemingly did not notice that someone on her staff had a kid who looked just like her own kids. Arnold, the family values man, apparently ignored one of his own children in his own home.

So much image over substance can make you dizzy.

The image of a happily married governor and first lady working together to raise their brood of children has become gossamer thin with the latest round of revelations. What lessons are they teaching their children, and their fans, about values and honesty and commitment? Would a divorce, even at its worst – with a rabid media eager to show as much dirty laundry as it could find – be worse than this?

Probably not. As complex as de-constructing their marriage might be, it is probably simpler than the toll of keeping this veil in place indefinitely. I can only imagine that there will be a huge sense of relief for both Maria and Arnold (and eventually their kids) when all of the dust of this mess has settled. Letting the whole truth out is the first painful step towards what will eventually be a happier and healthier future for all concerned.

What We Love: Maria has had to protect secrets that were not even hers for as long as she has known about Arnold’s affairs. She can now un-shoulder that burden and begin to live her own life.

Why Do the Mounting Allegations Against IMF Chief Remind us of Arnold and Maria?

 (c) wikipediaItem regarding IMF chief:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn‘s reputation with women earned him the nickname “the great seducer,” and not even an affair with a subordinate could knock the International Monetary Fund leader off a political path pointed in the direction of the French presidency. All that changed with charges that he sexually assaulted a maid in his hotel room, a case that generated shock and revulsion, especially in his home country.

(Quoted from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110515/ap_on_re_us/imf_head_assault)

 (c) wikipedia

 Item regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger:

A WOMAN accused of shattering Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 25-year marriage has claimed she was merely one of many mistresses. . .Gigi Goyette says: “I don’t think I had anything to do with the break-up of his marriage. There were so many other women. About 13 have come out of the woodwork.” . . .There have been several stories of Schwarzenegger’s rumoured infidelities over the years – and time and time again Maria denounced them as “dirty politics”.. . . But after walking out on the 63-year-old Predator star last month and fleeing to a Beverly Hills hotel, it seems there’s only so much she could take. (Quoted from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/celebs/news/2011/05/14/arnold-schwarzenegger-mistress-denies-causing-marriage-break-up-115875-23128982/)

It seems that frequently people in positions of power and influence are used to getting away with behaviors that would be unacceptable to the rest of us, but are allowed to do so as an offset to the power they wield in the rest of their lives.  Sometimes this happens on a smaller scale in our own homes and families.

Whether you live in a no-fault state or one of the states where the court requires proof of the causes of the breakdown of a marriage; serial infidelity can and should be relevant to the ultimate distribution of assets in a case.  A spouse who has managed to maintain extra marital relationships has diverted resources from the marriage for his or her own uses.

Judges often notice when one spouse acquires an enormous debt without the other spouse’s knowledge or consent.  Frequently orders reflect this or other subversive behaviors resulting in a diminished estate for the divorcing partners.  Similarly an affair – or several affairs – may tend to show that one spouse has already used up more than his or her fair share of the assets.

WHAT WE LOVE:  No matter what you have ignored or accepted in the past, once the truth is out you can move on and start over.

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