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Archive for August, 2013

I am no lawyer, all right. But after watching for the second times divorce lawyer Yvette Harrell’s video on the Huffington Post from August 10, I am still bemused about the fairness of divorce laws in this country. Can anybody enlighten me?

What I grasp from Yvette Harrell’s interview is that we, would-be divorced fathers and divorced fathers, have an information problem. Once upon a time, divorce laws were biased against fathers. That’s not the case any more. We just need to assert our rights to be fathers. Did Yvette Harrell mean that all we needed was lawyers that walk us through divorce laws? Or am I second-guessing her?

While listening to Yvette Harrell, I could not help thinking of a bill that some representatives from the far -right wanted to pass in the French Parliament: having children of parents of foreign origin to officially state their willingness to be French when turning 18. Yet, these children were French, because they were born on French soil. Needless to say, children of French parents did not have to do the same.

We have the same premises plaguing divorce laws in the US, but Yvette Harrell doesn’t seem to see it. The right of divorced mothers to be mothers is protected by divorce laws, while fathers have to claim their right to be fathers to be acknowledged by the justice system. Isn’t this discrimination plain and simple?

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KramerThat’s already old news: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp, has served his third wife, Wendi Murdoch, with divorce papers; one cannot but wonder if the mogul’s amazing appetite for matrimonies will sustain itself. What’s news is that Wendy has hired a new lawyer, which is a sign of großgroß gunfight coming, according to Peter Lattman and Amy Chozick from the New York Times.

Why a mess when harmony could prevail? The answer is lack of foresight, tells divorce lawyer Paul Talbert from Donohoe Talbert, in the Times article. Even the most ‘sophisticated’ couple like the Murdochs cannot foresee all problems along the way. The Murdochs have signed tons of prenuptial and postnuptial (I confess I did not even know the word before reading the article) agreements, yet they left the Fifth Avenue Penthouse and a yacht in the dark; sophistication is in the details.

Talbert’s revelation turns the world of common folks like me upside down. I have been nurtured with Seinfeld reruns for years and in one of them, Kramer advices George, who wants – wealthy- Susan to break up with him, to ask her for a “prenup.” Kramer’s point: George’s display of foresight, while unbridled enthusiasm and confidence are expected, will seem like misplaced caution to Susan and be a turn-off.

Who is right, Talbert or Kramer? Here is a clue drawn from a totally unscientific poll of my own. On the one hand, my divorced friends from France had relatively easy divorces. On the other side of the Atlantic however, my divorced friends from New York City  (me included) had bloody ones.  In both cases wealth is not part of the picture, all right.  But why the difference?  Are the frogs more foresighted? No way. My answer: litigious divorce laws in New York State. For instance, the no-fault divorce was only introduced in New York State laws in 2010. Litigious divorce laws beg for the need of lawyers to walk you through them, and lawyers are not in the business of making a divorce less litigious.

That’s why I side with Kramer, with relief. And I venture something that will sound outrageously unsophisticated to Paul Talbert, from Donohoe Talbert: sound foresight in matrimonial affairs in New York State should minimize lawyer costs. That might mean refraining from marriage.

After all, lawyers fees must make a big deal of New York State GDP and as most people know – and more and more economists do too- GDP is a poor indicator of happiness.

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