“Judge, I should get custody. Fido and Fluffy love me best.” New law says divorce judges must consider well-being of pets.

In the ‘olden days’ (which basically means all days before today!) custody cases were limited to children–as in, human children. But these days far fewer couples have kids while more and more couples have pets. Dogs and cats have become children for millions of couples. And when ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ break up and file for divorce, custody is not about who gets Susie or Jack but about who gets Fido and Fluffy. Pet custody is no longer an oddity dealt with only in Hollywood divorces but a common occurrence. Welcome to the New Normal.

It’s estimated that 80 million US households have dogs and 96 million households have cats. And since about 1 million couples divorce every year, it was bound to happen that a new law (Alaska) would require divorce judges to consider the well-being of pets in deciding which spouse gets custody.

Whether you think this is nuts or normal may depend on whether you’re a dog or cat person or have been through a divorce or custody case. In any event, laws demanding that judges consider the best interests of our furry friends is a sign of the times and believe it or not, are likely to become law in all states across the US.

Nuts or normal? What do you think??


Should Divorcing Dads Automatically Get 50-50 Time With Kids? Illinois Dads Group pushes for new laws.

“All I want is half the time and half the say.”  Divorcing dads frustrated with divorce courts have banded together to fight what they claim is unfair treatment in custody cases which favor moms. But is equal always fair? What’s best for the children?
Experienced family law judges say that laws which require 50-50 time and equal say so don’t leave courts with the discretion to determine creative solutions which are best for the kids. Some therapists say when children are allowed to have a voice in the process, they prefer living in one home primarily, and not going back and forth.
Do you think 50-50 custody should be mandatory? Or should the courts consider the circumstances of each case?

Summary Of 2016 Bankruptcy Filings—Cases Down Nearly 50,000. But Are Debt Levels Rising?

U.S. bankruptcies ended 2016 on a very positive note…or what passes for positive. 
The year saw nearly 772,000 filings, which may sound like a big number–until we look back 2010 when personal bankruptcies reached a record high of 1.5Million. Since then, the number of individual bankruptcy cases has steadily declined, reaching nearly 772,000 in 2016, down about 48,000 from 2015.
Personal bankruptcies accounted for 95% of all 2016 cases, business bankruptcies were 5% of the yearly total. Of the individuals who filed in 2016, about 61% were Chapter 7 cases. These cases completely wipe out credit card, medical and other personal debts except for specifically exempted sums such as child support, alimony, student loans, taxes and court fees.
Another 290,000 filings were Chapter 13 cases, which are called ‘wage earner’ plans. These filings allow the debtor, who is employed, to repay their debts over 3- 5 years.
Business bankruptcies accounted for 38,000 cases in 2016.
The fact that bankruptcy cases continue to trend downwards is good news. But will the downward trend continue? Americans have been adding to their debt levels lately. 3 out of 4 people say they live paycheck-to-paycheck. Auto debt is increasing, as the average car loan is now $29,880 and average monthly payment is $499. Positively, however, delinquencies on home equity loans and and home equity lines of credit improved.
Consumer sentiment has recently surged, so we shall see how the economy does in the coming year.

Bye Bye Holidays, Hello Divorce

Divorce Filings Spike 30% After The Holidays 

If you started this year married but want to end the year divorced, you’re a member of a big club. Lawyers know that once December ends and the New Year begins, the number of people filing for divorce skyrockets. After all, no one wants to begin a divorce during the holidays. But once we’re in the new year, it’s time…often beyond time…for many people to finally move on.
If you’re a member of this club or know others that are, just remember,
The notion of starting a divorce today and being divorced tomorrow is
that way. The first step is to get your ducks in a row–financially, practically
more to do than you may realize, and as with all things in life, preparation
may be ready for a fast end to your marriage, your spouse may not be.
So what’s most important?  Make a plan with your attorney. Don’t hold
critical so that your lawyer can navigate this crucial transition and do all that is possible for you.
And besides…in this world, everything comes out eventually. Trust me.

Divorce Court Decides Wife Being Homemaker Is Equal To Husband Working, Earning $170Million. Wife Gets Half Of Everything. Fair?

The age-old question in divorce remains the same: “What’s fair?” Naturally spouses rarely agree on what each should get in a divorce. Everyone has their own reasons…many many many reasons…for why they deserve more than the other. These days courts start with the presumption that everything should be split 50-50. But should there be times that each spouse doesn’t receive the same amount? When is an unequal split ‘fair’??

Most people say there are many factors that should come into play. If you were the judge deciding a divorce case, what would you take into consideration to reach a fair outcome? What would it depend on? Would it matter if one spouse earned most or all of the money and the other earned little or no money? Would you want to know the ages of the spouses? Would you care if the couple had children? Would it matter if a spouse had cheated?

The Court in a very high profile case known as the Randy and Mandy Work divorce (yes, the couple’s last name is Work and yes, he’s Randy and she’s Mandy) was faced with these facts:

The Works had been married 20 years and are in their 40’s. They have two teenage children. Mandy was a homemaker.

Randy was employed and earned $170Million. Mandy had not been employed outside the home. Mandy cheated on Randy. Now you tell me, what’s fair? Should the husband and wife each get the same amount?

Tweet me your thoughts @pekalalaw.com.