More Mid-life Women Seeking Divorce



An article in the Huffington Post reported that many middle-aged women feel they no longer wish to be married. After sometimes decades of putting other’s priorities before their own they’re inclined to claim the latter part of their lives as their own.

Many elements can influence these feelings. Physical pressures from menopause to loss of youth, emotional withdrawals from caregiving to children as well as lack of attraction to spouses all combine to lead some women to consider divorce.middle-age-woman

Adding to this notion is an American culture leaning towards greater appreciation of women after age 40. We see celebrities and motion picture stars continue to flourish even as they enter middle-age. Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore and Helen Mirren are all attractive, vibrant women who make older women feel that they, too, might still be vibrant.

The Huffington Post article went on to describe couples that separated but have never divorced while an AARP study reported that most divorced middle-aged women find a new partner and happiness. For some, separation without divorce is ideal, but others desire a clean break with no further attachment.

There are choices to be made when considering a divorce. So don’t go it alone. Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine can advise couples of their best options if marriage is no longer viable. From property division to pensions and everything in between we can help them make their best decisions and move forward with their lives.

Why Choose Mediation In Cases Of Divorce



When you were first married it probably seemed like nothing could ever come between you. And there’s a good chance you and your spouse will live out your days together. Sure there will be bumps in the road but there’s usually a way to solve them.

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But if the day comes when divorce is the best solution to marital problems it doesn’t necessarily need to be an ugly and combative experience. Mediation can be a much more sensible solution to dissolve a marriage without resorting to more pain and suffering then need be. This is especially true if children are involved.

There are several benefits to mediation to facilitate a divorce.

  • Most divorces can be settled without going to court. This can mean a divorce can be finalized without the typically prolonged wait for a court date.
  • A mediated divorce is typically less costly both financially and emotionally. Multiple court appearances, lengthy meetings and continued legal support can add up as can continually revisiting past hurts and trauma.
  • If children are involved mediation can mean less stress and upheaval in their lives. The effect of an acrimonious divorce can be life-long especially if the children are young. Some studies have shown that children of acrimonious divorce have a greater risk of divorce themselves.
  • Mediation can allow for a more creative solution to marriage dissolution. Courts are typically overloaded at the best of times and will not have the time or resources to delve very deeply into individual family situations. Mediation can facilitate a more flexible and acceptable resolution.
  • Mediation also avoids the “dirty laundry” aspect of a court appearance. Meetings are conducted in private and in confidence. Mediation is most productive when both sides can be heard but without the mud flinging in public.
  • The mediator will be able to direct discussions and limit fighting by controlling anger, accusations and insults. They can make sure both spouses are heard and stay focused on the issues that matter not the acrimony.

Divorce can be one of the most traumatic experiences of your life. If at all possible it should be resolved as quickly as possible to enable both parties to resume a normal life. This is especially critical if you have children. If you find yourself and your spouse at a crossroads and need the best resolution to a divorce call the office of Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine. We can help you with all aspects of marriage dissolution from mediation to child custody to alimony. Our job is to treat you with respect.

Who’s Your Daddy? A Kansas Child Support Case Asks Paternity Questions



In an unusual child support case a man in Kansas who donated sperm to a couple is now being sought by the state for financial support for the resulting child.

William Marotta, who met the couple from an ad on Craigslist, was originally absolved by them for any financial obligations as well as precluded from any parental rights when he donated sperm in 2009. The lesbian couple that received the donated sperm already had other children from adoption and foster care.child-custody-kansas

The couple, Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, along with Marotta signed an agreement to hold Marotta harmless “for any child support payments demanded of him by any other person or entity, public or private, including any district attorney’s office or other state or county agency, regardless of the circumstances or said demand.”

Schreiner gave birth to a daughter through artificial insemination and Marotta received periodic updates on the child but hasn’t had much contact with the couple. Schreiner applied for state aid after she and Bauer separated and she received financial and medical support for the child.

In October of 2012 the state filed a petition on behalf of the Department of Children and Families seeking a ruling that Marotta, being the father of Schreiner’s child, is obligated for financial support of the girl as well as reimbursement of state money.

Because the insemination was not performed by a physician Marotta is considered the father of the child rather than a sperm donor in the eyes of the state of Kansas. Marotta’s attorney argues that if a donor is free of obligation only when a doctor performs the task, “then any woman in Kansas could have sperm donations shipped to her house, inseminate herself without a licensed physician and seek out the donor for financial support because her actions made him a father, not a sperm donor. This goes against the very purpose of the statute to protect sperm donors as well as birth mothers.”

What do you think? Does a sperm donor have parental obligation simply because the insemination wasn’t performed by a physician? People have been getting pregnant this way for years, through donations from family and friends without involving a doctor, so how is this case different?

If you have a pending child support or custody case our hope is that it’s not nearly this complicated. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Call Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine if you need clear, levelheaded representation. We take the needs of all involved into consideration and will guide you to the best resolution possible for everyone involved.

The Kansas case is scheduled to go before a judge today, January 8. Stay tuned for updates and leave a comment below if you’d like.

The “Divorce Hotel”: Come In Married and Leave Single



What would you say to a quickie divorce that takes place over a weekend in a luxury hotel? The amenities would go way beyond bathrobes and concierge service to include lawyers, therapists, mediators and notaries and by Monday you’re free to go on with your life.

Would you check in at the Divorce Hotel?

According to an article in The New York Times, a Dutch entrepreneur named Jim Halfens is trying to introduce just such a service to the US. His idea is to answer the quickie Las Vegas marriage with an equally simple and swift divorce to facilitate the high US divorce rate.

His “Divorce Hotel” would cost between $2500 and $10,000 depending on circumstances and while this may be high for a weekend getaway it could be less expensive than the legal costs for a typical divorce which may cost far more in money and time.

Couples must be amicable and any child custody arrangements should not be in dispute. Halfens believes there are many of these types of couples in the US that would be interested in his services. He has operations in Holland and has served 17 couples so far. All were successful but one and he claims the husband was deceiving the wife about their finances.

Halfens has met with some pushback from well-known divorce attorneys who claim it’s just not that easy.

In The New York Times article, Robert S. Cohen, celebrity and high-powered couples divorce attorney, says he wishes he’d thought of the idea but thinks of it more as a gimmick than a real solution.

“It might if a couple were still friends and their financial arrangements were straightforward”, he says. But in his view it wouldn’t be successful for relationships with complex financial ties.

“The notion of being able to — at the beginning of a split-up — spend a weekend putting these various pieces together and coming to a solution to them would be virtually impossible,” Mr. Cohen says. “I don’t see how one would do it and come up with a fair result.”

And if to support Cohen’s opinion of the gimmicky nature of the plan Halfens has expressed interest in turning his divorce hotel business into a reality show and claims to have invited Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to kick off the season.

He hasn’t heard back.

If you’d like a more thoughtful approach to divorce proceedings contact us at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine. We can’t offer a mini-bar, room service or little soaps but we do provide fair, practical and compassionate divorce advice and services. We understand the delicate and complicated nature of divorce and promise you the best possible resolution to your situation.

Divorce and Recession



As the Great Recession slowly comes to a close (we hope) there has been much examination about the relationship between divorce and the economy. Divorce rates have gone down about 7 percent in the years since 2006, but is that because marriages are stronger or is it just too expensive to get a divorce? The recession has hit middle and lower-income Americans pretty hard so are these couples forced to live together so they can combine paychecks (or unemployment)?

The recent recession may have caused couples to rethink divorce.

Some studies seem to suggest both. “The Survey of Marital Generosity”, from the University of Virgina asked a sample of almost 1200 married Americans aged 18-45 about the state of their marriages. They found that 29 percent believed that the recession deepened their commitment to each other while 38 percent of the couples who had been considering divorce put their plans on hold.

“Classically one of marriage’s core functions was to provide mutual aid to adults in times of need,” said the study’s author, W. Brad Wilcox. “Sometimes, not always, when couples suffer together they may develop a deeper appreciation for each other and for their marriage.”

The reasons the couples had for holding off on divorce were varied. While 43 percent of Americans with no financial stressors reported their marriages to be “very happy,” only 27 percent of those with two to three stressors said the same. When asked if the recession had brought financial stress to their marriage 29 percent said yes. This may suggest that their decisions to stick together during the recession may have as much to do with the financial obstacle divorce presents as it does with learning to work together to preserve their unions.

It used to be that couples might have postponed divorce until the children were grown. In the years of recession it may now be a matter of waiting for the real estate and stock markets to perk up to make divorce more financially tenable. The divorce rate has been on a bit of an uptick since the economy has been on a slight recovery. Whether the divorce rate resumes its normal rate remains to be seen. Perhaps going through hardship together will surprise couples considering divorce that there may yet be something to salvage.

If you’re considering divorce you need the experience of Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine behind you. We can advise you of your options for moving forward, assist you in mediation and make the best out of an adverse situation for any children you may have. Our focus is on negotiation, not acrimony, to develop a mutually beneficial outcome for all parties.

Considering Children When Seeking Custody



Conflicts with your child’s other parent over custody are a delicate situation and should be treated as such. No matter the dispute between the parents, the children shouldn’t suffer because of it.  Never make a bad situation worse by putting the children in the middle of your argument.

The needs of children should come first in a custody decision.

The most difficult, and yet most important consideration, when working out a parenting plan is protecting your children.  If there is domestic violence, drug abuse or criminal activity by the other parent, this behavior must be addressed for the children’s safety.  However, most cases simply involve parents who need to resolve who will be the primary caregiver or negotiating a shared arrangement.

When both parents have been living with the children, here are a few tips to minimize the strain on all family members.

First and foremost your children will be affected by any breakup of their family unit so putting their needs first is the ultimate expression of love by a parent. No matter the reason for the break-up, protecting your children should come first. This may be the most difficult thing for a parent, who is also facing the end of a relationship, will face in their lifetime.

Talk with them. No matter how young a child is they can still sense conflict. Your first instinct may to avoid discussing the matter altogether but chances are that by the time divorce or break-up is in progress your children know things are bad. They’ll only become more confused if you withhold information. Stress repeatedly that the break-up is not his or her fault and that that mommy and daddy will always be here for them and love them very much.  All they need to know is that they will be loved and cared for, no matter what. Encourage them to talk and express their feelings.  Strongly consider family counseling and allow a professional to guide you.

Children are not pawns to seek revenge or inflict pain. If you are in court simply to “win” your children perhaps you’re there for the wrong reasons. Closely examine your reasons for seeking custody and if you truly are the best caregiver for your children.

Refrain from speaking badly about the other parent in front of your children. Don’t attempt to alienate them from the other parent. Not only does this reflect badly upon you in court the consequences to the relationship and the child’s emotional well-being could be far reaching. Advise any other relatives, friends or caregivers that you will not tolerate any negative comments about the other partner

Keep a sense of normalcy whenever possible. Continue with sports, after-school activities or visits with friends. Young children especially have a difficult time with change so reassuring them that life will go on is critical. If possible keep them in their homes as familiar surroundings will bring some comfort.

Consider the benefits of mediation– courts are increasingly mandating attempts at mediation because it can be better for all parties involved, especially the children. It can help to avoid the resentment that parents might feel following a long drawn out custody battle.

Be open to working with the other parent.  After all, you will have to co-parent the children for a long time.  You don’t have to like the other parent, but you do have to at least develop a business relationship with them for the sake of the children.  You will need to continually work together to make important decisions about how best to raise the children. This includes everything from where they go to school, to medical decisions, to vacation times. Again, this may be exceedingly difficult but remember that you love your children and want what’s best for them.

Connect with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible and closely question them on their child custody methods and experience. If you find your attorney using phrases like, “we’ll crush your ex,” instead of reassuring you that your children are his or her first consideration you should probably look elsewhere.

A study starting in the 1970s shows that only 60% of children of divorce marry and 40% of them will divorce. Among adult children from intact families, 80% marry, and only 9% of them divorce. Long-term emotional damage may result from a mishandled custody dispute or spouses who continually use their children as a means to inflict pain on each other. Divorce or break ups are the dissolution of what was once a happy and promising life and no one “wins”.

The family attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine are compassionate and experienced in all aspects of custody arrangements. We know how difficult and emotional these situations can be and our goal is to help your and your family reach the best possible outcome. Please contact us today and let us answer your questions and put you at ease.

Modifying A Divorce Decree



All divorce decrees are final but the individual elements can be modified if certain circumstances are met. The court can alter child support, parental rights, and alimony arrangements but property decisions normally cannot be amended. Each state will decide what constitutes the circumstances that will allow a modification, and even then most decisions will be judgment calls by the court.

A divorce decree can be amended in certain circumstances.

In the case of child support,  significant changes in the age of the children, changes in child care costs, expensive special needs or changes in income of the parents can all be grounds to modify child support. 

In seeking amendment of residential and/or legal custody, the test is what is in the “best interests of the child.”  There has to be a good reason to change where the child lives.  The court will want to know why you want to upset this child’s applecart and move him/her to your home.  You will have to demonstrate a problem in their current home and show how your home is the solution.  It may be because the child is not getting to school on time, not thriving in school or social life, has poor health that is not being addressed, is exposed to danger/neglect/abuse in the other parent’s care, the other parent cannot take care of themselves due to illness, drugs, alcohol or mental illness or in the case of older children, the want the change.  

Any major increase or decrease in a either ex-spouses’ income may be grounds for modification of alimony or maintenance.
To get any sort of amendment to a divorce decree, you must file a motion with the court who made the initial order telling them what change you want.  Even if the parents have a good relationship and they just want a minor change such as changing the day weekend visits start,  the courts still need to get involved if you want the change to be enforceable. Consulting an attorney can give you an idea of what changes may or may not need a modification by the court.
The court process for obtaining a decree modification can be confusing and stressful, so it may be wise to meet with a family lawyer.  Working with a family law attorney can help you understand your options and help make sure that the proper steps are taken to protect your rights and interests.

The law firm of Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine has vast experience in both Kansas and Missouri family law and can assist you in making any changes to your divorce decree. To determine whether a modification is an option for you connect with our attorneys at 913-390-8555 for a free consultation about changing your divorce decree.

Why You Should Write A Will Now



It’s not the most enjoyable thing you’ll ever do but it could be the most responsible. Creating a will is an act of love, of consideration and of faith.  It ensures that your family is safe if the unthinkable happens and they are left without you. But it’s also one of the last things on your mind as you try and keep up with daily life and its challenges.

So let’s go over a few reasons why you should consider writing a will as soon as possible.

Everybody dies. That’s reason number one. You may think you’re too young, too healthy, too responsible or too careful but the truth is that everybody dies. And unfortunately we don’t get to pick when.

If you have kids you need a will. Designate a guardian so that the courts won’t have to choose one. It may not even be someone your children know so don’t assume they will go to your family.  This is especially critical if both you and your spouse are killed. You run a real risk of your children going into the foster care system and that would be a tragedy.

Where will your money go if you die suddenly? You might think it would just go to a spouse or child but you might be surprised to know that they may only receive half and that half may not come for months or years. The remainder may go to other relatives or possibly your debtors.  You money may even end up going to the government if you die intestate. It sounds crazy but it happens all the time.

If you own a business with large assets and do not have a will at the time of your death, your family may not see the benefits due them. If there are business partners they may be entitled to a portion of your estate due to existing partnership agreements that will take precedence. Don’t let the benefit of your life’s work go elsewhere.

Minor children may also not be entitled to assets until they reach a certain age. Designate a trusted friend, family member or better yet a financial manager to handle the money and provide a living until they reach majority.

If you are living with a partner but are not legally married a will is imperative if you want that partner to receive your assets after you die. This can be very important if you are in a same-sex relationship in a state that doesn’t recognize your relationship. A long-term partnership may end with your loved one shut out of your home or without the assets you worked for together.

Stop procrastinating and realize that you have to resolve to write a will. Don’t leave your family, friends or other loved ones out in the cold if you pass away suddenly. Think of a will as your last act of love and kindness and don’t put your nearest and dearest into a difficult situation at a time when they also must mourn your loss.  At Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine we can help your prepare a will, designate guardianship or manage your assets so that when you pass away your family will be safe and secure.

 

What Are The Legal Rights Of Stepparents?



One of the questions we’re asked frequently about parental custody involves the role a stepparent will play in children’s upbringing. When custody is shared what are the rights of a stepparent when it comes to involvement in the children’s lives?

The best interests of children should be foremost in custody decisions.

The first advice usually given is that each parent has a duty and obligation to do what is best for the children and support the other in doing the same. Cooperation is encouraged, as is civil communication. But unless a stepparent adopts a stepchild this person has no legal rights pertaining to that child. And while the instinct may be to act as a “full” parent, legally they are not.

Stepparents are adults in a child’s life, so they should be respected by the child and kept informed on what is going on in the child’s life. And a stepparent may very well become a cherished member of a child’s world.  However, stepparents do not have a right to participate in the health care or child rearing decisions of the biological parents. If a stepparent wants more participation in making decisions or influencing a course of action it must be with the agreement of both parents. Parents may even consider revisiting the original custody agreement with regards to a new stepparent or partner to make any adjustments clear and binding.

In the case of a divorce involving minor children the best outcome is what’s best for the child. Children will ideally have two responsible and reasonable parents who put aside any differences when it comes to custody and child rearing issues. But because complete agreement isn’t always possible it must be understood that they are to respect and support the other parent’s decisions when they are in that parent’s care.

Introducing a new foundation member of a home (stepparent or domestic partner) will always be a challenge and it is up to the biological parents to put their children first when making decisions. The law office of Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine offer specialized counsel to couples who are seeking divorce with custodial issues. They will work with you in the best possible fashion and help you to make those difficult decisions because we know all parents want the best for their children.

Military Divorce On The Rise



Soldiers returning from conflict are usually a happy occasion. But with the protracted and repeated postings of US Military personnel the returning soldier, whether man or woman, is facing a new challenge of being with spouses and kids they haven’t seen in a long time. This is leading to a rise in military divorce.

Returning Troops May Have Difficulty Returning To Normal Life

The military divorce rate has reached its highest level since 1999 with approximately 30,000 divorces in 2011. The Army, Navy and Air Force have all seen increases with only the Marine Corps holding the same as 2010. Military women are the most likely to have marriages that ended with one in ten.

Returning home to spouses and families who have carried on without them can make a smooth transition difficult and they may feel left out. If the service member was in combat or in a particularly violent zone it can be startling to shift gears to a “safe” environment and numerous soldiers have reported feeling threatened even when back home and going about day to day mundane tasks.  Resuming a normal marriage with a non-military spouse may leave little shared experiences to unite them.

Compounding the difficulty of being gone, sometime for years, and returning to a “normal” environment are injuries sustained by the returning family member. Post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other wounds may mean a service member returns to a different role within the family. Men may no longer be the primary bread-winner or women may not feel needed as a mother when children grew up while they were gone.

Michael Schindler, author of the book “Operation Military Family: How Military Couples are Fighting to Preserve Their Marriages.” states, “Now they have to blend commands. It can take six to 12 months before they get into some normal groove again,” Schindler said, adding, “There are a lot of the same pressures as normal couples, but added pressures of war.”

The Army has the most number of service men and women and has the largest budget for family and marriage counseling. Their most popular program, Strong Bonds, devoted over $100 million to marriage support on US bases here and overseas. The Army expects to see a greater demand as more and more forces draw down.

Other non-profit organizations provide retreats, counseling or other services to help returning service members re-assimilate into a spouse and family setting and are reporting encouraging results. However, many times the couples simply cannot reunite. When this is the case divorce may just be the answer and may actually salvage a relationship when remaining married could not. It may make relationships with children more easily managed and can remove the pressure to return to the exact person they were when they deployed.

If you live in Missouri or Kansas and are faced with a military divorce situation you can rely on the professionals at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine, LLP. No matter what your needs are, we can help you step by step, as you assess your options and manage surprises, opportunities, and setbacks. Attorney Mark A. Rohrbaugh is a former JAG Officer in the Army Reserve so you will be guided by someone who understands the nature and obligation of military service. You can reach him by calling (913) 390-8555, or learn more about our general family law practice here at www.KansasMissouriLaw.com.