Hollywood’s Take on Divorce

DSC00567 - Version 2Today’s post looks at the lighter side of divorce and separation with a review of my top three “divorce” movies. And the winners are….

1. The War of the Roses

Who can forget the outrageous antics of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as the warring Roses, in this black comedy directed by Danny De Vito, who also plays a divorce lawyer in the film.

The Roses are a wealthy, sophisticated couple who despite appearances, hate one another. After Mrs. Rose asks for a divorce she advises her husband she will never leave her home and refuses to acknowledge that he has an equal interest in it.

With each refusing to move out, the couple live together in a state of unarmed warfare. To spite each other, they destroy most of the home furnishings and smash Royal Doulton china and Waterford crystal against the walls.

When Mr. Rose “accidently” runs over his wife’s cat, she retaliates by nailing the door of the sauna shut while he is in it. He nearly succumbs to heat stroke and dehydration.

As matters escalate, Mrs. Rose rigs their large hallway chandelier, hoping that it will fall on her husband, thus eliminating her problem. There is a surprise ending that I will not give away.

This 1989 film grossed $150 million at the box office and won three Golden Globes: Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Movie.

2. The First Wive’s Club

This 1996 comedy features Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler as three middle-aged wives who are dumped by their husbands in favour of younger women.

The three form a club vowing to wreak havoc in their ex-husbands’ lives and exact revenge. Goldie Hawn plays an aging actress who is a plastic surgery addict; Diane Keaton is an anxious neurotic with a lesbian daughter; and Bette Midler is a capable Jewish wife who sacrificed herself for her husband’s successful business.

The film has a great soundtrack including Dionne Warwick’s “Wives and Lovers”, Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, and Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me “.

Who can forget Ivana Trump’s cameo line “Don’t get mad, get everything!”

The film was a winner at the box office and helped revive the careers of its
three leading ladies. It was based on the novel of the same name written by Olivia Goldsmith, who died several years later during a facelift procedure.

3. Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams plays a father, Daniel, with a lagging acting career, who loses his job, his marriage and his three kids. His wife, played by Sally Field, has a new boyfriend (Pierce Brosnan) and sole custody of the children. Daniel is given access to his children once a week on Saturday nights.

Desperate to see his kids, he notices that his wife is advertising for a nanny. With the help of his brother who is a film makeup professional, Daniel transforms into British nanny Mrs. Doubtfire.

The film is hilarious. Eventually the two oldest children realize Mrs. Doubtfire is their father and go along with the scam.

The “happy ending” includes Daniel on his own children’s television show playing Mrs. Doubtfire and his wife’s recognition that he is really a great dad.

The film was the second highest grossing film of 1993 only outstripped by Jurassic Park. It won an Oscar for Best Makeup and Golden Globes for Best Actor and Best Picture.

What are your favourites?

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Tragedy of Hot Cars and Kids

GEO CASUALRecently there has been a spate of tragic stories about young children inadvertently left in motor vehicles who have died because of the intense heat.

Residents of sun belt areas know all too well that children and pets cannot be left in cars when sunny days lead to warm weather, however, despite this we continue to hear such stories.

This summer Justin Ross Harris of Georgia was charged with malice murder, felony murder, and child cruelty when he left his 22-month-old son in his car while he went to his workplace, forgetting to drop him off at daycare.

Authorities in Georgia believe that Mr. Harris’ actions were intentional after finding searches on his home computer for “death in hot cars”. They also learned that Harris and his partner had purchased substantial life insurance on their son. Media outlets have reported that while his infant son was sweltering in extreme heat, Harris was sending sexually explicit photos to a variety of women.

The only good news Harris has received since his arrest is that the county prosecutor will not be seeking the death penalty. Harris remains in jail. His wife has not been charged.

Meanwhile in Scottsdale, Arizona, mother Shanesha Taylor, age 35, left her two children, ages two and six months, in her automobile while she attended a 45 minute job interview. She was a single mother who had been desperately looking for work. The children were rescued before the worst happened. Ms. Taylor told the police she was unemployed and homeless. Her story was met with public sympathy and compassion, so much so that she received over $100,000 in donations.

Further investigation revealed, however, that she had a part-time job and was not homeless, nonetheless, authorities agreed to a plea bargain where she would take parenting classes and deposit all donations into a trust account for her children’s education.

Her biggest challenge was obtaining the return of her two children who had been removed from her home after the incident. She eventually recovered custody of the kids.

Across the pond, British family law lawyer, Tim Haines, stopped at a pharmacy to pick up baby formula for his two-year-old daughter, leaving her in the car for no more than ten minutes. When he returned his daughter was happily standing in the front seat, but outside the car were two police officers waiting for him.

The officers chastised Mr. Haines, and refused to allow him to drive his car home because of “bald tires”. Mr. Haines walked the lengthy distance home carrying his daughter.

Two weeks later the police showed up at his doorstep and arrested him for child endangerment. His five children were placed on the Child Protection Registry and Mr. Haines and his wife spent a year in legal proceedings. He was convicted of the charge but on appeal the conviction was reversed. He eventually had his name cleared and his children’s names removed from the registry.

Website kidsandcars.org brings home the devastation of these deaths in its collection of photos of beautiful, innocent children who have tragically died in their parent’s cars.

Never take the chance with a child’s life….

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Switched at Birth

10950859361151CDPWriters since the 18th century have been intrigued by a storyline where babies are accidentally switched at birth. This theme appears in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas “The Gondoliers” and “HMS Pinafore”, and Mark Twain also used this plot line in “The Tragedy of Puddin’nhead Wilson”

Dozens of television shows have also featured this now-classic conundrum, including soap operas “One Life to Live” and “The Young and the Restless, primetime’s “Desperate
Housewives”, now in reruns, and the current ABC TV Family network’s popular “Switched at Birth”.

But how often does baby switching occur in real life? More often than it should! Some medical experts say that one in eight children are mixed-up at birth, particularly in large urban hospitals in America.

This week a court in Johannesburg, South Africa, heard a case involving two four-year-olds, a boy and girl, who left the maternity ward with the wrong parents.

The mistake did not come to light until one of the parents requested a paternity test upon his separation from his child’s mother. He was faced with a claim for child support and wanted to ensure that he was the child’s father, because he said, the child looked nothing like him.

His suspicion proved correct. Neither he nor his wife were biologically related to their child. The court heard from a child development expert who testified that each child should remain with the family who raised the child, albeit with a suggestion that the child also have visits with his or her biological parents.The expert’s recommendation is in keeping with other “switched baby” cases in other parts of the world.

One of the most famous cases occurred in Ottawa in 1971 when Laura Cain gave birth to twin boys at Grace Hospital. She named them George and Marcus, but she was not in a position to raise the twins, so Ontario’s Children Aid’s Society found a foster home for the infants. Several months later Laura married the father of her fraternal twins and requested the return of her babies.

She and husband Randy Holmes raised George and Marcus, having no idea that Marcus was not their son, due to a mix-up at the foster home where the boys were living. The real “Marcus” was with Jim and Carroll Tremblay in a neighbouring community. They named him Brent after adopting him from Children’s Aid.

The switch may have remained undiscovered but fate intervened when both George and Brent registered at Carleton University in 1992. Mutual friends introduced them, remarking that they looked curiously similar. They became fast friends and eventually they met each other’s parents.

Once the two sets of parents realized the three boys were all in the care of Ontario’s Children’s Aid as new born babies, and after DNA testing, they discovered that Marcus was not George’s twin, but Brent was his identical match.

After learning the truth, Laura Cain noted how different George and Marcus were from one another, different interests and different friends, although they were very close and moved in together once they left the family home.

There were reports at the time of a lawsuit against Children’s Aid and the foster mother who cared for the three baby boys, as it was she who mixed up the twins when she returned the twins to social services.

By the time the mistake was identified the foster mother had alzheimers and so eventually the lawsuit was dismissed.

Now you can understand why “switched babies’ is an intriguing favourite of fiction writers, but in the Canadian case, truth is stranger than fiction.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Most Expensive Divorces Ever

Everyone knows that divorce can be an expensive process, but some of the sums involved in the world’s most expensive divorces are truly eye-watering.

Expensive divorces have been in the news recently with the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev being forced to pay his former wife $4.5 billion in what has been called the “most expensive divorce in history”.

The order came from a Swiss court, with Elena Rybolovlev’s divorce solicitors branding it a “complete victory”. Her former husband is now set to lose half of his wealth.

Dmitry Rybolovlev’s spokesperson Serget Chernitsyn argued that the divorce was a “win” for him, although his lawyers are said to be launching an appeal. Query why Mr. Rybolovlev would appeal if he won his case? Pure bafflegab!

The couple was married for 23 years and it took six years for the case to be completed. Rybovelev made his money from the potassium fertilizer industry and is the owner of the Monaco Football Club. He is also famous for buying the Palm Beach Maison de L’Amitie from Donald Trump for chump change, around $95 billion!

THE DIVORCE OF MURDOCH AND DENG

Controversial media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s 2013 divorce from Wendi Deng cost him a reported $1.8 billion even though he had a pre-nuptial agreement. This gives you an idea that prenps may not be everything they are cracked up to be, particularly if a couple’s circumstances change and children enter the picture.

They were married for 14 years and it is likely the payout to Ms. Deng was so high due to the needs of their daughters’, among other reasons. Deng, who is almost 40 years his junior, hit the headlines when she slapped a protestor who threw a pie at her husband during the phone-hacking enquiry in 2011.

Murdoch married Deng just two-and-a-half weeks after his previous marriage was finalised in 1999 with the help of divorce lawyers. He also paid a bundle to his first wife!

THE WILDENSTEIN’S DIVORCE

The 1997 divorce of Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein cost an estimated $2.5 billion. Alec was from a family of famous art dealers and their divorce was seen as a huge scandal. Things turned sour when Ms. Wildenstein caught her husband in bed with a young Russian model.

Alec then, wielding a gun, threatened his wife and for his trouble spent a sleepless night in the local jail. Judge Marilyn Diamond, who presided over the divorce proceedings received a number of death threats.

Judge Diamond told Jocelyn that she could not use the alimony payments for cosmetic surgery, as by this time Ms. Wildenstein’s multiple surgeries led to her nickname “The Cat Woman”.

The Court gave her $2.5 billion and $100 million every year for 13 years after. Alec Wildenstein died in 2008 leaving his young Russian widow.

ECCLESTONE PAID BY FORMER WIFE

Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone raised eyebrows when it was made public that he was being paid by his ex-wife following his 2009 divorce.

Documents recently released showed that Ecclestone was receiving $100 million dollars each year from his former wife Slavica’s trust fund. Information about how long the payments would continue have not been made public.

It’s said that this divorce was worth $1.2 billion, placing it high in the top ten divorces in history. Ecclestone is one of the sporting world’s most controversial figures and famously paid a significant sum to escape bribery charges in spring 2014.

It seems the richer you are, the harder you will fight to retain your wealth. Quite amazing to realize that these couples could not in a lifetime spend all the money they have.

“Money often costs too much.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

This post was GUEST AUTHORED by RIX AND KAY, Family law solicitors from Sussex, Brighton, East Sussex and Kent in the UNITED KINGDOM, an experienced team of barristers and solicitors.

Rampant Sex Discrimination in Saudi Arabia

_DSC4179 - Version 2To be born female in Saudi Arabia is to endure a life of discrimination…on many fronts. First of all, it is legal for men in Saudi to have up to four wives who may be as young as 10-years old, as long as they can afford to support them all. It is reported that polygamy is increasingly popular with younger generations, bolstered by their oil wealth.

Saudi women cannot leave their home unless they are escorted by a male guardian, usually their father, brother or husband. They cannot marry, divorce, travel, open a bank account, or consent to elective surgery, without the approval of their guardian. They also are not permitted to drive a vehicle and women who disregard this law have been subject to punishments like flogging.

Photos of Saudi women show them covered up with only their hands and eyes showing, a custom/law that is enforced by the “religious police”.

It was not until 2005 that women were entitled to vote or run for political office, and in 2008 they were finally allowed to initiate and engage in educational studies on their own.

Family law in Saudi Arabia is equally demeaning and restrictive. A woman who socializes with a man who is not a relative can be accused of adultery, fornication, or prostitution. Sex segregation is the norm, with special female entrances and sections in banks and other public institutions. Women must sit with other women when they dine in a restaurant. It is reported that men’s sections in restaurants are usually well-furnished and welcoming, while the women’s sections are sparse and uninviting.

Divorce laws are cruel and unjust. Men may divorce their spouses anytime they want for any reason or no reason at all, while women can only divorce if their husband consents, or they obtain a judicial divorce, but only if they can prove harm or injury during their marriage. Fathers obtain custody of all children over seven-years-old.

The only obligation a man has to his ex-wife is to provide financial support for a period of four months and ten days.

Two recent divorces in Saudi have gone viral in the west, because of their unusual capriciousness. In one case an arranged marriage, which is the norm, came to a sudden end, just after the couple were declared man and wife. The couple had not met prior to the wedding and the first time the groom saw his bride was when she lifted her veil at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Her groom was taken aback when he saw his new wife’s face and according to media reports said: ““You are not the girl I want to marry. You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you.” She immediately collapsed with tears and the marriage was over.

In the second case, a Saudi man text messaged his wife to inform her that he wanted a divorce, because she ignored his previous text messages.

According to a story from Gulf News, this couple were having marriage difficulties because the husband believed his wife spent too much time on her cell phone talking to her girlfriends and ignoring him. The last straw for him was his unanswered phone messages and text messages to his wife. He knew from the app on his phone that she had received and read the text message but had not bothered to reply.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate in Saudi is 50%, but with multiple wives I guess the loss of one is not a real hardship.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Ugly Divorce: Allegations of Pedophilia/Exhibitionism Haunt Actor Stephen Collins

DSC00280Stephen Collins is an accomplished actor who has performed on and off- Broadway, and in a variety of films and television productions over a lengthy Hollywood career. He is most famous for playing the father in the WB network’s “7th Heaven” for over 10 years.

After a first marriage lasting seven years, he married actress Faye Grant in 1985 and they have one child together. Ms. Grant has not seen the same career success as her husband.

Unfortunately, in 2012 their marriage broke down and Mr. Collins filed for divorce. According to Ms. Grant, about that same time they were in couples’ counselling and during a confidential counselling session Mr. Collins allegedly admitted he had sexually molested several young girls. A tape recording of this session was made by Ms. Grant without Mr. Collins knowledge and she saw to it that the tape was delivered to the police in New York.

After an apparent investigation no charges were filed agains Mr. Collins and that might have been the end of it, until gossip giant TMZ recently received a copy of the tape and released it on their website.

TMZ has stated that the tape came from Faye Grant although she has denied their claim. In the meantime, court documents filed by Ms. Grant have surfaced that are adding more fuel to the fire and Stephen Collins’ career resembles a funeral pyre, with the release of this startling information.

He was about to commence production on a movie but was immediately let go and has also resigned from the national board of the Screen Actors Guild.

The sad and sorry part is that the this tape and the accompanying allegations have nothing to do with the divorce that is before the court. Their child is an adult. The only issues are financial. Ms. Grant is seeking $13,000 a month in spousal support and division of their family community property, which reportedly amounts to $13 million.

Mr. Collins’ lawyer has said that Ms. Grant used the audiotape to extort additional monies from his client, beyond the amounts she would be entitled to by law. Of course, Grant’s attorney denies that, only allowing that she wanted him to provide a trust fund for their adult daughter and make a donation to a sexual abuse charity.

It can’t be a coincidence that the tape was released on the eve of their divorce trial this week, which has now been postponed because Faye Grant’s lawyer refuses to continue to act for her, citing a dispute regarding his legal fees and an “irremediable breakdown of the attorney-client relationship”.

If she is entitled to a substantial portion of their $13 million dollar
estate, her attorney’s excuse for dropping out of the case sounds suspicious. Could it be that her attorney realizes she has sabotaged her case by the release of the tape?

With no income coming to Mr. Collins, Ms. Grant must surely understand that any thoughts of significant spousal support are a pipe dream. And now she also has to respond to her husband’s lawsuit against her, where he is seeking $1 million dollars in damages for the harm she has caused to his career and his lost income.

At this stage, no alleged victims have surfaced and I suspect that is why the police investigation in 2012 came to a stand-still. Nonetheless, true or not, it will be a miracle if Stephen Collins can recover his reputation and professional status in Hollywood.

So ugly, and so unnecessary….Let the criminal justice system deal with this issue. It has no place in family court.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee lang

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Family Court Judge Scolded for Discourteous Remarks

_DSC4179 - Version 2I have some sympathy for Judge Daniel Healy of Solano County, California. As a family court judge he has likely seen and heard it all…and I can readily accept that his intemperate remarks to certain litigants was borne out of intense frustration.

Among the worst of his “undignified and discourteous” remarks were the following:

In August 2013 Judge Healy was presiding over a family law case where a husband alleged his spouse was driving drunk with the couple’s child in her car. Judge Healy commented that while the two parents may not chronically abuse drugs and alcohol, both of them struck him as “rotten”. He called the mother a “liar” and said “Why don’t you prove to me that you recognize what a train wreck you are?” He also told her lawyer that she should be “grovelling like there is no tomorrow”.

In another case Judge Healy rebuked the father for his threatening and vulgar messages to his wife, saying “if the children do something thuggish and stupid it’s because their father is thuggish and stupid.” He also remarked “life is too short to let kids be tortured by rotten parents like you two”.

And in a 2012 case he said “This is the first time I’ve seen you but if you are exposing your daughter to one-fifth of the attitude I’m getting from you right now, you might as well have her start walking the streets as a hooker because that’s the life you’re going to subject her to, when you treat her like this, when you flash this attitude like this.”

Judge Healy also threatened litigants with imprisonment on multiple occasions despite lacking any authority to do so.

Yes, I think he crossed the line, but the stress of dealing with unfit, incompetent parents on a daily basis would cause the most sane of us to finally say what we really thought. No excuse, but understandable.

The Discipline Commission held as follows:

“Judge Healy argued that blunt and evocative language is sometimes necessary to compel litigants to gain awareness of their circumstances, the harm that they are causing their children, and the importance of respect and cooperation. The commission disagrees. Referring to litigants as “rotten,” “stupid and thuggish,” and a “total human disaster,” and telling litigants their child “might as well start walking the streets as a hooker,” is the antithesis of imparting the importance of respect.”

Judge Healy received a “public admonishment” and no longer sits in family court. He is likely happy to be out of there!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang