Divorce Train Wrecks

kevin_moriarty.jpgEarlier this year, Kansas lawyer Kimberly Ireland filed a lawsuit against state judge Kevin Moriarty, accusing him of masturbating while overseeing her divorce mediation. After we wrote about it, her ex-husband came to Judge Moriarty’s defense, saying his wife’s accusations were limp.
Ireland is now recanting her claims as well, issuing a public apology.
Excerpt and links, after the jump.

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Star Wars divorce card front.jpgLet’s return to our series of open threads on small law firms in different practice areas. We’ve covered seven fields so far; check them out here.
The latest topic to tackle: FAMILY LAW. This is the area of law that our somewhat cantankerous, dearly departed grandmother urged us to enter. She was firmly convinced that when a couple splits up, the divorce lawyers end up with all the couple’s money.
But not everyone is a fan of this practice area. Dahlia Lithwick, Slate’s fabulous and funny Supreme Court correspondent, previously practiced family law at a small firm in Reno, Nevada. It seems that she found divorce law depressing rather than enriching.
Here’s what Lithwick said during a talk at UVA Law School last year, when we asked what led her to move from practicing law to writing about it:

“One thing that really helps is doing doing divorce law.” After representing clients in their “bickering over the pots and pans,” she said, everything else starts to look much more attractive.

That seems like a rather negative take on the field, doesn’t it? In fairness to family law, it has its upsides.
Find out the advantages of this field — and check out the inside of this greeting card (above right), courtesy of the folks at Pig Spigot — after the jump.

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kevin_moriarty.jpgLast month, we linked to a story in Courthouse News Service about Kansas Judge Kevin Moriarty. Kansas attorney Kimberly Ireland filed a lawsuit against Judge Moriarty, alleging that he had used inappropriate language and masturbated during her divorce mediation.
In her suit, she said that her ex-husband supported her and had testified about the judge’s inappropriate behavior at the mediation during their divorce trial.
After the post went up, her ex, Kevin Ireland, reached out to us to set the record straight:

First off, I am not in support of this lawsuit. I never had issue with anything the judge did during our mediation.

There may have been some bad language, but there was no beating of the honorable gavel, says Ireland.

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kevin_moriarty.jpgKimberly and Kevin Ireland, of Kansas, decided in 2007 to file for a divorce. Their case was mediated by state judge Kevin Moriarty. Things did not go well from there.
From a pro se complaint [PDF] against Moriarty posted at Courthouse News Service:

Defendant Moriarty used the word “f*&%” during the mediation… Defendant Moriarty discussed plaintiff Ireland’s female undergarments and referred to the same as “panties” during the mediation… Defendant Moriarty discussed plaintiff Ireland’s sex life during the mediation.

According to Kathy Ireland, none of this was relevant to the mediation. But Moriarty thought it was important. And exciting:

Defendant Moriarty appeared to be masturbating during the mediation.

It all sounds pretty crazy, right? But Ireland’s ex-husband is actually backing her up on this.

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Divorce Mass alimony.jpgBoston Magazine has a great article about alimony in Massachusetts. By the time you’re done reading it, you’ll be willing to stay in a dead-end marriage rather than getting divorced in Massachusetts:

When an alimony case comes up before a judge, the focus is almost exclusively on the wealthier ex-spouse’s ability to shell out, and hardly ever on the recipient’s ability to fund his or her own needs. … But unlike in most states–and every other state in New England–here judges historically do not assume any income for the recipient, even if he or she is able to work but chooses not to. (In fact, Massachusetts’ alimony system doesn’t even conform with state rules for other areas of family law. In child support cases, recent reforms explicitly encourage the judge to impute potential income to a recipient if the judge believes the recipient is shirking higher-paying work.)
For all this, what really sticks in the craw of would-be reformers is that alimony in Massachusetts is so often a burden without end…. [I]n Massachusetts: The only way judges here will set a cutoff for alimony is if it is tied to a specific event, like the recipient’s remarriage, death, or new inheritance. And since judges cannot predict what a recipient’s financial circumstances will be at a point in the future, most simply award indefinite alimony and leave it to the payor to seek modification. The vast majority of judges who do want to set a duration get overturned on appeal, so few ever try.

Ouch. Do gays and lesbians in Massachusetts really want to sign up for this? On its face, this alimony scheme seems to make divorce a one way ticket to financial ruin for the spouse with higher earnings. What God has joined together let no man put asunder — unless that man is willing to pay through the nose for the rest of his natural life.
After the jump, why hasn’t this medieval law been changed already?

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lumbergh.jpgMany moons ago, when I was a law student, I took Divorce Law based solely on the fact that the professor, who was a New York practitioner, brought in one of his celebrity clients to answer questions on the last day of class. My year, the professor rolled up with James Gandolfini, who, when asked how he could possibly justify going from The Sopranos to Surviving Christmas, intimated that a man had to pay his bills and that — sneaking a glance at the professor, corpulent and clad in horn-rimmed glasses, suspenders and an exquisitely form-fitting monogrammed Bill Lumbergh shirt — divorce is costly.

So how much are we talking about?

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December to remember.JPGIf you think about it, it kind of makes sense. You’ve just been through the holidays, which is nothing more than an annoying reminder of all the love and happiness other people pretend to have. Meanwhile you’re sitting there trying to choke down a forkful of stuffing while your spouse drunkenly tells the exact same story you’ve heard on the order of 1400 times before, not counting the time you actually witnessed the described events.

So you try to zone out in front of the tube, but the Television God has determined that if you purchase a new Lexus you’ll feel like a kid again. As if some girl who is so rich her family could afford a real live pony is going to go all weak in the knees over a freaking SUV. But whatever, the economy is so bad you can’t even afford a canister of “new car smell.”

Holidays and poverty, they’re murder on marriages. In the U.K. the lawyers are prepared:

And with 17 per cent of divorced men blaming financial problems for the end of their marriage, the credit crunch is putting extra pressure on relationships in trouble.

The report doesn’t discuss how American divorce lawyers deal with the first full work week after Christmas, but in Britain they apparently call it “D-Day.”

The traditional New Year rush to end marriages after the stress of Christmas means divorce lawyers brand today D-Day, or Divorce Day, kick-starting their busiest week of the year.

After the jump, we’re reminded that divorce rarely if ever helps anything.

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Mos Def sued by Blank Rome.jpgWe’ve previously reported on law firms having difficulty getting clients to pay their bills. It’s not just happening to firms working on deals that go bust; it has also happened to a firm representing a celeb after his marriage went bust. From Am Law Daily:

Blank Rome is suing rapper/actor/activist Mos Def for over $60,000 in unpaid legal bills stemming from his 2006 divorce from Maria Yepes.

The couple ended their 10-year marriage that year in a Brooklyn court, with Judge Sarah Krauss pleading with them to settle their differences outside her courtroom.

Reports say that the Brooklyn-born Mos Def (real name: Dante Smith) owes the money to Blank Rome in the form of unpaid fees and retainers. The Emmy, Golden Globe, and Grammy award-nominated entertainer retained lawyers from the firm’s well-regarded matrimonial practice, which advises high-end clients on divorce, mediation, property distribution, paternity, visitation rights, and trusts and estates.

This is Mos Def’s second month in a row of legal troubles. In November, Las Vegas police issued an arrest warrant after Mos got in a scuffle with a photographer. In more bad news, his portrayal of Chuck Berry in the recently released music biopic extravaganza Cadillac Records was panned by the Los Angeles Times.

We wonder if this will make him rethink the title of his upcoming album, rumored to be titled Ecstatic.

Some good news for Mos Def, after the jump.

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Frederick Tanne Kirkland Ellis.jpgIn September, Kirkland & Ellis partner Frederick Tanne sued his wife, her lover, and her father for giving him herpes. (We mentioned this lawsuit in passing in Morning Docket at the time of the complaint, and many of you complained about the item not getting its own post. Well, here you go!)

Tanne claimed to have discovered his wife’s infidelity when he found herpes-treatment medicine in their bathroom. According to the New York Post, Tanne got tested for herpes and “discovered he was infected with the incurable virus.” He sued his wife, accusing her of multiple extramarital affairs, and seeking compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Mrs. Tanne’s dad is a doctor, and prescribed the herpes medication Valtrex to her. He denied his daughter had an affair. His explanation:

[Amy Tanne's father, Samuel] Messing denied that his daughter was infected.

“My daughter does not have genital herpes,” he said. “This is pure nonsense. I prescribed Valtrex for a cold sore on her lip. She never had a cold sore until she married him.”

He also denied that his daughter ever had an affair.

“He just wants to make things difficult for my family,” Messing said.

The doctor may be a reliable expert witness. The embarrassing twist in the case, after the jump.

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side taker adr.jpgSideTaker.com might be the best example of schadenfreude ever created.
It is ostensibly a form of alternative dispute resolution for divorcing or generally unhappy couples. The concept is pretty simple. A disgruntled lover pays a $12 fee and posts his or her grievance on the website. Then he/she invites their partner to do the same. Once the two sides are online, random strangers weigh in on the dispute and vote over a 60 day period for who should prevail.
Obviously the results are not legally binding in any way (not unlike the modern day marriage certificate).
Legal Blog Watch reports that the site’s creators think they are doing some sort of service for the benefit of these couples:

Some are just, but far too many divorces, break ups, and separations happen over non-critical disputes. Over 50% of American marriages end in divorce. In a fight, each person has their side and are usually backed by their friends (on either side). When you can create a jury of anonymous peers to decide who is right or wrong in an argument, then the bias is gone and the person at fault will just have to suck it up.

I can’t imagine hating a woman enough to subject our relationship to the scathing critique of anonymous commenters. I think it’d be more humane just to throw some arsenic in the morning coffee and be done with it.
Wisdom from Side Taker’s “jury” after the jump.

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