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The Differences between Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment

When couples decide to end their relationships, they usually have three choices: get a divorce, become legally separated, or to get an annulment. However, couples usually do not know the differences, the advantages, and the disadvantages of each option. This guide will explain each option so that couples will know the differences between each option.

Divorce

Divorce, otherwise known as dissolution of marriage, is the legal process in which a couple terminates their marital union. In effect, the couples are relinquishing themselves from the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Thus, when a couple goes through a divorce, there are many issues that the couple must address. These issues include child custody, child support, division of assets, division of debt and spousal support.

Each state has their unique divorce laws and has different residency requirements. Unlike a legal separation, divorces often take a long time to be finalized, usually around six months. But when a couple finalizes a divorce, each party is no longer liable for any future debt of the other spouse and no longer has to equally share their income and profits with the other spouse.

Legal Separation

Legal separation, also known as a judicial separation, is a legal process in which a married couple formalizes their separation but remain legally married. Legal separations are granted through a court order. When a couple files for a legal separation, they address the same issues as in a divorce, such as child custody and spousal support.

A benefit of a legal separation is that certain rights are not eliminated, such as social security and medical benefits. Another advantage is that a legal separation does not take long to finalize. In addition, if a couple decides to move forward with a divorce, the court will use the separation agreement as a template for the divorce settlement agreement. Again, each state varies in their laws regarding legal separations.

Continue to read our Legal Separation page to learn more.

Annulment

An annulment is similar to a divorce in that it dissolves a marriage. But an annulment differs from a divorce in that a judge will proclaim the marriage null and void. In other words, the marriage is considered to be invalid from the inception.

To be granted an annulment, the parties must have legal grounds for an annulment. Grounds for an annulment include fraud, concealment, inability to consummate the marriage or a marital misunderstanding. A religious annulment differs from a civil annulment in that each religion has their specific grounds for annulment.

If a couple decides to end their marital relationship, it is important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in this field. An attorney could review the case and decide which option would best suit the couple.

 

This guest post is provided by Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation of experienced Divorce Lawyers in Orange County, CA. Wallin & Klarich aggressively represents all California Family Law matters with the belief that every client is our own family member. If you would like to know more about Divorce in California visit their website at: http://www.wkfamilylaw.com/divorce.shtml

David Michael Cantor with client Thomas Beatie on Anderson Cooper Live


Watch this video to see David Michael Cantor with client Thomas Beatie discuss Thomas’ divorce case on Anderson Cooper Live. In the interview Thomas and David cover the history of the case and what it means for Thomas, his family, and laws concerning transgender people.

Thomas was legally declared a man under hawaiian law before marrying his wife. Arizona has the same law regarding legal definition of gender after a sex change operation. This means that the marriage is valid in both states. However, the honorable Judge Gerlach of Arizona Superior Court questioned his courts jurisdiction over the case as he questions Thomas’ sexuality since he was still able to give birth after his wedding.

David makes the point that nowhere in the law does it state that someone must become sterile in order to legally become a man or a woman. In fact this specification is specifically left out of the laws for what we presume to be a number of reasons the least of which is that forced sterilization is a very unpopular practice in the modern world.

The LBGT community should be paying attention to this case as it sets a number of legal precedents regarding marriage and gender equality. The fact that it is happening in one of the most conservative states in the US is also notable as the debate over gay marriage becomes more prevalent.

“The Pregnant Man” Thomas Beatie to be on Anderson Cooper Live

 

On Thursday Nov 15th the Anderson Cooper Live show will have an interview with Thomas Beatie “THE PREGNANT MAN”, his girlfriend Amber, and his attorney David Michael Cantor regarding Thomas’ Arizona Divorce with Children. As we have discussed before Thomas’ case was a very open and shut case with both he and his wife willing to end their marriage amicably.

The honorable Judge Douglas Gerlach agreed in his May review of the case and has schduled a decision for September of this year. However in June Judge Gerlach issued a Nunc Pro Tunc Order questioning if the Court even has jurisdiction over this Divorce. The issue for the judge was whether this Hawaii marriage is valid under Arizona law, based on Thomas’ sex change status and his retention of his female reproductive organs at the time of the marriage.

The Judge requested a memorandum “showing that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction” over this Divorce by July 30th, with an implication that his ruling would come by August 30th 2012. This raised a few questions, especially in the media.

Judge Gerlach has now altered course. On August 15th during a Telephonic Status Conference he ordered “setting Oral Argument [with an Evidentiary Hearing] on the issue of whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction on December 7, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.”

Thomas’ and David’s interview with Anderson Cooper hopes to paint a more coherent picture of what is at stake in this case. From Thomas’ viewpoint it’s a question of identity and his place in the US legal system as well as the legitimacy of his children. From a legal perspective the timing is impecable considering the national debate on what a marriage is and how we as a society are going to live with each other.

In Phoenix you can watch the interview on KPHO Channel 5 at 4pm. Here is a link to the show page at Anderson Cooper Live. Here is a list of TV stations in the US where you can watch the show.

When Law and Science collide in a Divorce

First comes science, then comes law.

At present, residents of Arizona who wish to legally change their gender can do so by applying for an amended birth certificate. They accomplish this by having a doctor affirm that the applicant has undergone a legal “sex change operation,” among other requirements. But like the choices we make today, consequences can often arise tomorrow. Case in point, Thomas Beatie. Mr. Beatie was born a woman, he underwent the legally required changes to his physical appearance, got his doctor’s affirmation and was granted an amended birth certificate in Hawai’i. He was subsequently married there and changed other government-issued Hawaiian (and national) identifications. However, nine years after his amended birth certificate, Mr. Beatie’s legal gender and marriage are being questioned by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge.

As the article below illustrates, Mr. Beatie’s case may have lasting implications on the future of family law in Arizona and abroad. Why? Because the science, which gave rise to legislative action in recognizing one’s ability to change gender has not been applied in family courts in divorce cases. It also raises the novel question of whether legal men can give birth to children. We anxiously await to see whether the Superior Court will defer to the legislature, which certainly considered implications of allowing a person to change legal gender when it decides the legality of Mr. Beatie’s marriage.

The Cantor Law Group is actively and aggressively challenging the court’s rationale in questioning whether Mr. Beatie is indeed a legal man and whether he has a valid marriage. The Firm believes that sound science supports the conclusion that Mr. Beatie is a man and his marriage is valid.

Arizona Child Protective Services finds major Computer Glitch

The chilling discovery by Child Protective Services (“CPS”) that a “computer glitch” resulted in the non-disclosure of thousands of documents, some of which could have been used to reunify children with their families is unfathomable. The primary objective of Child Protective Services is to “keep children safe within their own families.” (see https://www.azdes.gov/main.aspx?menu=154&id=2070)

It appears that this mantra was violated in a big way because by their own admission, CPS believes that children may have been returned home sooner had these documents been released. Even worse, some parents’ rights may have been terminated by this expansive bombshell revelation.

From an attorney’s prospective, the Cantor Law Group believes that parents who have had their rights terminated deserve a second look at their case and may be victims of this negligence. Please contact our office if your parental rights are being threatened by CPS or another party or if you believe your rights were severed without just cause. Call today at 602-254-8880.

Arizona’s child-welfare agency has discovered a computer glitch that officials say kept public records from parents, lawyers and others for more than 15 years, a malfunction that could have led to children being wrongly removed and prevented caregivers from supporting civil claims against the state.

The computer error affected thousands of families, and attorneys say it could prompt efforts to reopen civil and child-dependency cases.

Officials with the state Department of Economic Security, which oversees Child Protective Services, were notifying the state’s 15 presiding Juvenile Court judges of the glitch on Friday and sending notices to more than 30,000 people who received incomplete public records over the past two years.

The state said it is unable to track or notify those who requested and received incomplete records before 2010.

Those receiving notices include parents involved in the nearly 8,600 open dependency cases, about 1,500 parents who have requested records on their CPS cases, nearly 1,200 judicial or law-enforcement requests, 55 members of the media, and more than 21,000 attorneys.

The records fiasco is the latest blow to the embattled agency, which has spent the past year trying to stem record growth in the number of children in foster care, slow staff turnover and reduce caseloads only to see all those numbers going in the wrong direction.

“If a case got to the wrong result because information wasn’t disclosed, that’s a big, big problem,” said Mark Kennedy, who has represented about 400 parents over the past three years. “To me, it’s pretty significant when CPS says we’re going to contact 21,000 lawyers. That’s like saying, ‘Start searching your case files because there may be some problems out there.’ ”

Maricopa County Juvenile Court Judge Aimee Anderson said she expects it to become a larger issue for civil, criminal and family courts than the Juvenile Court, where about 90 percent of dependency cases are settled without a trial. But she added that a lot depends on what information was missing from the requested records.

“It’s hard to know the real impact that this is going to have, because we don’t know what we didn’t get,” she said. “I really think the state’s bigger problem is in the criminal arena … and lawsuits against the department.”

State and federal laws protect the confidentiality of CPS case information, but parents and caregivers who are the subject of CPS reports, and their attorneys, are supposed to have access to much of it in order to defend themselves against allegations of abuse or neglect, as well as efforts to place their children in foster care or permanently end their parental rights.

Under state law, CPS is required to release case information to judges, parties in dependency cases or their attorneys, as well as criminal defendants.

In addition, the agency must publicly release certain information on child fatalities or near fatalities and is permitted to confirm, clarify or correct information about ongoing cases that has been made public by another source, such as law enforcement.

Attorneys who represent parents and children in CPS cases say withholding these public records could prove costly for the state if it turns out children were removed from or returned to parents based on incomplete or inaccurate information.

The withheld information could be substantive, including:

Details of Child Abuse Hotline reports.

Services provided to the family.

Case notes and documentation from CPS workers and supervisors.

Assessments of children who participated in services.

Appeals of previous child-maltreatment findings.

DES spokeswoman Tasya Peterson said the problem was discovered in June during an annual review of the agency’s public-disclosure practices. An employee noticed that different sets of records were released to different parties in the same case.

Further review found the database system that tracks CPS cases, called CHILDS, had been programmed to print about one-third of the information considered public record under state and federal law. The programming error had been in place since the database was created in 1996.

“We thought we were printing out everything that there was,” Peterson said. “We didn’t have any reason to believe until this summer that we were not meeting our obligations.”

The CHILDS database has been a source of frustration for caseworkers almost since its inception, and streamlining the antiquated, clunky system has been a key agency goal. Until earlier this year, it took caseworkers a full day to input one case into the system.

Each CHILDS case can encompass hundreds of separate fields, or screens, and includes everything from the first hotline call to the most recent case notes. It includes information from witnesses, police, and interviews with children and caregivers.

Attorney Jorge Franco said he’s not surprised that CPS has discovered problems with its public disclosure.

He has sued CPS roughly 20 times and won seven-figure verdicts against the agency.

Franco said the computer glitch could expose the state to liability if it can be shown that additional records would have changed the outcome of a case.

“I have absolutely no doubt that because of this (CPS has) gotten a pass on tons of claims,” Franco said. “The big ‘so what’ is that the statistics … are skewed by the fact that there’s a bunch of claims out there that never made it into claims.”

Peterson said the computer program was designed to print 37 screens in response to public-records requests when it should have printed 98 screens. A screen doesn’t necessarily equate to one page of information.

The review found that much of the information included in the 61 missing screens was already contained in the documents that the agency released.

People requesting public records “were given the majority of the information,” Peterson said.

Attorney Joseph Ramiro-Shanahan, who also represents parents and children in dependency court, said that’s not much consolation. “That’s convenient for them to say, but who knows?” he said. “I don’t even know what I’m missing.”

What about Pets in a Divorce?

Equitably dividing property is normally a difficult task during a dissolution of marriage; however, emotions are always heightened when a family pet becomes a contested property issue.  While the bond between a pet and their owner is undeniable, a judge will typically allocate family pets in the same manner they would a car or a dining room table.  This callus determination leaves many litigants distraught when the opposing party is granted possession of a pet the parties shared for years. There are many creative solutions to this issue, and having an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with both the law and emotional toll a divorce can take on the litigants is paramount.  The knowledgeable domestic relations attorneys at the Cantor Law Group are experienced with complex property division issues, custody matters and personal concerns that come up during a divorce.

One such solution includes the family pet traveling on the same schedule with a child from home to home.   This allows the child to constantly have access to the animal and provides continuity between homes. Additionally, both parties still have quality time with the pet and get to enjoy activities with both the animal and child.  Neither parent is forced to consider a circumstance where they wouldn’t be able to take the family dog and their child to the park and play.

Unfortunately, some parties will attempt to use a family pet as a bargaining chip to gain leverage regarding other property issues.  An experienced attorney can navigate through difficult negotiations and utilize resources such as Alternative Dispute Resolution to aggressively advocate for the client’s goals.  The effects from a divorce are long reaching and having a zealous advocate to stand up for your rights is vital.  It is imperative that before any property division is finalized or any documents are signed that a party speak with an attorney to ensure their rights are being protected. The Cantor Law Group is pleased to offer courtesy consultations for our potential clients. Call today for a Free Consultation – 602-254-8880 or send us an email through our secure form.

How to handle Prescription Drug Abuse and Divorce

Substance and drug abuse issues are especially impactful in your divorce, as it is one of the determining factors the Court takes into consideration in awarding Child Custody and Parenting Time. A parent who suspects substance and drug abuse by the other parent historically has relied upon the Court to initiate substance abuse testing through Court approved programs. However, what does a spouse do when they believe the other spouse is abusing prescription drug medications? Can the Courts standardized testing detect this abuse? How do you handle Prescription Drug Abuse and divorce?

Difficult to identify Prescription Drug Abuse

There are no clear or easy answers to the above questions. Courts, and indeed the medical community, have long recognized the dangerous and costly impact of prescription medication addiction, yet proving this addiction exists is not an easy task. This is because addictions to prescription medications are not as identifiable as addictions to illegal substances. Simply put, when a party is ordered to undergo a random hair follicle and/or urinalysis test, illicit substances are easily identifiable, however prescription medication is quite the opposite as most abusers have valid prescriptions by medical professionals. This makes it almost impossible for a Court to make a determination of abuse.

Get Proactive about Prescription Drug Abuse

While standardized substance abuse testing cannot accurately determine whether a person has been abusing their medications, it is important to note that there are additional testing and/or treatment options that can be requested through the Court. A party who suspects prescription medication abuse can, and should, contemporaneously with their request for the standardized substance abuse testing, request that the opposing party either terminate the use of any and all narcotic containing medications to accurately determine whether abuse is occurring, or seek the assistance of an addiction specialist who can conduct specific blood testing to determine abuse. These additional tests are not widely known throughout the Court system and as such, specific requests are necessary. In addition, if you believe the other party has been engaging in “doctor shopping” to attain their prescriptions, pharmacy records can be obtained through the use of HIPPA release requests and/or filing the appropriate motions to the Court.

If you believe your child’s parent is abusing prescription medication, consulting with an experienced attorney is paramount. The Cantor Law Group offers free consultations where one of our experienced attorneys will discuss your specific matter and provide valuable information and support. Feel free to call today at 602-254-8880 to talk with us about your case.

Keeping Lines of Communication Open During Child Custody Transition

parent child custody transitionFall is an exciting time for parents. When children head back to school, or start attending for the first time, it can bring major changes to those summertime schedules some parents get used to. It can also mean big changes in the amount of parenting time a non-custodial parent has with their children. Perhaps you have been with your children all summer and now it’s time for them to go, or perhaps you have been without your children all summer and now they are returning. Either way it can mean a major adjustment. The important thing to remember is always try and keep open lines of communication with the other parent, especially during difficult times of transition. Lack of effective communication during child custody transitions can put added stress into already stressful situations.

Communicate early to avoid litigation

Often times, people will approach me with concerns about their children or the other parent, which could be easily fixed if properly and timely addressed. When communication breaks down over children, parents will naturally become defensive. This can quickly and easily lead to expensive and sometimes unnecessary litigation. There are certainly times when court intervention is not only appropriate, but also the only option. However, even if you believe your situation is heading this way, maintaining, or at least attempting to maintain, open and productive communication with the other parent can make the process easier and more productive.

Court Intervention may be necessary

If, despite your best efforts, you find you are in a situation where the other parent will not effectively communicate, it is sometimes necessary to request Court intervention. This is especially appropriate to protect the best interests of your children. Court intervention can take different forms with varying degrees of cost and complexity. Some forms of court intervention can include:

  • Mediation
  • Alternative dispute resolution
  • Appointment of a parenting coordinator
  • Filing for a modification of parenting time
  • Change in custody

Get good legal council

Effective communication is critical to a joint custody agreement and successful co-parenting. If one parent is making unilateral custody decisions and failing to communicate, these actions could necessitate a change in custody. If you believe that a parenting time or custody modification is appropriate for your family law matter, it may be time to consult an attorney. The Cantor Law Group offers a free consultation where one of the experienced family law attorneys will discuss your specific matter and provide thorough information regarding your case, and answers to your family law questions. Feel free to call us today at 602-254-8880 so we can discuss your options.

Pregnant Man Thomas Beatie’s Divorce Judge Orders Expert Testimony on Marriage Legality

On August 15, 2012 the Honorable Judge Douglas Gerlach of the Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona ordered an Evidentiary Hearing and Oral Argument on December 7th, 2012 to determine whether the Court has jurisdiction regarding the divorce of Thomas Beatie (FC 2012-051183) according to his lawyers, Cantor Law Group.

This is the latest change to what started off as a Divorce, between a transgender male and his wife, where both parties agreed that it was time to separate. In May of 2012 Judge Gerlach ruled that Mr. Beatie would gain sole custody of his children and he would pay alimony to his future ex-wife, according to court documents.
Then in June Judge Gerlach issued a Nunc Pro Tunc Order questioning if the Court even has jurisdiction over this Divorce, according to court documents. The issue for the judge was whether this Hawaii marriage is valid under Arizona law, based on Thomas’ sex change status and his retention of his female reproductive organs at the time of the marriage.
The Judge requested a memorandum “showing that this Court has subject matter jurisdiction” over this Divorce by July 30th, with an implication that his ruling would come by August 30th 2012 according to court documents. “This raised a few questions, especially in the media,” according to Thomas’ Lawyer David Michael Cantor of the Cantor Law Group.
Judge Gerlach has now altered course. On August 15th during a Telephonic Status Conference he ordered “setting Oral Argument [with an Evidentiary Hearing] on the issue of whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction on December 7, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.”
“We filed our memorandum showing that under Arizona State Statute that a transgender man’s legal definition is set by certain medical operations, treatments, and finally a certified doctors approval.” states Thomas’ Lawyer David Michael Cantor of the Cantor Law Group “Since Arizona and Hawaii have virtually the same Sex Change Statue, in this case we will prove that under the law Thomas was a man at the time of his wedding. Sterilization is not a requirement of either State’s Statute. Under both Arizona’s and Hawaii’s law Thomas was a man at the time of his marriage, and therefore his three children born during the marriage are legitimate.”
For more information please contact Roger Williams of the Cantor Law Group at 602-380-2692 roger(at)rogerwilliamsmedia(dot)com

Same Sex Divorce in Maryland sets Precedent

In Arizona same-sex marriage is prohibited by both statute and the state constitution. Aside from the political and religious rhetoric surrounding the issue, if a gay couple gets married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, can they get divorced in states that don’t? Gay couples are asking that very question as it is uncharted territory, at the moment.

Recently the state of Maryland weighed in on the issue and found that a gay couple could be divorced there despite state law prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage. The Maryland Court of Appeals said the trial court could withhold recognition of a valid foreign marriage only if that marriage is “repugnant” to state public policy. They found that the gay marriage before them did not meet that criteria.

The Maryland decision is likely to send shockwaves throughout the legal community as a precedent-setting case other states could look to for guidance and authority. Proponents for same-sex divorce are also likely to cite the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Art. IV, sec. 1) that commands states to recognize “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings, of every other state recognized in other states.” Proponents could argue that the public act of marriage and the recording of a marriage license in a state recognizing gay marriage should be recognized in states forbidding it.

At the Cantor Law Group, we recognize and follow these types of legal issues so that we can represent our clients to the best of our abilities. The law changes constantly. Therefore, as a professional family law firm, it is important that we are committed to aggressively pursuing all of our clients’ needs and finding distinctions wherever needed.

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