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U.S. News Archive
October 21 - October 28, 2001

 

 

 
This page contains news for the period October 21, 2001 through October 28, 2001.  

<< October 2001  >>

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Friday, October 26, 2001

Baseball star’s divorce leads to prenuptial reforms in California

A story published today by the Sacramento Bee reports that the bitter divorce between the San Francisco Giants superstar and his former wife, Sun, has set a legal precedent and helped spark a new law giving spouses more protection against signing away their financial rights in premarital contracts.

Legislation signed recently by Gov. Gray Davis stemmed from controversy over the prenuptial pact that Sun Bonds signed, without independent counsel, after it was presented to her on the eve of her 1988 Las Vegas wedding.

The contract barred Sun from any claim on Barry's earnings or any property he acquired during their marriage.

The new law, SB 78 by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, is meant to protect spouses from being taken advantage of because they lack adequate time, understanding or legal advice before signing premarital agreements.

Women are likely to benefit most from SB 78 because they tend to receive lower salaries than men and are more likely to suspend careers to raise children, resulting in less financial stability, say family law experts.

However,Barry Bonds' attorney, Robert J. Nachshin, blasted the new law as political and paternalistic, saying it implies that "women are unequal to men and we have to protect them."

"I'd like the law to make people behave as grown-ups and not (treat) them like little children," Nachshin said, adding that Sun Bonds was no victim. "I don't think women need extra protection - they're smart and savvy."

The measure will not affect the Bonds divorce, or most existing prenuptial pacts, but it ultimately could have far-reaching impact in a state that celebrates 200,000 marriages per year, nearly half of which end in divorce.

SB 78 expands upon an existing state law barring enforcement of a premarital pact if it was unscrupulous at the time of marriage or was signed by a spouse involuntarily or without receiving - or waiving - adequate information about the partner's assets.

Kuehl's measure sets criteria for determining whether a pact was signed voluntarily, requiring that spouses before signing:

* Be represented by independent counsel or, after being advised to seek an attorney, expressly waive that right.

* Have seven days to make their decision.

* Have the contract's terms - including rights and obligations given up - fully explained in a language they understand well.

* Sign a separate document confirming they received the information required by SB 78.

The measure also allows a judge to consider "any other factors the court deems relevant," a provision that Nachshin and other critics say is too arbitrary and could jeopardize any premarital pact.

Lynette Berg Robe, representing the family law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, said prenuptial agreements are designed to provide certainty and the new law weakens that by signaling there are no guarantees - even if both parties were represented by attorneys.

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Chicago TV show to address child support with a twist

A story released today by the U.S. Newswire reports that the show "Chicago Counterpoint," in the new Channel 21 Chicago cable television show hosted by Attorney Jeffery M. Leving, will address a controversial, biased law that forces men to support other dads' children. The show will air today (Thursday, Oct. 25) at 7-7:30 p.m. (CDT).

As a result of the availability of DNA paternity testing, men are discovering in alarming numbers that children they believed were their biological offspring are not. A New York Times article reported that in 28 percent of paternity tests conducted in 1999, the man being tested was not the biological father.

Even more surprising, some men proven by DNA testing not to have fathered a child are nevertheless being legally forced to pay child support for the other dads' children. This is a result of most states' adherence to a 500-year-old English common-law doctrine stating that a man is legally presumed to be the father of a child born of a marriage no matter whether he is the real dad or not.

Attorney Leving believes that the nation should do away with the obsolete English doctrine. It might take a U.S. Supreme Court case to settle this.

Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Michigan lawmakers introduce bill to toughen state divorce law

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Michigan lawmakers will try again to pass legislation designed to better prepare couples for marriage and reform divorce laws despite failures of previous efforts to change Michigan's divorce laws.

Rep. Joanne Vorhees, a Grandville Republican, said she wants to make it "not quite so easy for spouses to walk away from each other."

The proposed legislation contains a provision that would give the spouse who didn't want the divorce more property when the couple splits their assets. If the person who files for divorce can prove the spouse guilty of adultery or abuse, he or she also could receive more from the couple's estate.

Under the new measures sponsored by Voorhees and four other lawmakers, couples who want to divorce would have to cite one of four reasons listed in the "Family and Marriage Preservation" plan.

Rep. John Stewart, an attorney who handled divorce cases, said the bill wouldn't dramatically change the current law.

"It means well, but ... fault is already considered when deciding things like alimony and child custody," said Stewart, R-Plymouth.

But Vorhees said the state's divorce laws now make it too easy for couples to split.

"By allowing an easy exit, the present system leaves parents and children in dire circumstances," she said. "Our divorce laws are unfair and unjust."

Wendy Wagenheim, spokeswoman for the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the state shouldn't legislate marriage.

"The state should not be involved in what is a voluntary activity between two consenting adults," Wagenheim said.

The legislation would require divorcing parents to take a class to learn how their split affects their children. They also would have to agree on a parenting plan that spells out which parent will make decisions for the children before the divorce is final.

Other bills in the package would encourage couples to receive premarital counseling before they receive a marriage license. Couples who receive counseling would have to wait three days rather than 27 days for a marriage license.

Another bill would give couples a $50 tax credit to cover the cost of premarital counseling from a minister or psychiatrist.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Settled in singleness

A story published today by the USA Today reports that the 2000 Census shows that more than 27 million Americans live by themselves, about one-fourth of all households, nearly 10% of the population. For the first time, one-person households outnumber married couples with children (fewer than 25 million).

"With the increase in the divorce rate, the increase in the age at which people first get married, and with our increasing longevity, the experience of being single is now one of the most widely shared experiences of adulthood," says Bella DePaulo, visiting professor of psychology at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

And when you add in the single people who are living together but not married — everyone from college kids in dorms to young singles sharing apartments to unmarried couples — the number of singles in America soars. Their ranks increased from 38 million in 1970 to 82 million in 2000. Single people now account for more than 40% of the adult population, up from 28% of all adults in the USA three decades ago, according to DePaulo, who cites Census statistics.

"These findings are not surprising. They reflect a 30-year trend in America to marry later in life, divorce or never get married at all," says Xavier Amador, co-author of Being Single in a Couples' World: How to be Happily Single While Looking for Love and director of psychology at New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York. "Being single is no longer synonymous with being immature, unsettled in life and irresponsible. Questions such as 'When are you going to get married and settle down?' belong to the past, not the reality of America today."

According to the American Association for Single People (AASP), an "unmarried majority" has emerged in most major cities, as well as six states, facts the association disseminated on Capitol Hill last month during National Singles Week.

"And within a few years, the majority of households in the nation will be headed by unmarried adults," says AASP executive director Tom Coleman.

Up until a few years ago when the AASP was formed, virtually all singles groups were for dating and matchmaking, focused on social and recreational activities for lonely hearts. But singles today are looking for more, much healthier in their outlook on life.

"As single people begin to wake up and realize that we are being cheated — sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars per year in higher taxes, higher insurance rates, fewer employee benefits and smaller Social Security benefits — more of their attention and support will shift toward organizations fighting for legal and economic reform," Coleman says.

Conservative groups have expressed concern over the "single and alone" trend, calling it a troubling indicator of deeper societal problems. But demographers say what the trend truly reveals is that adults just prefer their own company, living near their families, but not with them. In fact, it's very American.

"Americans are individualists, and unless we're married and raising children, we tend to want to live alone, rather than impose on relatives," says Andrew Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociology professor. "Plus, we like our privacy. So, those of us with more money tend to use it to live alone."

Cherlin says some people are worried that it makes for "a more detached society, but most people who live alone live near friends and family. Americans want intimacy at a distance. That's the highest good."

Stan Charnofsky, author of Surfing the Single Life: A Memoir for Women and Men Making It Alone, thinks all these singles are doing it right.

"Not everybody is paired off or familied up," he says. "Some are singles living marvelous, bountiful, contributory lives."

Monday, October 22, 2001

Redefining relationships in America

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that in America today, singles without a soul mate are seeking them. Parents without wills are writing them. And couples with conflicts are resolving them.

Interviews with matchmaking consultants, marriage counselors, divorce lawyers and other experts make clear that the Sept. 11 attacks - and the fears of more trouble - have instilled a deeper appreciation for the importance of family and intimate bonds.

"People are seeking marriage counseling significantly more than they were prior to Sept. 11," said Enid Norris, a family therapist in Stamford, Conn. "They're trying to work things out - they're much more conscious of the value of relationships."

Connie Boysen, whose law firm in Overland Park, Kan., specializes in divorce, said even couples who are splitting up have become more civil.

"In fights over custody, you could tell parents were trying to pull together to calm kids," Boysen said. "When something like this happens, it puts your own personal tragedies in a different perspective."

Pamela Gorski, a family law attorney in suburban Cleveland, said her divorce caseload remains steady, but she reported a surging demand for wills, "particularly for people who are traveling."

Michael Yergin, director of the Premiere Connections matchmaking service in Chicago, said his business has jumped dramatically.

"Since Sept. 11, we've seen probably the largest increase since I've been in the industry," said Yergin, who entered the field in 1969.

One of Yergin's clients, graphics artist Lisa Renee Cecala, said her previously low-gear search for a mate has taken on new urgency.

"I have to admit, after Sept. 11, I've been sitting on my sofa really wishing I had that special someone to hold me," said Cecala, 36. "I wish I was married right now."

Her girlfriends have reacted similarly, she said. One who had a multiyear engagement finally agreed with her fiance that the time to tie the knot had come.

However, the attacks have also had the opposite effect.

Dail Metzger, owner of the Singles Network dating service in southwestern Connecticut, said some clients have solidified relationships since Sept. 11, while others have broken them off. "I guess they realized it wasn't right, that life is short," she said.

Curtis McMillan, a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, has studied the aftermath of previous disasters, including earthquakes and the Oklahoma City bombing.

"People report both positive and negative changes in their relationships," he said. "With people who are not yet fully committed to each other, they look at how the other person responds to the crisis. You can get a sense of how compassionate they're going to be."

 

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