Monday, December 28, 2009

Smart Lawyer Gets No Sympathy from the Court

A story published by on Christmas Eve really got my attention.

So, when is it fair to revisit the terms of your divorce?  That may depend on who you are.

Yes, a final judgment or decree is supposed to be “final.”  But, in family law cases, there are occasions where it is completely appropriate and sometimes even necessary to change the terms of the final judgment or decree.

What justifies modifying a final judgment?  You obviously don’t want people going back to court every time they realize they left something out of their agreement or want something new.  At the same time, courts have to respect that circumstances do change.  This is especially true with continuing obligations such as child support, alimony, and visitation.

The law is pretty clear that you can revisit alimony, custody, time-sharing, and parental responsibility when there is a substantial change in circumstances.  Most states also require that the change is involuntary and unanticipated.

But, when is it appropriate to reconsider the equitable distribution of assets?  A high-ranking New York real estate attorney at the prestigious Paul Weiss law firm recently learned that he would receive no sympathy from the court when his circumstances changed for the worse.  

Steven Simkin had been married to his wife, Laura Blank, for more than 30 years.  They spent the better part of two years fighting over the value of certain real estate investments and Mr. Simkin’s law practice.  One item that was not subject to dispute was their account at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, which reflected a value of $5.4 million.  In the divorce, Laura Blank took $2.7 million in cash for her share of the Madoff investments.  Presumably for tax and other reasons, Mr. Simkin left most of the money in the Madoff investment fund.

As virtually everyone now knows, Bernie Madoff's investment fund was one of the largest ponzi schemes in the history of the world.  And, it turns out that Steve Simkin’s Madoff investments were completely worthless.  After learning that he paid his wife $2.7 million for her half of a worthless investment, Mr. Simkin asked a New York court to set aside the agreement.

On December 24, 2009, the New York Law Journal reported that the court denied any relief to Mr. Simkin. According to the report, Acting Supreme Court Justice Saralee Evans held that the Court simply would not revisit the parties’ settlement.  The Court reasoned that the account could have been converted to cash, so neither party was mistaken in their marital settlement agreement.  

But, what the Court apparently failed to consider was that, even if the money had been withdrawn, it still would have been subject to a “clawback suit” by the Trustee for the Madoff Estate.  The Trustee can recover withdrawals going back six years.  Nevertheless, Mr. Simkin is simply out of luck.  First, he lost $5.4 million in the Bernie Madoff fraud. Then, to add insult to injury, he unwittingly gave his wife $2.7 million for her share of the worthless Madoff investments.  Of course, there are many stories about people who were screwed by Bernie Madoff.  But, in this case, the family law judge decided that Mr. Simkin should bear 100% of the loss and his wife should keep the $2.7 million she took for her share of the sham investment. 

The Court simply had no sympathy for a man who had represented many of the world’s most sophisticated investors in their most important real estate deals.  I question whether the Court would have reached the same conclusion had the wife been left with the worthless investments. 

The only good news is that Bernie Madoff will be spending the rest of his life in prison as part of a 150-year sentence.  Unfortunately for Mr. Madoff, there are several inmates who apparently have a sense of rough justice that is even stronger than the Judge that slammed Steve Simkin.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

AVVO Assigns Superb Rating to Attorney Richard J. Mockler

The lawyer rating website has assigned a Superb Rating to Attorney Richard J. Mockler.

AVVO Rating

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Innovative Family Law Attorneys Open New Office in Tampa, Florida

The family and business litigation law firm of Richard J. Mockler, P.A. has opened its new office in historic Hyde Park. The warm and child-friendly environment is conveniently located at 305 S. Magnolia Ave., Tampa, FL 33606.

Tampa, FL (PRWEB) December 10, 2009 –- The law firm of Richard J. Mockler, P.A. is pleased to announce the opening of its new Tampa office, located in beautiful Hyde Park. The office has a dedicated play area for children, and offers a warm, comfortable setting to meet with your attorneys or mediate family law matters.

 Our attorneys approach every case with the same passion. We consult every client on their unique goals and interests, because no strategy fits all cases. 

The Firm represents individuals in divorcemilitary divorce, and other family law matters, including cases involving child custody, child support, prenuptial agreements, alimony, equitable distribution, relocation, and more. The Firm also represents business litigation clients in partnership disputes and civil litigation involving fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract, tortious interference, theft of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, and other commercial claims. Attorneys Richard J. Mockler, Amy Bandow, and Adam B. Cordover are experienced in helping clients protect their rights and interests in complex legal battles and through life-changing circumstances.

The Firm’s lawyers have substantial experience working at the nation’s largest and most prestigious law firms representing high-profile clients in their most important legal matters. “Our attorneys approach every case with the same passion. We provide the same representation to a mother trying to protect her family that we offer to the CEO of a major company. We consult every client on their unique goals and interests, because no strategy fits all cases. Our job is to help clients understand their options and pursue their cases diligently without wasting valuable resources on unnecessary conflict and needless litigation,” added shareholder Richard J. Mockler.

Richard J. Mockler is a family law attorney and business litigator that graduated from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law with honors, where he was elected President of the school’s Student Bar Association and selected as the Student of the Year in 2000. Mr. Mockler also earned a Master of Laws degree in Taxation from the University of Florida’s Graduate School. He started his career in Miami for a Wall Street law firm representing investment banks, major financial institutions, and other multinational companies. Prior to starting his own practice, Mr. Mockler also worked at Florida’s two largest law firms.

Amy Bandow is a Tampa divorce lawyer practicing primarily in the area of marital & family law. Ms. Bandow graduated from the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. Prior to joining the Firm, she also worked in the litigation group at one of Florida’s largest law firms representing public companies and other institutional clients in high-stakes litigation matters.

Adam B. Cordover is a graduate of The American University in Washington D.C., where he earned his Juris Doctor and Master of Arts in International Affairs. Mr. Cordover is experienced in the areas of divorce, adoption, dependency, paternity, and child support. In February 2009, the LAWYER Magazine recognized Mr. Cordover for his service to the community. Among other things, he volunteers through Bay Area Legal Services and the Guardian Ad Litem Program.

For more information or to consult a Tampa divorce lawyer, business litigator, or family law attorney, regarding divorce, military divorce, child custody, time-sharing, parenting plans, child support, division of assets,prenuptial agreements, alimony & spousal support, adoption, and other services, contact our office at 813-443-4634.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Military Divorce Rate On the Rise

According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, the divorce rate for married service members increased by more than 38% from September 2001 to September 2009.

In 2001, the divorce rate for married service members was 2.6%.  By 2008, the military divorce rate had increased to 3.4%.  For 2009, that rate increased to 3.6%.  The rate for military women is an astonishing 7.7%, while the rate for men is 3%.

According to Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, when a married couple is faced with "eight years of war, preparing for war, being at war, coming home and having to think about going back to war again — and when you have children — it just has a tremendous impact on the family unit."

April Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the department of defense, referred to the increase over last year as "relatively small."  According to my math, the overall rate increased by 6% in a single year.  If you told me my taxes were going up by 6%, I would not consider that increase "relatively small."

Some people criticize that the actual military divorce rate is much higher due to the inaccurate manner in which the defense department counts divorces as the difference each year between the number of married service members.

This would not come as a surprise, since a recent field survey in Iraq showed that nearly 22 percent of young combat soldiers questioned said they planned to get a divorce or separation.  This is a 77% increase over  2003, when 12.4% of young combat soldiers said they planned to get a divorce or separation.

Military Divorce

Monday, November 23, 2009

Social Abandonment is Not Grounds for Divorce

Thank God for no-fault divorce states.  New York actually still requires a reason justifying the divorce.  So much for mere "irreconcilable differences."

Apparently, "social abandonment" is not sufficient grounds for terminating the marriage.  When Novel Davis filed for divorce from her husband, Shepherd, she argued that the divorce should be allowed because he abandoned her - socially.    Among other things, Shepherd refused to eat meals with Novel, celebrate holidays together or attend family functions.

It's a shame, but New York law will require Novel to come up with a better reason before granting her divorce.

Update on Jon & Kate's Divorce

Okay, so Jon and Kate's divorce will be finalized by the end of the year.

Jon showed up to an all-day Saturday mediation with a dozen roses as a peace-offering.  But, Kate refused to accept them.  So, I likely won't advise my clients to use this approach.  Although, I do encourage everyone to be nice, especially when you want to reach an agreement regarding your divorce rather than financing a messy and painful trial.

I thought it was interesting that Jon conceded primary custody to Kate.  I don't know the details of their time-sharing plan, but it seems that he could take a couple of kids each night.  It could be like a round-robin.  For me, I can handle my two girls nicely.  But, I don't know what I would do with eight little ones running around.

I wonder if the couple is going to follow a nesting concept, where they allow the children to stay in the house and the parents rotate in and out.  I remember a special where both parents said that the house was "for the children," not for them.  Does the same feeling still hold?

The last challenge for the couple is determining a child support number.  In Florida, the statutory chart for child support guidelines only go up to six children.  Eight is literally "off the chart."  Good luck Jon.

Interesting New Canadian Divorce Statistics

Professor Anne-Marie Ambert recently published a study that detailed some interesting divorce statistics for Canada.

Canadian divorce rates divorce rates peaked in 1987, went down over time, and are now holding somewhat steady.  First marriages now have a 67% chance of lasting for life.

That is much better than the old adage that "50% of marriages end in divorce."  I have said that to several of my clients.  Canadian divorce attorneys can now say that only 33% of marriages end in divorce.

Professor Ambert also reports that 70% of Canadian divorces are initiated by women.

The report also included some really interesting findings regarding equal time-sharing or "joint custody" between parents.  At present, both parents have substantial time sharing each parent (defined as at least 40% of overnights with the children) in fewer than 10% of cases.  That figure, however, is  rising.

Professor Edwark Kruk has opined that 40% time-sharing with a parent is the minimum time necessary for mutual bonding.

The report also includes as finding that only 10% of children live a majority of the with their fathers.

Divorce statistics, joint custody, and time-sharing

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The law office of Richard J. Mockler, P.A. has moved to a beautiful location in convenient Hyde Park.  

Our new contact information appears below:

Richards J. Mockler, P.A.
305 S. Magnolia Avenue.
Tampa FL 33606

Main: (813) 443-4634
Fax: (813) 413-7631

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