The on-going divorce war between Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy is a lesson to be learned by those facing an upcoming divorce. Read on to learn about marital property division, child custody and visitation, and spousal support.
Bethany Frankel rose to fame onReal Housewives of New York. The show documented not only her marriageto pharmaceutical salesman Jason Hoppy, but also the birth of their daughter, Bryn. But it’s also allowed the nation a front seat to one of the most bitter divorces to hit our tabloid-loving times. Almost every aspect of a divorce has been discussed in this case: marital property division, child custody and visitation, and spousal support.
The couple officially split in 2012 though Frankel filed for divorce in January 2013. In interviews following the divorce, the creator of “Skinnygirl” products has said that there were warning signs of the couple’s impending end throughout the marriage. In regards to those warning signs she said the couple, ” brushed them under the rug. Cracks become craters. Little things that you see in your relationships and your friendships. … I feel like in our personal lives, we [women] don’t [acknowledge them]. I think men are just better about that than women.”
Though Frankel has acknowledged the biggest thing missing was respect. “I write about mutual respect,” she said, referring to her book, I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To. “People should be in relationships with people that really accept them and understand them.”
Marital Property Division
The division of marital property is one of the biggest sticking points in divorce agreements. An apartment valued at $5 million has been the center of the Frankel-Hoppy marital property argument. Hoppy has refused to move out while a judge has also ruled neither party is allowed to buy or sell the place until the details of the divorce have been officially finalized.
The first step to property division during a divorce is the determination of if property is “community property” or “separate property.” Here’s a little more information defining what these two terms mean.
Typically, California law asserts assets and debts accumulated by a during the course of a marriage are considered community property.
Property the spouse owned prior to the marriage, acquired as a gift, or through inheritance during the course of marriage is that spouse’s separate property. If that property increased in value, that spouse can claim the increase as separate property as long as the spouse can provide evidence such as financial records or other documents. Any property a spouse acquires in the period between date of separation and divorce is also considered separate property.
Date of Separation
The date of separation is the date a spouse decides to end the marriage. For this to be considered the legal date of separation there needs to be some legal form of action taken denoting a spouse has chosen to end the marriage. It’s important this date is clearly defined and decided early on because it can become a sticking point if undefined. This is especially true if a spouse earns an unusual amount of money (such as a bonus) during the period between separation and divorce. If this date cannot be decided upon, a court will rule on the decision after considering the evidence.
Changing Asset Titles
A couple is able to decide before or during the marriage if they would like to convert an asset from separate property to community property, or vice versa. This agreement needs to be made in writing. The written agreement must also clearly state each spouses’ intention. Assets can also be considered “partially community” and “partially separate.”
Determining “community property” from “separate property” can become complicated. It can also be the reason for a lot of arguments. You will want to consult an attorney for advice. If a couple cannot decide between themselves, couples may need to seek the help of a family law court.
Child Visitation and Support
During a tearful testimony in which Frankel asked for full custody of their daughter Bryn, Frankel called Hoppy “white trash” and “disgusting” for allegedly asking an investor to help finance his side of the divorce proceedings. After that tearful, and perhaps inappropriate testimony, the judge ruled for joint custody.
At that time Bernard Clair, Hoppy’s attorney, said “The parties’ child will have the benefit of being raised by both parents and most importantly … his daughter will no longer be at the mercy of a high-profile courtroom battle.”
Family law courts prefer to award joint custody, due to the fact that it’s been shown children respond best to both parents being in their lives. With joint custody, both parents share decision making responsibilities and / or physical control of the child or children they share.
Best Interests of Child
California child custody judges consider the best interests of the child when making their custody decisions. A judge is not permitted to give preference to a parent solely based on their gender. California law has two specific guiding policies when determining a child’s best interests:
- the health, safety, and welfare of children must be a court’s primary concern,
- children benefit from frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
A judge will weigh any relevant factors within these two parameters when making his or her judgment regarding child custody cases.
Joint Physical and Legal Custody
California law favors full joint custody, meaning joint physical and joint legal custody. If parents do not agree to this, a court needs to determine a parenting plan that is in the child’s best interests.
Parents are also legally able to put together their own co-parenting agreements. In fact, it is required by California law that parents unable to reach an agreement must attend mediation prior to going to court. If the parents are still unable to agree in court, a judge determines the custody agreement.
According to California law, if a child is deemed mature enough to make an intelligent choice regarding custody, the courts must consider that choice. While a specific age is not outlined by law, it makes sense the older the child, the most likely he or she will be able to provide a mature decision.
There are advantages and disadvantages to a joint child custody arrangement. With joint custody have contact with both parents. They are able to have ongoing connections and communications with each parent. Additionally, parents are able to share the hardships of raising a child: decisions on education, legal matters, and growing pains. But joint custody arrangements also often mean children are shuttled between parents. Co-parenting can be especially difficult for two parents that do not get along. And if the parents cannot learn to work with each other, this arrangement can be especially difficult for the child stuck in the middle.
You’ll need to work on co-parenting to create a harmonious living experience for your child. In this case, it might be wise to follow the court’s lead and put your child’s best interest first.
A determination on child support will also be made during your divorce. Typically a higher earning spouse contributes to the support of a child. In the Frankel-Hoppy case, because theReal Housewives star earns around $5 million a year and her soon-to-be ex makes around $100,000, Frankel will pay 97% of their daughter’s $600-a-month preschool tuition and $900-a-month extracurricular costs. Additionally, she will pay Hoppy $3,000 a month in child support for Bryn.
Frankel will also pay $12,000 of monthly alimony to Hoppy. Spousal support, also known as alimony, is when the spouse with better financial standing or the ability to support the spouse in a lesser financial standing pays to support the lesser-earning spouse for a period of time. California law dictates spousal support is determined by a court after careful review of numerous factors. Common factors include: the length of the marriage, the incomes and ages of each spouse, the marital standard of living during the marriage, and the assets available to each party after the divorce is final.
Length of Spousal Support
The court determines the duration of spousal support payments by looking at general equitable principals and guidelines set forth by common law case histories.
A general rule of thumb is spousal support payments should be paid for half the length of a less than 10 years long marriage. In longer marriages, the court will not determine the duration of the alimony. Rather, the burden falls to the party that can prove spousal support will not be needed at some point in time in the future.
Working with a Divorce Attorney
If you are facing a divorce, you should work with a divorce attorney that will take a vested interest in your specific situation and advise you on what you might face in a divorce regarding property, child support and custody, and alimony. A divorce attorney will provide support and guidance as you work towards ending your marriage.
For advice on divorce, you need the expert law firm of Law Offices of Korol and Velen, Certified Family Law Specialists.