The Huffington Post: 5 Reasons For a Prenup

SmolenPlevy-Dickerson-Plevy-Reasons-PrenupAs seen on The Huffington Post by Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson and Alan Plevy.

5 Reasons For a Prenup–Even if You Aren’t a Celebrity

There’s nothing classically romantic about prenuptial agreements. Most couples willfully avoid them because they don’t want to ruin their blissful idea of a marriage lasting until death do they part. But they can learn from the long list of celebrity splits about what can happen when you don’t have a prenup. In one of the most expensive Hollywood divorces, actor/director Mel Gibson reportedly paid $425 million to his ex, Robyn Moore.

Recently, actress Kaley Cuoco, the 30-year old star of the Big Bang Theory and one of TV’s highest-paid performers, split from tennis player Ryan Sweeting. Because of a prenuptial agreement, he reportedly will only get a lump sum of $165,000 and $65,000 for legal fees.

But you don’t have to be a celebrity to benefit from a prenuptial agreement. Without one, divorce litigation can become costly and complicated. More importantly, a premarital agreement often forces couples to discuss in detail uncomfortable financial issues that they might otherwise have ignored. It is challenging to discuss what debt a person brings to the marriage and the basis of the debt – especially if it is consumer debt, like credit cards. Disclosing a prior bankruptcy can be more difficult than disclosing a prior marriage. A premarital agreement, no matter who brings it up, opens the door to those conversations.

Here are some reasons prenuptial agreements can be useful for couples.

Second marriages/blended families: Often, people have continuing obligations to their prior spouse or to children from a prior relationship. Premarital agreements can determine which assets will be protected or allocated for the children of a prior relationship, and which assets will be safeguarded for the new spouse. Premarital agreements can also protect the new spouse’s assets from being used to pay the arrears or debts arising out of their spouse’s prior marriage.

If you own a business: Young entrepreneurs rarely imagine a divorce being one of the biggest threats to the stability of their business, but it can significantly impact cash flow, ownership, and productivity. Regardless of whether you started your company before marriage, a spouse may claim a portion of the business appreciation or income. Prenups can classify which assets are separate or marital. This means you and your intended spouse can agree that your business will be considered your separate property and not subject to division upon divorce.

Death or disability: While most people think divorce when they hear about premarital agreements, such agreements can also protect your assets in case of disability or death. Premarital agreements can prevent, or provide a remedy if an estranged spouse retitles or liquidates assets during their spouse’s disability.

Debt: Some couples may have more debt than assets. Couples with significantly different debt loads can protect themselves in the same way as couples with vastly different wealth. The couple can agree as to which debt shall be considered a separate, non-marital obligation and how the income of the couple will be allocated during the marriage as to the payment of that debt.

Inheritances: If one or both spouses expect to receive an inheritance over the course of their marriage, a premarital agreement can protect it from division upon death or a divorce. Family heirlooms can also be specified to remain in one spouse’s possession.

In the Media: Kyung Dickerson Discusses ‘Cyberspying’ on WTOP

Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson Discusses Cyberspying on WTOP Divorce often brings out the worst in people, but ‘cyberspying’ shows how low they can go. SmolenPlevy principal Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson discusses the disturbing new trend on air with WTOP.

Cyberspying occurs when one parent uses technology to spy on the other parent while he or she has custody of the child. It can be as simple as forcing the child to Skype or FaceTime when the other spouse has custody, or as complex as planting a tracking device in the child’s shoelaces.

Angry and suspicious parents fail to realize how much cyberspying affects the children who are caught in the crossfire.

“The worst part of it all is, the children are put right in the middle of the debate,” says Dickerson. “As the children get older and are aware of what’s going on, that’s really not healthy for the children.”

Listen to Dickerson discussing cyberspying on air below.

 Part 1:

Part 2:

“Cyberspying” Between Parents: A Sly Game That Nobody Wins

Plevy and Dickerson

“Cyberspying” by a parent, who uses technology to monitor what their kids are doing when they’re with their other parent, is a disturbing trend among divorced couples and parents who do not share a home. Parents use these tactics to try to keep an eye on their children or the other parent for various reasons, including trying to change custody arrangements. Recently, SmolenPlevy family law attorneys Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson have noticed a number of parents engage in this behavior.

Checking up on what the other parent is doing when they have custody is easy when the children have smartphones or access to computers with webcams. Some examples include:

  • Tracking the kids via their cell phone’s GPS or the “ Find My iPhone” app.

  • Chatting with the children on webcam sites like FaceTime or Skype, then scrutinizing or questioning what’s going on in the background.

  • Insisting the kids connect via webcam at particular times to prove they’re doing certain things, like taking their medication or going to bed on time.

  • Setting up webcams on the kids’ laptops to automatically record what’s going on.

“This is an example of when the law still needs to catch up with technology but more than that, this behavior puts the children in the middle of their parents’ conflict,” says Dickerson, “and to make matters worse, if the parent being watched takes away the phone or computer so they cannot be spied upon, the child feels punished by losing their technology.”

When Used Correctly, Technology Connects Parents and Children

“When used appropriately, technology is a wonderful tool when kids split their time between parents,” Plevy says, such as when the kids are away and mom or dad can read them a bedtime story via Skype or help them with their homework online. And in unfortunate situations when a parent is abusive or has an alcohol or drug problem, cell phones enable children in danger to contact the other parent for emergency help when necessary.

Plevy advises parents who complain about what’s going on in the other parent’s household to consider what’s really important. For example, if you want the kids in bed by 8pm and the other parent lets them stay up until 9—is that really worth a big fight? He adds that compromise and communication go a long way in settling custody disputes, though there are certain issues like abuse which may require the intervention of the court. “Generally, the best course of action is to negotiate with the other parent,” says Plevy. “Try to agree on points of contention like bedtime or where you’re taking the children on vacation, so that there’s no need to spy.”

Domestic Violence Is More Common Than You Realize

Alan B. Plevy

Article from SmolenPlevy’s Winter 2014 Report from Counsel

Many people don’ t realize that they’re victims of domestic violence because they don’ t understand the sometimes insidious form that domestic violence takes. While physical abuse is what one initially associates with the term, emotional and financial abuse can also be violent acts. As SmolenPlevy co-founding Principal Alan Plevy explains, “Domestic violence crosses all boundaries—rich, middle class, poor, female and male. Most people want to think that it cannot or is not happening in their marriage but often, it is—they just cannot recognize it.”

Plevy has advised many clients over the course of more than thirty years of practicing law on how to identify domestic violence situations and how to resolve them safely—which may require separation and divorce. Often he has to begin by educating his client about the situation. In many cultures, what may seem to be acceptable behavior to one or both parties in a marriage is a crime in the United States and the victim can seek the assistance of the court. Other times, people can fall into relationship habits, which devolve over time until the parties find themselves in an abusive and unhealthy relationship.

Physical abuse is usually the easiest type to identify. When this happens, protective orders can be issued by the court that require the offending party stay a certain distance away from the victim. Physical violence can also result in criminal charges against the perpetrator. In situations where both parties have acted in a violent manner, Plevy says that sometimes both parties secure protective orders.

Financial abuse comes in different forms and can be harder to identify. Sometimes a husband or wife asserts control by limiting their partner’s access to money, credit cards and financial information. They may require that their spouse report every penny spent or they may limit resources to the point that the other spouse literally has to beg for grocery or gas money.

Sometimes spouses inflict emotional pain in the form of verbal or emotional abuse. While they may not hurt their partner physically, making verbal threats, calling them names, embarrassing them in front of others, or threatening physical harm or mistreatment is still considered domestic violence and can be just as harmful to the victim.

No matter what form violence takes in a marriage, it is often very difficult for the abused party to break away, especially when children are involved. Plevy suggests that:

  • In the case of physical violence, get 
a protective order so that you have an order that provides for your physical safety and which you can use if you need to summon the assistance of law enforcement.
  • Seek professional mental health counseling. Pick a therapist who has dealt with victims of violence. Therapists can help devise what Plevy calls a “ safety plan,” that may include having a secret cell phone programmed to call 911, money set aside for when the victim eventually leaves the home, and ways in which to protect children who may be involved. If money is an issue, there are charitable, government and religious organizations that can provide free mental health counseling.
  • Speak to an experienced attorney who can help you understand the legal ramifications of your situation. “ Sound legal advice is critical during this time,” he says.

Plevy acknowledges that it’ s very difficult to leave a violent situation, as there is usually a great deal of fear involved. “ By knowing your legal rights and getting proper counseling,” he says, “ you will be in a much better position to make a safe exit from a difficult situation.”

If you have any questions regarding Divorce or Family Law, please contact Alan Plevy at 703-790-1900 or by email at abplevy@smolenplevy.com.

In the Media: SmolenPlevy Attorneys Note Effect of Recovering Economy on Rise in Divorces in Virginia Lawyers Weekly

SmolenPlevy attorneys Alan Plevy and Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson provide insight into the increase in divorces in a healthy economy in the September 2, 2013 issue of Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

Plevy and Dickerson were among the first attorneys to notice the trend of couples holding off on filing for divorce when the economy began to struggle in 2009.  Couples stayed under the same roof during the recession because 401(k) plans, stocks and home prices were so low they could not afford to split.

Roughly four years later, things have improved for couples wanting a divorce.

“People couldn’t even think about divorce before – they were just focused on survival,” says Plevy. “Now the economy has changed with people being able to refinance and a lower unemployment rate.”

Dickerson noted a silver lining from the recession: the economic downturn forced couples to be more civil and practical. “If both people are worried about how to pay the utility bill, then they were more respectful of each other in the process.”

To read “Till Death do Us Part…Or the Housing Market Rebounds,” click here.

In the News: Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson in Huffington Post

SmolenPlevy’s attorneys were among first to discuss the negative effects of social media on divorce and custody battles. But in a just posted Huffington Post article, Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, SmolenPlevy Principal, explains how social media can be used constructively by divorcing couples, especially when it comes to their children.

Dickerson suggests that by logging on, you can keep up with your children’s friendships, activities and interests through postings, pictures and videos. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give insight into your child’s thoughts, moods and day-to-day experiences in a way that speaking with them for 10 minutes in the evening does not. Skype and Google Hangouts allow you to see, hear and talk with your children in real-time and can serve to augment in-person visitation or help you to keep in contact with children who may not be local.

Social media can also help reduce interference by the other parent and give you the ability to establish a relationship more directly with your child, says Dickerson.
To read the full article, “Can Social Media Be Your Friend During a Divorce?”, click here.