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Bill Bishop

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Court: Continental shares are non-marital in Hamm divorce

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop Law Office P.C. posted in High Asset Divorce on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

Arizona is a community property state, which means that all marital property is divided 50-50 during divorce. In many divorce cases, the issue then becomes determining which assets are marital and which assets are separate property.
Typically, marital property includes any assets that were obtained or acquired during the marriage. This can include bank accounts, investment accounts and shares of stock. However, when a spouse already owned assets before the marriage, those assets are typically considered "separate" property.
This is what a judge recently had to address in what could have been one of the biggest divorce settlements of all time.
This week, it was reported that the judge presiding over oil man Harold Hamm's divorce case ruled that Hamm's 122 million shares in the hugely successful oil company he founded, Continental Resources, are separate property.
The judge held that since Hamm owned the shares before marrying wife Sue Ann 25 years ago, the shares are not subject to division during the couple's ongoing divorce.
In an interview with Forbes, Hamm said he was not surprised by the judge's ruling. Even so, Hamm had to have been relieved by the decision as billions of dollars and his controlling interest in Continental could have been at risk.
When it was reported that the couple was officially ending their marriage after being estranged for nearly a decade, there was some concern over whether Sue Ann would be entitled to up to half of Hamm's interest in Continental, causing him to lose control.
The ruling handed down last month suggests that the Continental shares, which have increased in value by 400 percent over the past five years, will stay with Hamm. However, it is still possible that Sue Ann could appeal the Oklahoma district court's decision.
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Divorce and debt: general division rule does have exceptions

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop Law Office P.C. posted in Property Division on Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

When a marriage ends, it is only natural to be concerned with how you and your spouse will divide up your property.
After all, there can be a host of property issues to sort out. For example, who will get (or get stuck with) the house? And does one spouse have a retirement account that another spouse should really get a share in?
In this post, we will consider the flip side of the property division question. We will discuss the division of debt in divorce cases.
As we noted in our article on dividing debt, it is important to keep in mind that Arizona is a community property state. This means that both assets acquired and liabilities incurred during the marriage are to be divided between the spouses.
In general, debt that is acquired during the marriage is the responsibility of both spouses. Suppose, for example, that one spouse ran up credit card debt on a charge account that didn't include the name of the other spouse. The absence of the other spouse's name does not necessarily mean he or she is off the hook for that debt.
To be sure, things can become more complicated when one spouse files for bankruptcy and the other spouse does not.
A bankruptcy filing is a potential game-changer when it comes to allocating marital debt. This is something well worth discussing with a knowledgeable attorney.
Another outside factor that can affect the division of debt after a divorce involves tax debt. Under so-called "innocent spouse" relief, a former spouse may be able to get out from under tax debt when the other spouse has taken certain inequitable actions.
This innocent spouse relief may apply even if the divorce decree has assigned tax debt to the spouse who is seeking innocent spouse relief.
Overall, however, the general rule is still true. Under Arizona's community property law, divorcing couples do not only divide up assets. They also divide up debt.
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Hiding assets during divorce could lead to tax problems later

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop Law Office P.C. posted in Property Division on Tuesday, February 11, 2014.
In the United States, the average marriage lasts for eight years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During those eight years a couple builds their net worth, makes investments and develops retirement plans.
When there are signs of trouble in a relationship, some spouses in Arizona might start to hide some of these assets knowing that the possibility of divorce is on the horizon. And with a 50 percent overall divorce rate, that possibility is very real. But what happens in situations involving hidden assets?
During property division, each spouse is required to make a full financial disclosure of all assets and liabilities. Knowing that not all spouses are honest about their finances, forensic accountants are often hired to help find discrepancies and uncover assets that may have been hidden in any way.
These may include secondary bank accounts, real property held only in one of the spouse's name or even a last-minute sale or transfer of assets to a close family member.
In family court, these actions could lead to problems for the less honest spouse, like sanctions issued by the judge. Did you know that hidden assets could lead to trouble with the federal government too? Specifically, the behavior could lead to problems with the Internal Revenue Service.
When a divorce judge determines that there are some inconsistencies, he or she are bound under an ethics agreement to make a report to the IRS. This or other information in the IRS's vast database could prompt the IRS to conduct a tax audit. This audit can stretch back three years or more depending on the circumstances.
What happens to the spouse that was the innocent party in the entire situation? Is he or she on the hook for an ex-spouse's bad behavior where federal tax returns are concerned? Thankfully, the IRS does offer three types of relief in these kinds of situations. Those three relief options include innocent spouse relief, separation of liability relief and equitable relief.
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Judge: how 50,000 texts were obtained crossed privacy lines

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop Law Office P.C. posted in High Asset Divorce on Sunday, February 9, 2014.
Social media and other technology evidence is a big part of current divorce debates and conversations in Phoenix and across the United States. Photographs from Instagram, status updates from Facebook, emails sent from an address or tweets made on Twitter are being used as evidence in more and more divorce hearings.
Even though this type of evidence is being used more often, it isn't a free-for-all. For instance, how text message evidence is obtained could matter. A national cellphone provider is currently under the spotlight after releasing at least 50,000 text messages to a husband during a Maine divorce proceeding.
The spotlight was placed by way of an ethics case heard by the highest court in Maine, and the judge presiding over the case had some strong words for the provider and other parties involved in the divorce proceeding.
The text messages had been sent and received as a part of communications between the wife and her attorney as well as her doctor. These texts fell under the umbrella of privileged communication, said the judge. Multiple subpoenas were used to obtain the information, but neither the wife nor her attorney had been notified.
This case involves a second issue of concern for the jurisdiction's top court. At the time when the husband had been allowed to access, read and even copy the text messages, he was subject to a temporary order for protection. Regardless of the outcome of the hearing for a final order, a temporary order carries legal weight and must be followed.
The fact that the company allowed access to the text messages of an individual under a protective order raised special concern for the judge. The judge noted that it appeared to be the practice of the provider to allow those "subject to protection from abuse orders, domestic violence complaints, and criminal investigations" to gain access to this private information.
In this case, the judge noted that the release of the information resulted in a more favorable outcome for the husband in the divorce. Having an attorney on your side during a divorce certainly helps, but having the right, experienced attorney really does make that extra bit of difference.
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And the survey says... more men on the receiving end of alimony

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop Law Office P.C. posted in Alimony on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.
In 1979, a family law case was brought all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States. The case concerned the divorce of a couple with the last name Orr, but more specifically, it concerned alimony. The court ruled that it is unconstitutional to award alimony based on an individual's gender.
This ruling set precedent for divorce courts across the entire country. Although gender bias must be kept out of spousal support determinations in Phoenix and throughout the nation, the data shows that significantly more women than men are on the receiving end. In fact, based on U.S. Census data, in 2010, only 3 percent of all alimony payments were made to men. Why the disparity?
There are a lot of reasons why fewer men may be on the receiving end of alimony than women. One may be that in many families, the man may simply be the primary income earner. In other cases, a man may not want to request alimony. In others, some believe that judges might still be prone to gender bias.
Although the last relevant sample of data shows that 3 percent of spousal support orders are paid to men, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that this gap may be closing. In fact, 47 percent of responding members said they've noticed that more women are paying their ex-husbands alimony.
Another trend that some attorneys have experienced involves the way in which women are choosing to pay spousal support. Instead of a monthly payment, some women choose to make a single, lump sum payment upon the finalization of the divorce, eliminating the continuing relationship.
The lesson learned here? Spousal support isn't a one-size-fits-all determination. Nor should a spouse make an initial request or request for modification without the assistance of an attorney in Phoenix that understands the spouse's interests and unique situation.
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Divorce numbers only part of the story, but what drives them?

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop Law Office P.C. posted in High Asset Divorce on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.
Statistics can be useful. The statistics that will be published in an upcoming issue of Population Research and Policy Review show that the number of divorce filings have begun to increase in correlation with the recovering economy.
Researchers found that when the recession hit, the divorce rate for women went from 2.09 percent in 2008 to 1.95 percent in 2009. Then, by 2010 and 2011, the same divorce rate began to creep back up to 1.98 percent. A similar trend was experienced in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.
What is driving these numbers?
The numbers only tell a portion of the story. They don't explain the intent behind each of the divorce filings. Some speculate that money is a factor behind the changing divorce rates. It does cost money to obtain a divorce, and researchers speculate that some may stay in a marriage when times are tight. When they feel more comfortable financially, they feel more comfortable to file.
It is one theory, but others believe that money struggles are what push couples to file. Why then, would filings increase when times are better? Other studies couldn't find a correlation between unemployment and divorce, while even others found a strong correlation between foreclosures and the rate of divorce.
Some divorce attorneys have found that clients choose to file for divorce over financial reasons. Due to the fact that money is tight, some of these couples choose to stay living together in the marital home even though they are or soon will be divorced.
At times, statistics can be helpful to explain the bigger picture. However, families are unique and divorce is a personal matter, which is why case-by-case attention is necessary for divorce in Phoenix.
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Author upends image of the missing father, the deadbeat dad

On behalf of Bill Bishop of Bishop & Martin Law Office, P.C. posted in Child Custody on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.
For one author, she spent a large portion of her time talking to single moms in low-income communities around the country. She heard their stories, listened to their frustrations and got insight into the hurdles that they faced.
These stories became the basis of two of her books and solidified in her mind that the men in these cases were simply those that became the basis for the stereotype of the "deadbeat dad." That image changed for her when she and a fellow researcher decided to take the time to talk to some of these missing fathers.
According to The Shriver Report, 40 percent of low-income fathers don't live with their kids. Overall, 27 percent of fathers from all socioeconomic backgrounds don't live with their children. This author assumed that it was their choice, but talking to dads, she realized that it wasn't necessarily by choice or because they didn't want to see their children.
In her research, she found that for many low-income parents, pregnancy comes at an early age. What surprised her was the joy that many of these men experienced upon hearing the news, prompting them to "get it together for the baby" and vow to stay a part of their lives.
The dads stay with the moms for a period of time, but in many cases these individuals learn that staying in a relationship that isn't working isn't always the right choice. Marriage is something that many of these men take seriously, and they don't want to get married simply because of the pregnancy. She found that in some cases, parenting is mixed up with paying. Some fathers that are accused of failing to contribute or don't contribute enough funds find that their access to time with the kids in turn begins to decline.
Although her research focused on a lot of low-income families, money is an issue for many. At a time when budgeting seems to be more of a conscious activity for individuals in Phoenix, it certainly can be tempting for parents to put hiring an attorney lower on the list of financial priorities. However, setting defined rules for parenting time now helps provide a route to a relationship that lasts into the future and enforces those legal parenting rights.
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It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to Kristen Martin.  While we are happy for her to be starting this new chapter in her life, she will be deeply missed!  Congratulations Kristen on the new adventures you are beginning.  New city, new baby and the man of your dreams, try to miss us a little :)
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