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Divorce Newsletters

Annulment and the “Relation Back” Doctrine

By its legal definition, the “relation back doctrine” enables a plaintiff to correct a pleading error, by adding either a new claim or a new party, after the expiration of the statutory limitation period. In some cases, spouses who are parties to subsequent marriages have attempted to assert the “relation back” doctrine to persuade courts to reinstate/reinforce alimony or maintenance payments from their previous marriage(s).

Grounds for Annulment: Duress, Force, and Fraud

To base annulment on force, restraint, or threats, the duress must have been the inducing cause of the marriage such that the consent to marry would not have been given but for the duress. Moreover, the force or duress must continue to the time of the wedding ceremony. Annulment generally will not be granted for duress if the coerced spouse has the ability to escape or overcome the force or duress.

Modification of Orders Affecting Use of Marital Home

One issue that arises in divorce proceedings is the use and possession of the family home, particularly when the spouses are living in the same house and both require use and possession of the home. If the parties have minor children, the custodial parent usually receives the right to use and possess the home in order to safeguard the children’s interest. This right is given to the custodial parent as a form of maintenance or support, in the court’s discretion. The right given to one of the spouses is limited to a specific period after the divorce, which is determined by the court. That benefit may last in some form until the parties’ youngest child no longer is a minor.

Property Division in Divorce: Insurance Benefits

In divorce, a critical issue impacting the treatment of insurance policies is whether the policy benefits are separate property or marital property. State divorce courts have reached varied answers on the question of whether a life insurance policy is separate or marital property. In some states, “whole life” insurance contracts have been held to be marital property and generally have been valued at their cash surrender value. “Term life” policies, on the other hand, which lack a surrender value, have not been considered divisible property. In states in which inheritances or gifts are classified as separate property, insurance proceeds usually are not treated as marital property for purposes of property distribution in divorce. Other courts have ruled that the proceeds of a life insurance policy purchased with community property should be treated as community property in a divorce.

Use of Collaborative Law in Divorce

Collaborative law is a method of family law dispute resolution in which divorcing spouses settle their differences out of court. The trend towards collaborative law developed from a desire to avoid lengthy legal and court proceedings while still reaching a compromise mutually acceptable to all parties. Parties to divorce, their attorneys, and any other professional involved agree to make a good faith attempt to reach an amicable settlement without going to court; collaborative practice is intended to minimize difference while working toward that resolution.

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