Monday, March 23, 2015

Can You Have Too Many Lawyer Billboards?

Spending a few days in Florida and it’s amazing the amount of lawyer billboards on the roads. They have become so ubiquitous that my friend and I began counting them and categorizing them by practice area on a relatively short drive to the baseball stadium to catch a Spring Training game.

It does make me wonder how effective all the billboards are (they must be effective on some level due to how many of them there are) and how the good people of Florida choose an attorney. If you are in a car accident, you are pretty likely to be able to look up at the nearest billboard and see a lawyer who can help you.

Maybe while your spouse and the other drive are arguing over who is at fault, you decide that you no longer want to be married and need a divorce lawyer. Look across the street and there is probably a billboard for an attorney who can handle your divorce.

After all is settled out with the car accident, maybe you find out that your spouse didn’t actually renew the car insurance and you are going to need to file for bankruptcy because your spouse is actually the driver who caused the accident. No problem there either. Just a block down the road is another attorney who handles bankruptcies and other matters who will be happy to take your call.

Even worse, if your spouse was drinking at the time of the accident and was charged with a DUI – you can’t escape those billboards on the roads – there are plenty of billboards, bus benches and other posters of attorneys ready to take your call.

At times, it feels like driving in a movie or television show where the plot twist is that all of these billboards actually have cameras on them and are watching you. When you get in an accident, your phone rings and the lawyer from the nearest billboard is introducing themselves and is on their way to help you.

I really hope it never comes to that…

Friday, March 20, 2015

Expatriates and International Divorces

The Wall Street Journal this week has a good article on the challenges and issues facing an expatriate who ends up going through a divorce either while they are overseas (or as is often the case, caused by the time they are overseas). The story grows out of a study by Yvonne McNulty of SIM University in Singapore, “Till Stress Do Us Part: The Causes and Consequences of Expatriate Divorce”, which will be published in April.

The article discusses the different issues that arise, often including long work hours for the working spouse and feelings of isolation by the entire family who may be thousands of miles from any social network or family to help support them. On the financial front, many countries in the survey do not allow married couples to have joint bank accounts, which leaves one of the spouses at a decided financial disadvantage immediately if the marriage has broken down.

The largest issue that confronts many expatriate couples is where there are children and the custody of those children ends up being in dispute. For international purposes, the Hague Convention directs the children to remain in the country where custody is disputed, if you are located in the Middle East, where most countries did not sign on to the treaty, you are subject to the local laws of that country.

Another issue that couples can run into that is not specifically addressed by the article is where the parties have a prenuptial agreement that complies with their local laws, but may not be enforced by a foreign country’s court system.

As with most legal issues that arise in a divorce or the breakdown of a marriage, it is important to speak to a lawyer or other counselor to make sure that all of the appropriate issues are being addressed and that you are receiving the best advice possible.