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Articles Posted in Post-judgment Modification

A famous, and horrific, Orange County murder from two decades ago is back in the

news as a child custody and visitation case, according to the Associated Press. As the news agency reported this week, Kristine Cushing, an Orange County woman who killed her two daughters as they spelt in 1991, has reconciled with her husband. This development places Trisha Conlon, John Cushing’s second ex-wife, in the terrible position of knowing her sons will be spending custody and visitation time with a woman who killed their half-siblings.

According to the news agency, John Cushing worked to conceal his reconciliation with his first wife from Conlon, presumably well-aware that she would not approve of the couple’s two sons spending time with Kristine. The deception continued over several years and when Kristine became aware of it she went to court seeking a modification order concerning the children. The agency reports that Washington authorities recently ruled against Conlon on the grounds that the boys have been spending time with Kristine Cushing since 2008 with no apparent ill-effects and that Kristine is not technically guilty of a crime in the 1991 slayings, having been found not guilty by reason of insanity (the case is being heard in the Seattle area, where John and Kristine Cushing now live).

Diandra Douglas suffered another legal setback this month in her effort to claim a share of ex-husband Michael’s earnings from the film Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. When last we left Diandra and the legal system, her attorneys were arguing before a New York court that Michael Douglas’ earnings from the sequel to his Oscar-winning performance in 1987’s Wall Street are subject to California’s community property laws, despite the couple having been divorced for more than a decade.

According to the celebrity-watching website Monsters and Critics, however, a Manhattan judge “rejected her request to overturn his original ruling (of) last year.” In doing so he reaffirmed his original opinion that if Diandra’s case is to be heard at all it should be in California, where the couple’s divorce was finalized back in 2000. The website quotes Diandra’s attorneys vowing to appeal the decision.

As I noted when originally discussing this case last year, Diandra’s claim does not amount to a demand for a California post-settlement modification. It turns instead on an essentially philosophical question: what, artistically speaking, is the relationship of a sequel to its original? The original Wall Street film was made during the Douglas’ marriage. Therefore, under California’s community property laws, Diandra is entitled to a piece of any ongoing income Michael makes from the film: residuals and royalties, for example.

There is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that the difficult economy of the last few years has led to a rise in requests for post-settlement modifications in Orange County, elsewhere in California and nationwide. Last week the New York Times ran a modification story with a twist: it is linked to the Bernie Madoff scandal.

Bernard Madoff’s historically huge ponzi scheme has, of course, left an extraordinary number of high-profile victims in its wake, from Hollywood stars to local charities and the New York Mets. The sheer size and duration of his fraud has guaranteed that it will make its way back into the news again and again for many years to come.

According to the Times, the basics of the Madoff-prompted modification case are these: when Steven Simpkin and his wife Laura Blank divorced in 2006 “they agreed to split their considerable wealth equally.” In dividing up their assets, valuing cash versus real property, Simpkin kept, among other things, the couple’s account with Madoff (this may partly have been a matter of convenience as, the paper notes, it was held in his name). After Madoff’s fraud was exposed – and accounts held with him became worthless – in late 2008 Simpkin filed suit demanding that his ex-wife “turn over millions of dollars that she had received in their settlement to make up for the substantial losses he had sustained in the fraud.” Needless to say, Blank sees the situation differently, and the Times reports that the case is attracting considerable attention nationwide. As the paper notes, the court ruling will only, strictly speaking, impact New York’s divorce laws, “but a decision by the influential (NY Court of Appeals) could influence how judges interpret laws in other states.

In another attempt to obtain her share of the monies from Michael Douglas’ film, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”, Diandra Douglas is seeking court relief to obtain said monies in a New York City court house. It was previously decided that a New York court did not have jurisdiction to make a ruling on Diandra’s claim. However, Diandra’s lawyers are once gain reviving the lawsuit in New York City asking said court to reconsider its ruling.

With Diandra looking on, Michael’s lawyer noted his recent fight with throat cancer and said his ex “should be ashamed of herself” for seeking more money when she’s gotten more than $51 million from him in the divorce and her stake in some earnings afterward. Meanwhile, Diandra’s lawyers brought up his recent purchase of a $5 million-plus home near New York and his children’s private schools.

Leaving court, Diandra Douglas lamented the “mudslinging” she felt was directed at her.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you might have heard all the publicity surrounding the halting of production of “Two and a Half Men,” child custody and visitation issues surrounding Charlie Sheen and Brooke Mueller and the most recent Los Angeles County restraining order filed by Brooke against Charlie.

In the documents in support of Brooke’s request for a temporary restraining order, she asserts that Charlie told her that he wants the $20,000 per month he pays in child support paid back to him. Afterall, Charlie is no longer receiving the $1.2 million per episode paycheck now that he burned his bridges with the creator of the show.

From an Orange County child support attorney’s perspective, the obligor/payor cannot simply request that the funds be paid back to him. The formal way to do same would be to file an Order to Show Cause for a modification of child support. That way, the obligor will have an opportunity to obtain retroactivity to the date of the filing of the Order to Show Cause pending the hearing. By filing the appropriate legal paperwork, the moving party can set forth the facts that warrant a reduction in child support (i.e loss of income).

If at first you don’t succeed… try again in California. That appears to be the approach Michael Douglas’ ex-wife Diandra is taking after a New York judge threw out her suit seeking half of the actor’s earnings associated with the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

As my colleague, Winiviere Sy, noted in a post last month, the former Mrs. Douglas – whose split with the actor was finalized way back in 1997, went to court in New York seeking a post-judgment modification. The crux of her claim is that because the couple’s California divorce settlement entitles her to 50% of any money Douglas earns from movies he made while they were married, as well as 50% of his proceeds from any “spinoffs” from those films, she is entitled to half his income from the new “Wall Street” film. The movie, released last September, is a sequel to 1987’s “Wall Street”, for which Douglas won a Best Actor Oscar. Douglas plays the same character, financier Gordon Gekko, in both movies.

A key aspect of last month’s dismissal in New York was the fact that it came on jurisdictional grounds. Diandra had sought to bring the issue before a New York court because both she and Michael now live there. Without taking any position on the merits of Diandra’s claim, however, the judge threw out the case because, he said, it belonged in a California court, not a New York (the couple’s divorce was originally concluded here in California). Now, according to the New York Post, Diandra is actively shopping for Southern California family law attorneys as she seeks to revive the case, probably in Los Angeles.

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