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Resolving disputes creatively

Pell/Kwan divorce highlights residency issues in divorce

Where people live and where they reside may have an important impact on the resolution of high asset divorces. Many high asset couples have addresses in New York, but actually live elsewhere. If they should decide to end their marriage, more than one court may have jurisdiction over the divorce proceeding. The divorce actions recently filed by Olympic figure skater, Michelle Kwan and Clay Pell, the grandson of former senator, Claiborne Pell, highlight how possession of multiple residences can complicate the issues of property division and alimony in high asset divorces.

Kwan filed a divorce action in Providence, Rhode Island, and then learned that her husband had filed a divorce action in California the day before. The couple purchased a house in Newport, Rhode Island, but no certificate of occupancy was issued.

Kwan claimed that she is a registered voter in Rhode Island, and she lived in the state for the past year. Pell works at the Swearer Center for Public Center at Brown University in Providence, but he has asked the Rhode Island court to dismiss Kwan's petition to be tried in California, where the couple owns another dwelling.

The venue of this divorce may have a significant impact on dividing the couple's assets. California is a community property state, which means that all property acquired by the couple during their marriage will be divided equally.

Rhode Island, on the other hand, divides marital property on an equitable basis, taking into account a number of factors. These factors include the parties' separate incomes, conduct of the parties during the marriage, future earning capacity and the health and age of the parties.

This divorce is just beginning though, and it may not be resolved for many months. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the issues that must be resolved when a high asset couple who own several residences in different states.

The services of an experienced divorce attorney may be an invaluable aid to anyone who is facing similar issues. A knowledgeable attorney may be able to provide advice on procedural issues, such as jurisdiction and venue, and on which state's laws may result in a more favorable property distribution.

Source: Providence Journal, "Olympic skater Michelle Kwan files papers to divorce Clay Pell in R.I.," Katie Mulvaney, May 9, 2017

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