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The Bezos fortune gets divided in a private divorce agreement and Amazon doesn’t miss a beat

The Bezos fortune gets divided in a private divorce agreement and Amazon doesn’t miss a beat

MacKenzie Bezos announced earlier today in a tweet that she and, now ex-husband, Jeff Bezos, have settled their financial affairs in a private divorce agreement. Though full details of the Agreement are not publicly available, MacKenzie declared she was “happy” to sign over 75% of the couple’s jointly owned stock in Amazon as well as voting control of her shares and her interests in The Washington Post and the Blue Origin aerospace company.

Following the news of the Bezos family settlement, Amazon’s stock price reportedly dropped by a mere 0.4%. The Bezos’ settlement out of court played a significant role in stabilizing the effect their separation would have on Amazon’s viability, and stock price. Consider the contrary, for a moment—had the Bezos’ litigated their family law dispute, personal financial details would have been made public record, and the very fate of Amazon may have been at the discretion of a family court judge—which could have resulted in an outcome felt around the world.

The success of the Bezos family settlement illustrates key benefits of resolving legal issues out of court: privacy, creativity and a controlled impact on the family business. These same benefits can be realized by family business owners who choose the collaborative process. Collaborative clients are empowered to privately resolve legal issues using creative solutions like share transfers, family trusts and delayed equalization, to name a few, to ensure an orderly transition, preserving the family business, and family legacy for generations.

We have published several other posts on the very topic of how the collaborative process can help family run businesses survive and thrive after divorce. To learn more, click here.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com.

Serving Documents via Twitter: Is it the Future of Canadian Law?

twitter

Serving Documents via Twitter: Is it the Future of Canadian Law?

In all Canadian litigation, documents are “served” or delivered on opposing parties (or their lawyers) in accordance with strict Rules of Procedure.

Depending on the circumstances – and on whether the opposing party is trying to avoid being served – this can be accomplished through one of many different means, ranging from merely handing them over, to sending them by registered mail, to other specified procedures.

In Ontario Family Court, for example, the Rules provide that “regular service” encompasses a variety of methods, including sending documents by mail, courier, fax, physical document exchange. (And there may need to be what is known as “special service” in specified situations). With the consent of the person being served or by court order, they may also be served by electronic document exchange or e-mail.

But Canadian law has not gone too far in allowing for the service of documents by more unconventional means.

Not so in the U.S.: A judge in San Francisco, California has allowed documents to be served in a highly unconventional manner — by way of Twitter.

The intended recipient of the documents was a Kuwaiti national, located overseas, who was suspected of helping to fund the terrorist group ISIS. He had proven difficult to locate by conventional means, but had a large following on Twitter and was still actively using that social media platform to raise money for terrorist organizations through donations.

The documents were being served by St. Francis Assisi, a non-profit organization which alleged that ISIS financing had supported the murder of Assyrian Christians in Syria and Iraq.

The San Francisco judge authorized the service of documents under U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which in recent years has also been used in some cases – where deemed necessary and warranted in the circumstances – to authorize service of documents on foreign defendants by more unconventional technology-based methods such as e-mail, LinkedIn and Facebook. Under those Rules, the method chosen must be one that is “reasonably calculated to give notice” to the person being served, if there is no internationally-agreed means or if there is an international agreement but it does not specify the method. Typically, a court will order a copy of the served documents to be sent by more than one method.

But this U.S. case was the first in which a plaintiff such as St. Francis Assisi was authorized to use Twitter as a means of service on a hard-to-find foreign national. It may not be the last.

Is this a good development in the law generally? Should it be adopted in Canada? What are your thoughts?

For a link to the judge’s order, see:

St. Francis Assisi v. Kuwait Fin. House, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136152 (N.D. Ca. Sept. 30, 2016)

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

Will Ruling on Twitter-Based Harassment Affect Family Law?

twitter harrassment

Will Ruling on Twitter-Based Harassment Affect Family Law?

In a case that made the headlines last week, Gregory Alan Elliott was found by an Ontario Court to be not guilty of criminally harassing two women, Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly, by way of Twitter. They had accused him of being “creepy” and misogynistic in what they considered to be an excessive number of Twitter references to them, even after they blocked him and asked him to stop. The women, who happened to be involved in a group called Women in Toronto Politics, felt that the sheer “volume” and obsessive nature of Elliott’s tweets left them feeling harassed to such an extent that they complained to police, resulting in Elliott’s arrest and criminal proceedings. As the court described it:

Mr. Elliott sent some tweets directly to both women, but the prosecution does not rely on the direct tweets alone. Ms. Guthrie’s harassment and fear came from her perception that Mr. Elliott sent an incessant and obsessive amount of tweets, including those not sent directly to her but of which she would have been advised. Ms. Reilly became fearful when she inferred from one of his tweets that Mr. Elliott might be in the same physical place as her. The alleged communication by tweeting also includes tweets by Mr. Elliott about subjects, topics, ideas and events that Ms. Guthrie and Ms. Reilly were interested in and therefore might or probably would read.

The back-story and coverage of the three-year long criminal case and subsequent acquittal in R. v. Eiliott – which is apparently the first Canadian one of its kind involving Twitter as the medium for the alleged harassment – is easily found on the internet. But the interesting question is whether this criminal law decision will have any reverberation in the sphere of family law disputes.

In the past, I have written about the use of Facebook (and theoretically, other social media) in divorce and related family proceedings. In that context, Facebook’s role has come under scrutiny in many different contexts:

• the admissibility of evidence secretly obtained from a spouse’s Facebook;

• whether parents should be barred from posting details of their family disputes online;

• whether non-public Facebook information should be kept private in terms of disclosure for family proceedings; and

• and the question of how children might be adversely affected by posted information, as in the case of the separated father who posted photos of his children on his Facebook page.[]

Collectively, the outcomes in these cases suggest that courts remain conservative and resoundingly sensitive when striking a balance between broader freedom of expression rights on the one hand, and the protection of spouses’ and children’s interests on the other, even in the “wild west” milieu of social media. Indeed, family courts have certainly shown a willingness to address – and if need be, curtail — any intrusive and negative effects of social media, so that the resolution of family disputes does not impair the rights and interests of its participants, especially the children.

It will be interesting to see how this latest ruling in R. v. Elliott will be adapted (if at all) to the family law realm, given that it arguably upholds a relatively-unfettered ability to use of Twitter (within the customary proscribed limits imposed by Canadian constitutional, criminal and human rights law, of course).

For the full text of the decision, see:

R. v. Elliott, 2016 ONCJ 35 (CanLII)

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com

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