Creating a Parenting Plan for a New Baby

Creating a Parenting Plan for a New Baby

If you are an unmarried, separated couple expecting a new baby, you may have some concerns involving a parenting plan.

Concerns might be who is going to have primary custody of the baby or how often is the non-custodial parent going to see the baby.

All of this can be worked through and figured out by establishing a parenting plan.

About Your Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is an agreement set up by both parents for how they will take care of a child or children.

Within the plan, different factors need to be decided on ahead of time.

Here are several items you should consider including, or at least discussing with your attorney when drafting a parenting plan:

  • Deciding the custodial parent: This can be either one parent or the other, or you can set up joint custody with both parents.
  • Visitation Rights & Plans: If there is only one custodial parent, you may need to decide how often the non-custodial parent gets the child. It can be anything that works for your family and has the best interest of the child.  An example might be that the custodial parent has the child during the week and the non-custodial parent has the child every other weekend.
  • How you will manage significant events: There will be birthday parties.  Or maybe the grandparents want your child to spend the night with them. How will this work with your parenting plan?  You need to make sure this is figured out now so it will not cause problems later.
  • Lock Down Child Support:  The parenting plan can be a place to discuss how child support will work. This can be agreed upon both parents ahead of time or may need to be decided by a family court judge.
  • Residence:  Where the primary residence of the child be? It usually is with whoever has main custody of the child.
  • How will expected and unexpected expenses be handled: We already talked about child support, but there may be other expenses such as medical expenses that need to be decided.
  • There will be BIG future decisions:  Things such as education, healthcare, religious practices, and discipline should also be decided in the parenting plan. This will help decide how these will be taken care of in the future.
  • Other things unique to your circumstances:  Anything else you may find important for your child such as diet, curfew, seeing extended family, etc. should also be included in your parenting plan.

Why it is Important to Create a Parenting Plan

You and the other parent may be agreeable now, but that may not be the case in the future.  Having a parenting plan set up ahead of time will save everyone a lot of stress and arguments later.  Get this figured out today, it protects you, it protects your kids, and it protects your sanity.

If you’re hesitant because of a major life change going on right now (like you’re getting divorced…) – this will become your anchor.  It is not something to put off to reduce stress.  It is something to do today, to reduce stress!

Moreover, it can be flexible an change as your dynamic changes.  If there are any major situation changes in the future, it is possible to modify your parenting plan so do not let that be the reason you do not set one up as soon as possible.

Who Can Create a Parenting Plan

You and your child’s other parent can set up a parenting plan on your own as long as you both agree to all conditions. However, you might not be thinking of every possible situation.  It is a great idea to reach out to someone with years of experience drafting these plans, modifying these plans, and fully understanding the scope of these parenting plans.  In short, you want to talk to a lawyer.

If you need assistance creating a parenting plan or if you have questions, please feel free to contact us.

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10 Tips for Supporting Your Family Through Divorce

10 Tips for Supporting Your Family Through Divorce

Divorces are a challenge for all families.  Even if the circumstances are amicable and both parents are supportive, there will be challenging circumstances surrounding the divorce for years to come.  

As you and your co-parent now figure out how to raise your children, separately, here are some tips you might consider for supporting your family during (and after) this transition. 

Use Supportive Language

This suggestion might sound like a self-help guru’s advice, but there is a lot of strength in all of us and sometimes we all need to be reminded of this.  Your children are going through a tough transition; for them, it may be just as tough as the transition you have been going through.  Remind them they have an ally in you, and that they will be able to make it through this challenging time because they are strong and you are there to support them.

Remind Your Children There Is Still Love in Their Life

Your divorce is not the end of the world, for you or for your children.  In fact, it is not the end the love in their life either.  We all have an amazing capacity to demonstrate love, even in the most challenging times.  In fact, it’s during challenging times that love becomes an anchor for us.  Remind your children that you love them.  If appropriate, remind them that you both still love them.

Be Honest

You are getting/have gotten divorced.  You will be amazed what your children have already picked up on about this.  They are going to be wise to what’s going on, so be open.  If they cannot trust in you to give them a fair response when they know what is happening, they may learn to distrust you in the future when they do not know what is happening.

Give Them Something To Expect

While you’re being honest with your children about the “new normal” in their lives, give them a headwind.  Let them know what you know.  How will their lives be impacted, what questions do they have?  What can you tell them about how Christmas will work next year with two separate parents?  If you can give them a heads-up to how things might/will be, they can start to get a handle on it.

Give Them Something To Count On

Much of what you know about the future could be ambiguous right now.  That’s ok, be open about that!  It’s ok to say, “I don’t know.”  But it’s also very important to lay out what you do know.  What can you tell them about next week, next month, next year that is written in stone?  Don’t overpromise here, but try to give your children something they can count on.

Don’t Blame Others Or Yourself

Divorces happen for many reasons, and it’s not usually just one thing, but a number of issues.  It may very well be your spouse’s fault 110%, but how does it help your children for you to double-down on the blame game?  Alternatively, perhaps you had some background into the divorce yourself?  Again, it doesn’t help your children to see you blame yourself.  They won’t see you as a martyr and they don’t need a martyr in their life right now, anyway.  They need you as a loving parent.

Show Restraint and Be Courteous If Possible

Perhaps you don’t like your ex anymore?  You might not be able to bear more than five minutes with them.  However, if you can, consider showing restraint and respect for them in front of the children.  The risk is that the children become pawns in a game they didn’t ask to be part of.  Moreover, they learn to pick up on the distrust and disrespect shown for each other and emulate it at some point.

Listen To Them, A Lot!

When you get a chance, ask your children how they feel.  What are they feeling, and why do they think they feel that way?  Listen and ask open-ended questions (things that don’t lead to a yes-no answer). Get them talking and be honestly engaged with understanding how and why they are feeling the way they are.  It’s likely you will hear they are hurt, confused, scared, nervous, loved, and supported – all in the same conversation.

Acknowledge Their Feelings

It’s ok to feel hurt, scared, angry, frustrated, and unloved.  It’s not ok to deny someone the ability to express these feelings.  Be there for your children, hear what they have to say.  Acknowledge that from their view of the world, these feelings make sense and help them to see there’s a bigger world at the same time.  As Mr Rogers once said, feelings are great because they are ours, but we can become the master of them too.

Be Patient

This is not a short phase in your life.  For you and your children, this is the norm for the rest of your lives.  Some things will be handled by a short talk, other challenges may take years to resolve.  Be patient, Be Kind, Be Supportive.

Do You Need Help With Your Custody Plan?

Contact Us Today!

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Modifying a Custody Order in South Carolina, How & When Can You Do It?

Modifying a Custody Order, How & When Can You Do It?

You or your ex already has custody of your child or children.  How do you modify this?  What are appropriate circumstances that would enable you to modify a custody order in South Carolina?  

Here’s your answer.  

The Basics Of Modification

Before we get into the potential circumstances that might enable you to be successful in seeking to modify a custody order, we should cover the three items that will be necessary to prove in any situation.

  1. There has been a material change in circumstances.  Your life has changed, and the situation in which you can or cannot parent is substantially different than it was when the custody was assigned. 
  2. The material change in your circumstances occurred after the custody order.  This means you cannot continue to rail about the circumstances as they were in the past, before the order, or use those as proof that you have always been right.  Simply put, focus on what has changed SINCE the order?
  3. The change in circumstances (from item 1) affects the child’s best interests.  Ostensibly, if your circumstances have changed – you would want to show they’ve improved, and if the other parent’s circumstances have changed, you might want to demonstrate they have regressed or become worse in some way. 

When a Family Court Might Modify a Custody Order in South Carolina

When we reference the criteria above, we want to focus on the situation surrounding the custodial parent (the one primarily with the kid(s)).  If you are the non-custodial parent and things improve in your life, that in itself is not necessarily justification for changing the custody order.  The goal here is what’s best and worst for the kiddos.  So, unless you can demonstrate that their situation under the custodial parent has changed for the worse, it’s an uphill battle to demonstrate that the custodial order should change based on your improvement alone.

Here are some situations that might demonstrate negative changes in circumstances related to the custodial parent’s situation.

The Custodial Parent Engaging in Immoral or Dangerous Conduct:  Morality testes are always subjective, but there are some common-sense no-no’s for any parent.  Examples of these might be exposure to or supply for consumption of age-inappropriate materials or substances (pornography, alcohol, tobacco, other illicit drugs).  Other examples might be leaving the kid(s) overnight by themselves, neglect, or other similar type situations. 

The Custodial Parent Lacks Parenting Skills: This could be wrapped up in the items we talked about in the immoral or dangerous conduct part above too.  Beyond placing children in questionable environments, a parent with poor skills might demonstrate their ineptitude by placing their own needs above their children (often or always).  Not taking care of the basic needs of the children or making poor choices that lead to the detriment of the children.  

The Children Have Excessive Challenges in School & Education: Are circumstances in the custodial parent’s household contributing to tardiness, absenteeism, failing grades, and otherwise failure in the children’s education?  If so, it may be due to poor parenting, or issues with the custodial plan. 

Sabotaging Your Relationship With Your Child:  Sometimes the custodial parent uses their time and effort with the children to bad mouth you, drive wedges in your relationship, restrict communication, unreasonably obstruct visitation, and even go so far as to file false allegations about or against you.  This is not a healthy environment for your child, and it’s not conducive to you being a parent to them either.  

You Can Get Help For This

If any of these situations above sound familiar, you can get help in modifying your custody order.  Contact our attorneys today; we are here for you!

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5 Things You Should Know About Child Support Modifications

5 Things You Should Know About Child Support Modifications

Why you and your spouse got a divorce, you had a child support plan put in place.

Life went on, but for whatever reason, now you need to modify that plan.

Before you start trying to figure this out on your own, here are five essential things you should know about child support modifications in South Carolina

Reasons for Child Support Modifications

You can always ask for child support modifications, but not all cases will qualify.

For instance, If there is a substantial change in yours or your kids’ circumstances, there may be a possibility of receiving a modification in the form of an increase or decrease in benefits.   We cover some of those potential changes below.


Substantial Changes in Circumstances


Changes in the Needs of the Child

An example of a substantial change in the needs of a child would be if the child’s medical needs have increased; therefore, medical expenses have increased drastically.

In a situation like this, you would be reasonable to ask for child support modifications to increase the amount of child support received to offset the increased financial outlay of supporting the child.

Financial Changes

If one parent’s income changes drastically either up or down, it could constitute another reason for child support modifications.

Changes in Family Makeup

Perhaps the most common situation changing the family dynamic is when one of the children reaches the age of majority.  Thereby decreasing the number of children being cared for by one parent and in turn, potentially reduce the amount of child support provided.

Another scenario might be when/if custody changes from one parent to the other by one or all of the children. In this circumstance, a modification makes sense and is often necessary.


How to Change Support Payments

To modify your child support, one parent must request a hearing with either a Family Court or the Child Support Division of the Department of Social Services (depending on who set up the child support initially).  Contact our office, and we’ll walk you through the process.

Reasons for Denial of Child Support Modifications

While we’re trying to give you a good idea of how to approach modifications, keep in mind that not all requests for modification of child support will be approved.  You might have to reach out a family law attorney and formulate a strategy before seeking a modification.

Some reasons (but not all) that your request could be denied, include:

1. The change in your financial or family circumstance was anticipated when the original order of support was written.

2. The requesting party can easily pay the support ordered.

3. The paying person voluntarily left their job, took a lower paying job, or has not tried to find a job.

Keep Great Records

Now a bit of advice.  Whether you are requesting child support modifications or the other parent is, it is very important to keep records of everything that had to do with the child support.

Some examples of things to keep include records of payment, medical reimbursements, daycare expenses, and other similar expenditures.

Two Ways to Make Child Support Modifications

Not all situations involving modifications are contentious, and in that same light, not all situations involving modifications are agreeable by both parties.  Regardless of how you get along with the other parent, here’s what you can expect.

Parents That Agree:  If you and the other parent can agree to child support modifications, then you will not need to fight in court.  You can work with a judge and ask them to approve the modifications.  If the agreed upon amount is less than the state limit, you will have to explain why it is justified and how the amount will adequately provide for your child.

Ask the Court:  If you cannot agree on modification with the other parent, then you will need to go to court and have them help you make child support modifications. You will need to prove one of the above substantial changes to be granted either a temporary or permanent modification.  Don’t be the one that shows up to this fight without a lawyer!

Don’t Show Up Without a Lawyer!

If you need help with child support modifications, please contact us.

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When A Custody Modification is Necessary to Your Parenting Plan

If you have a parenting plan set up for your child, you should know when a custody modification is necessary. There are three main reasons that you might want to request custody modifications. Reason 1:  The Fitness/Unfitness of Parent If you believe the other parent is not a fit parent, then you may be thinking about asking for custody modification.  This reason can be very tricky.  You will need to prove that the other parent cannot care for your child.  This leads to hurt feelings and potential mudslinging.  Before you request a modification to your parenting plan, make sure you are not just trying to hurt the other parent and that you have sufficient proof. On the other hand, if you are the non-custodial parent and believe that you are now fit to parent your child, you can request custody modifications. Again, you have to be able to prove that you are now more fit than when the original parenting plan was set up.  You also have to have evidence that it is in your child’s best interest to modify your existing arrangement. Reason 2: Your Child is Having Problems If your child has begun to have problems either at home or at school and you believe that they are caused by the circumstances of your child’s life with the other parent, then you want to ask for custody modifications.  You will need to prove that your child is having legitimate problems and that the custodial parent is either not concerned or not able to address the problems.  You must also prove that you are the best parent to resolve these problems. Reason 3: Preference of Your Child This occurs most often when your child becomes a teenager.  The court will listen to your child’s preference and take into consideration when making any parenting plan.  The court understands though that sometimes, teenagers want to live with the least restrictive parent and will keep that in mind too.  The judge would consider your child’s age, their maturity, and their judgment along with their preference. South Carolina Law South Carolina Law (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-240(B)) lists factors that the court should consider when determining what is in the best interest of your child.  A few of these are: The temperament and developmental needs of the child; The preferences of each minor child; The capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child; The wishes of each parent as to custody; The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and relatives who may significantly affect the best interest of the child; The actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, including compliance with court orders; Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents to involve the child in the parents’ dispute; Any effort by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child; The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child; The child’s adjustment to his or home, school, and community environments; and The stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences. Reasons You Should Not Make Custody Modifications Remarrying or having another child in the case of either the custodial or non-custodial parent, are not good reasons to ask for custody modifications.  Even though you or the other parent may feel that the home has become more stable or unstable, you still have to prove that it affects your child. If you have questions about custody modifications or would like help requesting one, please feel free to contact us. You must be able to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstance that occurred after the most recent custody order and the substantial change affects the child’s best interests and welfare.

If you have a parenting plan set up for your child, you should know when a custody modification is necessary.

There are three main reasons that you might want to request custody modifications.

Reason 1: The Fitness/Unfitness of Parent

If you believe the other parent is not a fit parent, then you may be thinking about seeking a custody modification.

This particular issue can be very tricky.  You will need to prove that the other parent cannot provide care for your child.  You might imagine, this leads to hurt feelings and potential mudslinging.  So stand by for additional stress!

Note: Before you request a modification to your parenting plan, make sure you are not just trying to hurt the other parent and that you have sufficient proof.

On the other hand, if you are the non-custodial parent and believe that you are now fit to parent your child, you can request custody modifications. Again, you have to be able to prove that you are now more fit than when the original parenting plan was set up.  You also have to have evidence that it is in your child’s best interest to modify your existing arrangement.

Reason 2: Your Child is Having Problems

If your child has begun to have problems either at home or at school and you believe that they are caused by the circumstances of your child’s life with the other parent, then you want to ask for custody modifications.

You will need to prove that your child is having legitimate problems and that the custodial parent is either not concerned or not able to address the problems.  You must also prove that you are the best parent to resolve these problems.

Reason 3: Preference of Your Child

This reason occurs most often when your child becomes a teenager and starts seeking more independence – or even working both parents against each other.

The court will listen to your child’s preference and take into consideration when making any parenting plan.  The court understands though that sometimes, teenagers want to live with the least restrictive parent and will keep that in mind too.

The judge would consider your child’s age, their maturity, and their judgment along with their preference.

South Carolina Law

South Carolina Law (S.C. Code Ann. § 63-15-240(B)) lists factors that the court should consider when determining what is in the best interest of your child.  A few of these are:

  1. The temperament and developmental needs of the child;
  2. The preferences of each minor child;
  3. The capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the needs of the child;
  4. The wishes of each parent as to custody;
  5. The past and current interaction and relationship of the child with each parent, the child’s siblings, and relatives who may significantly affect the best interest of the child;
  6. The actions of each parent to encourage the continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, including compliance with court orders;
  7. Any manipulation by or coercive behavior of the parents to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
  8. Any effort by one parent to disparage the other parent in front of the child;
  9. The ability of each parent to be actively involved in the life of the child;
  10. The child’s adjustment to his or home, school, and community environments; and
  11. The stability of the child’s existing and proposed residences.

You must be able to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstance that occurred after the most recent custody order and the substantial change affects the child’s best interests and welfare.

We Are Here to Help You!

If you need help with any issues surrounding a parenting plan modification, reach out to us today!

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How to Create a Parenting Plan Prior to Divorce

How to Create a Parenting Plan Prior to Divorce

If you and your spouse are going to file for divorce and you have children, one of the most important things to do first is to create a mutually agreeable parenting plan.

You may be unsure of how to create a parenting plan prior to a divorce.

This article will give you some guidance and resources to help.

What a Parenting Plan Is

A parenting plan, in short, sets up how your children will be co-parented by you and your spouse while you work through your Orders of Separate Maintenance and Support and then after your divorce is finalized.  Your parenting plan will state who has custody of your children, when, how often the children are with each spouse, and can specify whether you or spouse can move outside of their current school district.  Each parenting plan is specialized to the needs of the family it comes from.  Which means, it is best to talk about this, even if you are still exploring your options, with an experienced lawyer.

Who Makes the Parenting Plan

If you and your spouse can set your differences aside and discuss what is best for your children, then the two of you can work together to come up with a parenting plan that fits your family.  If the particulars are going to be contentious, you are likely headed for mediation, or worse.  It may end up being a court that decides the plan in the end.  There is a risk in whichever direction this takes, so make sure you have a chance to get completely honest with your attorney while exploring something like a parenting plan.

What to Think About When Making a Parenting Plan

There are many aspects to think about when you are setting up a parenting plan.  You may not feel that you need to get very specific, but altering your plan later is much harder, and potentially painful, than getting it right the first time.  Consider that this whole process is going to be stressful for all parties and it can end up in a place where ambiguities in your parenting plan become severe bones of contention later on.  Do it right.

Some things to consider when writing your parenting plan:

Residence: Where will your children live?  Residency should be the first thing you decide.  Your children want to know as soon as possible.  You will need to determine which parent the children will live with and what percentage of the time.

Parenting Schedule: You need to make sure that the schedule you set up for your children to spend time with both of you correlates with the schedules of both parents.  Each of you needs to be able to spend enough time with your children).  Try to come up with a parenting time rotation that allows both parents ample time with the kids.  If it is too complicated to set up a regular rotation, then set up visitation time or schedule more extended amounts of parenting time with the parent who is available.

Event Planning: There will be times that your children will be invited to birthday parties or to stay the night with grandparents.  Allowing them to do so on occasion is essential.  Also, planning for birthdays and holidays can make a parenting plan go more smoothly.  If Mother’s Day falls on a day that dad has the children, figure out a way to allow them to be with mom that day and maybe set up an alternative day for dad.

Expenses: You will need to decide how to handle child-related expenses.  For example, if your children are on your spouse’s health insurance, you may want to be responsible for co-pays since your spouse pays monthly premiums.  You can split some expenses 50/50, but you may need to split others differently depending on each household.   You also need to decide child support payments and schedule.  A judge will decide on support payments if you do not do it before your divorce.

Big Future Decisions: Decisions for education, healthcare, religious practices, discipline, and such are big decisions that should be made by both parents.  If you and your spouse can make these decisions together, then decide how communication and decision making will work.  If you are unable to agree, then involving your lawyer might be a good step.

Other: There may be things other than what is listed above that is important to you such as curfew, diet, seeing extended family, etc.  If it is important to either you or spouse, include it in your parenting plan.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed!

Coming up with a parenting plan can be overwhelming, especially if you and your spouse are finding it difficult to get along.  It is not required to use a lawyer during this time, but we suggest that if you cannot agree with each other, or even if you fear that you will not, contact a divorce lawyer.

Contact A Divorce Lawyer Today

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About Lucy Langhanke and the Custody Fight of the Century

Lucy Langhanke – you’d have to be into movies in a pretty unhealthily obsessive way to know that that’s the real name of the great ’30’s- ’40’s actress Mary Astor. Mary Astor is best remembered for a handful of things – playing Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon, winning an Academy award for The Great Lie, and being involved in one of the most scandalous child custody fights in Hollywood history (I’ll note that Brad-Angelina war has only just been declared).

Mary Astor’s custody fight happened in the mid-1930’s, in the middle of the Depression and with Hollywood perhaps at its height. On the surface, it seems to have nothing in common with divorce and custody hearings today. But here the surface is just that.

The facts are these: Mary Astor married Dr. Franklyn Thorpe in June, 1931. They had a child, Marilyn, in June 1932. In late 1933, Mary, unhappy in the marriage and in her career, went to New York to work on the stage. She had an affair (torrid was the mildest word used in the tabloids of the day) with the playwright and Broadway directer, George S. Kaufman, a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Mary, an excellent writer (she would go on to write two bestselling memoirs and five novels), kept a well-written, fairly detailed diary.

Back in Hollywood in late 1935, Mary went back to work. In 1936 Dr. Thorpe obtained an uncontested divorce. Then he found the diary. Then he demanded custody. Then it went to trial. Then it got ugly.

The one thing to immediately take from this in the age of litigation and the Internet is pretty clear: you can hide a diary, most people probably a little bit better than Mary Astor, but you can’t hide your social media. Enough said, that’s not where I’m really going with this.

Dr. Thorpe claimed that Mary was an unfit mother because she had affairs. Well, probably not so much that as the fact she wrote about them and he did not do well in any of her comparisons – and she compared a lot  Nevertheless, it didn’t look good for Mary – in civil court or the court of public opinion. Absent a good attorney, in 1936, Mary’s prognosis was bleak.

But, several things happened in short order. Mary retained an attorney almost as famous as her, George Simon Kaufman. He had the diary thrown out, made inadmissible. The fact that Thorpe had shared it with the gossip columnist for The New York Daily News and they added their own entries and changed others probably had a lot to do with that decision.

Perhaps just as important, Kaufman laid out all the facts. Facts like these: back when Mary was Lucy she had the stage parents from hell. She made her screen debut at 14, was under contract to a studio for $500/wk (that’s $7,000 in today’s dollars) and was basically imprisoned at home. Her parents, to be kind, never let her out of their sight. She was alloted a $5/week allowance, although, of course, she had no place to spend it. Her father, meanwhile, was physically abusive and constantly demeaned her performances.

Mary managed to. literally, escape – she fled the mansion her parents bought with her money through a carelessly left-open third floor window. At the time, 1928, she was earning $3750/wk ($53,000 … a week). She married a director in 1929, but her parents still kept a tight reign on the money. By the time she gained control of her finances in 1932 there was so little money left she had to ask for assistance from the Screen Actors guild. Her parents promptly sued her for support.

Mary’s husband, Kenneth Hawks – brother of the great director Howard Hawks – was killed in a plane crash in 1930. It was devastating. Mary had a nervous breakdown, took a leave of absence from her studio, and signed herself into inpatient treatment.  By now you can guess who her doctor was – Thorpe.

No one will know if Thorpe ever loved his wife, but there are piles of evidence that he loved her money. Immediately after the wedding he bought a yacht and opened his own practice.

All this, obviously, filled in all the blanks in the case. It was enough for the judge – he awarded Mary full custody. Probably not coincidentally, her career took off. The diary disappeared sometime during the trial. It was like the Loch Ness monster of Hollywood for years, sightings were rare but hyped. In 1953, it was discovered in a safety deposit box and, by court order, it was burned.

There are, obviously, a lot of lessons here. Perhaps the most important one is this – facts are just facts until someone puts them into a narrative.