Here's where you really start to draw blood. By the time you get to court, alimony is looking a lot like pornography. Community standards set the bar for acceptability. Just as a board of standards must rule on how naked the actors have to get before a movie gets an X rating, a judge must determine when enough is enough for a grasping ex-wife.
"You know it when you see it," says one top Florida family law attorney, Cynthia Greene of Greene, Smith, McMillian in Miami. "It's a very difficult area to legislate."
Both porn standards and post-marriage payments have to be judged on a case-by-case basis. Neither is easily regulated. In Florida, anyway, that doesn't stop lawmakers from trying. Last year, the Legislature passed a law allowing the state's trial-court judges to stop or reduce a former spouse's alimony obligation when his or her former life partner shacks up with a new lover. Sounds reasonable. Doable, even.
But not so fast.
Lawmakers were motivated partly because they were outraged about a particularly outrageous case. Beth Rice was collecting $5,000 a month in alimony from her ex-husband when the Tampa Bay woman and her boyfriend flew to Las Vegas along with 50 of their closest friends to hold a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony under a chuppah.
"You can imagine the frustration of somebody who's paying alimony to someone who's going out wearing wedding rings with someone else," Greene says. "And why aren't you taking that final step? Because they want the money."
In fact, there was a video of the Las Vegas ceremony, and there were photographs. But Rice never signed a marriage license. She wasn't ready to relinquish her monthly five G's.
A Hillsborough County judge agreed with Rice and refused to stop the alimony. Even a state appeals court sided with her saying its decision was based on the fact that she wasn't legally married to the new guy. Owee.
Then Michael Rice, brandishing the new law, went back to court. Inexplicably, he lost again (maybe because the judge assumed that a higher court would eventually establish new state parameters for alimony). Before Michael Rice could take it to the state Supreme Court, though, the slippery Beth Rice formalized her nuptials.
This brings the 'Pipe to the case of a Boca Raton couple. Earlier this month, the Fourth District Court of Appeal said tax lawyer and millionaire Craig Donoff should have to pay his ex-wife who's been living with an even wealthier man for the past decade a nominal amount.
Craig and Mitzi Donoff were divorced in 1995 after 15 years of marriage and two kids. Their legal skirmishes have been going on now for longer than they were married and have already resulted in two other precedent-setting appellate opinions. The latest installment in Donoff v. Donoff offers guidance on how to calculate the amount of alimony when there's an expensive shack-up in the picture. Judge Gary M. Farmer, writing for the court, said Palm Beach Circuit Judge William J. Berger was right when he determined that Mitzi and the man who gave her a $100,000 "promise ring" were cohabiting in an economically supportive manner. But, Farmer said, Berger was wrong to set Mitzi's reduced monthly alimony payment at $6,600. Way too much, Farmer opined. How about a buck a month?
For the record, Mitzi Donoff and Gary Oreman own a $3 million Boca home together, hold themselves out to be husband and wife both publicly and on bank records and "have for years had a relationship between them that provides economic support equivalent to a marriage."
Mitzi's argument for continued support from her ex is a masterpiece of misdirection. She had her beau Oreman go to court to testify that, hey, he could end things with Mitzi at any moment so, it'd be much better if Craig kept paying Mitzi nearly $100,000 a year. Think of what might happen. There are no guarantees in this troubled world of ours. Oreman said that he has been fighting over money with his ex-wife in the Louisiana courts and that the experience has left a sour taste in his mouth about marriage.
There's an uncanny logic to the argument. The 'Pipe's getting ready to send his lady some flowers with a card that says: "Love ya, baby, 'til circumstances intervene."
Ah, autumn. Dipping thermometers. Falling leaves. Forests ablaze with autumnal colors before the snow arrives.
Er, wait a minute. Falling leaves? Maybe falling palm fronds. How about the chug of arriving RVs from the North or the ping of tennis balls hitting the court?
But subtle differences somehow escape the 'Pipe's local Starbucks. There was something new on the menu last week. It was the maple macchiato. The 'Pipe was dubious. The caramel macchiato, the inspiration for the new tree-sap adaptation, is sweet enough. And at $5, the maple version still isn't breakfast though it smells that way.
Online, Starbucks suggests you try the maple macchiato while hosting a leaf-pile party. "Raking leaves doesn't have to be a chore," runs the descriptive online beverage lineup section. "Invite several friends over for a few minutes of raking (the more the merrier and the quicker), then spend the rest of the day celebrating."
The local manager of the notoriously tight-lipped company privately offered his own review.
"Between you and me," he said, "it's horrible." Not even with a short stack, he says. And he likes pancakes no, loves them.
Tailpipe, a sucker for anything new, ordered one anyway. It's fine, if you like your coffee with a couple of ladles of Log Cabin (though the 'Pipe did have to stifle an impulse to dig out his cable-knit sweater). This old auto part is joining forces with comedian Denis Leary in the endless search for "coffee-flavored coffee."
Fool Me Twice
After he lost his Motorola Razr at a house party in mid-October, 20-year-old Thivendra Naidoo, of Wellington, had only one recourse: to keep calling his own cell phone number in hopes that a Good Samaritan would answer.
And then one did. The Samaritan in this case didn't talk long he worried that the battery on Naidoo's phone would go dead. He only had enough time to tell Naidoo to meet him on October 23 at the corner of Paddock Drive and Big Blue Terrace, not far from where Naidoo lived.
They met at that spot, and the Samaritan, a 6-foot-6 man with dreadlocks to his shoulder and a thick goatee, handed Naidoo the cell phone. But as Naidoo turned to leave, the Samaritan pulled out a gun and knocked Naidoo to the ground.
With that, the Samaritan ransacked Naidoo's person, taking a Quiksilver wallet with $40 in cash, a pack of Newport cigarettes, and Naidoo's Phat Farm sneakers.
He also took the cell phone (again) before jumping into his getaway car: a gray Dodge Neon with a young woman at the wheel.
According to Palm Beach Sheriff's Office spokesman Paul Miller, all leads in the case have gone cold, due in part to Naidoo's having broken off communication with detectives. The phone number Naidoo listed in the police report has been disconnected, and he could not be reached for comment. Tailpipe's theory is that he left for Honolulu before the dude with dreadlocks could figure out how to steal his furniture.
A Cup of Relief
A few weeks ago, Tailpipe described the wacky doings on a flight this auto part took from New York to Fort Lauderdale, on which a local CEO whipped out his member and urinated in a cup in the airplane's rear galley.
Gary Levine, honcho of Atlantis Memorial Reef, couldn't wait for a slow-poke passenger to vacate the lavatory and felt compelled to take measures into his own, er, hands. When the lavatory opened up, Levine disposed of his urine, trashed the cup, and returned to his seat. No harm, no foul, right? Well, as Tailpipe reported earlier, another passenger in the last row of the plane had an unfettered view of Levine's little fellah and didn't appreciate it. So he complained to a flight attendant, who then embarrassed the hell out of Levine by scolding him in front of his fellow air travelers. Levine was livid and planned to sue Spirit Airlines over his treatment.
Well, Levine called us up after the story ran to let us know that he's now out of a job. That's right Atlantis Memorial Reef, which creates artificial reefs out of cremated remains, decided that it didn't appreciate reading about its CEO's relieving himself at 35,000 feet. In his business, Levine explained to Tailpipe, it was crucial that executives exhibit behavior that is beyond reproach. So after a stockholder complained, Levine says he was asked to step down.
Sheez. Although Tailpipe did find Levine's in-flight predicament humorous, this battered cylinder sympathized when Levine said he had handled his emergency the best way he knew how.
But hey, Gary, here's how you can get back at your uptight former employers. Boat out to an Atlantis reef while chugging a gutful of water, jump into the ocean, and take a long, leisurely pee.
Beauty and the Bins
When Randi Ross won the title of Ms. Broward County 2006, did she expect fame and glamour? Slinky gowns, photo shoots, marriage proposals? Well, what she got last week was an invitation a command performance, really at a fundraiser called Beauty and the Bins. There, she was to be exhibited surrounded by blue Broward recycling containers. We know what she said last Sunday (it was written ahead of time in a press release). Something about recycling being "one of the most important things that each of us can do personally, every day, to contribute to a healthier environment and a more beautiful Broward County." Did she then burst into tears, ruining her makeup? Not a pro like Ms. B.C. She carried on, bravely bearing the lonely burden of her beauty.
As told to Edmund Newton