157 - What to Do When the Sh** hits the fan
Unfortunately, divorce cases can get volatile quickly. People get angry and desperate. They can become violent or abuse the legal system by lying to a police officer. When this happens to us, we can become our own worst enemies. In this show, Leh and Todd discuss common scenarios where things can get out of hand and what you should do to protect yourself.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone, I'm Leh Meriwether with me is Todd Orston, you;re listening to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to learn more about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage, and tips on how to take your marriage to the next level, well, just keep listening.
Todd Orston: You are getting better and better, Leh. I may even listen to this show.
Leh Meriwether: Maybe.
Todd Orston: Maybe, maybe. So what's on tap today?
Leh Meriwether: On tap today is what to do when the it hits the fan. I had to leave out the first part because this is radio.
Todd Orston: You don't have to go any further. All right. All right, there you go. Yep. Sorry. Yes, when the it hits the fan, which is actually really interesting because when you first told me what we're calling, where does that saying come from? Somebody must have had a really bad experience with a fan. I don't even understand... I hope that never ever happens to me.
Leh Meriwether: Well I did hear this joke one time, where this guy walks into a bar-
Todd Orston: Let's save that one for offline. So anyway, so when the it hits the fan. So what are we talking about though?
Leh Meriwether: We're going to talk about a number of different scenarios and how to handle them until you can get your attorney involved. Or maybe your attorney's involved and you just don't have access, immediate access to an attorney and so there are situations that we've seen come up over the years that we want to make sure that folks are ready for, I guess to a lack of a better term. But we've seen cases where they start off with allegations of sexual abuse or... and I say allegations meaning that, and a lot of times they're false. Sometimes they're true, but most of it's, I want to say there was actually, somebody did a study, it was something like 99.9% or 99.8% of the time that an allegation of a sexual abuse brought up in the course of a divorce is proven to be untrue or never proven. I'm not sure what the exact number is.
Leh Meriwether: But anyhow, so you've got those situations, you've got situations of family violence where someone gets arrested at the very beginning. And there's other types of cases where there's a criminal component to the family law case and someone gets arrested. We wanted to talk about that, we want to talk about situations involving money, what happens when suddenly all the money disappears or someone threatens to take away the kids. So we're going to break all those down and how to handle it before you talk to your attorney.
Leh Meriwether: So let's start with the criminal component. I've seen cases where... You often may see somebody report something to the police. One spouse reports something to police. And so the police turn around and they pick up the phone and they call the other person and they say, "Hey, we wanted to talk to you about something. We heard your spouse told us X, Y, Z. Would you mind coming down to the station to discuss it? We just want to talk to you. You're not in trouble." And then they come down to the station and they say certain things and as a result they get arrested. And people think, well, I should have been given my Miranda Rights. Well, those Miranda Rights, you're the former prosecutor, you're only given those after you are under arrest, right?
Todd Orston: Yeah. Well, no, it's not necessarily when you're under arrest, but if they're investigating something and they're calling you in as a potential suspect, then, and again, I would want to bring Jay Apt or one of the other criminal defense attorneys that we know that basically can talk more intelligently about it. But the bottom line is, they could be investigating a crime. If you come in, they should be giving the Miranda warnings, but if they say, "Hey, come on down, just talk to us. What happened?" And you would-
Leh Meriwether: Or maybe they talk to you over the phone.
Todd Orston: And then you voluntarily admit a crime, it may not even be why they were talking to you in the first place, you will find yourself in a cell. So you have to be very, very, very, very careful. And by the way, I'm saying this at the same time I'm saying we both have a deep respect for the police in everything that they do. So I'm not trying to say they're trying to trick, but they have a job, and that is to enforce the laws of the state and make sure that people are abiding by those laws. Sometimes they will maybe take a step too far, in terms of, hey, no, listen, just talk to us, and the next thing you know, you are in handcuffs and you're being charged with a crime. So you have-
Leh Meriwether: And sometimes it's perfectly legal.
Todd Orston: Absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: Like an investigator may call you up, here's an example I've heard of before, where the one spouse reported to the police that, they're in Georgia, and most states have this too, she alleged, the wife in this case had alleged that the husband had gotten into her computer, hacked into her computer. So it's called computer invasion of privacy. I've seen cases where that didn't happen. What happened was she left the computer open. It was sitting there on the counter and the spouse just happened to be walking by and sees this text message or email exchange between a paramour. That's happened a lot. It wasn't hacked in, but the police officer... It's assigned a detective, the detective calls the other spouse and says, "Hey, we wanted to talk to you about this," and say, "Well yeah, I saw her computer." That's all you have to say, and then all of a sudden you're getting arrested.
Todd Orston: Even though there was more to the story. But sometimes, and it is a problem with the system, and again, I'm a former prosecutor, that sometimes it takes time to figure out that hey, there's no case here. But in the meantime, the defendant was arrested and processed and was in jail for a period of time and had to post bail and all of these things have happened only to then either, the detective does more work and says, "Yeah, okay, we need to,"-
Leh Meriwether: Drop this case.
Todd Orston: Drop this case. Or it's already gotten to a prosecutor where we then do our own investigation, look at the facts given to us by the police, and then go, "Yeah, there's no case here."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Now, some prosecutors do a better job of that than others.
Todd Orston: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Leh Meriwether: That's one of the frustrations. Here's our advice at that point. If you get a call from a detective or a police officer about an incident and your marriage is, I want to say on the rocks or you've just had an altercation, a big fight, a blow up, and they say, "Hey, we want to hear what happened," say, "Look, I don't feel comfortable talking about it without my attorney present." Just say that. And they cannot compel you to say anything. Because that's the Fifth Amendment. You can't be compelled to testify against yourself.
Todd Orston: Even if they are, and I'm pulling most of this from TV shows, even if they're saying-
Leh Meriwether: Because that's so reliable.
Todd Orston: if you don't voluntarily do this, then you're going to give us no choice, we're going to have to arrest you and charge you with that crime. So why don't you just come and explain what happened. Understand that their goal is they believe a crime was committed and their goal is to try and get you to admit that you performed the act that constitutes a crime. That doesn't mean that they're making it up. That doesn't mean that they're, you clearly didn't do it, but they want to say you did it. They think that you did something, and when they're being buddy buddy with you, they're trying to get you to just be comfortable enough to admit you did something wrong. And then it's not like they're going to go, "Well, hey, high five. Don't worry about it." At that point, you're getting charged.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And here's the other thing. So let's play this out. Well, I don't say anything. Well, here's the advantages. One is you may not realize there's a crime, what you did. For some people, they're not aware of the computer invasion of privacy. They think, "Well, we're spouses. There's no privacy between us. We're spouses." But that's not true. And so you say something not realizing it's an admission of a crime, which-
Todd Orston: Ignorance of the law is not a defense.
Leh Meriwether: Right. And so that's why you want to talk to a criminal defense attorney in advance. And even if they say, "Well, we're going to have to prosecute you because so-and-so said this," then let that happen. Because what you don't want... Say, "All right, well let me talk to an attorney first before you go to that next step." You tell the whole story to the lawyer, the defense lawyer, and the defense lawyer can turn around and talk to the police because they'll know what to say and that could cause the thing to be dropped.
Leh Meriwether: But let's play the scenario that you do get arrested. But here's the thing, a criminal defense attorney can work better with just someone else's allegation than their allegation and your own admission.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Take a DUI case. You get pulled over and the police officer says, "I think you've been drinking. How many drinks have you had?" "Well, I only had nine." Okay. Well, at that point you're being arrested for the erratic driving and because there is an admission. And I can almost guarantee you pull an attorney in who handles DUI work, they would rather have you saying, "I'm not taking a test, I'm not doing any of the testing. Take me to a hospital, take my blood, do whatever, but I'm not doing the roadside stuff," but be quiet as opposed to them having to now try and get excluded your statements to the police officer and admission where you're like, "Oh yeah, I'm drunk as a skunk." All right? That is going to really hurt you. Okay, so be quiet, and absolutely, I'm not trying to just say this so that attorneys have more work, get an attorney's advice and help before you speak.
Leh Meriwether: Yep. So up next we're going to continue to talk about situations where the it may hit the fan.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess. Right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, this is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio. If you want to listen to the [inaudible 00:11:27]-
Todd Orston: No.
Leh Meriwether: Did you get that?
Todd Orston: That was-
Leh Meriwether: The previous segment, you can check us out at divorceteamradio.com. All right, so I got tongue tied because I was excited about what we're talking about today. When the it-
Todd Orston: Oh, okay, well control your excitement then, pretty please. [inaudible 00:00:11:42].
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, when the it hits the fan. And we were talking about in situations when you've been, there's the concern or the police are calling you, "Hey, we just want to hear your side of the story," and we had suggested not talking to them because you may admit to a crime you're not aware of, that doesn't mean you're not cooperating with the police. So I wanted to add this. So let's say you do get arrested for something you didn't do. Let's say it was an allegation of sexual abuse. Cooperate with the police. When I say cooperate, don't talk about what happened. Just say, "What do I need to do? Okay, you need me to come down? I'll turn myself in. You don't need to bring the police to come out and get me. I will come to the station."
Todd Orston: But before you do that, or at the same time, contact a defense attorney.
Leh Meriwether: Right, contact a defense attorney.
Todd Orston: Make sure that you're doing those types of things. I hear what you're saying. You're basically saying cooperate, but don't over cooperate.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah.
Todd Orston: Don't sit there and start talking, thinking you are helping yourself. As a former prosecutor, I will tell you, some of the best, strongest cases I have or had were strong because the defendant thought they were smarter than everybody else involved, spoke, and then I was able to use their words against them. So it is much better, just be quiet, secure the help of an attorney. If they say, "So, you don't want to say anything? So you don't want to do anything to defend yourself?" "I absolutely do, with the help of an attorney."
Leh Meriwether: Yep. That's a great answer right there. So just cooperate. If you have to get arrested, don't panic. You can have an attorney help you get out on bond, most cases are people are released on bond. And in cases we're talking about where we see arise out of family situations.
Todd Orston: Yeah, definitely don't white Bronco it down 400, all right?
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, don't do that. I forgot about that. Yeah, so cooperate. Turn yourself in if need be. Don't say anything. Be nice. That doesn't mean you have to talk, but be nice. And then keep this in mind, that if it really was bogus and all the evidence comes out, you can get even the arrest, or you can get some of these things expunged. I don't know that process, you would definitely need to talk to a criminal defense attorney, but those things can be taken care of by good criminal defense attorney. All right.
Todd Orston: All right. What's next?
Leh Meriwether: So let's talk about, and we see this happen, which sometimes can lead to a criminal situation or a family violence situation, but one of the spouses says, "That's it. I'm taking the kids and we're moving back home to Alaska." And you're in Georgia.
Todd Orston: If I had a nickel for every time somebody threatened to move back to Alaska, I would have a nickel. No, but relocation issues come up all the time. We are such a transient society at this point that relocation is commonplace. Your spouse or significant other or the parent, other parent, may be from Alaska, Tennessee, Florida, New York, whatever. So these issues come up. There are things that you can do, but I will tell you, procrastination, I think this is going to be a common theme in a lot of my responses as we go on with the show. Procrastination is not your friend. That is not a benefit to you. You cannot just sit on your hands and say, "Oh, you're moving to Alaska? Well, I'd like to see you try," and they move and it's like, well, I'd like to see us stay there. And you still haven't done anything. You have to act. You have to file something, you have to get something in front of the judge. That's something people don't really understand. They're like, they can't do that. Yeah, they can.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So let's give an example, and we'll use Georgia because we're most familiar with their standing orders. Here's the scenario I've seen multiple times. I'm going to use these, the locations as an example. So couple gets married in Illinois, the family lives in Illinois, so the extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles. Husband gets this great job and moves to Georgia, moves the whole family down to Georgia. They're here for a year or two, mom never really integrates or she doesn't like the neighbors. She misses family. They're having a rocky marriage and she just says, "That's it. The kids and I are moving back to Illinois." Not that she's being mean or anything, it's just, that's her place of safety. I've seen men say it too, but the more common-
Todd Orston: And I've also seen it be, actually seen it be the purpose being to hurt. You're painting a picture, which is fine, in your example of someone where it just makes sense. I want to go back to Illinois, my family's there, and I'll have the support network that I need. But trust me, we have seen the other side where people are like, "I'm going to Kentucky." It's like, you don't have any family or friends there.
Leh Meriwether: My boyfriend's there.
Todd Orston: Yeah, right. Yeah, so-
Leh Meriwether: Or we see men say, "If you file for divorce, I'm taking the kids from you." We've seen that too. So those are two scenarios. So here's the big thing to remember, I think with the first one, someone's moving. Going back to your point, don't procrastinate. In Georgia, in many states, there's a standing order that goes in place, or something like it. We call it standing orders here in Georgia, and in many counties, not every county has him by the way, but in many counties there's a standing order that says neither party shall remove the children from the jurisdiction of the court, which is Georgia, in our case. So if your marriage truly is heading that way and you really think this person's going to take off with the children, and in a nice way, let's say this is, then you need to file for divorce so that standing order goes in place and that she doesn't leave with the children until you work everything out.
Todd Orston: Yeah, understand also until you do that, there is no recourse. I had somebody call me the other day and they were like, "Well I know I could go ahead and I could file a kidnapping or interference with custody charge." No you can't. This person who I spoke with was like, "Oh, I was told," well you were told wrong. Because the other parent has just as much right to custody of the child as you do. There is no kidnapping issue here. So until you file something with the court, meaning until there is a pending action, judges don't just appear out of nowhere, jump out of a bush going, "That's wrong. I will do something about it." They're great, they have robes, no capes. But until you file something, you can't get any help or assistance from a court.
Todd Orston: And even if there's no standing order, once you file the action, you can then file for temporary relief. You can basically file an emergency or temporary motion with the court, go to court and say, "Hey judge, yes, I know we're from Illinois, and yes, I recognize she has family there, but I have a job here. And if she just up and leaves with my child or children, and this case takes a year to litigate, I'm not going to see my kids." And the court might look and go, "Ma'am, ma'am, I get it, but you're not living on the streets. You have the ability to stay here. I'm not saying that ultimately you can't go back to Illinois, but I want the kids to be here with both parents."
Leh Meriwether: While you work things out.
Todd Orston: Yeah. But until you file, the judge isn't going to do anything.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So here's the important point on this. Don't panic. Don't sit back and do nothing, but don't panic. Meaning we've seen people say, "You're not leaving," and so they'll take the keys from the parent, from the other spouse. They'll try to lock them in the house, which can be considered false imprisonment, which is a crime, which will result in a family violence action against you, which would... Anyways.
Todd Orston: I've seen kidnapping. Do you understand that kidnapping, all you have to do, that same conversation that I was talking about before, I had that same, that we talked about this issue also, if you move somebody from one side of the room to the other, it constitutes kidnapping.
Leh Meriwether: Really?
Todd Orston: If you are forcing them against their will, taking them from one location to another, it could be a very short distance, it's... Kidnapping is not like-
Leh Meriwether: We're talking about two adults, not the kids?
Todd Orston: Well, no, no, no. Right, exactly. But it could constitute kidnapping. So definitely keep your hands to yourself. That's not the solution here.
Leh Meriwether: The solution is to work through the legal process.
Todd Orston: That's right.
Leh Meriwether: All right, so let's say it's one of those cases where they do do it for malicious reasons and they take off. Again, don't panic. If you've been living here in the state of Georgia for at least six months or in any state for that matter for six months, it's called the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA for short. You can go to court and get a court order requiring the other parent to return the children. And if they refuse, now violating that court order can be considered kidnapping at that point in time. We've actually helped out, there was a California case and the one party fled to Georgia. They got an order in California, they came and hired us. We took that order into court. The judge what's called domesticated it, turned the California order into a Georgia order, and then that order instructed the Sheriff's office to where the children were located, pick the children up, the other parent was not arrested, but the children were put on a plane and sent back to California. So the legal process can work in these situations so that you don't have to take the law into your own hands.
Todd Orston: And if you take it into your own hands or try to take it into your own hands and do things the wrong way, it can destroy your ability to accomplish your ultimate goals. In other words, you start grabbing, you start yelling and screaming-
Leh Meriwether: Or pushing.
Todd Orston: You start pushing, you start acting out, you may have a right to be frustrated with the other parent, but now your reaction has become, in the eyes of the court, worse than the original action. So you need to work within the system.
Leh Meriwether: And up next, we'll continue to talk about how to work with this system.
Todd Orston: Hey, everyone, you're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us in iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back, this is Leh and Todd in studio and you're listening to Divorce Team Radio. If you want to listen to us at past episodes, you can check us out online with at divorceteamradio.com.
Leh Meriwether: All right, today we're talking about what happens when the it hits the fan. I'll let you use your imagination to fill in the it part. But we have been talking about what happens when there's allegations of criminal... Criminal allegations, I should say, of one form or another. What to do, how do you handle a situation when someone's, either it's malicious or not, talking about removing the children from your home and going to another state. How do you handle that without making it even worse? Now we're going to talk, we're going to stick on the custody part because so many things happen around custody where lawyers aren't around and so people sometimes make good decisions, sometimes make bad decisions. So what happens is a difficult situation suddenly causes the it to hit the fan and someone makes a bad decision and now you're in a horrible legal mass, whether it's family court or criminal court, or both.
Todd Orston: And sometimes your reaction is looked at by the court as even worse than what the other party's original action was. What instigated the problem. Sometimes I'll say that to my kids. My son and daughter will be arguing and my son will do something small and just sort of poke at my daughter. But then my daughter's reaction, and sometimes it's the opposite way, and my daughter's reaction is just fangs and claws and all that. And I get angry at her and I'll say, "You need to stay calm." It's like, but why aren't you focusing on what he did? I'm like, "I will, and I would have only focused on that, but your reaction was so,"-
Leh Meriwether: Over the top.
Todd Orston: "Over the top that now I have to focus more of my attention on you." I've said that to clients. I had one client, very quickly, where the opposing party in terms of custody issues just would do horrible things. Interfering passively, sometimes actively, but interfering with custody and parenting time and all this. And sometimes, especially when she was trying to be subtle about it, and then my client would lose it. If I had a nickel for every time, I'd be a wealthy guy. I had to say, "You need to stay calm." It got to a point where a guardian ad litem involved in the case and a custodial evaluator involved in the case were so focused and hyper focused on my client's reaction that they were like, "Look Todd, I get it. She's doing these things on purpose. But your client's reaction is unacceptable." So you have to stay calm.
Leh Meriwether: Well, it's not just family law. You can watch any college football game or pro game for that matter and you'll see, there'll be a face mask, pulls down the player, the player hops up roaring mad, punches the other player, and now all of a sudden-
Todd Orston: That person's out of the game.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And there's those 15 yard penalties offset each other. And what was now an advantage to you because they committed a personal foul, you've just lost. And then a lot of times you'll see someone shoves the other person, which by itself is a violation, but the ref never sees that. They see the reaction to it. And then the person who is just reacting to a shove, they're the one who gets a personal foul. And then of course everybody sees it on the replay.
Leh Meriwether: So let's dive into a scenario we often see. Let's say you have a custody order in place, which gives you parenting time, and you show up and the other parent will not allow you to see the children. Nope, they're not going with you today. This actually is a sticky one, because you and I have had mixed reactions from judges on these cases. I've seen a case where the parent just walked away and did nothing, "Okay," and did nothing. And apparently he did that a few times and the court said, "Well you must not have really cared because you never involved the police." And then we've seen judges with the exact opposite reaction. "I can't believe you involved the police and the children had to see that." Well, it's frustrating.
Todd Orston: In terms of involvement or involving the police, talk to your attorney before you do it, because if there's a true emergency, an issue of violence or whatever, of course involve the police. If it is really just due to an interference with your parenting time, you have to be really careful. So talk to your attorney. At the very least, make sure that you have a good amount of evidence that you have tried everything possible to calmly avoid the problem, where the other side is like "You're not exercising parenting time. They're not going with you today." Emails, texts. Not too many. You don't want it to look like you're harassing, but enough where you can, if you did call the police, that you can show a judge. "Judge, I was begging nicely. No bad words, no angry outbursts. I begged, please don't do this. Please don't interfere. I don't want to have to call the police. I don't want to have to go to court."
Todd Orston: And that way when a judge looks at it, even if it's that judge, and by the way again talk to your attorney, so don't take this from me. Don't say, "Well, Todd said call the police every time." Not what I'm saying. If you do, you better have some good evidence where your attorney or you can say, "Judge, I didn't want that. Here's an email or several emails, here's several texts where I begged. I said, please, please, please don't do this. And then, yes, I did involve the police." At least then the judge is going to go, "You know what? We're here for one reason and one reason only. Not because you just wanted to call the police, but because you, other person, other parent, you interfered with my order."
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I've seen cases where it felt like it was justified. So the person had actually bought plane tickets, they were traveling for vacation. A lot of money was involved. Everything was already reserved and they weren't getting their money back, and they showed up and the other parent's like, "Nope, not going, and even if you take the kids, I'm keeping the passports." And that situation, the person called the police, they said, "You got to turn this over." They didn't threaten to arrest or anything. And then the person tried to file contempt after that and the court was like, "Really? You didn't cooperate. It was their time."
Leh Meriwether: Then you've got the flip side where I've seen someone call the police because technically, according to the terms of the order, it was the parents' time, the father's time, but there was an email exchange where he said, "Oh no, you can let the kids do this," because in this event it was this big ballet that was going on. And so he shows up to the ballet, and there were 600 people in the auditorium watching a hundred children perform this ballet, and he brought the police in and the judge threw him in jail for it. Common sense. Don't make a big scene, especially if you have an email chain saying, "Hey, you can have the kids now."
Todd Orston: Yeah. Well, and also, even if that email wasn't present where the other party finally conceded and said, "Yes, you can have the kids," that's not smart. Bringing police into a ballet recital where that's going to have... Instead of a happy memory, that's what the judge probably got angry about. Instead of a happy memory for the children, or at least the child on stage, that's now a scar. That's an emotional scar that they're going to carry with them.
Leh Meriwether: Not just for those children, the children involved in the case, but every child that's in the ballet.
Todd Orston: That's right. So look, when it comes to custody, this is when we've, in the last show we talked about the emotional issues and how emotionally charged these types of family law cases are. When there are custody issues, even more so. Some of the most emotional issues are related to custody, interfering with not just parenting time like we're talking about, but interfering with and not letting you know, let's say about parent teacher conferences, or going to the doctor, or making decisions relating to major issues involving the child or children. Those are all big issues. You have a right to be upset about it. But it's not right, it's not your right, to then blow a gasket. Because again, you engage in that kind of behavior, it's going to come back and bite you and then the judge will be more focused on your reaction than what happened.
Todd Orston: So really with a lot of those things, in the moment you are thinking, "Wow, the it is hitting the fan."
Leh Meriwether: "What am I going to do? Oh my gosh, this is ruining everything."
Todd Orston: Step back. Take a deep breath, count to ten, count sheep. That's really sleeping, but whatever. I don't care. Whatever you need to do to stay calm and understand that your next steps could have a huge impact. Because if you react badly, it could impact your case. It could impact issues of custody. And if you act nicely, well, that also, it could have a big good beneficial impact on you.
Leh Meriwether: And remember this while you're taking a step back, the court does have remedies. So in a contempt action, the court can hold someone in willful contempt and in order for this person to purge themselves of the contempt, like the example of the blocking them from travel, the court could order them to reimburse the other parent the entire cost of that trip. Say, "In order to purge yourself of contempt, you're going to have to reimburse this parent $5,000 because you caused them to lose that money. And I'm going to give two weeks makeup time this summer." So instead of you getting half the summer, the other parent now gets the majority of the summer to make up for taking away this spring break, or-
Todd Orston: Yeah, there is recourse.
Leh Meriwether: There's recourse.
Todd Orston: Bottom line. You can go to court and the judge will come up with a solution.
Leh Meriwether: And up next we're going to talk about situations to do when we're talking about money. So rather than taking the law into your own hands, what do you do?
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess.
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: Your can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd and you're listening to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to listen to past episodes, you can always check us out online at divorceteamradio.com, or you can read more about Todd and I at atlantadivorceteam.com.
Leh Meriwether: All right, we are talking about what happens when it hits the fan.
Todd Orston: Shut your mouth. Look, it almost defines family law. The it hits the fan quite a bit.
Leh Meriwether: It does.
Todd Orston: But there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it. Understand, and I'm not looking for a medal here, when you act badly, it's more work for me. It's more work for our attorneys. Because if you handle it poorly, then you can almost guarantee we're going to court, we may be in front of a judge, there are hearings, there's motions, there's, you name it. That's more money in your attorney's pocket. I'm telling you as that attorney, stay calm, keep us out of court. Don't make us have to do the work that will cost you an arm and a leg and potentially even have a negative impact on your case.
Leh Meriwether: Okay, and if you can't stay calm, leave the scene and lose it somewhere else.
Todd Orston: Scream into your pillow, whatever you need to do.
Leh Meriwether: Or scream in your car. Because some people just, you need to let it out. I've got a punching bag at home. Sometimes it has your picture on it. No, totally kidding. Totally kidding.
Todd Orston: It's funny, and every time you hit it, I still win the fight. That was bad.
Leh Meriwether: Not really.
Todd Orston: Anyway, but stay calm. Absolutely. I know we've sort of belabored this point, but we have seen so many people that were-
Leh Meriwether: Oh, by the way, can I... On that analogy, it was a total joke, but if you really do feel like you've got to put up a punching bag with someone's face, the other parent's face on it, number one, don't let the kids see it. And number two, don't let the other person see it, because I've had a family violence case that resulted from a target for a shooting range with the other person's face on it. And there was bullet holes right in the forehead.
Todd Orston: I got to tell you, that could be deemed a terroristic threat as well.
Leh Meriwether: Oh yeah, when the guys showed up in the house, it was hanging prominently in one of the rooms.
Todd Orston: Yeah. All right. Definitely don't do that.
Leh Meriwether: I was making a joke, but I don't want anybody to take that the wrong way.
Todd Orston: Yeah. A prosecutor could look at that and say that, especially if you convey that image and allow the other party to see that image, then it could be seen as what's called a terroristic threat. Because what you're doing is you're saying... It could be seen as an actual threat.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah, whether it would rise to that level, I don't know, but don't do it. I've got to be careful what some of my jokes.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Now let's look at some financial stuff. What about issues where you're supposed to, let's say you're supposed to get support, and it could be pursuant to an order even not pursuant to an order, but let's say pursuant to an order, you're supposed to receive child support and all of a sudden the money doesn't come. Bills are coming due, you have to pay your mortgage or the rent, you have to pay your car payment, electricity, you name it. And you're sitting there and you're depending on that money coming in. It's not there. What do you do?
Leh Meriwether: Well, the immediate reaction we've seen some people say, "Well, until you pay your child support, you're not seeing your kids." Can't do that.
Todd Orston: Wrong.
Leh Meriwether: And I can understand why someone wants to feel that way because the other parent has put them in a horrible financial bind, especially if it's done on purpose and they had the cash. Don't do it, because now all of a sudden they have a contempt against you.
Todd Orston: Yup. Much respect to Alex Trebek, I know he is struggling right now health wise, but he would say, "Oh, sorry, that would be the wrong answer." No, you can't act that way. Again, it'll come back and it will bite you. At that point the punishment has not or does not fit the crime.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I would go to Child Support Services, if you can't afford an attorney, or you can file for contempt, you can file for that on your own. You can hire an attorney. Usually for child support it's pretty straightforward. But don't complicate it by saying, "Well, I'm going to punish you by not allowing you to see the children." And that's typically what we see.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Or how about, let's deal with, and we can look at child support and alimony at the same time. What about a situation where there's not an existing order? You are dependent on the other party and all of a sudden you realize, "Wow, we're just embarking on this divorce. I am 100% dependent on the other party and they have locked me out of bank accounts. They've locked me out... basically we survive based on their income and I have nothing now." What do you do then?
Leh Meriwether: All right, so a few things. First off, if your name's on the bank account, you can absolutely go to the bank, ask for a withdrawal and if you need money to pay bills and everything and there's nothing pending, like nobody's filed anything, let's say the other side... because we see this happen a lot, where someone tries to shut the other person out financially before anything's filed. You can go pull that money out to pay bills. Now I caution you, if there's been a divorce filed and you've been served, most courts you see a standing order or something similar says neither party shall liquidate the marital estate, except in the ordinary course of business. But if you're trying to pay bills, that's the ordinary course of business. If you pull out 30 grand from a savings account to buy a brand new car when yours works fine, that's not proper. So don't retaliate. Get the money you need to survive, but don't retaliate.
Leh Meriwether: But let's say your name's not on any of these things. Don't destroy everything, because we've seen people lose it. "I'll make you pay for it." No. Talk to friends and family, get some money together. Hire an attorney right off the bat and what they'll do is they will file a motion with the court, especially here in Georgia, other states have their own laws. I'm only going to speak to Georgia at this point. You ask the judge for a temporary hearing, and in Georgia a court can award temporary child support, temporary alimony and temporary attorneys fees. So you can get those, absolutely, if someone has cut you off.
Todd Orston: Yep. So let's build on ordinary course of business. Let's look at division of property issues. And again, I know we keep talking about a standing order. So let's assume there's a situation, a divorce hasn't been filed and the other party is selling or giving away your property. That TV is gone, the, whatever. There were two cars, one of the cars was sold. At that point, the it is hitting the fan. You are watching all of your property disappear.
Leh Meriwether: The gold and silver that was in the attic is suddenly gone.
Todd Orston: That's where I keep all of mine. No, that's not it.
Leh Meriwether: And I'm not kidding. I've seen that happen multiple times. I've even seen, and this is what I'm saying, I've seen in court the guy liquidated his IRA, bought silver with it, and then the silver disappeared.
Todd Orston: Yep. But what do you do?
Leh Meriwether: File for divorce. I hate to encourage that, but if someone's behaving that way, there can be a few things happening. One, they could be cheating on you and they're using that for something else, two, maybe they've gotten into financial trouble. I've seen folks that got into financial trouble because of drugs, and so literally they came home one day and the TV was gone and the 401k had been liquidated. I've seen people got into trouble because of gambling debts and they had been threatened and so they felt like they had to liquidate it. If you file for divorce, that can freeze things. You can often... Depending on the company, but we've seen things where the standing order is sent to a retirement account and they, even though the order doesn't include the name of the company, they tend to say, "That's it. We're freezing this account. We're not letting anybody take any money out of it." We've had to do that before where someone was liquidating the money and we had to do it.
Leh Meriwether: The case with the silver, you have to go in front of the judge as quickly as you can and the judge can order that person to return the silver or to be... We've had jewelry, $100,000 in jewelry. We had to get a safe at the office and lock it in the safe and then, until the case was resolved, that jewelry sat there.
Todd Orston: Yeah, you need to be proactive. If you are sensing that... The best advice I can give is if you know that the relationship is heading in that direction and if you have any fears that the other party might do something improper, like what we're talking about, I'm not saying race to court and file for divorce, but I will tell you, protect some of those assets. Go in, take some of the money out of an account, put it into an account in your own name. That's okay. If you have-
Leh Meriwether: Especially if there's no order.
Todd Orston: Right. If you have legal access to an account, then you have the right to take money out and put it into an account in only your name. Does that mean you should go spend all of that money? Absolutely not. But if you look at the court, if the other side is like, "Oh, how dare you judge? Look at what they did," and you can look at the judge and go, "All I did was put it into this account. It's still there, judge. Here it is." Or, maybe I used a little of it to live, but it's still there. The court's not going to get angry. The court's going to be like, "All right, it's safe. All right, that's fine." But just be proactive. If you can do things to protect the assets ahead of time, great, but if you sense bad things are happening, you need to file an action. Like I said before, judge won't do anything until you do.
Leh Meriwether: At the end of the day, it's all your money. Even though, regardless of whose name's on it, at least here in Georgia, it's everyone's money, so they can do whatever they want with their money. But if you're worried about, your marital state's about to disappear, you may have to file for divorce, the good thing is if you figure it out and work things out, you can always dismiss the divorce action. Every situation is different and often you just need to consult with an attorney before you do something crazy when the it is hitting the fan. Thanks so much for listening.