If you have been putting off taking legal action on a family law matter, you should listen to this show. Sometimes procrastinating can harm you case. Other times it can have a negative practical impact that results in you 'winning' the legal battle, but not actually recovering anything from it. Listen in to hear Leh and Todd break down situations where you do NOT want to procrastinate.
Meriwether: Welcome everyone.
I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for
Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of
Meriwether & Tharp. Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, from time
to time even tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a
crisis. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online
I don't know. I don't know if I feel like... Can we just put this show off
Todd Orston: You know what? Leh, we've
talked about this. All right? Procrastination, it doesn't help anyone. I mean,
maybe our listeners who are forced to listen to us. But yeah, no, I say we do
it. Let's power through. I know you're tired. You're sleepy. So you'll be fine.
Meriwether: That's actually
what we are talking about today. We're talking about the evils of
procrastination and taking legal action. But before we do, because you had
mentioned our listeners, and we've got some great listeners. In fact some of
them have gone online and posted some wonderful reviews. One person gave a
recent, I think it's Susan [Thyme 00:01:23], gave us a five-star review.
"This is great info about divorce and custody issues." And Ally even
went on to said, "These guys are experienced and knowledgeable about
divorce and custody law, not to mention it's actually an enjoyable
listen." Well, thank you so much, "Which is rare for attorneys."
offense, but these guys have fun with it while making difficult to understand
topics easy to grasp. I'm super grateful to have found this podcast during my
emotionally draining custody battle. PS, you guys should list your website in
the description of each episode so we can visit directly from the podcast, and
maybe even the guests that come on, if you find that to be appropriate. Anyway,
thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with people like me
who have zero idea how to navigate the vast legal universe. Thanks again, I
sincerely appreciate both of you for sharing your time and educating me about
the law." Well, thanks, Ally.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Absolutely.
Meriwether: Real nice.
Todd Orston: And Ally, I will say this,
it is so appreciated, but I do need to be clear. When I myself am breaking
things down in more simple form, it's really for Leh's benefit. But I'm glad
you also can benefit from it. So anyway, Leh, ready for the show? Nothing like
starting with an insult to begin a show. No, I'm kidding. I'm only kidding.
Look, we do this because we actually love doing it. We know there are so many
people out there that are in pain, that are struggling, that are all of a
sudden faced with having to go forward with this kind of a, whether it's a
divorce or some non-divorce related legal action, and they don't know where to
begin. And I know in different contexts, when I hear lawyers talking that legal
speak, I'm like, "All right, enough. Dumb it." I am an attorney, and
I want to say, "Dumb it down for me. Tell me what you're trying to explain."
that's what we try and do. We're just trying to talk to people and explain
things in a way that's easy to digest, because it's only with that right
information that you can make good decisions for yourself. That you can
actually start taking steps to protect yourself. That's the whole purpose.
Meriwether: You know, one of
the things you mentioned just then, Todd, was the pain of this process and the
fear that you don't know what's going on. And part of the reason why I wanted
to read those is not only to say, "Thank you," to those that took the
time to post those reviews, because I know it does take time to sit down and
write those reviews. So we greatly appreciate that, and it helps other people
find this podcast and get help.
those things are what cause people to procrastinate taking legal action. They
know they have a pain point, they know it's going to get worse when they get
into court, or they file for it. And I mean, I'm not even talking about the
money side of things, I'm just talking about just the process can be painful,
it can be scary. You don't know what's going on. Even when you do know what's
going on it's scary, because you don't know what the ultimate outcome might be
if you can't settle. And for that reason, people procrastinate.
show, by the way, we're going to focus on just that procrastination from taking
the initial legal action of filing something. We're going to talk about
divorces, legitimation, child support, contempt and modification. What happens
when you procrastinate in those situations?
future episodes we're going to take deeper dives, like, what happens when you
procrastinate only when it comes to child custody and the different phases of
the divorce process or legitimation process? We're going to take a deeper dive
so that you understand things you should not be delaying, and you have to make
this a priority.
Well, let's start with divorce. We're going to mix divorce and legitimation
together for the purpose of child custody. So Todd, what are the evils of
procrastinating in taking legal action as it relates to a child custody
situation? Regardless of whether you're married or not.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Because this, it can
relate to not only a divorce setting, but also in relation to legitimation. All
right? Something in Georgia where if you have a child born out of wedlock and
you have not only established paternity but you have not legitimated that
relationship, legalized and formalized that legal relationship, then you have
no legal rights as a father.
the problem, generally speaking, in custody situations, is you boil it down, it
can impact your ability to be a parent and it can impact the relationship with
the child or children. So sticking to divorce for a moment, if all of a sudden
you find yourself separated and you don't initiate a divorce action and deal
with the custody issues, the problem that you're going to deal with is, your
rights might be infringed upon. Your ability to act as an involved parent and
maintain and build that relationship, at a pivotal time for the kids. They are
also going through a divorce, and you need to be, and want to be, there for
your children and be with them. It's not a competition, it's just you need to
if your rights are being basically limited, and your contact is limited...
Unfortunately I've seen people when they wait too long in both contexts, and in
a divorce, all of a sudden a month goes by, two months, four months, six
months, and it's like, well, how much contact have you had? And it's very
limited. And then what happens is they're coming and they're like,
"They've done all these things, and I want primary custody," or,
"I want this," or, "I want that." But unfortunately the
story you're telling the court is this wasn't a priority for you because you've
gone six months and you really haven't had much contact, and you're pointing
the finger. And unfortunately, maybe that doesn't sell well to the court.
Meriwether: Well, let me give
some context to what you just said. Talking about no contact. So let's say
you're married and Mom moves out with the kids and finds an apartment, or moves
to a home, or whatever. Finds another residence, and takes the kids, and says,
"You can't see the kids." And there's no basis for it, or not a valid
basis anyways. And then you don't take action. That looks poorly to the court
in those circumstances, if you just sit back.
Todd Orston: Right.
Meriwether: I want to give
this a quick caveat, because if you've listened to past shows, including shows
about saving your marriage, if divorce has been something that's been coming up
but you are going to counseling and everything, we're not talking about one of
those situations. If the reason you haven't filed divorce is because you're
still working on your marriage, then don't rush to the courthouse to file for
divorce. I want to carve that out for a moment. We're talking about certain
situations where your rights as a parent could be infringed upon because you
waited before you took action. And you know, that's one example, of the mom
moving out and Dad not seeing the kids. Because Mom's blocking him, not because
he doesn't want to see them, and he doesn't take legal action to enforce his
same thing with legitimation, we see that legitimation, that's the term here in
Georgia, it may be a different term in other states, but it's where a child was
born out of wedlock and in order for the father to have legal rights, he has to
take legal action to get an order saying that he is the legal father. And in
Georgia and in some other states it doesn't matter if your name's on the birth
certificate, that doesn't give you legal rights. You have to go to court to get
Todd Orston: And, oh go ahead, I think
you were about to hit the point that I was going to hit. Go ahead.
Meriwether: Well, let's say
you're getting on great, and you and your girlfriend, you've had a child,
you've been living together for a year since the child was born, but all of a
sudden she moves out and blocks you from seeing the child. I mean, you can't do
anything until you go to court.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And actually, one
other point, especially with legitimation, you can unfortunately wait too long
and a court can actually reject or deny your request to legitimate. You'll
still be on the hook for child support, but establishing that legal
relationship, the court can deny it if you've waited too long. I've had people
come back two, three, four, five years and they're like, "I'm ready to be
a father," and unfortunately too much time has passed, and the court can
actually reject the request.
Meriwether: Yeah. And when we
get back, we're going to continue to talk about the evils of procrastinating
when it comes to taking legal action.
just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live,
you can listen at 1 a.m. on Monday mornings, WSB. So you can always check us
out there as well. Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Todd Orston: That's right. You can turn
on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.
Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Meriwether: Welcome back
everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio,
a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp.
If you want to read more about us you can always check us out online,
atlantadivorceteam.com, and if you want to read a transcript of this show, or
others, you can go back and find it at divorceteamradio.com.
well today we are talking about procrastination and the problems it can cause
you if you procrastinate to take legal action. We were discussing the impact it
can have on child custody, as relates to divorce, legitimation, and there are
certain circumstances where you do not want to delay taking action.
I do know there are some people that say, "But, Todd, I didn't have the
money to hire a lawyer and it took me two, three years to do something about
it. So won't the judge take that into consideration?"
Todd Orston: Yes.
Todd Orston: Well, I mean the court
will. I've seen mixed results. I've seen some judges, when it was properly
explained. But the person did more than just sat there, they wrote letters to
their kids, they bought them Christmas gifts even if they were being rejected.
So yeah, it's effort. The court wants to see effort.
Todd Orston: They want to see effort. If
you're not putting forth the effort, that's when... I mean, look, at that point
there's something deeper to the procrastination. This isn't just, "Oh, I
didn't have the money to pursue something formally. I didn't know what to do in
terms of my legal rights. I didn't get the help I need from an attorney or do
things on my own to protect my rights." Usually in that situation there is
a very clear, it's not just procrastination. It is indifference. That's what
gets penalized. It's when you engage in behavior that shows there is a lack of
interest in pursuing it. You're just living your life. You're not emailing,
calling, sending cards, gifts, whatever.
just checked out, and then all of a sudden you wake up one day in the future
and you're like, "I think I'm ready to be a parent." Well, at that
point a court, at least in the legitimation side, can say, "That's gone.
That ship's sailed." In the context of a divorce, because I have had
situations where parties stay married, they separate, and I just had a call
about a week or so ago, literally 20 years they're married and it was like,
"I want to get a divorce." Like, "Okay, when did you
separate?" And it was like, "1990." I'm like, "What?"
I'm like, "Wow." '99 I think was what... And I'm like, "Wow. All
right. Yeah, I guess it's about time."
it's one of those where it's not so much there's a delay, it's that, is it
because of something out of your control or did you just give up on parenting?
Did you just not pursue rights? That situation with 20 years, the other parent
was exercising parenting time and doing other things. We were just talking about
the formality of the divorce, and so yeah, anyway.
Meriwether: So another
circumstances where we can see delaying taking action cause problem, is let's
say one parent, I'm not trying to pick on moms, I'm just going to give this as
an example. So let's say a parent, a mom, the discussion of divorce comes up,
says, "Well, I have no support here in Georgia so I'm going to move back
to Colorado," or wherever her family's from. "Because my parents are
out there, my cousins, my aunts, my uncles. I have a huge support group to help
support the kids, because you haven't been," speaking to the dad,
"You really haven't been doing very much. You're a workaholic, you work
all the time."
maybe that's not true for the dad. Maybe he actually has been involved. He does
all the extracurricular activities, but Mom is scared, and so she's talking
about going back to Colorado. And then she takes off and goes back to Colorado.
He waits to take legal action. Here in Georgia, and many states are like this,
or you need to talk to a lawyer if you're in a different state. They have
what's called a standing order, and a standing order, in most jurisdictions, it
says, "Neither parent shall leave the jurisdiction of the court unless
with the permission of the other party, or a further court order."
as soon as a divorce example, or legitimation is filed, and it's not in every
county here in Georgia but it's in most counties, that order goes into place.
So if Mom were to, after she gets served with the divorce, takes off to Colorado,
Dad can go to court with a contempt and the court can order Mom and the kids to
come back. Or, the court can say, "Mom, you can stay in Colorado. You're
more than welcome to. But the kids are going to come back to Georgia and stay
with Dad." Well, for all practical purposes they all come back because Mom
wants primary custody, at least here in Georgia. Other states, they default to
50/50 custody on child custody.
Todd Orston: Just to be clear, the court
can't stop the adult from going anywhere, but the court can... Really the way
the standing orders read is that you're not going to remove the children from
the jurisdiction of this court. So to your point that you were making, you want
to go to Colorado, bye-bye, bon voyage. Have fun. But the kids are supposed to
stay here. That's the power of the standing order. You don't have to go have a
hearing to obtain that order. It's something that's just including and is
binding on the parties. So that gives you a level of protection.
Meriwether: Let's flip this,
so let's say you delay taking legal action. Mom moves out to Colorado with the
kids, and she's been out there for six months, okay? And they start going to
school out there and everything, and you file for divorce here in Georgia. The
issue of custody is now going to be in Colorado because of the uniform child
custody jurisdiction enforcement act, and it's a federal act passed... I can't
remember. Years ago, and most states, I think every state's adopted it, but
basically the home state of the children, for the purposes of court determining
child custody is where they've resided for at least six months. So if you
waited to file a divorce, it can impact jurisdiction. So you could be equitable
division, alimony and child support here in Georgia, but custody's being
litigated in Colorado, for example.
again, I'm just saying, these are possibilities. Every case is different. There
can be all kinds of factors involved. I've seen it happen before where Mom
basically secreted away the kids and Dad didn't know where they were. And there
was a seven or eight-month delay, but the court said, "Nope." In this
case, Dad lives in Florida, Mom lived in Georgia. The judge said, Georgia is
not taking jurisdiction of child custody because Mom did not tell Dad where the
kids lived. So like I said, every-
Todd Orston: Yeah, and there was
evidence of the efforts by that other parent to find them. And it's like,
"I hired a PI. I did this. I did that. I called relatives and former
friends," and whatever. "I couldn't locate them." At that point,
oftentimes you're not going to be rewarded for hiding the child or children
from the other parent and then saying, "Oh, well, now I'm in Alaska so
I'll see you in court here."
Meriwether: So the key there
is, in that situation, and it could be flipped, the mom and dad, but he did not
procrastinate. He took action. He may not have filed right away, because he
didn't know where to file, but he took action. He did not procrastinate. So
that's the key there. I mean, we'll go deeper on the child custody stuff later.
But we still haven't gotten to child support and a few other things.
Todd Orston: Yeah.
Meriwether: Are you thinking
anything else, Todd?
Todd Orston: Oh, I rarely think
Meriwether: I wouldn't argue
Todd Orston: Well, I threw one barb at
you. A little bit of self-deprecating humor is applicable here. But no, let's
jump into support, because we're definitely going to flow into the next
segment, but waiting when it comes to child support also doesn't make sense.
All right? Especially if you are the potential recipient of child support.
Right? There's the payor and the payee. The person paying and the person
receiving. So if you are the person who is receiving it, every month you wait is
a month you're not receiving support, and one of the most basic premises, at
least here in Georgia, is that you're not getting back support. You can't wait
six months, a year, two years, 10 years, whatever, and then say, "You know
what? I never went after child support. Hey, I'd like 10 years of
support." It's not going to happen.
literally, this is one situation where you can equate an actual dollar amount,
a cost, to waiting, to procrastinating. Because hey, you might have been able
to get, I'm just using a number, $500 a month, all right? Had you acted. But
now two years later, you're not getting $500 for all those missed months. We'll
start support now, but anything in the past is in the past and you can't
collect. At least here in Georgia.
Leh Meriwether: Many states are that way. I mean,
I'm not saying that there's not states that do some sort of retroactive thing.
The ones I've heard about retroactivity, it's from the time of the filing, not
the time where there's nothing going on. So yeah, if you wait on support,
you're not collecting it, period. And years ago I did have someone, the child
was 16 and the person filed and tried to ask for retroactive child support
going back to the child's birth. And obviously they didn't win that action at
all. So it was very unfortunate.
we come back, we're going to continue to talk about the evils of
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 a.m. on Monday morning on WSB.
Meriwether: If you're
enjoying the show we would love it if you could go rate us on iTunes, or
wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five-star rating and tell us why
you like the show.
back everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team
Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether &
Tharp. If you want to read more about us you can always check us out online,
atlantadivorceteam.com, and if you want to read a transcript of this show or
others, you can go back and listen to it at divorceteamradio.com.
today we're talking about the evils of procrastination in taking legal action
and what can happen if you wait to take legal action when it comes to divorce,
legitimation. We were focusing at first on child custody, then we started
talking about support. I have one more support scenario that I wanted to relay
that you don't want to wait on. So in Georgia, one thing that can really throw
a wrinkle in child support is a personal injury award.
say someone, they've been injured in a car accident, for example, and they have
suffered a brain injury, and as a result they can't work any more. So they get
this big personal injury settlement of $5 million. Well, you can't say that
their income is $5 million a year. That wouldn't be fair. And they're not going
to get money, probably, for the rest of their lives, and that's the reason why
they've got such a large settlement, was because of a brain injury that impacts
your ability to work.
the court can look at that and basically, there are mechanisms in the child
support statute where the court can look at that giant lump sum payment and
determine a child support amount that the court deems as fair. And in some
circumstances there's a lump sum child support rather than a monthly payment.
there was a case that I'm aware of where the person received his money.
Unfortunately the injury to his brain also caused very erratic behavior, and
because of that erratic behavior, he began spending the money like he had an
unlimited supply. You would think, there's no way. Some people that, let's say
you've lived for your whole life off of $30, $40, $50, $60, $100,000, maybe
$200,000 a year, and you're like, "How in the world could you go through
$5 million in a year?"
Todd Orston: Brewster's Millions. I
remember that. I remember that movie.
Meriwether: Yeah. It can
happen very easily. So if an event like this happens and perhaps maybe you're
not married, or if you wait to try to get some child support from that, you
could wait too long and the money's gone. The court's not going to be able to
say, "Well, sir, you need to pay her $200,000," or,
"$100,000," or whatever that lump sum child support is, if he's spent
it all, and because of his injury, he's never going to be employed again. It's
just not going to happen. So if you delay taking action to try to get some
child support from that one time personal injury settlement you may not get
anything ever. So that's just throwing out one little nugget there. Another
Todd Orston: A good nugget.
Meriwether: Good nugget. All
right. All right, let's move on. Quit procrastinating, Todd, let's get to the
Todd Orston: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. All
right. All right. So the next one we're going to talk about, equitable
Todd Orston: All right. So equitable
division, what are we talking about? Different states have different terms. You
might have heard community property. Bottom line is, we're talking about the
division of assets and debts in a case. Okay. So why, or how, can
procrastination hurt? Okay, well, very basically, assets can disappear and
debts can be accrued. And if you wait and all of a sudden there's a whole bunch
of debt, or a whole bunch of assets that are missing, it's almost too bad. I've
heard judges say, even though they were so angry at the spending, "What do
you want me to do?"
easy, and Leh, you and I were talking about this. It's easy. If you have a
million dollar estate and somebody uses $100,000, and it's gone, well, we have
an easy argument. As long as we can prove it, we say, "Judge, give my
client $100,000 off of the top from somewhere else to level the playing field,
to make it equal. But if you have a $50,000 estate and $50,000 disappears...
I've seen that, and I've seen judges throw their hands up and go, "What do
you want me to do? Had you come to me earlier I would have secured that money
to make sure it doesn't disappear. But it's gone. I can't magically make it
then the same thing goes for debt. If you just wait, if you think that you have
a spouse, to your point earlier, that is just spending indiscriminately, that
is just being very frivolous and unreasonable in the spending, then if you just
allow that behavior to keep going on, the court can look at it as if you
approved of that spending. You approved of that behavior.
have seen situations where judges, I mean, in my mind I'm sitting there going,
"God, that is just ridiculous spending behavior," but the court takes
the position of, "Well, that's marital debt." As opposed to all of a
sudden you file a divorce action and then that spending starts to ramp up, you
have a stronger argument to say, "Judge, they separated and that spending
is unreasonable. That other part was getting child support, that other party
was getting alimony, they have access to some other funds, and now there's
$40,000 in debt. We're asking, did that party be responsible for that
debt?" So waiting does not help you. It is not your friend.
Procrastination is your enemy.
Meriwether: And especially
when there's certain assets like, and I've seen this before, gold bars, silver
bars. I mean, they're worth a significant amount of money in how much they
weigh, and we've seen cases where the person, there was a delay in filing, and
suddenly, "Gold bars? I don't have any gold bars. We sold those years
Todd Orston: "That's funny because
we have a picture of the safe from two weeks ago and it's still there."
But that's a different show.
Meriwether: "That was
from four years ago. We sold those." Oh, "Well, show me where."
Because certain things like gold bars, you can actually trace gold and silver.
There's a tracing mechanism for them. But that was just an example. Things can
just disappear, and if you are concerned about things disappearing, safes full
of cash. We've seen that before too. Then you've got to take action.
maybe that action is you're not ready to file yet, but you've got to take
pictures of it, just like you said, take pictures of the cash. Or maybe store
the cash elsewhere. "I don't know where that cash went." I'm not
saying steal the money or run off with it. I'm not saying that at all. But you
don't want to procrastinate, because if you have a concern that something may
happen, odds are it's going to happen.
all right, so that's equitable division, and we've talked about support. Let's
shift gears and talk about two other actions where a delay, or your
procrastination, can hurt you. Let's talk about contempts. When can delay in
filing an action to hold someone, so a contempt action, if someone's violating
a court order that arose out of a divorce or similar family law matter, you can
seek enforcement of that order by going to court and saying, "Judge, the
opposing party is flaunting your order. They've chosen to completely ignore it,
and I'm asking this court to hold them in contempt of court, and enforce its
execution." So what happens when you don't file that contempt, Todd, and
you just sit on your rights?
Todd Orston: Well, you run the risk of
not getting the resolution that you need to protect yourself. Contempt can be
on the financial side, it can be on the custody side. If there's interference
with your ability to exercise parenting time. We touched on this. Then all of a
sudden a year goes by, two years goes by, and then you want to bring up some
incident that occurred two years earlier? Unfortunately the court's not going
to care that much. As opposed to something that's more timely.
if you're dealing with finances, the same thing. If it's too old, the court's
going to care less about it. It's going to be, "Well, you know what? Why
didn't you do something two years ago? Why should this court be so angry about
something that happened that long ago?" So in terms of waiting when it
comes to filing a contempt, you always want to be able to look the court in the
eyes and basically convey the message that, basically, your order was violated,
and it has affected me, and I am here immediately asking for help. And
hopefully, you'll get the help in a timely manner so that you can protect your
rights, you can protect your assets. If you're not getting payments you were
supposed to get, the payments can start again.
seen people wait on the financial side. They were supposed to get child
support, alimony, sometimes both. And then all of a sudden a year, two years,
three years later they're like, "You know what? I'm going to go after that
money." That's great. That's fantastic. But even though now, with
interest, it's $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, $60,000, I've seen crazy
Meriwether: When we come back
we'll continue to break down the evils of procrastination.
just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the show live,
you can listen at 1 a.m. 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.
Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Meriwether: Welcome back,
everyone. This is Leh and Todd and we are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio,
a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether & Tharp.
If you want to read more about us you can always check us out online,
atlantadivorceteam.com, and you can read a transcript of this show, and others,
or you can go back and listen to others, by going to divorceteamradio.com.
Todd, I know I interrupted you. We were on a break. But go ahead and finish up
your sentence from last time when we were talking about procrastination.
Todd Orston: Yeah, technical
difficulties. Sorry about that. But now that you can hear me again,
unfortunately, all I was saying is, if all of a sudden you have all this money
that's gone, basically what I'm trying to say is you need to act sooner rather
than later because you need to give the court the ability to go after that
money. You need to be able to give the court options. If you wait, options
disappear, and the court can look at you and be totally on your side, and just
look and say, "Well, what do you want me to do? There's not much that I
can do. You waited one, two, three, four years." And basically in terms of
support, you're dealing with situations where a court is going to be less
interested, and division of property is less interested, simply because you
just waited so long.
Leh Meriwether: I've got an interesting example.
I've got two regarding the child custody. One's child custody, one equitable
division. So in one case, the wife was awarded 50% of an IRA. There was
$100,000 in it. Well, 10 years goes by and the husband has lost his job. And so
he procrastinated and did not go back to court to modify his alimony.
he liquidated, but he had reached the point where he could and not be
penalized. So over the course of several years, he used up the entire IRA
between his living expenses and paying his very high alimony amount to his
wife. Well, then the IRA money ran out, and so he quit paying alimony. So she
brings... Well, actually he brings an alimony modification claim. Now, keep in
mind he should have probably brought it five years earlier, but he brings it
then her lawyer in defense of the alimony modification, looks back at their
settlement agreement and says, "Hey, did you ever get this IRA?" And
she says, "No, I didn't know I was supposed to." Or, "Oh, well, I
thought he was supposed to do something, and I kind of forgot about it."
So then the opposing counsel reaches out and says, "Hey, we want our half
of this IRA." And that's when... I can say all these things because
there's orders that are public record that explain all this. But that's when it
turned out that he had liquidated the IRA, and there was no more money. The IRA
was gone, and he was in a bad financial situation. He had no assets.
her $50,000 was literally gone. He sat in jail, I don't know if it was 90 days,
I don't know how many days he sat in jail, but he sat in jail and she got no
money because she procrastinated to get her money. And he eventually did get an
alimony modification and it got drastically reduced because he wasn't making any
money. So she was actually basically getting a portion of his social security.
But I mean, he was living way below the poverty line at that point because
after he paid her even the reduced alimony, he had very little money to live
Todd Orston: Right. But remember, anyone
listening, in that scenario, he got a modification of his ongoing payments. And
in alimony, in terms of alimony, the duration of the award isn't going to
change, but the monthly payment amount can change, and it's not going to impact
at all the arrearage. So if he comes to court two, five, 10 years later, and
says, "Oh, I need help and I needed help 10 years ago," the court's
going to say, "I don't care about the time leading up to you filing. We're
going to deal with this from this point forward."
Todd Orston: So if there's $100,000 in
arrearage, meaning that debt that has accumulated, then unfortunately, he's
stuck with that.
Meriwether: Yeah. There was
no arrearage though because he liquidated the... I shouldn't laugh because it
was... Yeah. I'm sorry. Seriously, I shouldn't laugh. Because he liquidated the
IRA. I mean, I'm laughing because it's sad, you know?
Todd Orston: It's sad. It is sad. And
I've seen that before.
Meriwether: Yeah. So because
of his procrastination, he sat in jail, and had he not procrastinated and come
back to court much, much, much, much earlier, he would have reduced his alimony
obligation, saved him tens of thousands of dollars over five years. I can't
remember if it was five years. It was a long time ago, 10 years ago. But he
would have saved himself tens of thousands of dollars, potentially, and
potentially she would have gotten, if she hadn't procrastinated on her
contempt, she would have gotten her IRA, her $50,000. So she would have had
that $50,000 to live off of. So it was very unfortunate.
that's the danger of procrastination. I know we touched on modification. There
was another support one I had. So I've seen several cases where the mom or the
dad waited 10, 15 years, they got no child support for 10 or 15 years, and then
all of a sudden brought a contempt action for 10 or 15 years of back-owed child
support. Now, that child support doesn't go away, but the courts are never
happy with the fact they waited that long.
Todd Orston: Well, and there are
limitations, though. To enforce an order, you have a seven-year period that can
be extended to 10 years, and if within that 10-year period you don't move to
enforce an order, then the court cannot enforce it for you. So you run into a
Meriwether: It goes dormant.
Todd Orston: It goes dormant. So you
can't just sit on this and 30 years later think you're going to come back and
fight for the money that's owed to you. At that point, again, the ship's sailed.
The good thing about child support is, the date of what you can fight for
starts with every missed payment. In other words, there's a new date for every
missed payment. It's not like, 10 years again child support was established,
you waited 10 years, you can't wait for any of the past due child support.
Anything that is older than seven years, and if you renew that dormant order
after the seven years, if you renew it and you get that additional three, then
basically, as long as it's within that 10-year period then you can try and
collect it, you can get an order to force payment.
anything beyond that period you're out of luck. So that is a real-world actual
harm you can suffer if you sit on something thinking, "Yeah, that'll be my
retirement." Right? "15 years from now I'll go after the other party
for this amount and I'll start collecting." No. You can't do that. You
have to establish it as soon as possible. Definitely within that 10 years
Meriwether: And I mean, I've
seen judges say, "You know what? Yep. You owe all this money." But
maybe the dad's had a, or whoever the obligor is, the obligor is the one who
has to pay the support... I mean, we've seen cases where the person had
developed cancer and they literally couldn't work because of their medical
condition. Or maybe they had a massive heart attack and lost their job, so they
were making $100,000 a year before, but now they're making $20,000. Or they're
on disability. So the court has to take that into consideration. They have to
look at the person's ability to pay it.
they say, "Well, yep, you're owed $100,000 in back-owed child support, and
he can pay you $200 a month. So that's what you get." And you're like,
"Well, if he lives to 100 I still won't be paid," or whatever. I
mean, the court can fashion that remedy, and then you may not get your full
child support. So you do not want to procrastinate.
you know, I have seen cases where I understood why the parent waited, because
perhaps the person was, maybe they weren't seeing the kids and the mom said,
"Well, look, if I go after him for child support he's going to insist on
wanting to see the kids, and I'm just going to wait till the kids go off to
college before I bring an action." I've seen that happen before. But then
you run the risk of you may not get all that money. So that's a danger, or one
of the evils of procrastinating on that issue.
Todd Orston: Yeah. This has nothing...
This show, I want to make sure that I'm clear on this point. This has nothing
to do with, oh, my gosh, you need to hire an attorney immediately.
Todd Orston: This has to do with,
fighting for what is your right. Fighting for something, whether you are
fighting for something you're owed, or fighting to change something that needs
to be changed, otherwise you will suffer a financial or other harm. Waiting
doesn't help you in any way. You have to be proactive. We've said this many
times. It is something I say all the time. The difference between proactive and
reactive behavior. You can't be reactive when it comes to this stuff. You have
to get out there. If you can't afford an attorney, have a consult with an
attorney. Just get advice. If you can't afford that, do it on your own. Go onto
your website, other websites. Educate yourself and file things on your own,
because waiting never helps. So please be proactive and do what needs to be
done to protect yourself.
Meriwether: Man, and we
barely scratched the surface of modification. I gave an example, but
unfortunately we're out of time. I wish we had a little more time to go into
that. But we'll save it for another show. Hey, everyone. Thanks so much for