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191 - The Evils of Procrastination in Taking Legal Action

191 - The Evils of Procrastination in Taking Legal Action Image

03/25/2021 7:00 pm

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.

Transcript

Leh 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 at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Todd, I don't know. I don't know if I feel like... Can we just put this show off today?

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.

Leh 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." I agree.

"No 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.

Leh 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."

So 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.

Leh 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.

But 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.

Today's 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?

In 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.

Okay. 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.

So 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 be there.

And 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.

Leh 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.

Leh 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 rights.

The 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 those.

Todd Orston: And, oh go ahead, I think you were about to hit the point that I was going to hit. Go ahead.

Leh 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.

Leh 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.

I 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.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.

Leh 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.

Okay, 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.

Now, 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.

Leh Meriwether: Sometimes.

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.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

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.

You've 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."

So 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.

Leh 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."

And 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."

So 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.

Leh 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.

And 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."

Leh 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.

Leh Meriwether: Are you thinking anything else, Todd?

Todd Orston: Oh, I rarely think anything.

Leh Meriwether: I wouldn't argue about that.

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.

So, 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.

When we come back, we're going to continue to talk about the evils of procrastination.

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.

Leh 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.

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 listen to it at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, 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.

Let's 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.

So 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.

Well, 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.

Leh 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 evil.

Todd Orston: A good nugget.

Leh Meriwether: Good nugget. All right. All right, let's move on. Quit procrastinating, Todd, let's get to the [crosstalk 00:26:07]

Todd Orston: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. All right. All right. So the next one we're going to talk about, equitable division.

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

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?"

It's 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 reappear."

And 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.

I 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.

Leh 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 ago."

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.

Leh 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.

Now, 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.

So 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.

And 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.

I've 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 amounts, $100,000+.

Leh Meriwether: When we come back we'll continue to break down the evils of procrastination.

I 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.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.

Leh 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.

Well, 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.

Instead, 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.

And 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.

So, 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 off of.

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."

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: So if there's $100,000 in arrearage, meaning that debt that has accumulated, then unfortunately, he's stuck with that.

Leh 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.

Leh 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.

So 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 real problem.

Leh 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.

But 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 period.

Leh 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.

So 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.

And, 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.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

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.

Leh 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 listening.