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197 - Improving Your Child Support or Alimony Case

197 - Improving Your Child Support or Alimony Case Image

04/08/2021 3:00 pm

Leh and Todd continue their series about procrastination and what you can do about it. In this show, they discuss its impact on Child Support and Alimony cases and what you can do about it. For those that want to be proactive and improve their chances of a successful outcome at Court, you will want to tune in!




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, and 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?

Todd Orston: Leh?

Leh Meriwether: I'm ready to go. Are you ready to go?

Todd Orston: Can we do it a little later? Is it too late for?

Leh Meriwether: It's too late. You're on trial now.

Todd Orston: All right. Well, if I'm on I'm on, then, I guess let's do this.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Well, today, we're going to do the last ... Actually, it wound up being a four-part series in that we didn't do them all back to back. But we've been talking about procrastination, and how it can hurt your case. And we first started off ... Well, maybe I guess it's a five-part series. No, it's four part, sorry. We did a general one, and then we broke down in each different segment, however, we went deeper, took a deeper dive. And it's important because we have seen procrastination hurt so many people's cases in different ways.

Maybe they got a poor outcome as a result of the procrastination, or perhaps the case cost them two to three times as much because people weren't on top of things. And, it's hard to stay on top of a case that's active going. If you are running your life, and especially, we're talking about the divorce context or in family law context, you're trying to pay the bills, you're taking care of the family, there's not a whole lot of time left to deal with a lawsuit. And as a result, people tend to procrastinate taking care of things. And so we're not trying to make anybody feel bad. But at the same time, sometimes that fear, a little bit of fear can really get you motivating, and that's kind of what we're doing here.

Todd Orston: Yeah, and I will also tell you that it's something that people don't want to do.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: So, I get it. It might be your life is crazy. But that's oftentimes an excuse. You can find a little bit of time, the kinds of things I'm just speaking as an attorney, the kind of things that we ask our clients to do. It's not like we're saying, "Listen, I need about 73 straight hours of work from you, right now, put everything else aside." It's, "Hey, do 20 minutes today, 20 minutes tomorrow, whatever, and you'll get this done for us. Just do a couple things." And it gets put off, put off, put off, put off. And it's that domino effect.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: So, the reason we have spent so much time talking about procrastination and the effects on a case is because, what we want people to understand is, it can absolutely impact your case. It can make it longer, it can drag things on, it can even hurt the positions that you're taking. So you wait too long, you don't turn over the necessary information. It can result in motions being filed against you, if you truly wait too long. Sanctions, like financial sanctions. Even in some situations, it could even result in the striking of your answer. Meaning the judge can say, "You know what? If you're not going to engage, if you're not going to do the basic things you need to do to allow this litigation to move forward, I don't even want to know what you have to say."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: Basically, "Just sit there, be quiet. We're going to do this around you. And, hopefully you'll show up for court.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: So, it is so impactful. And that's why when we say to people, "Look, our promise, we're going to jump in, and we're going to try and do things in a timely manner. And in that way, hopefully, it'll keep things calmer. And we'll be able to get to a resolution sooner rather than later." But it's a two-way street. It's something we need our clients to do as well. And if you don't do it, it's going to have a negative impact. There are very, very few situations where procrastinating and just allowing litigation to linger benefits you.

Leh Meriwether: Right. And that's usually a strategic choice.

Todd Orston: Correct.

Leh Meriwether: Sometimes it's by accident, but most of the times, it is a part of an overall litigation strategy. So today, we're focusing on support. Child Support, alimony. And I'm glad you mentioned, Todd, like trying to break it into 20 minute segments a day, if you can. There's actually a great book out there called Atomic Habits. I can't remember the name of the author right now. But it's all about how if you can start creating these small little changes over the course of time, they make an enormous difference. And they talked, they gave a couple of examples of like, just on weight loss. One guy changed one little thing in his daily routine. And after two years, he'd lost 50 pounds. Now, it didn't happen right away. But it was that one little change, and you barely saw it in the first three, four months. But over the course of time, it became cumulative and really added up and he lost a lot of weight. But they break it down all different categories if you're interested in the book. So yeah-

Todd Orston: Like for me, I used to eat, let's say at a meal, three hotdogs right in a row. And now I'll put five to seven minutes in between each one. And, I'm dropping weight like ... No, I'm joking. It's ...

Leh Meriwether: It doesn't work like that.

Todd Orston: That's not part of the atomic plan?

Leh Meriwether: No, it's not part of it.

Todd Orston: All right. All right, well, I was hoping. I liked that.

Leh Meriwether: But your example, the reason why it's good is so let's say, I'm going to give an example. And we're going to focus on support right now. So let's say, around the corner is a temporary hearing. And we're going to jump to that because at a temporary hearing, one of the most common things addressed apart from custody is support. So child support and alimony, who's going to pay what bills during the pendency of the case, or who's going to pay whom, what, what amount. And if you show up to court asking for support in most situations, but you do not present your side of the financial equation, and when I say by your side, I'm talking about you don't show up with a domestic relations, financial affidavit.

I'm focusing on Georgia, but I know a lot of states do this as well. Or you don't show up with, say, some requested W2 statements, or your recent paycheck stubs, or something like that, the other side can ask for a continuance and they almost always we'll get that continuance. So let's say you said, "All right, well, the trial's in a week, I'm going to sit down on this Sunday. I'm going to spend all Sunday, getting the stuff ready." And you sit down, you realize, "Oh, wait a minute, I can't find my W2. I'm going to have to get it from my employer. Oh, gosh, I can't find my last six months of paycheck stubs. I only have the last two. Oh, I need this information from my soon to be ex in order to finish my financial affidavit."

So all of a sudden, you set aside an entire day to work on it, but you can't get access to all the information you need, to be prepared for court. And so you send an email to your soon to be ex, you send an email to your employer, perhaps you send an email to whoever does your taxes, and maybe they're in the middle of something and it takes them ... They can't get the answers. They can't get the information back to you before the court date. And now your lawyer has spent all this time preparing, and you show up to court, and it has to be continued. So that's an example. And so the lawyer's going to bill you for all that time, the time that they're spending in court. And then when you got to come back to court later, they're going to bill you again. And in this case, it was your fault that you weren't ready.

So that's an example going back to what you said, Todd. Working on these things in little bite size chunks, rather than trying to eat the whole elephant in a day. Eat it ... That's an old joke. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Not that I want anybody to eat an elephant, so.

Todd Orston: Just that's a terrible joke. I mean, save the elephants. Come on.

Leh Meriwether: But I don't know where that joke came-

Todd Orston: It's terrible. Promoting the eating of elephants, stop it. You're better than that.

Leh Meriwether: I need come up with something else then.

Todd Orston: No, no. And then one other thing to think about, is remember that the judge you've now annoyed by showing up ... The judge, remember, the judge took time out of his or her schedule, put your case on the calendar. Was there. You showed up, and what gets told to the court is, "Yeah, we have asked, we have sent formal requests, and we are not getting compliance." And the court then looks at you and says, "Okay, I'm giving you X amount of time to comply. We're taking this off the calendar, this has been a huge waste of time." You've pissed off the one person that holds your life in their hands. Right? I mean, though now I'm not saying that judges aren't above ... I mean, it's not like they're going to or should be holding grudges that when you do finally get in front of the judge for that temporary or final, that they're going to remember that and use it against you or hold it against you. But it doesn't help.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: I mean, I always look at my clients saying, "You want to walk into court, looking like the one person of the two that did everything you were supposed to do." And that way if the court's going to, be sort of swinging both ways in terms of, "Do I go this way, that way?" Maybe you're going to get that benefit of the doubt.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. And the other thing is I have seen judges say to the people like, "Well, why aren't you prepared?" "Well, I didn't, I couldn't get ... I didn't keep all my paycheck stubs, so I had to email my employer for the last paycheck stubs, and they haven't got them back to me yet." And like, When did you email your employer?" "Yesterday." So, I've seen it happen and the judge was not happy. It's like, "You knew about this hearing 45 days ago, and you waited." And one thing we can't wait on is, we got to take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to continue to break down procrastination, and how it impacts your child support and alimony.

I just wanted to let you know that if you ever want to listen to the 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 like counting sheep, I guess.

Leh Meriwether: Right, that's right.

Todd Orston: You turn on the show, and we'll 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 at atlantadivorceteam.com. If you want to read a transcript of this show, or go back and listen to it again, you can always find it at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, today we're talking about procrastination. This is our last part in a four-part series, talking about how it can hurt your case. And today we're focusing on child support, and or alimony claims in a case, and this applies to child support and divorce case, or straightforward child support action.

Todd Orston: Okay, well, what I'd like to do Leh, if you don't mind, is-

Leh Meriwether: Oh, I mind.

Todd Orston: Hey, Mr. Elephant Jokes, all right? Enough.

Leh Meriwether: I never should have used that joke. Who came up with that joke?

Todd Orston: Seriously, seriously. Let's do the rest of the show on why elephant jokes are just not appropriate. No, let's focus this segment on a question that I get all the time. Literally, I don't want to go so far as to say daily, but weekly, I talk to people who need help. And they call me and they're like, "Look, I'm contemplating or about to start this process. And I want to be proactive." And we have talked time and again about the difference between proactive and reactive behavior, and how that can benefit you. And it really ties well into the whole procrastination discussion. But, they will call and they will say, "Okay, I'm moving forward," or, "I'm going to in a short period of time. What can I do to help myself?" And the bottom line is, well, there's a lot. You can start gathering information, you can start thinking in terms of what the four core areas are. We break that down into child support issues, custody issues, division of property and debt, and spousal support or alimony.

And so when you think about it, just follow the logic trail. And if it's property issues, what property is out there? Are there documents that reflect the property? So, Leh, what are ... Let's answer that question. If somebody is going through or about to go through this kind of a case, what can they do to be proactive?

Leh Meriwether: Well, I'm going to break it up into child support and alimony. So we'll start with child support, because that's the most straightforward one. So on child support, most states, and I must be focusing on Georgia, but I'm pretty sure this is going to apply to most states. You want to double check with a lawyer that practices in your state, but in general, you want to gather your last 12 months of paycheck stubs, because there can be information on those stubs that may not be reflected in a W2. But you also want your W2. I would also recommend that you gather your last three years of tax returns, because that will have both your and your spouse's information on them, and that's in a divorce context.

If this is just a straightforward child support action, you're still going to be gathering all this information. And you'll just need the other information from the other side, and you'll get that through the divorce, the child support process. So get those things together. Those are the primary things. Now, we're going to ... Businesses and that sort of thing, that's a whole nother animal. And we're going to spend a whole segment talking about businesses and what do you do if someone's getting paid under the table, and that sort of thing. So I'm talking about right now, what you see in most cases.

If you're self-employed, you want to get how much your net income is. You want to make sure you have that information. So you're going to want to gather your business tax returns as well. But like I said, we'll take a deeper dive on that later. And often you want the last 12 months of bank statements, because usually the other side asks for that. Sometimes they also ask for credit card information. So you might want to get all your credit cards together, and get the last 12 months of those as well. Now, that doesn't always play into child support. Typically, it's a domestic relations financial affidavit.

And wherever you live, if you research domestic relations financial affidavit in the state you're in and put your state, you will usually find like a court website that has all that information in it, what you should be gathering to put on that financial affidavit. Because some states actually require you to file a financial affidavit, even in an uncontested divorce if child support's involved. So make sure you go ahead and get that, and start pulling that information together. Now, the information that goes on to the domestic relations financial affidavit doesn't necessarily all apply to child support, because typically child support's just ... In Georgia, it's your gross income, and the other side's gross income. And you put it on a child support worksheet. Some states, it's net income, how much you make after paying taxes. So you need to double check on your state with that.

And then on the financial affidavit, the big reason you want to do that is if you're asking for some form of alimony or spousal support, because that's going to tell you what your expenses are, and to give you an idea of your budget. Because, you have to know your budget. You can't just walk into court and say, "I need $5,000 a month." You have to prove that's really your need. So your need may only be $1,000 a month or $2,000 a month. And on the flip side, you don't want to walk into court saying, "I'm just asking, judge, for $1,000 a month in spousal support," when in fact, you actually need three, because that's going to ... $3,000 a month and the other person could pay for it. So you want to make sure you do yourself a favor, figure out what your monthly budget is. Not just now, but in the future post divorce. Where are you going to live? Those kind of things.

Todd Orston: You don't get to keep going back to the court. If you don't put forth the effort, if you come up with the wrong number and you ask for that number, and you get that number, and then you wake up the next day and you're like, "Wow, I need a bigger number," all right, and it would be justified and the other party would have the ability to pay. Then unfortunately, you don't get to just call the court and go, "Judge. Hey, listen, it's Todd. Remember what you did yesterday? Listen, awesome, high five all around. I'm going to need some more." It doesn't work that way. So you have a bite at the apple. And if you don't do the work necessary to determine what your budget is, the judge may do something that doesn't help you the way you need to be helped.

And, on a temporary, that means there could be a months, and that's with an S, months long delay between the temporary and a final. And you may not be able to get another bite at the apple, which means you have to live for months with the amount of money you got at that temporary. And then at the final, if let's say you do the same thing, shame on you. If you do the same thing and procrastinate and don't do the work necessary to prepare, and you get a number and then you wake up the next day. Guess what, you have to show a material change of circumstance. You have to be able to show that something significant has happened, that would warrant changing that number. It's locked in. You don't get to come back and go, "Oh, oops. I just, yeah, I should have ... Anyway. Judge, come on. Give me some more." So you need to really not procrastinate. You need to really focus, understand what your goals are. And then again, like what we're talking about, figure out what steps you can take to best prepare yourself.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, I'm going to add a few more things in there. So you've got to know, this is in Georgia. So a lot of states have this too, but you need to know what the expenses are relating to insurance for the children. We're talking about child support, because that is calculated in child support in the Georgia guidelines, and maybe in your state as well. So you need to know how much the insurance is, as it applies to your children. So often you'll have a plan, that's just if you want your individual, and then when as soon as you add the kids, maybe it's a family plan, or, you and the kids. The difference between those two insurance policies is what goes on the child support worksheets. So you need that.

You need the information if the children are in daycare or something like it. You need that information, because that goes on the child support worksheets as well. I had a case where it wasn't a straightforward daycare, the mom actually had ... Well, actually, I've seen cases like this, there wasn't just one case, where there was a nanny involved. And so this person got copies of all the checks they had paid the nanny in one year. So that way, there was no dispute on the other side. They're like, "Well, how?" We didn't even get the question, "Where did you come up with that number?" Or, "How can I know that's what you really paid the nanny?" Like, "Here's our checks." That's how the negotiation started, like, "Oh, okay," and there was no dispute about it.

So, because with a nanny, you can't call it like with the daycare center, you can call the daycare center and say, "You can confirm how much it costs." Can't always do that with a nanny, they may not talk to you, because they don't feel comfortable. But you just have confirmation of things, what they cost. Same thing with extra curricular activities. Some extracurricular activities can be encompassed in child support. And you can ask for something in excess of that, but the other side should know and you should know how much they're really costing, so they can go in the child support worksheet.

Todd Orston: Great point.

Leh Meriwether: I'm trying to remember, there may be a few other things that go in there. And I mean, I'm forgetting them off the top of my head. So you want to look at a child support worksheet in your state, and see what things you can plug in there. Because I may not know like, there may be states that have different criteria that can be included for child support. So when we come back, we're going to continue to break down the impact that procrastination can have on your support case.

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.

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 at atlantadivorceteam.com. If you want to read the transcript of this show, or go back and listen to it again, you can find us at divorceteamradio.com, or wherever you get your pods.

All right, so we're talking about procrastination, and how it can hurt your child support and alimony case. And we as lawyers, we like to focus our time. Some people think lawyers just want to bill, bill, bill, bill and make lots of money, and lawyers don't. I mean, yeah, are there some out there that want to do that? Probably. But most of us, we want to focus our time on how it will best help our clients. So by way of one example was, there have been times where we've billed clients hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars where I felt like it wasn't necessary. And it wasn't that I didn't bill work that had to be done, we had to prepare for court.

But had they not procrastinated, we wouldn't have had to spend all the extra time organizing everything. And I would have rather have spent all that time focusing on a great strategy for the hearing, focusing on a compelling opening statement and closing argument, and some really just wonderful, with lots of gotcha moments, cross examinations for the opposing side. But instead, I was copying unorganized documents or had my staff doing that. I wasn't actually doing that.

Todd Orston: Well, and sometimes it's not that we don't have the time. But do clients really want I mean, do you want to just spend extra money? Look, I've had several situations where I've had clients call and they're like, "All right, I have a bunch of documents that you were asking for." "Fantastic. Great. Thanks for jumping on this, not procrastinating. High five." There's a lot of high fiving going on in this show. But anyway, I'm aging myself. It's, high fives were cool in my day. Anyway, so high fives all around. And they're like, "Yeah, I've got like, two, three," and I've had 20 plus banker boxes full of documents. But, two, three boxes, I'm like, "Great. Drop them off at the office."

Time comes, ding dong, person walks in, they drop some boxes down. It looks like the 1000 or so pages that they had, that to help us, what they did was their organization method was sort of a use your legs to throw everything up in the air. Because safety first. And, then it all falls to the ground, and they sweep it up and throw it into those banker boxes. And I've had to look at them and say, "Okay, hold on one second. Thank you for, and I'm glad you did this in a timely manner, because now you have a little bit more time. So I'm giving you an option. It is going to take us probably double or triple the time to organize all that information, reorganize the documents, get them into our system so that we can even start to analyze. So I'll give you an option. You want to take them back, work over the weekend, organize it?"

And usually the person says, "Oh, okay, that makes sense. Yeah, let me work on it." I have had on occasion someone go, "I don't care. Have fun." It's like, "All right. I offered." Okay, because to your point, Lee, we don't want to be doing that.

Leh Meriwether: Right.

Todd Orston: There is so much. First of all, we have other clients. And every one of our clients need some legal help. Not, organize the jumbled mess help. It is the actual legal work that we can do for them to really help them. And so, I'd rather be focused on that than on this kind of stuff. But you have to know also, my only other point would be this comes down to communicating well with your attorney. You have to understand who your attorney is, how his staff and he work, or she work. What are ways that you can work with your attorney efficiently, okay?

If your attorney is somewhere around 112 years old, and thinks that computers are a fad, like break dancing, and ere, it's going to go away, then scanning everything and uploading it into a ShareFile probably isn't going to do you much good. But if you know that, that same attorney would very much prefer the banker boxes and file folders, and ask your attorney, "How can I get?" Not just, what do you want, but, "How can I get this to you so that you can efficiently process this information?" That way, you put it together in the best way possible. Like for us, we always tell people, "Scan it." If you give us hard documents, the first thing we do is scan it to put it into our document management system. So we always say-

Leh Meriwether: And let me point out that a lot of, I know here in ... They're passing laws now that everything has to be submitted digitally. A lot of times when you go to court, especially now, I mean, post 2020, depositions, all your exhibits and temporary hearings, final hearings, any kind of hearings, you have to submit your evidence digitally to the court. So it has to be scanned in now. Two years ago, I might not have said that, at least here in Georgia. Today it has to be scanned in. So if you scan it in, that saves time.

Todd Orston: That's right. A great point. So it's all about, I mean obviously, the procrastination side, which is what the show's about. It's all about you not putting things off. Things you clearly don't want to be working on. I get it. And we all, whether we're going through a divorce or not, there are things that ... Look, my wife has said to me, "Hey, I thought you were going to do X." If she was listening to me right now, she'd be like, "How many times does that happen?" Yeah, actually, she's got her naughty list. I'm on it. And there are things I have procrastinated, put off. So think about it. Why? Why did I do it? Am I just lazy? Or is it, I just don't want to do it. There's just, is it right? No. And does it impact? Yes. When that happens, I try not to do it very often, but when it happens, it's because it was something, a task I didn't want to take on.

Well, guess what? Divorce is not fun. These types of cases are not enjoyable. It is something easily put off. But the whole point of a four-show series is that most of the problems we see are due to procrastination, people putting it off for whatever reason, and that impacting them. It's not like, "Hey, can you clean the garage," and a week goes by, and two weeks go by, and three weeks go by. I don't have a judge walking into my house going, "You know what, you waited too long. That's no longer your garage. We've given it to your neighbor." Right? There's no sanction there. In these situations, there are actual real impacts on you and your life.

Leh Meriwether: Look, I'm going to share something practical with you about, how many law firms work, including ours, is that we have legal assistants, and we have paralegals and lawyers, and they work together to maximize maximum efficiency, minimum effort, or minimum billable hours in some situations. So a lot of these documents you'll submit to the law firm will be processed by either a legal assistant or paralegal, depending on the nature of the documents, or the timing, or when they're coming in. If you wait to the last minute, which we see happen, and the paralegal or the legal assistant has gone home, and the hearing is the following morning at 8:00 am or 9:00 am, the only person left the process that so they're prepared is a lawyer.

So you all of a sudden go from, and I'm just going to use, it could be any number, but I'm just going to use this example. Let's say the paralegal was at $150 an hour. And they, if you had submitted this stuff three weeks prior, they would have processed all of it so it was properly prepared for court when you showed up to court, or there would be online, or I mean virtually or in person. So, but because you waited until the last minute, the lawyer at $300 an hour is processing all that and staying up late at night, so they don't get as much sleep. So, they're not as rested as they'd like to be. But now it's literally cost you twice as much to prepare, because the lawyer is doing all that work now. So that is a practical example of how the procrastination can double in that situation, your bill.

Todd Orston: Great point.

Leh Meriwether: So, it's important not to procrastinate on these levels, because most lawyers try to maximize the client's dollar, because they know that elite qualified paralegal or legal assistant can process this stuff very efficiently at a lower cost to you. And that's, I mean, we want to do that. And plus, we want to focus, like I said in the beginning of this segment, we like to focus our energy on crafting a compelling cross examination of ... Wouldn't you rather, I've seen people get so ecstatic when their lawyer just catches the other side in a gotcha moment, or I'm dating myself, a Perry Mason moment. But that can't happen if we're spending all our time prepping the documents. And when we come back, we're actually going to get into, what happens when someone's trying to hide things?

I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to the 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 like counting sheep, I guess. Right?

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You 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, 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 at atlantadivorceteam.com, and you can read transcripts of this show at divorceteamradio.com.

And today we're we're wrapping up a four-part series about how procrastination can really hurt your case. Today, we're focusing on support cases, child support and alimony support, also called spousal support. And we're shifting gears. So we kind of focus a lot on ... We're sort of shifting gears. We focus a lot on, getting sort of your case together, your information together, and communicating with your lawyer in an efficient, effective way that works for your lawyer. I want to add one more thing to that.

As you're gathering your documents together and getting them to your lawyer in an organized way, you also probably want to have ... not probably. You want to have a document list you've turned over and that's for you, in many respects, to help make sure you're organizing, you've gotten everything. So in other words, you put it together. A lot of lawyers use a system, that you upload the documents into a confidential, secure location that gets transmitted to the lawyer. But then send a lawyer and the paralegal an email that says something along the lines of, "Hey, I provided the following documents to you today." And so, you list out the last 36 months of bank statements, credit card statements, and you list out as much information on what you've turned over as possible in a summary format.

And you keep that on an ongoing basis, everything you've collected and turned over, because often you'll say, "Oh, I forgot to get these things together." When you make your list, it makes you more efficient. That way, when you go through it, like, "Oh, shoot, I forgot this," you can include in to the lawyer, "I still need to provide you X, Y and Z." And that way, the lawyer doesn't go through it and go, "You know what? They left out this. I need to send them another email saying, you still owe me this." And then that costs you money.

So, and that does two things. One, it helps save you money, but two, maybe you do have a lawyer that's just, or a law team that's just not on it. Maybe they're overworked. And so they say, "Hey, we need these documents." You're like, "Man, I already turned these documents over, I got to turn them over again? You're going to Bill me again to look at them?" And then you can send that email you sent two months ago saying, "Hey, I already sent this stuff to you. Here's the email where I sent it." "Oh, oh, that's right." So it allows you to be more organized. And, it may be a way to identify whether your attorney may not be on top of it. Usually they are. And sometimes it's an honest mistake. So, I just want to be clear on that, too. Sometimes it's an honest mistake. But that saves you the hassle of uploading documents two, three, four times. They're staying on it.

All right, now we're going to talk about, what do you do when the person on the side's perhaps paid under the table? Or, they kind of hide their true income by paying personal expenses through the business? Or, the person's lifestyle does not match the income they're claiming? How does procrastination come into that, Todd?

Todd Orston: I have no idea. I mean, I'm at the edge of my seat. This is good stuff. All right, procrastination. Again, remember, these are facts and issues that are directly related to major points in your case, major issues in your case. That if you don't get it right, it could cost you thousands, potentially even hundreds of thousands. You're talking about businesses, you're talking about ... So remember, you don't have and don't want to spend years in litigation. In Georgia for instance, you have a six month period within which you can pursue discovery, okay? Now, it doesn't mean you can't agree to or obtain from a court an extension if you truly do need more time. But the point is, the court wants you to get through that process in a timely manner, so you have the information you need to finalize the case. Those types of things you just brought up take more time. Procrastinating, I mean, unless you love being in the process of a divorce may have, "It's just, I hope this lasts for 10 years."

And then you don't want to procrastinate, because number one, it will absolutely prolong the process. Meaning if you're going to do what you need to do to get the information that you need, it's going to take time. You procrastinate, you're just adding time. A business valuation doesn't happen overnight. You need to try and get some of the documents and information relating to the business, so that you can understand what the value is or might be. You may need to hire an expert to analyze that information. And, then you can actually get to a true valuation amount, so that you know what is divisible, what that asset is worth and how that's going to play into division of the estate. These types of issues that you're talking about, they, among many others, they take the most time. And if you fail to do it, it's going to extend or the flip side, or not flip, but the other part of it is that you may get it wrong.

If you don't do the work necessary to truly understand the finances of a company, let's say, or if you don't look at the other example, or another example you gave was, if money is just disappearing, and you don't do the work necessary to track and trace where the money is going ... Is money just being taken out in chunks in terms of cash? Well, then that's going to open up the door, it's sort of like, a choose your own adventure, right? You go down this path, and then it branches off into two others, and then that branches off into four more. You have to keep following that trail to get to the ultimate answer. Was money used, because he took cash out? Well, was that for something improper? Or, is there a reasonable explanation? But at least now, you know the questions to ask.

If you don't do the work, if you procrastinate, you're not going to know the questions to ask and you're not going to get the data you need. If you find out that the other party blew through a bunch of money, and then all of a sudden you find out through discovery, because he didn't procrastinate, that there's another relationship, well, your attorney can use that. If we find out, we have many times in part of our negotiations, or even in court said, "Judge, there's 50, 75 $100,000 that's been spent on this paramour. And we want that back. But for that behavior, the estate would have been larger, and our client would have been entitled to that additional money. So we want it back." But if you don't do the right work, gathering that data, and you don't act quickly, you may be out of time, and you may not have the information you need.

Leh Meriwether: So getting practical, that means that you sit down with your attorney early on. When I say early on, in the first 30 days. And you let them know, because you've been living with this person, or you know this person, you say, "Hey, I know they get paid in cash a lot. And they have a full time job, but they have a side hustle. What do you think we should be looking for?" So you have a pre-meeting with your lawyer to talk about what kind of discovery you can do on your own, because there's some discovery you can do on your own, and then what sort of discovery should be sent out to the lawyer. So, and by meeting with your lawyer, you can narrow down the focus in which they do their discovery, so they don't waste time and money asking for the wrong things.

So by way of example, in a case I saw where the person claimed they only made 30, but they were living a lifestyle of someone that looked like they were making 120. And so on the lawyer end, they were asking for all kinds of financial information, credit card statements, that sort of thing. And on the end of the person who was asking for the support, they were doing social media research, and in their social media research, they found this person was in a yacht, talking about how they love their boat, and their boat was about a $200,000 boat. And, they were saying it was their boat, and they love to go out in their boat. And so meanwhile, there's these strange payments that are being made to this person's credit card, the lawyer finds on their end, that are not matching up to the person's bank account.

So, someone else is paying the same person's credit card, which is a form of income, even if it's not coming from their personal account. That can count as gift income, can count is all kinds of things. And the funny thing is, when they showed up to court, the person showed up, the one who claimed to be making $30,000 showed up in a Corvette. And the lawyer actually snapped a picture of it with their phone. I mean, that was just happenstance, like a funny end of the story. But in court, they presented all this evidence. The lifestyle this person was leading, living and all these strange payments paying off their credit cards. And then of course, they wrapped it all up in a bow with saying, "Didn't you just pull up into this courthouse in a Corvette? I took a picture of it. Would you like me to show it?" "Yeah, yeah. No, I drove, pulled up in a Corvette," and the support award was based on $120,000 a year.

Hey, everyone, unfortunately, we're out of time. I hope you've learned a valuable lesson. Don't procrastinate when it comes to getting ready for your child support or alimony case.