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208 - Divorce Strategies that do NOT work!

208 - Divorce Strategies that do NOT work! Image

08/25/2021 5:07 pm

Over the years, Leh and Todd have seen many opposing parties try a variety of 'strategies' to gain the upper hand in a divorce case. Of course, these strategies failed and sometimes in spectacular fashion. Tune in to hear the divorce strategies that do NOT work so you can make sure you avoid them.

These strategies include:

  1. Having no strategy at all

  2. Stop working or reduce your income to reduce or eliminate your child support or alimony obligation

  3. Choosing to avoid getting a job to increase your support amount

  4. Hiding income

  5. Hiding assets

  6. Moving all the marital assets into only your name

  7. Spending more money to increase your 'need' for support

  8. Blocking your spouse from financial resources

  9. Stopping the payment of marital expenses

  10. Locking your spouse out of the house

  11. Moving out of the house without an agreement

  12. Intentionally making co-habitation difficult on your spouse (so they want to leave)

  13. Serving your spouse with divorce paperwork with the intention of embarrassing them




Transcript

Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your co-hosts for Divorced Team Radio, a show sponsored by the divorce and family law firm of Meriwether and Tharp. Here you 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, just check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Todd, how are you doing today?

Todd Orston: I'm great. I mean, it's unfair how good I am. [crosstalk 00:00:36]. Yeah, I'm lying. I mean, I'm not bad, but it's not that good. Anyway, thanks for asking.

Leh Meriwether: Well, maybe this-

Todd Orston: Thanks for asking.

Leh Meriwether: Maybe this will make you feel better. Whenever we get someone who posts a review, always like to say thank you. Somebody posted a review a little bit ago and they said... I think it was Amy Dawn said, "This is free and invaluable advice. Wow. Thank you from someone trying to navigate a messy divorce. Just thank you." Well, you're welcome, and thank you-

Todd Orston: That's amazing.

Leh Meriwether: ... for posting a review.

Todd Orston: Absolutely. We love, obviously, for no reason other than it just keeps us going. I mean, to be honest with you, we don't get anything out of this other than we truly want to help and we want to push this information out because we really believe people have a right to this information. They shouldn't have to go online and search. I mean, I know how it works. You go online and an hour later... My dog has a little bump and next thing you know, I'm rushing to the hospital because I read so many horrible things.

But giving accurate information, it's what we're all about. All right. Well, let's jump into today's show. Let's try and provide some additional good information. Divorces don't just happen, right? You don't just wake up, press a button, and you're divorced. There's a process, and actions carry consequences. So you have to always be thinking, how am I going to accomplish whatever my goals are? What am I trying to achieve? We call it the four core areas, whether it's related to custody issues, child support issues, alimony, or division and property and debt.

To accomplish certain goals, you have to come up with strategies. Leh, you know we talk to people all the time, and so people will call and they'll be like, "Hey, here's my situation." I'll talk to them and I'll say, "Well, look, you've been married for 40 years and your spouse has never worked and you're still making a bunch of money. So alimony is probably going to be an issue." And they'll be like, "Well, what if I do this?"

Usually, when their voice turns to this, I'm usually like, "That's a bad idea." So some strategies work, some strategies are not going to work. This show is going to be about strategies that do not work. Okay? And so, we're going to hit it from every angle. We're going to talk about things that come up repeatedly, that people think of like, "Hey, maybe to accomplish this goal or set of goals, if I do X, will that work?"

These are ones that historically don't. So we'll talk about it. That's going to hopefully not just help you know what not to do, but maybe how to change your thinking as you are trying to achieve those goals.

Leh Meriwether: Todd, you've put together 23 different divorce strategies that do not work. I want to add one to the very beginning. I want more, so we're up to 24. So [crosstalk 00:04:00]-

Todd Orston: You had to show me up. Fine. All right.

Leh Meriwether: No.

Todd Orston: Not only do you add one, but you make it number one. You know what, Leh, it's all about you, pal. All right. I see your-

Leh Meriwether: I also given you credit for putting all this down.

Todd Orston: I see your strategy. All right. Not going to work, pal. Not going to work.

Leh Meriwether: Well, all I was going to say is something that's a divorce strategy that does not work is a lack of a strategy.

Todd Orston: I really like that one. Darn it.

Leh Meriwether: Well, all your ideas gave me this idea. They got me flowing. I couldn't have come up with it if you hadn't put in all hard work.

Todd Orston: Oh, keep going. No, seriously. Keep-

Leh Meriwether: I'm on standing on the back of a great people. That's all.

Todd Orston: Oh, Leh, can you write me a review? That would be great.

Leh Meriwether: No, but seriously. We won't spend much time on... Because we've talked about this before. When you just walk through the process and don't have a strategy... We've had whole shows about, "Here's what you need to be doing. You need to plan on this." The strategies are important for an amicable divorce because when you're not thinking things through, oftentimes problems arise because you or the other party didn't think things through. And all of a sudden you're in a crisis situation because perhaps you're paying too much support or are not receiving enough. Then all the animosity begins to increase because you didn't think things through.

Todd Orston: Really good point.

Leh Meriwether: So I just wanted to put that out there. It's important to have this have a strategy because not having a strategy or a plan well is almost as bad as having one of these bad ones that you've listed. That's the first one. Let's hit the next one.

Todd Orston: All right. My number one, all right. No, but my one number one, let's talk about support. How about this? Like I was saying, somebody knows that a divorce is coming. They are like, "Well, am I going to have to pay some support?" Yeah, you probably are because clearly there's evidence that your spouse is dependent on you. Doesn't mean that they can't go out and find a job, ultimately, but support's going to be an immediate issue.

So then the thought becomes, "Well, what if I quit my job? What if I stop working? What if I don't work as hard, commission-based, don't make as many sales? Then my income is much lower, which means that I don't have to pay alimony because the money's not there." Is that a good strategy, Leh?

Leh Meriwether: No, that's not a good strategy, because the other side's going to argue that your income should be imputed because you have voluntarily reduced the amount of income you're making. This applies whether you're the one who's got to pay alimony or the one receiving alimony. If you have a part-time job and you suddenly quit it, that's not going to look good to the court.

Todd Orston: Yep.

Leh Meriwether: Now, there may be exceptions to that. Perhaps you had to quit because there was a problem with your children or something like that. But, I mean, if you're doing it to say, "Well, I want more alimony because I want them to pay," it's not a good strategy.

Todd Orston: Yeah. That does lead into number two where you might be the person asking for alimony. This comes up all the time, usually, from stay at home mothers and parents where they're like, "Look, I don't have a job right now." Some attorneys will say, "Don't get a job." Some attorneys will say, "Start looking," Okay? The question becomes, "Well, I'm just going to not work. And then that's going to basically put me in a much better position to ask for alimony."

This is what I'll say on that. Yes. It'll open the door to an alimony request because you at that moment have no income. But the court isn't going to ignore your historical income that you've been able to earn, if you have a career, if you have education and training, the last time you had a job, the reasonableness in terms of you remaining unemployed. Your kids are very young. You need to be at home. I get it. Absolutely. The court's going to understand that.

If your kids are 13, 15, whatever, and basically doing whatever they want to do, and you're still not working, then the court's going to be looking and saying, "Yes, I understand you have a need right now, but you should be self-supporting. So it's not, "Oh, okay. Didn't have a job, got all this alimony," because there's one other factor people don't think of, modification.

Leh Meriwether: Right. Well, the other thing is you want the courts... We're focusing on Georgia right now, but I do know this is true in a lot of different courts. But it can vary from judge to judge, so it's important to talk to your attorney about it. But a blanket statement, just not, "Hey, I'm just not going to get a job," overall, that's not a good strategy. From a practical standpoint, often the courts want to see that you are not planning on being 100% reliant on the spouse.

Then they're more willing to, in some cases I've seen, award at least on a short-term basis, a lot more alimony because they see the person going, "You know what? While I may have this master's degree, that was from 20 years ago and I need to get retrained," or re-certified, whatever field you were in. And that could take one, two, three years. Maybe you need to go back to school for some re-education or something like that, or work your way back up in the workforce.

So the court's going, "Okay, you've got a plan. I'm going to give you a bunch more alimony in the next few years so you can get on your feet and then get a job. But starting on year two or year three, it's going to start to phase out." I've seen a lot of judges do that, so it's a good... From a practical standpoint, to start looking into how you would support yourself.

Todd Orston: Yeah. One last point before we go to a break, also, if you look at budgets, if you look at the benefit of the amount of income that you could receive from a job versus the amount of support you might get in that award, usually the way it plays out, you're still going to come out ahead if you have that job. So, again, I'm not saying that you can't get alimony. People get alimony and we get alimony for clients all the time.

But if you get a job, you might find a job and be able to make enough money that you're getting far more than you would have gotten in that alimony payment. So it's still a potential benefit to you. Also, like I said, modification, the point simply being you could get a whole bunch, then you get a job two weeks later. Well, guess what? Don't be surprised when they file to modify the alimony amount simply because your need is less.

Leh Meriwether: Right. When we come back we're going to continue to break down divorce strategies that do not work. 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 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 and 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, or read a transcript of our other shows, you can find them at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, today we're talking about divorce strategies that do not work, and we're breaking down things that we've seen over the years, people trying things. When you have a seasoned divorce attorney on the other side, they're going to identify... Let me rephrase it. There are very few tricks now seasoned divorce lawyers haven't already seen. Some people think, "Well, I'm going to do this because, well, they won't catch on." But we've seen it all before.

And so, odds are it's not going to work. It's going to in fact backfire and make it worse on you. We want to go through those strategies and lay them out. Todd's done an excellent job of listing a whole bunch of them we're going to go through. It's important you understand these because you could, by choosing one of these strategies that don't work, it could put you in a worse position than if you had just picked the right strategy and worked with your lawyer. All right. Ready to keep going?

Todd Orston: Yep. Let's do it. Let's do it. We were talking about support and now let's even take a step back. Let's just talk about the income that you have. I've had people basically say to me, "Okay, well, if I'm going to have to pay support based on my income, what if I don't disclose all of my income?" Maybe they make tips. Maybe they defer, they have the ability to defer some income through their-

Leh Meriwether: Like commissions.

Todd Orston: Commissions, things like that, where they're like, "Hey, how about if I, in essence, hide some of that income?" All right, Leh, is that a good strategy?

Leh Meriwether: That is not a good strategy. The last time there was a case where someone tried that on my client and things didn't add up when I... Because we get to see their past income. We look at bank statements. We look at W2s, paycheck stubs. And so, when things didn't add up, I subpoenaed the employer and got their employee file and found that there was not only more commissions around the corner that were being held in Escrow by the employer, but there was also some bonuses that were about to be paid that were earned the year before. So that strategy is found out and now you look very dishonest in front of the court.

Todd Orston: Which judges love. I mean, they really appreciate when you're being dishonest in there. By the way, that's sarcasm, if anybody's listening. Yeah. No, but go ahead. Sorry. I interrupted.

Leh Meriwether: There was a case where in the middle of the trial... The person was an airline pilot and they tried to hide something. The judge was like, "Something's not right here." They took a break, I guess, and then went back on the record and called the employer or something like that. I wasn't in that trial. The judge was actually sharing the story.

Todd Orston: Wow.

Leh Meriwether: And so, the pilot got busted in the middle of the trial and got hammered. The court was just very upset with this person and got hammered when it came to alimony. It backfired hugely.

Todd Orston: Yeah. That's the really big risk there. The interesting thing is when you crunch the numbers, hiding... Well, I'm just using the number, $5,000 of income, what that translates into in terms of an alimony obligation, or even a child support obligation, is dollars. I mean, it's not a small amount of money, but the real risk is angering the court. The real risk is losing credibility in the eyes of the judge, the person who is making all of the other decisions in your case. And if they don't like you, trust you, believe anything that you're saying, things can go really horribly wrong for you for the remainder of that trial.

Leh Meriwether: Oh yeah.

Todd Orston: So that's where you have to really be careful.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Todd, keeping in line with hiding things, is it a good strategy to hide your assets so you don't have to share them with your spouse?

Todd Orston: I'm going to build on what you said, which is there aren't many tricks that attorneys and judges haven't seen. Discovery is what I would refer to as the big equalizer, all right? Discovery, meaning the ability to discover information relating to relevant issues. So if we're talking about assets here, I will also say what is lost can be found. Discovery allows us to look for these things.

So hiding assets is much more difficult than you would think, and unless we're talking about cash or hard assets like jewelry, that once they were there, and if you don't have pictures and video, and we will often tell people, definitely do that. Take pictures. Take videos. If there are assets like that, that you want to make sure are still there at the end, if you walk into court and say, "Hey, I had gold." "Okay, prove that you had gold." If you have no proof, the court's going to look at you and say, "I'm sorry. You haven't proved it existed." But when it comes to other things like accounts and all that, it's hard to hide.

Leh Meriwether: Well, here's the other thing. Most of the time, on that example, let's say there's jewelry, all right? And a hundred thousand dollars of jewelry. They say, "We never had a hundred thousand dollars in jewelry. We only had $20,000 in jewelry." Really? Well, then why did you have an insurance policy for $100,000 in jewelry? Because they want to make sure they're covered in case someone breaks in the house and steals the jewelry. There are often things that people don't even think about, like an insurance policy to cover those things, that will call you out.

Todd Orston: That's a great point that we make throughout the show, which is sometimes the way to prove the point isn't the direct route. In other words, spending or income. If you make cash under the table and you're like, "Look, I've been doing this for years. I'm just going to say I don't do it. I don't make it. I don't make it anymore." Well, sometimes proving your income isn't just by looking at the bank accounts to see cash flowing through the account. We can look at the spending. We can look at spending habits.

If you are spending the equivalent of a 60,000, 70,000-dollar income, and you've been doing that for years, and you're trying to prove to the court that you only make 30 to 40,000 dollars, well, the court's going to say, "Well, that's amazing because you are stretching those dollars like nobody's business. How do you do that?" So sometimes there are ways... Again, this goes back to the tricks and things that we've seen and experienced.

Sometimes we can prove things the indirect way. Again, hiding assets becomes very, very difficult, especially with bank accounts where everything's traceable. You have records that show money in, money out, and it becomes really hard to get around that.

Leh Meriwether: There was even a case where there was evidence that some assets had been transferred to, I believe it was Jamaica. The party that transferred those assets there... They had to have a court hearing on this because I think the wife didn't have enough money to afford this. There was a motion to the court to order the husband to pay for the wife's attorney to fly to Jamaica and take a deposition down there about some of the assets, and the court awarded that. So the husband was ordered to pay for the lawyer to fly down there, at the lawyer's time down there, all the expenses down there, to take a deposition or a couple of depositions down there and they found the assets.

Even if they didn't find assets, the husband, because he did something that at least on the surface looked bad, cost him a lot of money when it comes to attorney's fees. So it-

Todd Orston: Yeah. I tried that, but the judge rejected my need for a couple of massages. I said, "These depositions are difficult. Judge, we're going to need to be relaxed." That didn't fly, but anyway.

Leh Meriwether: Well, it's a good thing.

Todd Orston: I keep trying to tell my clients, "Go to Jamaica. It's okay. We'll go there. We'll litigate there." But doesn't work.

Leh Meriwether: No. These judges, for the most part, are very reasonable.

Todd Orston: They see through it. It's crazy.

Leh Meriwether: They see through it. Yeah. All right. Along that line, some people try to hide assets by maintaining all the assets in their name. And so, since we keep things separate, what's in my name should just remain mine, right, Todd?

Todd Orston: Nope. Not Georgia law. Georgia law, basically, you have the difference between marital assets and separate assets. And when you go into the process, the court's going to initially assume everything's marital, and marital is loosely defined as anything that you have acquired during the marriage except for gifts and inheritance. Everything is basically going to be considered marital assets.

So the fact that you put it into your name, court doesn't care. Doesn't care about title, doesn't care about whose name's on the account. It's still a marital asset. Keeping it separate, even if you did it from day one, doesn't change the nature of the asset in terms of it being marital or separate.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. When we come back, we're going to continue to break down the divorce strategies that do not work.

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 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 and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online in atlantadivorceteam.com.

If you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com. Well, today we're talking about divorce strategies that do not work, and what's not working is the speed at which we are going through these divorce strategies. So let's get into it, Todd.

Todd Orston: All right. All right. How about this? You're about to head into a divorce and you basically are trying to think about alimony and also just think about things that you want. So, you know what? Maybe my strategy should be, start spending more. Shopping sprees, elective surgeries, big purchases, expensive vacations. As we're getting things or right before, how's that going to look like?

Leh Meriwether: That's not going to look good, because there's these things called bank statements and credit card statements, and historical spending, that will pretty much show that this was a intended bad strategy just to make it look like you have a greater need. And the courts don't like it, and the courts can say you are wasting marital assets in these shopping sprees. That tends to backfire on people tremendously.

I've even seen courts where someone went on a crazy shopping spree, the other side turned off the credit card, which could be seen as a contempt of court action in Georgia, because there's this thing called you can't waste the marital assets. It's in a standing order in many of the courts here in Georgia, and many states too.

It's also encompassed in law that you can't waste marital assets, especially during the course of the divorce process. You can't deprive someone access to resources also, but the court didn't find the husband in violation of that shutting off the credit card... I mean, violation of standing order because of the actions of the other party.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Building on that just very quickly, then we'll go on to number seven, which ties into it, understand that you go on that spending spree, if there are other, and hopefully there are, if there are other assets out there, damn skippy, we're going to be looking at the court. Well, opposing counsel's going to be looking at the court saying, "Well, we want more of the existing remaining assets because if that side went on a spree and spent five grand, we want five extra thousand from what remains because that's going to be fair and reasonable."

The court oftentimes, I'm not saying every time, but oftentimes won't have a problem with that. Now, building on that, you started touching on how about in terms of spending, what if I do just say, "You know what, I don't want them to take money from bank accounts. I don't want them to use the credit card, will run up debt. So I'm just going to block them from marital funds. I'm going to shut down the credit cards, close the bank accounts, transfer monies, redirect my income." Are all of those strategies going to look good to the court?

Leh Meriwether: No, with the exception of the one I mentioned earlier, where it was in response to trying to limit something. In this situation, we're talking about people that proactively shut everything down because there has been no historical inappropriate actions on the other side. So the court automatically says, you're doing this to either, one, deprive them of the ability to fight this divorce, and or two, this is controlling abusive behavior. Both of those scenarios looks very bad to the court, so you do not want to do that.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Building on that, I would say, look, it's a reasonableness kind of issue. All right. Limiting access to some monies because of a concern, as long as there's enough still remaining that they can live their lives, that they can pay expenses, they can do things. Sometimes, strategically, we will look at someone and say, "Hey, there's this gigantic account over here. If you want to control it to make sure that it doesn't just disappear, meaning if you have a fear or concern that the other side is going to just start burning through money, then you can take control of certain things.

Sometimes people take it to the extreme. I'll say to someone, "Okay, leave something behind. Give them some level of access." They'll be like, "Oh, I do, absolutely. Listen, I've given them $25 a month to spend however they want. It's all good. That's fair." And I'm like, "Well, you make $300,000 a year. So I'm pretty sure the court's not going to think that's fair.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: So you have to be reasonable. But taking control to protect assets, as long as you do it in a reasonable way, the court won't have a problem. It's just that sometimes people don't think reasonably.

Leh Meriwether: Sometimes that blocking the spouse from marital funds is... Another example. There was like a half a million dollars in a bank account. It was actually a personal injury settlement, which technically a large portion of that was considered separate property, not even marital property. One of the spouses who did not have the injury took it and almost disappeared with it. But for us getting an emergency order from the court, that required it to be placed in the court registry.

Todd Orston: Yep.

Leh Meriwether: That's blocking them for a different reason because you were trying to abscond with the cash, versus blocking them so they can't defend themselves. Either way, looks very bad to the court. That case had a very favorable outcome for our client. All right. Let's hit the next one.

Todd Orston: All right. There we're talking about blocking access to credit, to bank accounts. What about, "Okay, well, you know what? I'm done. I'm done with this marriage. I'm going to divorce. I get it. I'm just going to stop paying the marital expenses. Not going to pay the mortgage. I'm going to redirect my income into my account. I'm not paying the mortgage. He or she can. I'm not going to insurance. I'm not going to pay car notes. I'm done," is that going to work?

Leh Meriwether: No. Not only will it not work, but it may result in you being in violation of a standing order that exists in many counties across the state and in many other states, that require you to maintain basically business as usual. And so, that's part of all of these standing orders. I'm being very general because every standing order has different language. But another thing is you may be, as a result, maybe the largest asset in your marriage is the equity that is in the marital home. And if you stop paying the mortgage, it could result in being foreclosed and losing that equity.

It can result in the court being very upset with you, you being responsible for the other side's attorney's fees, and you having to deal with a contempt hearing, and in some extreme situations, being thrown in jail. So yeah, not a good idea. Let's hit the next one. What if-

Todd Orston: Well, hold on. Very quickly, I will say, the solution there is if you think that the other party should be contributing. So if it's an issue of, "Well, I'm not going to let the other side who works and has income and they're not contributing..." Then it's a temporary hearing. Then you can go to court, don't allow mortgage payments to be missed. I just want to be clear. We're not saying there's no course of action that you can pursue to get protection.

We're saying then as soon as you file for divorce, then you can ask for a temporary hearing if you can't reach an agreement, where you can ask the court to make the other side be partially responsible for the payment of those expenses so it's not all falling on you. But allowing, to your point, a mortgage to go into foreclosure or all of a sudden the lights are being turned off simply because you stopped paying, absolutely, to your point, you will look terrible to the court and that's not how you want to start this process.

Leh Meriwether: Exactly. You know what I just realized? I don't think we're going to...

Todd Orston: No, I think we're going to have to do a second show. I was going to talk to you during one of our breaks. I think we're going to have to do a second show on strategies that don't work.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. There's a lot of them.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Anyway. All right. Well, we'll keep going and then we'll do a second show to go into even more. But how about this? How about this? Maybe I'll present this and when we come back, you can give an answer. But how about, you know what, I think a great way to start this, I'm pretty angry, pretty frustrated. And you know what? While my spouse is at work, I'm going to lock the doors. I'm going to change the locks. Then the house is mine. I mean, it's absolutely possession is nine-tenths, right? That's the law?

Leh Meriwether: No.

Todd Orston: What? What? Crazy. This is craziness.

Leh Meriwether: Well, that is not a good divorce strategy. I have seen the police get involved in these situations. Not all the time, but where the other person shows up. I've seen it where the other person's name is on the house as well, and the police order the spouse who changed the locks... When I say order, they strongly suggest that they...

Todd Orston: At gunpoint, right.

Leh Meriwether: That they give the key, the new keys, a copy of the new keys to the spouse that you tried to lock out. I've had that happen before, and I've seen the court get irate when someone does that. So either way, you waste a lot of money changing all the locks and it not doing anything. When we come back, we'll continue to break down divorce strategies that do not work.

I just want 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. You can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?

Leh Meriwether: That's right.

Todd Orston: You can turn on the show and we'll help you fall asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back 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 and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. And if you want to read a transcript of this show or go back and listen to it again, you can find it at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, today we are talking about divorce strategies that do not work. We realized that there was no way we were going to get to all of the ones that we had listed. So we've decided to break it up into two shows because we think it's important to break down each one of these so that everyone's aware. I think we would be doing a disservice to everyone if we went through it too fast. We'll finish up these divorce strategists that do not work, we'll finish up part of them today. We'll do the rest of them the next show.

And then, the plan at the moment is to do two more shows, a follow-up from a last show we did last time about evidence. We talked about the four types of evidence that you need to help win your case. We're going to get a little bit deeper. We're going to talk about the rules of evidence. The reason we haven't done it yet is, well, they can get quite complicated and we want to make sure we do them as simple as possible so that everyone understands them.

We're not going to do a deep dive, but we've seen lawyers not get it right. So it can get quite complicated. And so, we're working on keeping it as simple and understandable as possible. Okay. With that out of the way, let's get back into these strategies that do not work. All right, Todd. Talking about the house, we left off talking about locking the spouse out of the house. How about, "Well, you know what? I can't stand being with my spouse. I'm just going to move out."

We don't have an agreement on how to deal with paying for bills or dealing with the kids, but I'm just moving out. I can't take it anymore. Is that a good strategy?

Todd Orston: My opinion, no. Absolutely not. Now, if your health and welfare and sanity and safety, if those things are in question, all right, and at risk by staying, then obviously leave. Sounds like you're going to have bigger issues to deal with. There could be violence issues or harassment. All right. But I usually tell people, don't just move out.

What that means is, ultimately, that may be your plan, but don't just move out unless you have an agreement that deals with some basic issues like access to the home, access to personal property you leave in the home. Do you have children? When are you going to see the kids? Because what I've seen too often is someone just leaves and then they turn around and they're like, "Yeah. I didn't like you and I really didn't want to be with you. So I fled the home. But hey, can we now work together so I can get my stuff and... Oh, wait, I'm sorry, did you change the locks? Why aren't you answering the phone? Where are my children?

All right. I'm not saying that moving out... Moving out is a normal part of the process. Other people will say to me, they'll be like, "Is the judge going to be angry that I moved out?" No, that's normal, okay? As long as you're not abandoning the family. Moving out to keep the peace, I would even go so far as to say judges would appreciate that because they don't want the drama. But don't do it without there being some level of communication in terms of what the plan is going to be about those things I just mentioned, like property, children, bill payment, upkeep of the house, those things.

Leh Meriwether: If it's a contested custody case and you claim to be the primary caregiver for the children, and then you up and leave and move out and leave the other parent in the home with the children, that's a very bad divorce strategy because it looks like, "Well, wait, you weren't the primary caregiver because you just moved out. And if you were the primary caregiver, you must not care about the kids that much because you left them with the other parent who hasn't been caring for them."

So that's why it is not a good idea unless you have an agreement. There's a second strategy. On the flip side of this, moving out of the house, there are scenarios where the other side, I have recommended to the client, do not move out the house until we have a settlement agreement. Again, there has to be certain conditions in place. Like there's no concern about family violence or anything like that, because what happens is the other person is so anxious to get this over with because for whatever reason, them just seeing the other person drives them crazy.

By staying in the home and paying respectful, it accelerates the settlement process because the person wants to get it over as fast as possible and they're often willing to give up more things in order to get the case settled. This usually comes into play when there's no kids involved. So there's just two people that have been... Maybe that's a second marriage or whatnot, but there's no kids involved, and they just want to get on with their life for whatever reason.

Sometimes they're willing to give up alimony, or give up an asset that they may have originally fought over because they just want to move on so bad. But if you move out of the house, all of a sudden that leverage is gone.

Todd Orston: Yeah. All right. Well, building on that, because I know we have limited time, building on that, what about a situation where you want the other side to move out? You don't want to be living with the other person. You don't want to have to go anywhere. You don't think that you should. So how about this? "I'm going to may cohabitation difficult." See my voice. I'm changing the voice. This is my devious... Yeah. "Well, I'm going to make cohabitation difficult for the other party so they want to leave. They need to leave." How about that as a strategy?

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. That's not a good strategy. This is on the flip side of staying in the home. There's one thing to stay in the home, being respectful, act as if you... Just being a good person while you're in the home. But then there's, on the flip side, you can take it too far and maybe you don't want to force someone to settle. Meaning you start doing ridiculous things and making it really difficult for them. Maybe you know they've got to leave early in the morning and you park your car behind them, knowing it's going to delay them so they can't get to their job on time.

Or maybe you think it's a good idea to kill a squirrel and put a cigarette, a half burnt cigarette in their mouth and lay it on your spouse's side of the bed. And with a note saying, "This is going to be you if you don't stop smoking." That's a real case. I'm not making that up.

Todd Orston: I mean, that would make the godfather blush. I think the mafia, they'd be like... No, that's too far. Come on. No.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: I mean, a horse head, I get it. But a little squirrel? Come on, and they don't smoke. That's just ridiculous. I don't even know what that message is. I mean, "Smoking kills"? I don't even understand. That's crazy.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. You don't want to make cohabitation difficult for the other party. That's where you're going out of your way to do things that make their life difficult. I'm not talking about just your presence makes it difficult for them. That's an emotional response. But when you're doing things to antagonize them, maybe scare them like that scenario, so that it's like, "I've got to get out of here. This person's crazy." No, that's not a good idea because that's going to reflect very poorly on you in the courtroom, if you get there.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Remember that the court wants there to be peace. The court wants you to settle, stay out of court. But if you have to come to court, yeah, everybody just stay calm and then we'll deal with this at court. If there is a problem individual and the court is then, excuse me, tasked with dealing with that problem individual, guess what? You may be the one that gets removed from the house. So understand, that squirrel, poor squirrel, something like that happens, reflecting poorly, forget about that. The court could say, "Sir, get out. You need to go somewhere and don't kill any more small animals, please."

So understand that you engage in... That's an extreme example, but understand that the court could definitely say, "Look, I need to keep the peace. So the person who's causing the problem, you need to leave."

Leh Meriwether: Yep.

Todd Orston: All right. Let's deal with the last one. How about this. Service of process. Service of process, very quickly, it's how you get the case started. How about this? "I'm going to have someone go and serve at the place of work or some other place with the intention of causing some level of embarrassment." Is that a good way to start the case?

Leh Meriwether: Not if you want to settle the case. That is not. Let me flip it. If you want to increase the odds of a very expensive and drawn-out divorce, go ahead and do that.

Todd Orston: It's a great way of putting it. Absolutely. This is absent exigent circumstances. I mean, if somebody is going to flee or they're going to avoid service, you have to do what you have to do.

Leh Meriwether: But you're not doing that with the intent to embarrass them.

Todd Orston: Correct.

Leh Meriwether: And that's-

Todd Orston: Yeah, correct. Usually, we will start a case with what's called an acknowledgement of service, giving the other side the ability to avoid formal service by signing a document. The whole point is maybe that brings them closer to the settlement table, not pushes them further away.

Leh Meriwether: Right. Because embarrassing someone in front of their work colleagues, for example, that's just going to raise the temperature of the case. And that just makes everything more expensive. It can go beyond just that. It can have long-lasting impacts on if you have a co-parenting situation. Hey, everyone we've unfortunately run out of time. Thanks so much for listening.