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209 - More Divorce Strategies that DO NOT work!

209 - More Divorce Strategies that DO NOT work! Image

08/26/2021 1:00 pm

In the previous show, Leh and Todd discussed several divorce strategies that do not work. Unfortunately, there were so many that they ran out of time. Tune in to hear the several more divorce strategies that do NOT work, including


  1. Blasting "your story" to others - Social Media; text messages; emails

  2. Filing a TPO with unsupported allegations

  3. Contacting your spouse's employer to impact their employment

  4. Passively Interfering with Parenting Time

  5. Making the kids your "allies" in the coming custody dispute

  6. Shutting down and not participating in divorce process

  7. Intentionally trying to delay the divorce process

  8. Engaging in settlement discussions prematurely

  9. I will settle now and fix the terms later

  10. I have an attorney, so I am going to let them handle everything

  11. I don't have an attorney & don't know the system, but I am sure "it will all work out"

  12. I will just dismiss the case if things are not going well for me.




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, we 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 alantadivorceteam.com. Well, Todd, we might've finished last week show if you hadn't talked too much.

Todd Orston: That's kind of an aggressive opening, but you're probably right. But you know what? With a topic, like what we talked about last week and what we're going to continue talking about today, I can't help myself. Last week's show, as, of course, you know maybe, we were talking about strategies that don't work. Not strategies that do work, but don't work. These are things we get all the time from people, where they call, they're about to embark, unfortunately on this process of a divorce.

They're like, well, what if I did this? Or what if I try that? While there are some strategies where our answer is going to be, yeah, that's a good strategy, there are many where we say, no, no. Let me write that down for you. No, don't do that. That is not going to benefit you. And in fact, it could backfire, and likely will, and we've seen it do that before.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. Without knowing that we have a lot to go through, let's get into it.

Todd Orston: All right. Where did we stop? I think we stopped, we wanted to go into something relating to social media.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. Todd, is it a good strategy to blast your story to others?

Todd Orston: Absolutely. Skywriting, smoke signal. If you have no morse code, fantastic way to push it out there for public digestion. The answer's, no. No, it's not. Unfortunately, we've seen this too many times where someone wants to ... I mean, they're hurt. They are angry. They are what ... You name the emotion, they're feeling it. The way they deal with it is they go online, and through social media, they start to blast that story. They basically start telling their, and when I say their version, it doesn't mean that it's an incorrect version, but it is full of emotion.

It is full of negativity. It is full of accusations. I can tell you right now, even if it's true, oftentimes the court will look down on that. The reason for that is, let's say there are children involved. Well, are the children seeing that? Are friends of the children seeing that? Pushing all of that private information out there for public digestion, the court's going to look at it like you're doing that for one reason, and one reason only, you're just trying to retaliate. You're trying to basically hurt that other party by pushing that information out, and the court does like it.

Leh Meriwether: It often backfires on you. Maybe you don't use social media. Maybe you send out a massive text to all the people on your contact list in your phone, or send out a massive email to everyone you know, or your friends and family, and his or her family, your spouse's family, and just lambaste your spouse. Well that, well, number one, that's going to anger your spouse, the one you did it to. Number two, it's going to make it very uncomfortable for all the people around you. When you start pulling it in, they don't want to get involved, and so when you are going through a divorce, you need a support group.

If you're going to suddenly almost alienated everyone, because they're like, man, I don't want to get in the middle of that, now, all of a sudden, you think you're gaining allies by sending out this massive, whether it's a social media post, text, emails, and you're blasting it out, and now people are wanting to distance themselves from you because they're like, I don't want to get in the middle of that mess. As a result, you now, you're more alone than ever.

You're better off going, getting, if you're hurting that bad, get into counseling and work through that, and maybe find a few core people that you can sit down and talk to about what you're dealing with and have them help you get through it. But attacking the other person publicly, just, I'm not aware of it ever really working, and it just typically backfires.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And quite often, especially when you're caught up in the emotion, I can tell you right now, I mean we've represented people on both sides, on the receiving end and the posting end. I will tell you that we've used that against people who are posting. I can tell you that we have seen some communications where it gets so angry and accusatory and just starts, I mean, in terms of just sort of putting that laundry out there, I mean, it's going into detail, and we've used that against parties because ...

Especially when there are children, because we're looking at the courts saying, look at the level of anger here, look at the level of emotion. And especially if they're children, how are they going to co-parent? How are they going to be able to communicate about anything when there's this level of anger and emotion? They can't communicate about anything right now. I've seen courts agree with that. Just be very careful. I love what you're saying about counseling.

You sort of beat me to the punch. I think everyone needs to be heard. I get it. But there are ways to be heard. There are ways to get that message across and sort of unburden yourself to whatever degree. There are people to talk to, whether they be professional, or in your close circle, but blasting it out there, it's not going to work. Let's go to the next one. An unfortunate reality in a lot of, not majority, but in a lot of cases is violence, and it can come in the form of violence, it can come in the form of harassment or stalking.

There is something called a temporary protective order under the Family Violence Act. I've had people where it becomes very clear, very quickly that they're living together, they don't like the fact that they're living together, and that little question mark pops into a box over their head, and they say, well, I know one way to get them out. I'll file a TPO. But there may not be a lot of veracity, a lot of truth to allegations that are ... Or just they're unsupported allegations. What about that as a strategy?

I don't like the fact that right now we're together, we're in the same home. Maybe I'll file a TPO, which will force the other party out of the house.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. That's not a good strategy. Then, often, that strategy backfires. Even if you're successful, let's say you file a TPO. The first part is an ex parte, meaning the other side doesn't get a chance to tell their story, and so the court only hears your side of the story. They issue an ex parte order. Well, the other side is going to get their chance to tell their side of the story in court, and Georgia has to be done within 30 days. Otherwise, the TPO naturally expires, the ex parte part. But if you come to court and the other side is able to prove that your allegations are not truthful and did not rise to the level of family violence, the court's going to reject it, and that's going to have a huge adverse impact on your divorce case at a couple levels.

One, depending on if the court sees it and the opposing attorney is definitely going to use that against you. I mean, we've done it before, to say, look at the level they're willing to go through to win at this case, and judge, if you look what they did to start the case off, you can't believe their side of the story now, and because they swore under oath before. But that's one side of it. The other side of it is you set the case on extremely adversarial grounds that result in the case taking longer, costing a lot more money, and the adversarial tone can last well beyond the ending of the case.

Before you go off ... Then there's the third part, and you may not care about this part, but Todd and I do. TPOs, temporary protective orders, it's borderline unconstitutional ... I mean, because the person gets to say later on, they squeeze it in, but it was a special tool designed to protect victims of family violence, because in the past, the other side always got notice of a hearing, and as a result, the person who is the victim would often be talked out of it, either by force or some other form of coercion, and people weren't getting the protection they needed.

When you start filing all these false TPOs, it really diminishes the importance and the impact of a TPO. This is a very select tool to protect people and we don't like it when it's abused. When we come back, we're going to continue to break down the 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. You can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess. 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 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 if you want to read a transcript of this show or others, you can find them at divorceteamradio.com. Well, today, we're talking about the divorce strategies that do not work. This is actually part two because we'd ran out of time last time.

I know, before we hit the next one, Todd, you want to just say something real quick about TPOs before we move on.

Todd Orston: Yeah, absolutely. We're talking about, almost basically false allegations. Just bringing it as a tool to get the other party out of the house, but do not mistake what we're saying for ... In other words, we're not saying, if you need protection, don't seek protection. This is an incredible and an incredibly powerful tool to get you some protection because we've gone into this in other shows, violation of the terms of a TPO constitutes a felony, and that's part of that protection that you can get.

If you truly need protection, we're not saying, just because there's no video or audio or witnesses to prove that violence occurred, if it's occurring, seek help. All right? And the court will also understand that. Even if it's not granted, if the facts and evidence are there, then please seek help. We're not trying to convince people not to seek help if they need it. We're just talking about, there are people where, let's just say, they will bend reality a little bit. They will bend the truth and they will come in, and we've even had audio that was taken from a client where the other party is saying, "I'm going to say you hit me," and there's a whole conversation about, "But I didn't."

And the other side is like, "I don't care. I'm going to file a TPO. That'll get you out of the house and then we'll see what happens." Well, yeah, we will see what happens. We're going to show this audio tape. It's not going to get granted, and then your credibility is destroyed. That's what we're talking about. We're talking about truly false allegations, as opposed to, if you need help, please, please, please, please get the help you need.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Next one. You think it's a good divorce strategy to contact your spouse's employer and tell them what a horrible person they are?

Todd Orston: Absolutely. Oh, no, wait, sorry. Sorry. I was, absolutely not. There is no, in the eyes of the court, because we're sort of coming at this from, how is the court going to look at certain behavior? There is no valid reason why you should be contacting the opposing party's employer to discuss anything going on between you and that party. It really doesn't matter what the reason is. Even if your spouse is having an affair with somebody at work and you're calling just to be what, the good Samaritan? Hey, just wanted to let you know that my husband's engaging in bad behavior with somebody.

All right. It looks like you are just being spiteful, like you are just doing things to try and hurt that party. There are longer term, longer reaching, farther reaching ramifications. For instance, again, if you have children, well, child support is based on income. If you contact the employer and make things so difficult for your spouse, they might get fired, that I haven't checked, but I think that can impact their income. If suddenly they have zero income, then that's going to impact child support. So, you could be hurting yourself by basically taking steps to derail their career.

Leh Meriwether: If there's no kids, we've seen a case where the husband had a very good job. He did something that was inappropriate on company time. His wife called his employer, told them all about it. He got fired. Well, so by the time he got to court, and she actually asked for a jury trial, and so she wanted the jury to award alimony based on what his income was. But at court, we showed that, hey, you're the one who caused him to get fired. He doesn't have a job. He can't even get a job because he was fired right now. So, there's nothing to pay you alimony with.

And she didn't have a job, and the jury, and he admitted to his inappropriate behavior, the jury said, "Well, ma'am you caused this whole mess. Yeah, he shouldn't have done it, but he's saying he's sorry. He wished he hadn't. But you caused it, so we're not giving you alimony." When she did that, it caused her to not get an alimony, even though he shouldn't have done it. That's why we talked about this. These things that we have literally seen in court, the strategies that people use and that they do not work and often backfire on them. All right. Let's talk about the next one.

Todd Orston: Let's jump into an aspect of custody. What about, what I'm going to call sort of passive interference with parenting time? In other words, taking that position of, hey, they don't want to go and I'm not going to force them. Basically, just sort of taking that unfortunate position of listen, that's between you and the kids. I'm sort of staying out of it. Is that going to work as a strategy?

Leh Meriwether: Most of the time, 99% of the time, that is not going to work. Not only is it not going to work, it can easily backfire. It could be seen as alienating behavior. It can be a basis to come back to court because that's often where we'll see it. It's like somebody comes back for a modification of custody saying that, "Hey, look, this is evidence. They're definitely doing something, saying things to the kids on their time that's causing them to not want to come with me and they're not forcing them to come with me." I've even seen a judge, whether it was right or wrong, we're just sharing what we've seen. We've seen a judge throw a mom in jail for not ... Basically, she was claiming, I can't force my son to get in the car.

And the court said, "Yes, you can and you didn't, so you're going to jail." She went to jail on Christmas Eve. I mean, this was a pretty big deal. You have to take steps, but now, there are situations where the kids do not want to go, and it could be caused by the other party. That's why I said 99% of the time it doesn't work. There is that 1% where the other side's causing it, but here's what you have to do. Then you have to aggressively, when I say aggressively, you reach out to the other parent, you show them that you're willing to co-parent.

You say, "Hey, let's go to co-parenting classes. Let's go to ... I mean counseling, co-parenting counseling. Let's look at some sort of reunification therapy because something has happened. I'm telling you, I'm not causing this. This is between you and Johnny, or whatever, or you and Missy," whatever the children's names are. "It's between y'all. I swear I'm not doing it. and I'm willing to participate in some form of counseling to get to the bottom of it." You've got to be proactive there to show that you are trying to encourage a healthy relationship between the children and both parents.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Just understand you will be under a microscope. Basically what we're saying is yes, there might be situations. I've had a case where truly, the other parent would be carrying the child out, trying to strap the child into a car seat, and the child was not having it. All right? But you have to understand, at that point, in the context of a custody case, the court's going to be digging into why, because that's not normal behavior.

Is it because the visiting parent, the one that is about to exercise some parenting time, did something to harm the relationship with the child? Or is there alienating behavior going on? You can't go, hey, little [Tootin Common 00:20:11], I mean, if we're going to come up with names, I'm just going to call my child, hey baby, Tootin Common, your dad's a monster. Your dad's a monster, I mean like a real monster. He's a monster and might eat you. Okay. Oh, it's time to visit. Oh my gosh Tootin Common won't get in the car seat.

I mean, at that point, the judge is going to dig in and go, "Well, you kind of created mom," okay, I can't remember who Tootin Common's mother was, "But mom, you kind of created the problem. You painted this picture that dad's a monster, and are we surprised that he won't get into the car seat? No." Now, all of a sudden, all the focus is on you. Meaning you, the parent that put these seeds of distrust and dislike, or whatever it is, into your child's head. So, you have to be really careful, that could lose your custody.

Leh Meriwether: Staying along those same lines, I mean, next 50 seconds, how about making the kids your allies in the upcoming custody dispute? Is that a good custody strategy?

Todd Orston: Yeah. All jokes aside, courts hate it. Courts want to see that kids are insulated from the strife that is going on, that is existing between the parties. They are not your allies. I don't care how old they are. I don't care if you have two-year-olds or if you have 17-year-olds. Keep them out of it. When the issue of custody comes up, I have seen it again and again, and again, some of these things we see only infrequently, we see this happen all the time, and the one consistent thing we see is courts coming down hard on the party that is trying to make the kids their ally by disclosing things that the kids really shouldn't know about.

Leh Meriwether: 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 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 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 find it at divorceteamradio.com.

Well, today we're talking about the divorce strategies that do not work, and including that is custody strategies. When we left off, we were talking about one of the strategies that doesn't work in a custody case is trying to make your kids the allies in an upcoming custody dispute. We've had whole shows of the impact on that. We just wanted to touch on it here, but one of the books that talks about the adverse impact of that is Co-Parenting Works by Tammy Daughtry. We've had Daughtry on the show before, and I apologize for not remembering the show number.

But we did a show with them about the top 10 things that kids wish they could have told you going through the divorce, and one of those top tens, and these were interviews with kids when they got older, but they felt like they couldn't tell their parents at the time, but one of those things was they didn't like one of the parents bringing them into the middle of the case or trying to make them their ally, trying to make them their counselor.

And it had a adverse impact on their mental health long term. So, you may think you're helping your kids, but you can have an adverse impact on their mental health long-term, and impact your ability to be with them when they have their own kids. So, just keep that mind, go back and listen to those episodes and you'll get a better idea of what we're talking about. Okay. Let's keep going.

Todd Orston: All right. Let's talk about the divorce process. We have a few that we want to get in this segment, but the divorce process includes things like discovery. You have to ask for documents, get those documents from the other party so you can review them so you can make good, intelligent decisions regarding whatever the issue might be. But what about non-participation? What about, almost like 60s? You have the sign and you're just, yeah, I am not going to participate in this. I'm going to rebel against the process. What about just shutting down and not cooperating with the divorce process?

Leh Meriwether: That's a great idea if you want to lose.

Todd Orston: I guess you have to understand, you need to know the path, right? What is my journey going to look like?

Leh Meriwether: Not cooperating, you can say, "Well, I just don't want to participate." That could be seen as actually obstruction. It makes it more difficult on the lawyers representing you and it makes it difficult for them to advise you, to help you during the process. It most likely will increase the legal fees from your own legal team because they're going to be following up with you constantly to get the information they need to help advise you and respond to discovery and be ready for court.

So, you're putting yourself at a serious disadvantage if you won't help your lawyers get ready. And then, from the other side, if you won't turn over documents or you won't respond to discovery, they can file, what's called a motion to compel. With that, comes attorney, an award of attorney's fees most of the time, and so you may be ordered to pay the other side's attorney's fees. So, shutting down and not participating is extremely harmful to your case and will definitely result in an increase in costs in your case.

If you're struggling with something, I know this is our fallback, but if you're struggling with something, get a group of wise counsel around you to help. Listen to your lawyer and seek out counseling to help you work through whatever's causing you to want to shut down. All right. Next. Delay tactics, Todd. Does it help my case, and maybe I've got some evidence I don't want the other side to see. I really don't want this divorce. I'm not going to shut down and ignore everything. I'm just going to delay, and I'll create all kinds of excuses for not being involved. I'll just delay, delay, delay. How about that?

Todd Orston: Well, that builds into what you were just talking about. There's shutting down saying, I'm not going to play. I'm going to take my ball and go home. Well, that doesn't work. Here, it's well, I'm not going to just shut down, but I'm just not going to comply in a timely manner. I'm going to just drag my feet, and every step of the way, it's going to be like them pulling teeth. It's a constant struggle for the other side to get basic information. That does not work because understand, there are time limits, if you will, that you have to do things, like respond to discovery.

If you get discovery, you have 30 days to respond. You don't respond within the 30 days, well, opposing counsel might not do anything about that. Or they might send you a letter, a demand letter saying, hey, you were supposed to respond and you haven't, please understand we don't want to have to go to court and ask for the court's assistance. If you still don't do something, you will be in a hearing with a judge. I've seen judges get angry where you have not complied with, let's say discovery requests, where you have not ... You keep postponing, let's say mediation. Hey, it's the third time that you're suddenly magically not available to go to mediation or to do something else.

I can tell you right now, at the appropriate time, there is a very good chance you'll be sanctioned. It could be in the middle of the case, right? You keep doing it, and the other side appeals to the court and says, judge, we've spent X amount of dollars extra just to try and get compliance on some of these things. And they could get a temporary award of fees, and I've seen it come at the end. In Georgia, there's a code Section 9-15-14, which has to do with stubbornly litigious behavior.

That can include this kind of behavior that we're talking about, where you're just dragging your feet and it's costing everybody time, money, effort, and the court can sanction and say, but for your stubbornly litigious behavior, these costs wouldn't have been incurred, so you know what? You're going to pay. Then on top of that, remember, the one person you don't want to feel any negative feelings towards you, to be upset about that kind of behavior, is the judge.

If you ultimately have to go in front of that judge for a trial, and all throughout the case, all they've been hearing is how you have been a roadblock to the process. I mean, I'm one of those people that I'm like, look, they don't forget those things. They're going to walk into court, and they're now listening to all the evidence, but they're listening to it while in the back of their mind, they're remembering, oh, that's the person that just kept creating issues and dragging their feet and really interfering with us being able to efficiently resolve this.

Leh Meriwether: Now, on the flip side, let's say the person is not ... They haven't put their head in the sand, they're not trying to delay because they don't want the divorce, but they want divorce so bad that ... I need to get this case over with. We need to settle now. Is that a good divorce strategy?

Todd Orston: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. People will say that all the time. I talked to somebody two days ago, and they were like, well, we're really interested in mediation. What if my spouse and I just went right to a mediator? The reason that doesn't work is because ... I mean, it's great. Could you do it? Yes. Could you find a mediator and sit down with them? Absolutely. But are you prepared for that? Are you prepared to make decisions? How can you make decisions if you don't know all of the facts and all of the things you need to know about to make good decisions? Can you make a decision? Absolutely.

Do you know how many times people call us and they say, hey, didn't hire you for the divorce. My spouse and I, we went to a mediator, or we just sat at the kitchen table, and I signed off on a document and it ultimately was filed. Yeah, it's really horrible. I can't afford or I don't get enough time with my kids, or whatever the case might be, I got no assets. And they're like, we need to undo this. And you know what our response is? There is no undoing that.

You locked yourself in. Why? Because you either, just emotionally, you wanted to get through this so badly that you sort of put those blinders on and you didn't really think about the consequences, long-term, short-term, all of the above, of the terms that you were entering into, or you just weren't prepared. Please, please, please, there is a time and a place. We fully embrace, Leh and I are both mediators. We are trained in mediation.

We embrace mediation, but going in unprepared, not only might it result in just, you don't settle, you could enter into an agreement that is clearly harmful to you.

Leh Meriwether: Right. We're not talking about like one side was hiding anything. We're talking about, like you said, all right, well, we're going to do this and we're going to sell the house, and then I want to move, and you didn't take a moment to go. What's the cost to live in this neighborhood if I want to keep the ... So, you agreed to keep the kids in the school district, but you didn't do your research ahead of time, and because you've been living there for 10 years, and now all of a sudden, you realize that geez, even an apartment would be $2,500 a month, and you can't afford that because you're between alimony and child support.

Maybe you're only getting you know, 1,800 or 2,000, and you haven't had a job in a while. So, all of a sudden, you find yourself in a position that you can't comply with the settlement agreement because you didn't take a moment to go, well, hang on a minute, what's it going to cost me to stay in this school district? That's just one example of how, by rushing to discuss settlement too early, you can put yourself in a really bad position. We believe in settlement, but you need to settle knowing ... You need to know everything you can in order to enter an effective settlement. When we come back, we'll 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. You can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than like counting sheep, I guess. 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 softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd, and we are 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 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. Okay. So, we're continuing to break down the divorce strategies that do not work. Let's keep going.

Todd Orston: All right. Well, building on what we were just talking about in terms of engaging in settlement discussions prematurely, how about that strategy of, you know what? I'm just going to settle now, just get through this, I'm going to settle and I'll fix things later. Is that a good strategy?

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, if you want to feel really bad about the settlement agreement you entered, because there's nothing you can do about it. Here's the problem with that, and this is a legal problem. Once you enter a settlement agreement that's binding, has been filed with the court, there's one element you can't change, and that's equitable division. You cannot modify it. The reason is the courts, it's called res judicata. It means, it's already been decided.

The courts do not, can't afford really, for people to come back to court again and again and again on the same issue. You only get one shot. So, if you settle without, and say, all right, I'm just going to sign this agreement, and all of a sudden you realize, oh my gosh, I shouldn't have signed this agreement, or this was early, or maybe somebody didn't fully disclose something to me, and I'm not talking about fraud, you just didn't do your research. You're stuck with the agreement.

Now, support and custody are modifiable, but only if there's been a material change in circumstances. Let's say you enter a settlement agreement that gives you a thousand dollars in alimony or gives you X number of dollars in support, and then six months later, oh my gosh, I can't afford this, or this isn't enough, unless something has changed, unless you're making less money, or your spouse is making more or vice versa, you can't come back to court for a modification because there's been no material change in circumstances.

Same thing with custody, time with the children. There has to have been a change. It can't be, well, my change is I just realized this is not good. That's not a change. Once you settle, the terms are set. So, if you have questions about the settlement agreement or you have questions about, I feel like I don't know everything, then don't sign the agreement.

Todd Orston: Yeah, don't lock yourself in, please. The last two segments, or not segments, but topics, please. I know you want to get through this. Nobody wants to be in the divorce process dealing with the divorce, I get it, but educate yourself. Because as we always say, as I always say to people, this agreement will likely have long lasting implications. This isn't something where it's ... You're not ordering a sandwich, and if you didn't like the sandwich, okay, tomorrow's a new sandwich. This is something that could affect you for many, many years to come, especially when there are children involved.

Please, do your homework and make sure you're ready to have that conversation before you have that conversation. That's all we're saying.

Leh Meriwether: Right. The only exception to just being able to maybe fix something later is if someone actually lied about something and you can prove it. They swore under oath that here were the assets are here was a specific asset and there was nothing else, and you find out later that they actually lied about it. That's fraud, and you can deal with it later. But that's a very, very rare exception. All right. Todd, if I hire an attorney, I don't have to do anything, right? I can just let them do everything.

Todd Orston: All right, if you don't like money, absolutely. I mean, if you just like giving all your money to an attorney, great. But there's another aspect where I'm going to say, absolutely not. It's your case. It's not the attorney's case. You're the client. This is your life that we're talking about. If you're comfortable just saying to an attorney, "I don't even ... Just leave me alone. Just go get me divorced and do your thing." Well, you better have a lot of trust in the attorney, because there are a lot of decisions that need to be made, a lot of concepts and issues that need to be thought about in terms of, what's going to be fair and reasonable for you?

So, walking away, or not walking away, that's not the right metaphor, but playing ostrich and putting your head in the sand is not a good strategy. This is your case and you need to be thinking about things like equitable division. Is this going to be fair? Will I be able to have the retirement that I need? Will I be getting the portion of the assets that I want? What assets are you going to give me? Are you going to give me a 401k but all the cash goes to the other side or the other side gets a house, and meanwhile, yeah, I got some assets, but I have no place to live? You need to be a part of the process. As painful as it is to be invested, you have to do it, because at the end of the day, it's your life we're talking about, not the attorney's.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I mean, and I don't remember who said this, but you are the expert on your life. The attorney is not. They're there to guide you and give you advice, but you are the expert on your life. In fact, the lawyer usually is going to be asking you questions. "Hey, what kind of custody arrangement would you like to see? Where do you plan on moving? How much do you think that's going to cost?" Most lawyers that I've ever dealt with, they're very proactive with their clients, and they're trying to get information so they can make a recommendation. "Okay. Well, based on this information, I think this would be a good settlement proposal. What do you think?" You can't let them do everything.

Also, if they come up with, "Hey, here's what I think the assets are," if you don't engage in that, maybe you missed something, you may look at something and ... Because a lot of times, people look at and go, "Hang on a minute, I don't see the gold listed." "Gold? I didn't know there was gold." "Yeah, we bought all this gold a while back. Where is it? It's not on here." I mean, for those that are involved in the process, they identify things that may have been left out of the settlement discussions. All right. Next one.

Todd Orston: All right. How about, I don't have an attorney, I don't really know the system, don't understand the rules and procedures, but you know what? It'll all work out. How about that as a strategy?

Leh Meriwether: Not a good strategy. No. I think people are sensing a theme here.

Todd Orston: Hopefully.

Leh Meriwether: Now, you can't take ... You have to do your research. You can't just say, it's all going to work out. Because if you don't file the correct documents, the court can't help you. The court can't give you legal advice. The clerks can't give you legal advice. You won't even be able to schedule a court appearance to finalize things. Here's the great thing. I mean, between, just talking about in Georgia, between our website, which has 5,000 pages on it, and then this podcast with over 200 episodes, I mean, there's so much information out there that we provide.

Then there's, and other states that we may not be in. I'm sure there's firms out there that have a lot of great information online. Don't just assume it's going to work out. Take the time to do your research, and you know what? If you've done your research and you're still not clear on what steps you need to take, but you can afford to retain a lawyer, at least, at least schedule a consultation with a lawyer, pay for their time, go over what you understand, confirm from the lawyer what you think is the right process to take, and that way you can keep moving forward in the correct manner.

Todd Orston: Yeah. The saying, it'll all work out, doesn't mean or guarantee it'll all work out well please, please, please educate yourself. Anyway, if you don't, you only have yourself to blame for any mistakes or omissions or anything like that. You can look to the attorney, but at the end of the day, you're the one that had that knowledge, and if you didn't share that, then the attorney can only do so much.

Leh Meriwether: Oh my gosh, I'll tell you this real quick, and then we'll answer the last question because this is a short one. I had one time a client hired me to finalize their divorce and went in, got all their paperwork in order. That's it. We were just going to do a final hearing, got in there and knocked it out in five minutes, and the person at the end of it said, oh my gosh, I should have hired you from the beginning because I lost so much money because I lost three days of work. This was the fourth time coming to the courtroom to get their divorce final.

Because every time they showed up, they didn't have all the right paperwork. The couple, they were very amicable. They had worked everything out. They just couldn't get the final divorce granted because they didn't have all their forms in order. So, it was worth it to them to hire me, to go to court and finalize the divorce. All right, last one, Todd. How about as a strategy, if things aren't going well, I'm just going to dismiss the divorce?

Todd Orston: Doesn't work. I mean, let's put it this way. More often than not, we will file, not only an answer, but an answer and counterclaim. By filing the counterclaim, even if the petitioner who filed the original petition for divorce dismisses, the counterclaim survives. Going through the process, whether you're engaged or not, all the other things we've talked about, if all of a sudden you wake up and you're like, this is not going well, I'm going to dismiss, it doesn't work. And even if you do dismiss, let's say the other party didn't file an answer and counterclaim, you dismiss, understand the other party is just going to turn around refound. Yes, you are starting many steps back, but you're kind of, sort of just jumping right back in where you left off, and ultimately the court might even see that you were playing some games by doing that.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. Hey everyone, we're out of time. Thanks so much for listening.