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Episode 80 - Top 12 Things to Take Care of After You Are Divorced

Episode 80 - Top 12 Things to Take Care of After You Are Divorced Image

11/20/2018 9:30 am

After a large portion of your personal time has been taken up by a long divorce process, the last thing people want to do after their divorce is to continue working on paperwork at home. We understand. We walk people through this process for a living. We know how intense it can be. We advise people, however, to consider this as the last two miles of marathon, or the 7th inning stretch of your life transition. There are still several things that you should take care of after you are divorced so that you do not have legal or financial problems in the future. Tune in to hear us break down the 12 things you should be taking care of after your divorce.

Transcript

Leh Meriwether:              You know, Todd ... I always start that way, don't I?

Todd Orston:                     Yep. Well, that is my name, and I'm the only one here that you're talking to.

Leh Meriwether:              Not all the time.

Todd Orston:                     It kind of makes it ... If you had said, "So, Carl" ...

Leh Meriwether:              You would've gotten worried.

Todd Orston:                     We'd have a problem.

Leh Meriwether:              Okay. So, Carl ... You know, one of the things that we try to do when clients finish up their divorce action is give them things that they need to be paying attention to, things that don't ... doesn't require a lawyer, but, so often, unfortunately, a lot of balls get dropped. So what better show to talk about ...

Todd Orston:                     Oh, I can think of a few.

Leh Meriwether:              ... what better topic? What better topic to talk about to help people than, "Let's go through some practical tips on how to take care of yourself after the divorce"?

Todd Orston:                     Yeah. I mean, a lot of people, what they don't realize is ... They've gone through the divorce process. They've done all of these things, meaning they've done a whole bunch of work, and a lot of things have been resolved. Then, all of a sudden, there's a final order - an agreement, then a final order, and they're done.

Todd Orston:                     Well, unfortunately, that's not the case. You're not done. I mean, yes, you're done with the litigation. But, more than likely - and by that I mean 99.9% of the time - there are going to be things that you must do at the end, meaning once the order is entered, in order to move on with your life - things that you need to do to comply with the order that was entered, things that you need to do for yourself in terms of name changes, document organization, whatever you need to do, that you really aren't going to start doing until you're in that stage of post-divorce.

Leh Meriwether:              Right. Hey, welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7.

Leh Meriwether:              Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and, from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level.

Leh Meriwether:              If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Leh Meriwether:              Well, today we're gonna dive into the top 12 things to take care of after you're divorced, and we're gonna focus on some practical stuff. We're not really gonna get into ... Well, we're gonna touch on it at the end, but we're not gonna talk about all the things that ... maybe that you might deal with in counseling, the emotional aspects. We're gonna focus on the practical stuff today.

Leh Meriwether:              So, all right, well, let's start with ... Okay, this is somewhat personal to us, is ... Only because I can't tell you how many emails I get about this years later, but the first thing is save your documents.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, and especially in today's day and age, where things can be saved digitally. I mean, look. You and I have both handled cases where, I mean, truly, we have anywhere from five, 10, 15, 20 banker boxes full of documents. All right? Many of them, you will never need again, and sometimes, when you have that many boxes, there are repetitions.

Todd Orston:                     But there's a lot of important information, and, in today's day and age, you can save them. You can digitize that information, and you can save it without cluttering up a garage or a basement.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     You never know. As much as I want people to be done once they are divorced ... Right? I mean, I hope they never have to go through the divorce. But if you do, I hope that you're done, never have to go back to court. But we both know that's not the reality, and modifications come up, contempts come up. You may need that information.

Leh Meriwether:              Right. So we often tell clients that one of the best settlements to a divorce case is one where you take the settlement agreement and you put it in a drawer and never have to look at it again. Unfortunately, when people put it in the drawer, they usually do have to look at it again later, and they've moved and they've lost it. So we get an email, and we provide it. We keep it digitally.

Leh Meriwether:              So we're fortunate that we're able to provide it for the clients. But there are times when your lawyer may have retired. We had that situation where we had a lawyer come work for us. He was trying to go a couple more years, keep working for us ... to keep working, 'cause we were able to put him where he didn't have to go to court anymore.

Leh Meriwether:              But then he eventually retired. Now, we didn't take on his old caseload. So ... But now we have clients that are emailing about stuff he did years ago, when he wasn't with us, and he's since retired. I don't know what those files are. So they have to go back to the courthouse. Thankfully, most of the stuff's at the courthouse, but ...

Todd Orston:                     The pleadings are gonna be.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     But keep in mind - I was gonna say this - that the pleadings ... If you need a copy of the final decree, don't worry about it if you've lost it. I mean ...

Leh Meriwether:              You can always go back to the courthouse.

Todd Orston:                     You can always go to the court. You can get a copy of that document. But all of the supporting documents and information that were used in basically coming up with that agreement and obtaining that final order, that's not necessarily going to be filed.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     So if it's lost, if you haven't held onto it, it might be gone. So we are very good, but not every firm ... and I'm not throwing stones. I'm just saying, we digitize all the information. So if somebody called and said, "I want every document that you had" ... I don't wanna do this for everybody, but my point is ...

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     ... we could recreate a file.

Leh Meriwether:              Right.

Todd Orston:                     Okay?

Leh Meriwether:              From the digital file.

Todd Orston:                     From the digital file. Most ... A lot - how about this? - of firms just don't do that. They just don't have that capability. So be very careful, and that's why we say protect the documents.

Leh Meriwether:              So here's some practical tips real quick. Save it. You can use Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Google Drive. Okay? All four of those options, you can save it online in a digital file. A lot of them give you a free account. So you have so many gigabytes of data you can keep there, and you can set it up with two-step authentication, 'cause we had a show talking about how people hack in to get people's personal information.

Leh Meriwether:              So save your parenting plan, your settlement agreement, and your final decree, your child support worksheet, your child support addendum. Those are sort of the core things that you see in most cases. Save those digitally, and set it up for two-step authentication, meaning that you don't just need a password.

Leh Meriwether:              If someone logs into your account, like maybe they find your password, but it's on a device that Google or Evernote, they don't recognize, it can send you a text message to authorize that. So if someone else tries to hack in ... I've actually had that before, and somebody was trying to access an account. So I denied it, and I went in there and I changed my password. So they didn't get access to my private information.

Todd Orston:                     So, by the way, I apologize for trying that. It's ...

Leh Meriwether:              I shouldn't have challenged you.

Leh Meriwether:              So, all right, and we're gonna talk about this later. Also save your marriage certificate. We're gonna talk about that later. It has to do with social security later on. We don't handle that, but you wanna save that marriage certificate. Don't toss it away just 'cause you got divorced.

Leh Meriwether:              Now, one question we get a lot is, "Should I have a date-stamped copy" - which means the clerk just has a stamp on it saying, "We received it on this date" - "or should I get a certified copy of everything?" A certified copy costs more.

Todd Orston:                     But we're talking about dollars. We're not talking ...

Leh Meriwether:              Right.

Todd Orston:                     We're not talking about ...

Leh Meriwether:              Hundreds of dollars.

Todd Orston:                     ... "Oh, it's a $100 document."

Leh Meriwether:              Well, at least not in Georgia.

Todd Orston:                     At least not in Georgia.

Leh Meriwether:              So what we tend to say if you're changing your maiden name so that you've gotta go back to social security and all those to change your name, you've got to have a certified copy. We usually say get three, four certified copies. That way, you could also need it for the driver's license, 'cause you'll need to change it on your driver's license. So the DMV.

Leh Meriwether:              Also if you had a hotly contested divorce. So maybe you had to go to trial in your divorce and things were just ugly, and you're worried that you're gonna have issues with parenting exchange or children exchanges, going forward. Have a certified copy of your divorce decree, your parenting plan in your car, and get multiple copies.

Leh Meriwether:              Put one in your car, one at the office, 'cause a lot of times, the sheriff's departments will not ... They won't accept a digital copy. Now, you may have that to defend yourself, to say, "Oh, here's what the digital copy ... This is my copy," if you get in a dispute. That's why I always say save it digitally, 'cause then you can access it on your phone.

Leh Meriwether:              We've had a client do that and show it to the police when they showed up when there was an issue regarding a visitation, and the police said, "Well, I can't do anything, 'cause he has a document. It may be digital, but that's the only thing I have." So ...

Todd Orston:                     Once again, don't make yourself crazy ...

Leh Meriwether:              Right.

Todd Orston:                     ... if you don't have a copy of that, because, as we were saying before, you can, if necessary, go back to the clerk of court. They will pull the document from their file, and you can get a certified copy at that time.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. Yep.

Todd Orston:                     But, again, if you don't wanna have to go back to court and do that, then when you're working with your attorney to get that final order and get everything finalized, just ask for a certified copy at that time.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. Even ... The cool thing about ... I think Dropbox does this. I know Evernote does this, and Google Drive may do this. I just don't know off the top of my head. The cool thing is you can set up, like in Evernote, that when your lawyer emails you your final documents already in digital form, you can just forward that email to Evernote, and it saves it in your Evernote file.

Leh Meriwether:              So you don't even have to go scan it in. If you don't have a scanner, no problem. Just forward it right to your Evernote file. I think Dropbox has that, too. So just real easy to do. I'm trying to make it so you have no excuses for not saving everything digitally.

Leh Meriwether:              All right, and I did wanna give a quick side note. We're focusing on cases where ... that you've settled it, and that's where we're focusing. But I do wanna give one caveat here. If you had a final trial, you weren't able to settle the case and you had a final trial, and you just ... You disagree with the judge's opinion, the judge's judgment, final judgment, you have a time limit in which to respond.

Leh Meriwether:              You can file a motion for a new trial, a motion for reconsideration, or a notice of appeal, depending on what state you are in. I mean, that could be ... For some of those motions, it could be a short deadline of 10 days. It could be 30 days. Most of them are 30-day deadlines, but if you get that final judgment, the first thing you need to do is be talking to your lawyer about what that deadline is, because if you wait, you may waive your opportunity to appeal a case, even if it was absolutely wrong.

Leh Meriwether:              So just wanted to give that caveat.

Todd Orston:                     Oh, I've been listening. Great advice. I forgot I was even on the show. I mean ...

Leh Meriwether:              All right, Carl.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, right. That was Carl talking.

Leh Meriwether:              All right. So, hey, up next, we're gonna talk about how do you handle situations with child support and alimony? What should you be doing after your divorce, even if your case was relatively amicable and y'all worked everything out? We're also gonna talk about deadlines and just little things, like automobiles.

Leh Meriwether:              Welcome back, everyone. I am Leh Meriwether, and with me is Carl Orston. I mean Todd Orston. I'm just kidding. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7.

Leh Meriwether:              If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Leh Meriwether:              Well, today we're talking about the 12 things to take care of when you're getting divorced ... I mean, sorry, after you've gotten your divorce degree. We're gonna get ... The last segment, we only got to step one, 'cause Carl just kept talking. Or I don't know. I'm gonna blame it all on Carl.

Todd Orston:                     He's a little chatty.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah. So we're gonna continue. We're gonna go a little bit faster, because we're trying to hit the top 12 things you should be focusing on after you've gotten your divorce decree.

Todd Orston:                     So what is ... Let me jump in. What is a support log?

Leh Meriwether:              All right. So the number two is craft a support log. If there is alimony or child support involved in your case, whether you are the paying party or the receiving party, you want to keep a log of everything.

Leh Meriwether:              So what I usually say is create an Excel spreadsheet. In one column, click the date that you payment's supposed to be made. The next column, what was ... what the amount that was supposed to be paid. The following column, what was actually paid, and then if there was any delta, if there was any difference.

Todd Orston:                     Usually, it should be by check, so let ... Or it's a transfer.

Leh Meriwether:              Or wire transfer.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah. If you have that information and if you wanna go to that and take that extra step on that same log, you can put the check number ...

Leh Meriwether:              Right.

Todd Orston:                     ... or you can put the transaction number. Let me explain why. Because it can potentially prevent a problem, because if you have that information ready to go, we have had cases before where somebody makes an accusation that a party did not comply fully with the terms of an order. "You did not pay me everything that you were supposed to pay me."

Todd Orston:                     Then we do an accounting. They hire us, and we account for all of the payments. We find out not only did he or she pay everything, but maybe they even overpaid.

Leh Meriwether:              Overpaid, yeah.

Todd Orston:                     So we've had that. But if you had had that log at the beginning, you might not even need to hire us. You might be able to say, "Hold on one second. I hear the accusation. Here's my log. I've been keeping this since payments started. Take a look. If it's wrong, then so be it."

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. So another thing is, if you do it by wire transfer, that's one of those situations where it is so worth it to set up a place to keep all your bank records, because here's the deal.

Leh Meriwether:              If you keep all of that information and another party comes along and accuses you of not paying everything, like Todd said, you can literally pull this out, hand it to a lawyer, and a lawyer can write a letter prior to responding to the contempt action and say, "Look. Tell the other side, 'Here's your opportunity to dismiss this case. Here is all the evidence. We have made every single payment, including all the supporting documentation."

Leh Meriwether:              So you have the Excel spreadsheet on top, followed by the checks, if you use checks, followed by the bank statements, if you use wire transfers. I usually say use ... 'Cause you can get all this digitally for free now, keep a copy of every canceled check, also. Keep it, like we mentioned before, in Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box. Those are just some simple examples. Keep them all in the same place.

Leh Meriwether:              Then you turn it over, and, most of the time, the lawyer's gonna dismiss the case, because if they file a case that's frivolous, they're gonna get hit with attorney's fees. So keep a log of that.

Leh Meriwether:              On the flip side, we've had cases where ... no, years later, the other side suddenly wants ... The child makes an election. You can do that here in Georgia, and the child goes to live with the other parent. But, meanwhile, this other ... The parent on the other end hasn't been receiving child support for 10 years. Well, you can only go back seven years with bank records.

Leh Meriwether:              So now the new ... The parent who now has primary says, "Well, I want full child support." Then the parent that's been caring for this child for 10 years is going, "Well, I didn't get child support for 10 years." But now they have to go back and recreate everything. But if they'd been keeping a log all along, it'd be really easy just to say, "Here's my log of what you owe me. We'll just cancel it out" so that, that way, you don't ... The now-non-custodial parent doesn't have to pay child support.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, and look. I understand why people don't do it, because it is time-consuming, and the reason, really, is that people don't think about the what-ifs. They don't think about, "Am I going to be pulled back into court? Is there gonna be an issue that results in a modification or a contempt or whatever?"

Todd Orston:                     So it's just a whole bunch of effort that they just don't wanna do. Right?

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     What we're saying is ... We are the ones that get called in when the problems arise, and they do arise. What we're telling people to do is something that, had they done it, you might be able to ... Forget about minimized costs. You might be able to avoid costs altogether.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah, litigation costs.

Todd Orston:                     Litigation costs, because you can step in and you can go, "You're wrong. All right? You're accusing me of X, Y, Z. That's not correct, and here's the documentation to prove it."

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. All right. So number three. Now this may sound kind of, "Well, duh," but people don't do it all the time. So when you get your settlement agreement back or a final judgment if you had a trial, take all the deadlines from the settlement agreement and court order and put every single one into your digital calendar and create reminders, 'cause you can do this in all the different calendars.

Leh Meriwether:              You can set reminder so, two weeks ahead of time, "Hey, reminder that you need to have reached out to someone about doing a qualified domestic relations order to split up a retirement account" or something along those lines, 'cause most of the things are gonna say, "Within 30 days of the settlement agreement, husband or wife will do the following."

Leh Meriwether:              So read through everything. Write down every single deadline so you look at a very simplified document, or whether you write it on a sheet of paper or put it in your calendar, which is what I recommend, it's really easy to identify what you need to get done.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, I can't say how many contempts are filed because someone or people don't go through the agreement. They don't realize that, following the entry of that agreement and that final order, that they have obligations to finalize everything and make sure that you are in full compliance with the court order.

Todd Orston:                     So these deadlines that you put onto a calendar, they're going to help avoid those problems.

Leh Meriwether:              Now, there's some natural deadlines that ... Or there may be some kind of common sense deadlines that aren't in the settlement agreement, because when you're paying lawyers and mediators potentially $1,000 an hour when you combine everyone, you don't get into the super nitty-gritty.

Leh Meriwether:              But here's an example of a to-do that you should create a deadline for. Let's say you've decided you're keeping the house. Well, you may not have put in there, within 30 days of the settlement, that the utilities will be taken out of this person's name. So those little things like that that you don't get to the fine details like that, but look at it, like if you look at something at the house, 'cause that's ... We try to focus on the big picture, usually.

Leh Meriwether:              But you realize, "Hey, look, well, my wife's name's on the cable bill, and she's moved out. She's moved into another place." Well, then, you need to take care of getting that cable bill or get a new cable transfer to your name or something like that. Or maybe she does. So those are ... Put those deadlines on there.

Leh Meriwether:              Create your own internal deadline, even if it's not in here what the deadline is, because it's ... Oh, gosh, we've just seen so many situations where a contempt's filed because nobody did anything.

Todd Orston:                     It creates ... At the very least, it creates unnecessary stress. All right? Whether it results in some kind of a legal action being filed ... I'm almost gonna say it doesn't matter whether it's a legal action or just a whole bunch of accusations back and forth and a bunch of stress that you don't need in your life. Then just take care of these things, and hopefully you avoid it.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. So number four, tidy up the car issues. Now, my wife, she tells me to tidy up my car all the time. That might be a little different, but ...

Todd Orston:                     Yeah.

Leh Meriwether:              So talking about little things, again, like car insurance, titles to the car. What you don't want is ... We've seen situations where ... and it shouldn't impact it, but on a temporary basis, it did, where you had one spouse that got in a horrible car wreck after the divorce, but they hadn't split up their car insurance. All of a sudden, the person who has a great, stellar record, all of a sudden, they're having to pay more car insurance, 'cause they didn't split up their car insurance.

Leh Meriwether:              Titles to cars. Make sure you take care of that, even if there is not a deadline written in the settlement agreement. Make sure ... Try to do it within 30 days.

Todd Orston:                     But what do you mean by that, try and do it?

Leh Meriwether:              Sign over. So if the title is jointly ... If an automobile is jointly titled in husband and wife's name, and let's say the car is paid off, the wife is gonna keep that vehicle. Then the husband needs to sign it saying he's giving full title to her. He needs to get his name off that title.

Todd Orston:                     We have seen the cases where the issue doesn't come up until, let's say, in that situation, the wife is wanting to sell the car and is at the dealership or is ready to hand the keys over to a buyer. It's like, "Oh, where's the title? You need to sign the title over." Then she's scratching her head, going, "Oh, I don't have the title. My ex-husband has the title." Then ...

Leh Meriwether:              The deal falls apart.

Todd Orston:                     ... deal falls apart. So ...

Leh Meriwether:              So these are little things. It may not have gotten you back into court, but it could've caused a problem in the showroom.

Todd Orston:                     Exactly, exactly.

Leh Meriwether:              Not the courtroom, but the showroom.

Todd Orston:                     The showroom.

Leh Meriwether:              All right. Well, we're gonna touch on this, but we won't get to all of it - dealing with the marital home. It's usually a large asset, and you'd be surprised at how many problems arise because people don't properly deal with the marital home shortly after the divorce. When you don't properly deal with it, when you don't set the deadlines and work to meet those deadlines, you can easily find yourself back in court or even more problems that can get you into more legal trouble that doesn't even have anything to do with divorce court.

Leh Meriwether:              We'll be right back.

Leh Meriwether:              Welcome back, everyone. I am Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7.

Leh Meriwether:              If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Leh Meriwether:              Well, today we're talking about the 12 things to make sure that you take care of when you're divorced. We're talking about practical stuff. We're not getting into the emotional aspects or the ...

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, to take care of for yourself.

Leh Meriwether:              ... mental health aspects. We're talking about just really practical things. Because Carl keeps taking up so much of our time, we've been going real slow.

Todd Orston:                     I've got some duct tape. We can put a stop to it.

Leh Meriwether:              All right. So when we left off, we'd just started touching on ... or we'd just mentioned dealing with the marital home. So here are things where you just don't wanna drop the ball, because it just creates problems down the line. So make sure that you take care of the necessary quitclaim deeds, if you're not keeping the property.

Leh Meriwether:              Make sure the quitclaim needs are taken care of timely, and when I say timely, I'm not necessarily meaning that you do it in 30 days. What I mean by that is you wanna ... If you've moved out of the house and your ... or if one party ... Doesn't matter who we're talking about now. If one party moves out and the other party's gonna refinance the property, you really wanna quitclaim at the time of refinancing, because ...

Leh Meriwether:              I was in court one time, and this wasn't ... It wasn't a divorce case. What happened was one party had moved out and quitclaimed the property. Well, the other party that lived in there was supposed to refinance but didn't. I think maybe a year or two went by. Maybe it was two years. I can't ... It's been a couple years since I saw this. It was an emergency hearing dealing with probate court, because the responsible party - they were only 40 years old - got killed in a car wreck.

Leh Meriwether:              So what happened was nobody was paying the mortgage, and the ... It was the wife, and the house was titled ...

Todd Orston:                     In now the deceased ...

Leh Meriwether:              ... in the husband's ... Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     Right.

Leh Meriwether:              Which got place in the estate, and the wife was getting foreclosure notices from the mortgage company but couldn't even sell the property, because her name wasn't on the property.

Leh Meriwether:              So, because she didn't deal with that stuff timely and she just let her ex-husband linger on refinancing, it created a mess for her. So she had to hire a lawyer to file, basically, a contempt action against the estate. Now, I think it got cleaned up. I didn't follow it after that. But what was clear was she paid this lawyer a lot of money to help deal with this problem. Otherwise, she was gonna have a foreclosure on her record.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, and one other thing dealing with title, in the context of a divorce case, sometimes an attorney will file or a party will file what's called a lis pendens. A lis pendens basically clouds title to make it so that the party in whose name the property is titled doesn't do something silly.

Todd Orston:                     Okay, I'm choosing my words carefully. So they can't borrow against the house, they can't sell the house, things like that, because it doesn't have clear title. At the end of a case, it should be withdrawn.

Leh Meriwether:              Right.

Todd Orston:                     Okay? So ... But the problem is, while most attorneys will do it on their own, sometimes they forget.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     Or if you've done it on your own and you went through the process of educating yourself and learning about it and then filing a lis pendens, at the end of the case, you're supposed to have it dismissed.

Todd Orston:                     So if it's your house, you're keeping it, and they filed one against you, you need to take steps to make sure that that is removed.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. So another thing to ... If you're dealing with a marital home and your responsibility is to refinance that home and it says that in the court order, you've gotta refinance it within so many days, make sure you clearly document all your efforts, because we had this going through the recession, where people had this ...

Leh Meriwether:              The settlement agreement was entered just a few months before the recession several years ago, and then when they went to refinance it, they couldn't, 'cause now the house wasn't worth what it needed to be worth to pay out the equity to the other side. So the person had to clearly document every effort they had made to refinance so that, basically, at that point, it became an impossibility, and the court can't hold you in contempt if what you are supposed to do under the order is impossible.

Todd Orston:                     Yep, or if you wait way too long. Okay? Typically, that's seven years before an order becomes dormant, and then you have three years to revive it.

Todd Orston:                     So we've had people who come in, and something was supposed to be done 10 years plus later. Then if you're saying, "Well, I wanna file a contempt," well, at that point, you really can't.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     So you are out of luck, and this goes back to the message we send all the time, which is don't wait.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     If there's a violation, if something needs to be done, don't procrastinate. Don't put it off. It is much better to deal with things in a timely manner, to enforce or do whatever you have to do to enforce the agreement. Do it in a timely way.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah, and it's not that we're trying to encourage litigation. It's just that, if you don't have this taken care of, you can have massive liabilities sitting out there.

Leh Meriwether:              All right. The next one is update your estate planning and life insurance. Gosh, we've seen situations where the person didn't change their will. They get divorced, they didn't change their will, and the divorce, it broke up things, but the will still had a lot of the property going to the ex-spouse. They get ... They die, and all of a sudden, the spouse ... The only will out there is ... 'Cause the will at death is ... That's what's controlling in the probate court. That's my understanding.

Leh Meriwether:              Actually, I haven't told you this, but we have an expert who all he does is litigate probate issues. He's gonna come in and talk in a few weeks on this issue.

Todd Orston:                     Carl is always the last to know.

Leh Meriwether:              Carl is always the last to know.

Todd Orston:                     It is so important that we have actually ... at Meriwether and Tharp, we've brought somebody in house ...

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     ... because too many people ...

Leh Meriwether:              To do wills.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah, to do wills. Too many people do not follow this advice. First of all, too many people don't have a will, period. Then there are a lot of people who have one, but once they get divorced, they don't get a new will drafted that doesn't mention that spouse.

Todd Orston:                     So it is incredibly, incredibly important that you focus on that, because what you don't want is having to go through a fight in probate court later on. So it's something which, yes, it may cost a little bit of money to have a new will drafted. But it is well worth it, and it'll avoid a whole bunch of headache.

Leh Meriwether:              Right, and you don't want your children - maybe there's grown children - to get involved in these sort of litigation [crosstalk 00:28:54], too.

Todd Orston:                     Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether:              So you wanna clear all that out.

Leh Meriwether:              Life insurance, the same way. You wanna change your beneficiaries, if that's what the settlement agreement calls for. Now, some ... Obviously, if your settlement agreement calls for you to carry life insurance because you're paying child support and alimony, well, you don't wanna change it to your new wife or something like that.

Leh Meriwether:              So you need to check your life insurance policies. Maybe you have a ... You've agreed to carry $300,000, $500,000 worth of life insurance, but you have a million-dollar policy. Well, you can change that so that you can have ... You can split that up, a lot of them.

Leh Meriwether:              So you wanna make sure that you do that, too. Make sure you check the ... New will, because the divorce is a triggering point that you really need a new will, and then double-check your life insurance policies. Make sure they are in compliance with the settlement agreement or the court order, and change whatever you think is appropriate.

Todd Orston:                     All right, well, here's something that ... This comes up all the time, and I gotta tell you, there is a lot of confusion or, for lack of a better way of putting it, there is either misinformation or misunderstanding about health insurance.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     When you are married, most of the time, a lot of the time, parties are on the same policy. Sometimes it is through one spouse's insurance provided through employment, and there are very specific rules that, following a divorce action, it triggers, okay, basically, usually there's a deadline of some amount of time, usually around 30 days, where it's going to ...

Todd Orston:                     That coverage for the spouse who is not covered, who isn't the primary on that policy, is no longer gonna be covered. They have to be removed from the policy, and COBRA ... There will be the ability to get a COBRA policy or transition to their own policy.

Todd Orston:                     But the bottom line is, I've had people call, and they're like, "Oh, yeah, I got divorced 90 days ago, 120 days ago, and what do you think I should do about insurance?" It's like, "Well, right now, you may not have it."

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah, and here's an important point which people don't realize, is that you may have been using your insurance card and getting things paid for, but the insurance company has the right to go back and say, "You never notified us of this change." Now, there could there could be a change that I'm unaware of ...

Todd Orston:                     Yeah.

Leh Meriwether:              ... but we've seen this happen before, where the insurance company goes back and basically denies all the claims ...

Todd Orston:                     ... and they demand a refund.

Leh Meriwether:              They demand a refund from the provider, and then the provider will refund and then come after you.

Leh Meriwether:              So the deadlines to remember are that there's ... It's ... This is based on the law as of today, as of July of 2018. So these things can change. But you have 30 days from the date of divorce to apply and pay for additional conversion policy to convert your health insurance, if you were on someone else's insurance, to a COBRA policy and then 60 days from the date of the qualifying event, such as a divorce, to notify the health insurance administrator for purposes of continuing coverage.

Leh Meriwether:              So there's these two deadlines you've gotta keep aware of. If you don't notice them, that's the triggering event. Whether you notice the plan administrator or not, that is still the qualifying event, where the insurance company can say, "As of the date of your divorce, you're no longer covered."

Leh Meriwether:              Now, when you do the COBRA policy, however, that will cover you during that gap. They won't say, "Oh, we're not paying you now." So they still cover you in that interim period while you're getting your COBRA policy in place.

Todd Orston:                     Yep.

Leh Meriwether:              So it's very important to look at that, and you know what? Before the divorce - I know I'm going back a little bit - check on the policy. Find out how much it costs, 'cause, often, COBRA's more expensive than the regular policy. They charge a little premium there. But you can be covered for 36 months under COBRA. But double-check. It may be too expensive. You may wanna line up health insurance before you get divorced.

Leh Meriwether:              Another big thing to talk about is joint debts, because that can get people into so much trouble, and they can wind up being on the hook for a credit card they never used. When we get back, we're gonna talk about what you need to do to make sure that doesn't happen.

Leh Meriwether:              Welcome back, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp Radio on the new Talk 106.7.

Leh Meriwether:              If you wanna learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Leh Meriwether:              Well, we've been getting into ... We've been discussing the 12 things that you need to take care of after you've gotten your divorce, and we've covered a number of topics. We've covered seven. But there's 12 we need to get to. So we've got five more to go. We're gonna go kind of rapid-fire here.

Todd Orston:                     I don't think we're gonna do it.

Leh Meriwether:              Oh, we're gonna do it.

Todd Orston:                     How was that? Was that the wrong attitude?

Leh Meriwether:              That was ... That's the wrong attitude.

Todd Orston:                     We are totally gonna get to 12.

Leh Meriwether:              That's the Todd I know. I'm glad ...

Todd Orston:                     That's the Carl you know.

Leh Meriwether:              All right. So where we left off was clearing out joint debt. Here's the important thing, and I'm ... Hopefully, your lawyer tells you this, but in your settlement agreement, you can have a clause that says you're gonna be held harmless by your spouse for some debt. It may be a joint debt, like a mortgage payment, everything.

Leh Meriwether:              Well, that hold harmless clause only applies to your husband or your wife or just whoever your spouse was. So they may quit paying a credit card, and the credit card company, they're not bound by that settlement agreement. They can sue you.

Leh Meriwether:              So it's critical that you go through all your credit cards, anything that's a joint ... that's a debt that you may have had access during your marriage, and make sure that your name's taken off on it. If you were an authorized user at one point, go to the credit card company and say, "Remove me as an authorized user." Don't wait for your spouse to do it.

Todd Orston:                     Don't make assumptions.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     Don't assume that, "Well, we agreed, or it was ordered that my former spouse was supposed to remove my name from the account and pay off the debt."

Leh Meriwether:              Right.

Todd Orston:                     All right? We have seen people get into trouble because they made that assumption and then, all of a sudden, they have collectors knocking on their door. All you need to do is keep in touch with that ... with, basically, not just your ex, but with the bank or institution that issued the card. Make sure that you follow up.

Leh Meriwether:              Yes.

Todd Orston:                     If it was supposed to be done by a date specific, call them.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     All right? Make sure, "Hey, this was supposed to be closed. Is it closed? Not closed? Well, that's interesting." But then your attorney or you can take some steps to at least force compliance.

Leh Meriwether:              Yes, and so also maybe contact the lending institution, whether it be a credit card or a mortgage company. Give them your current contact information so if you move out of the martial home that they have your contact information.

Leh Meriwether:              So by way of example, the husband ... or the party - oh, let's just say husband - was supposed to make the mortgage payments. But then they stopped making the mortgage payments before the refinancing occurs. You don't know about it, because the mortgage company doesn't have your information to let you know, "Hey, we're about to foreclose on you." So make sure they have that information.

Leh Meriwether:              There are times where the divorce costs a lot of money and people are trying to rebuild up their cash, and so what ... you may be stuck on a joint debt for a little while. Make sure they have your contact information. I say check in every month to make sure the payment's been made, 'cause I've had some clients literally make the payment for the other party but then we go after them for contempt later. So you don't want to let those sit at all, and follow up with them constantly.

Leh Meriwether:              All right, let's keep going. Dealing with taxes. Well, actually, this one should be fairly short, even though it can be a huge form of damages. But you wanna maintain your tax returns for the last seven years at least. I would say as long as you've been married, if you have your tax returns, digitize them and save them, because you never know if the government's gonna come back and try to audit you and say, "Oh, you owe this more."

Leh Meriwether:              Maybe it was 'cause your spouse didn't properly report income, and then you would be subject to what's called the innocent spouse statute ... defense, I should say. But you gotta keep your information to make sure you have that.

Leh Meriwether:              Update your address. I think it's IRS Form 8822. When you move out, let them know your new address, especially if you filed taxes and there's a pending tax return.

Leh Meriwether:              Here's the other thing: If you and your spouse have agreed to alternate the kids' tax ... deducting kids on your tax returns, put it on your calendar. What you don't wanna have is both you and your ex-spouse claim the kids the same year, because that could spark an audit. You don't want that.

Todd Orston:                     I believe there are forms. I mean, usually it's one party that is supposed to be able to claim every year, and that is the custodial parent ...

Leh Meriwether:              Yep.

Todd Orston:                     ... which means that that party has to fill out a form that gives, in essence, authority to the other party to claim the dependent on their return. So what ... The bottom line is, whatever paperwork needs to be done, take care of it.

Leh Meriwether:              Yes.

Todd Orston:                     Okay? Don't wait until the last minute and ... 'Cause if you do, you may run into a situation where, just by not even bringing it up in a timely manner, they have claimed, and, "Ooh, I'm sorry. I forgot whatever." You can undo it. They could file an amendment.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah.

Todd Orston:                     But, nonetheless, that's a bunch of headache that you shouldn't have to deal with.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep. So just remember that if you're not married on December 31st by midnight, if you're not married, then you can't file married. You have to be married at the end of the year in order to file married. So it's ... You're an individual filing if you're divorced, say, December 30th. So keep that in mind.

Leh Meriwether:              Taxes, most of the time, when you are in a divorce situation, when you split things up, there is no taxable event. But that doesn't mean that you may have gotten a stock option or have gotten some stock that that item of martial property may have a taxable event if you liquidate it. So ...

Todd Orston:                     If you have some complicated asset division issues, talk to your accountant.

Leh Meriwether:              Yes.

Todd Orston:                     Okay? It is worth at least an hour or so with your accountant, who can review the terms of the agreement and let you know whether or not there's gonna be any financial or tax consequence that comes your way as a result of the terms of the agreement.

Leh Meriwether:              so, number 10, keeping up with Social Security. We're gonna keep it short here, but this goes back to the very first segment, where I said keep your marriage certificate, because if you and your former spouse were married for more than 10 years and paid into Social Security trust funds, you may be entitled to a former spouse's or survivor benefits on your former spouse's account when you reach the age of 62.

Leh Meriwether:              But you've gotta be able to show them your marriage certificate and the divorce certificate if you're gonna make a claim. So that's ... You've gotta keep your Social Security number, your birth certificate as well. So keep all those documents, and then, when you reach the age of 62, you can contact the administration.

Leh Meriwether:              I'm not saying you would claim it then, 'cause there may be advantages to claim it later. But that's something you've gotta keep those records with you so that you can maybe ... ought to make a claim to Social Security later on.

Leh Meriwether:              This is a big one: updating your retirement accounts. Gosh, how many times have we seen the parties get divorced and they forget to change the beneficiary on their retirement, and something happens and then, all of a sudden, their ex-spouse gets all the retirement when you really wanted that to go to your new spouse that you've recently married?

Todd Orston:                     I will tell you that it can sometimes be a bear. It can be difficult to do it, because you're dealing with the plan administrator to basically make sometimes a major change in the plan. It's gonna take time. It's gonna take effort. It's not the kind of thing that you can just make one phone call and it's done. So that means start early.

Leh Meriwether:              Yep, and here's the other thing: Don't wait to divide a retirement account. If you're waiting ... If it's a pension or if it's a 401(k), whatever it may be, do not wait to divide the account, because we've seen situations where the other party liquidated the account because they had a medical issue or whatnot, they needed it, and the other person had waited five, 10, 12 years before they did anything about it. The money was all gone, and while the guilty party was held in contempt, there was no money to get.

Todd Orston:                     Yeah.

Leh Meriwether:              So don't wait.

Todd Orston:                     They may be punished. They may have to pay you. But they'll pay you over time, and you're out that money.

Leh Meriwether:              Yeah, so don't wait. Move on that within 30 days of you getting your divorce. Move on splitting up the retirement accounts and updating that.

Leh Meriwether:              All right. Now, the last one has to do with seeking professional help. So many times, people think, "I'm through it." But you're not. So we often recommend counseling for the ... even at the end of your divorce, to help work through it.

Leh Meriwether:              The other thing is, if your previous marriage didn't work out because of whatever reasons - maybe you picked the wrong person - well, you don't wanna ... Your next spouse, you don't wanna marry the same person. So figure out what your contribution to the marriage was and the divorce so that you don't perhaps repeat a mistake.

Leh Meriwether:              So get that ... Like you said earlier, Todd, talk to the accountant, the CPA. Make sure your things are set up. Make sure you know what your new tax bill's gonna be, because you're not married anymore and you don't ... maybe you don't get to claim the children anymore. Figure out what that is so you can properly plan, 'cause the last thing you wanna do is, at the end of the year, you get hit with a huge tax bill.

Todd Orston:                     I mean, look, the bottom line is, there are all numbers of experts. There are realtors. There are financial planners, accountants, like we were talking about. The bottom line is that there are going to be a number of issues that you probably should be looking to an expert to advise you on so that you know ...

Todd Orston:                     I mean, if you spend money on an attorney to get through the divorce, there are experts that can answer some of the questions as to how you move forward with your life.

Leh Meriwether:              Exactly. Hey, before we end the show, I just wanted to give a quick announcement. The church organization that I belong to is putting out an event that's called Co-Parent Unscripted. It is Monday, August 6th, from 7 to 9 at Woodstock City Church.

Leh Meriwether:              Now, this is for everyone. This is not a faith-based thing. It's for everyone. The cost is only $5, and they're bringing in an expert. Her name's Tammy Daughtry, and she's gonna be presenting her book, Co-Parenting Works! It's designed ... The night's designed to offer insight for parents who are raising children between two homes.

Leh Meriwether:              So you can learn how to develop and implement effective strategies for co-parent communication, coping skills, and more. So if you're in a situation where you need to learn, you wanna be a better co-parent, definitely check it out at woodstockcity.org, woodstockcity.org, and look for their adults' small, short-term groups. You can find it there.

Leh Meriwether:              Hey, everyone, that about wraps up this show. Thanks so much for listening. If you wanna read more about us, always check us out at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Speaker 3:                           This audio program does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Meriwether and Tharp.