Today will be a bit of a rant. Often as I review a divorce settlement I find the separation agreement is unfair to one of the spouses. In a recent case we determined one spouse received 75% of the marital property, while the other spouse received only 25%. Additionally, the spouse who got the bulk of the property also included a clause in the separation agreement that allowed them to terminate their maintenance obligation pretty much at will.
The spouse who got only 25% came to me at the urging of a friend. Currently, this case is before the court, and I am not sure of the outcome. I do know that my client counted on the judge who reviewed the property agreement to protect them. It didn’t happen. As I have reviewed the transcript of the divorce hearing it became apparent the judge who heard the matter was in a hurry and did not take enough time to review the documents before them. It also did not help that the spouse who got most of the property misrepresented certain facts making it appear that they were taking on a huge amount of debt. Consequently, my client got a bad deal. These folks were pro se, meaning they represented themselves, so my client never got the advice they needed. Don’t do this!!! Certainly, it is at times appropriate to forego counsel, but at least make sure that what you are doing is the right thing. It is very hard to overturn a flawed property settlement later. Also don’t make a decision just because you want to get your divorce over with. Buyer’s remorse is a frequent result if you give up what you could have had. You may have good reasons at the time for doing so, but think about how you might feel later. This is particularly true for folks who are trying to escape abuse; too often they take less than they are entitled to just to get out of the marriage. You owe it to yourself to know what is fair. Contact us if we can help. Tip number four: Child support and parenting rights are not linked. If a parent ordered to pay child support is not paying this does not mean you can end their contact with their children. Don’t do this because it looks vengeful. Now, this does not mean that their failure to pay can’t lead to a reduction in their parenting time, but this should be done through the courts. If you arbitrarily limit parenting time it can appear that you are alienating the kids from the other parent. Bad move!