COVID-19/Coronavirus Update – We are Prepared to Serve You

Thanks for printing!  Don't forget to come back to Meriwether & Tharp, LLC for fresh articles!

173 - The Top Actions That Will Set Off Fireworks in Your Divorce Image

07/10/2020 12:00 pm

If you are looking to keep your divorce case relatively inexpensive and amicable, then there are certain actions that you do not want to take. In this show, Leh and Todd discuss which actions to avoid so you don’t set off fireworks in your divorce.

Transcript

Leh Meriwether: Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We are your hosts for Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp, Georgia's largest divorce and family law firm. 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. It's good to be back with you, Todd.

Todd Orston: Yeah, it's all right.

Leh Meriwether: Glad you've missed me!

Todd Orston: Good, good to see you as well, Leh. Or hear you, as well.

Leh Meriwether: Oh, one day we'll get back into the studio and record this.

Todd Orston: Yeah, we were talking about it. I mean, the home studio, I'm kind of digging. It's not nearly as professional as the radio station, but it'll do. It'll do.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. It's our only choice right now.

Todd Orston: Yeah, I mean my wife is a little annoyed, just because I've stolen all the throw pillows that I'm using to build a fort around the microphone. But again, I am the consummate professional, so you do what you got to do.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Well today, sort of in honor of 4th of July, we're recording this before 4th of July but I think when it's coming out... It's going to come out after 4th of July. We wanted to do a show that talked about fireworks. You know, fireworks on the 4th of July, they're always so much fun to watch. But fireworks in your divorce, not so much.

Todd Orston: Not at all. Unfortunately in our line of work, we see a lot of them. And this is not the sit back, drink a beer, eat some popcorn kind of fireworks. This is the kind of stuff that turns what should hopefully be a simple matter into something anything but. The way I put it is, no one goes into a divorce saying, "My goal is to spend as much money on this divorce as possible." Right? I mean, I've yet to meet anybody where they said, "Listen, here's my goal; don't be cheap. Spend as much as you can." Most people, and most attorneys, have or should have a goal of getting to the divorce quickly and efficiently. But you have to keep in mind that your actions or inactions can likely result in just the opposite. And I put it this way, I say that you want to go towards that settlement table, but your actions can push yourself farther away, make it harder to settle and that of course is going to result in a longer process and a much more expensive process.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. So today, we're going to talk about the top actions that we've seen that will set off fireworks in your divorce. And we're going to group this into three separate categories. I mean, you can do all kinds of things, but we're going to talk about actions involving money, actions involving stuff, personal property, and actions involving custody. And what you may do, or not do, that can just cause the entire case to just spiral out of control.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Let's start with actions involving money.

Todd Orston: I mean, we never ever ever see problems involving money in divorces. I don't even know why we're talking about it! It's a rarity. All right, no, it's the exact opposite. We see it all the time. The fireworks that result in money related issues, they occur all the time. And many of them are avoidable.

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Todd Orston: So, how about number one; withdrawing all the money from a bank account the day before bills are due

Leh Meriwether: Oh, boy. I've seen that so many times and it's just... And sometimes it comes from a point that you have one party that's scared they're not going to have access to funds. But sometimes, it's on purpose. This is a retaliatory action. But all you're doing is hurting yourself, because you're telling the court, "Hey, I'm not going to be responsibly during the course of this case." And, you could be setting yourself up for failure. The worst thing you want to do is have the check for the mortgage bounce and put yourself in a direction towards losing possibly your largest asset in your marriage.

Todd Orston: Yeah, you have to strike a balance. We've been on both sides, we've represented people who were in a position to maybe control the marital finances, and we've represented people where they're dependent on their spouse, and they have deferred that responsibility to their spouse. So, you have to strike a balance. I understand if you do not control the assets, grabbing onto that money so that you have that cushion, so you have that security blanket, that's to some degree normal. But if there's $5,000 in an account, and the next day you have $5,000 worth of expenses including school payments and a house, and a car, and all of those things, all those payments will be missed because you took the money out of the account, you need to step back and make sure that you're doing the right thing. Make sure that you're doing this for the right reason, because even if you take the money out, I can tell you right now, the ultimate judge, the judge, may not like the fact that you did that. Especially right as bills were coming due.

Todd Orston: So, the court might say, "All right, I understand you need financial security. But you knew that those debts were coming due the next day, you drew everything out of the account." Sometimes what I say to people is, "Look, take some money out of the account, but don't clean out the account. If you know that's the account used to pay marital expenses, take some out so that you have a better feeling about your finances, but leave something in there so that those bills can get paid."

Leh Meriwether: On the flip side, something that also can spark fireworks is withdrawing financial support when you'd historically done it. So, if you historically paid the car insurance, the credit card bills, the car notes, the mortgage, the utilities. And then, let's say you even separated, and you were living in another home, and you were still paying the bills at the marital home. You had moved out, moved to an apartment, whatever. You suddenly stop making those payments, that will set off fireworks. And the lawyers will have to gear up, they'll set a temporary hearing, and all of a sudden everything gets more expensive. And I think those two go together, the withdrawing the money from the bank account and withdrawing the financial support.

Todd Orston: They do.

Leh Meriwether: And if there's a concern on either side with those, the best way to address it is you approach your lawyer to approach the other side's lawyer, and say, "Hey, during the pendency of this case, can we have an agreement on how we're going to handle certain bills and the money that's going in the bank account?" And if there's an agreement, you can convert it to a court order. And then if someone does either of those things, it can be considered contempt of court.

Todd Orston: Yeah. And again, if your goal is to try and avoid prolonged litigation, going that route is the right way to do it. Just taking the money out of the account, you're asking for trouble. And you may even be in the right. Meaning, the other party, like you said, they go together, may have withdrawn all support and said, "I'm not giving you any money. You need food, you need clothes, whatever. You're on your own." So they're acting badly. But when you pull all that money out of the account, all of a sudden, you're now a part of the problem, not a part of the solution. And that's where you need to be strategizing with your attorney, and hopefully your attorney is giving you this kind of advice saying, "Hey, here are some things that you can do, if you have access to some of the money, take some of it. But let's make sure there's money left over for bills."

Leh Meriwether: Now, there can be an exception to this, but we're talking in generalities. We've seen these actions spark fireworks. But I've also seen something spark fireworks that caused someone to withdraw all of the money from the account, like going on a shopping spree. Let's say you traditionally haven't bought much of anything, or maybe you never spent more than $100 or $200 a month on clothing. And suddenly you go out and say, "You know what? I'm getting divorced, so I deserve a brand new $10,000 wardrobe, or a $40, $50,000 car." And that can set off fireworks in a divorce.

Todd Orston: I don't even know why it's on the list. I don't... All right. If I'm laying on the sarcasm too thickly, I apologize. Yeah, we've seen that many times. And the one that I was thinking about. I mean, there was a case where basically, the person went and traded in a very modest car for a very expensive convertible. And it was one of those things where historically you look, and it's not like they had had those types of cars before. And they just felt like that was the right time to go pay... Not just buy it, but pay cash for this sports car, liquidating a whole bunch of money from the account. And look, a court's not going to put up with that. And on top of that, if your goal... Again, if your goal is to try and be amicable and get through the divorce process quickly and efficiently, that's not the way you do it. And if you do it thinking, well, I'm going to do it and the car's mine now, what can happen?

Todd Orston: Well, the court could have you start making payments to the other party. In other words, if that's a $50,000 asset that you can't liquidate, then the court will say, "Well, you owe some money to your spouse, so on top of whatever car payment you have, or if you don't have one because you paid cash, guess what? You do have a car payment, because you're going to pay that money back to your spouse."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: So it's not like you got away with something, and it's not going to come back and potentially bite you.

Leh Meriwether: And when we come back, we're going to talk about how liquidating certain assets like silver bars, or an IRH converted to silver bars that subsequently disappear, can spark fireworks in your divorce.

Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, WSB. So, you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than 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 soft.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone, this is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us on online, at atlantadivorceteam.com. And, if you want to see past shows, or listen to past shows, you can always go to divorceteamradio.com. Well today, on our 4th July, we're talking about the kind of fireworks actually that you don't want to see. And those are ones that go off in your divorce.

Leh Meriwether: And we're talking about things that we have seen over the years, that have triggered fireworks in a divorce case and caused the cost to just go through the roof and caused the case to take longer. Obviously if there's children involved, it can have negative repercussions on your relationship with your children. And so, we're sharing these experiences so that you hopefully avoid it.

Todd Orston: Yeah, and to be very honest, this has truly less to do with 4th of July, and more to do with just how to efficiently get through the divorce process. The tie in to 4th of July is really more of us thinking we're more clever than we are. To be brutally honest, if listeners haven't already picked up on that.

Todd Orston: So, let's jump back in. How about shutting off access to bank accounts, credit cards, things like that, without telling them? So, all of a sudden you're at a restaurant and you're going to go pay for your meal, and hey, the credit card's not working, the debit card is shut down. And you don't have an ability to pay, and I guess you're washing dishes.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, that is so... If you've ever been somewhere to pay something and your card didn't work, it is incredibly embarrassing. And then, first it starts with embarrassment, and then it turns to just raw anger. It's hard to get past, especially if it's an intentional act. I mean, I've been some place where someone had hacked my card, and I didn't know it at the time, this was before you get a text message that someone's tried to improperly use your card. But my card was shut down for fraud reasons, and I had no idea. And I go to use it, and it's like, "Oh, your card's been declined." And you're in a crowd full of people. It's horribly embarrassing.

Todd Orston: Leh, I already apologized for that. All right? I swear I thought it was my card, and...

Leh Meriwether: Good thing I [crosstalk 00:13:47].

Todd Orston: Yes, you are. But it is incredibly embarrassing, and it's going to push you farther away from that settlement table.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah.

Todd Orston: It is going to make it incredibly difficult to get anything accomplished productive, because the other party at that point is now dealing from a place of emotion. All right? Not a place of logic. At that point, they are so filled with that raw emotion, that anger, frustration, whatever you want to call it, that they're sort of shut down. And it makes it that much more difficult to then sort of close that wound up enough so that they'll come back to the table and start to inject logic back into the discussion, rather than just emotionally responding to anything you throw at them.

Leh Meriwether: I'm not saying that there aren't circumstances-

Todd Orston: Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether: ... where you may need to do that, because there are. We're going back to the shopping spree example, I've had cases... But fortunately the client picked up the phone, called, we had a discussion about it. And the answer is, the cool thing is... So, this is 2020. I mean, you can set someone's card up, like if it's underneath your card, under your name, you can set up a card to create a limit. And so, maybe you had traditionally spent $5,000 a month on this particular card, on just all kinds of expenses and just paid it off every month. Well, you can go ahead and put a cap on it and let the other person know about the cap. And, most cards now, you can set up a text message warning. So, if you're about to hit that limit, the person's aware of it. And at that point, if they go to the restaurant and get a $300 meal, because they were buying food for their significant other, which can set off fireworks by itself, they're aware of it. So, they have no excuse at that point.

Leh Meriwether: So, every situation is a little bit different. But if you do it just... You know what? I need to turn this off. That's going to set off fireworks.

Todd Orston: Yeah. Or, and just building on that, then we'll move onto the next one. Or, if you, let's say you are the breadwinner in the family and you are making sizable income. You're making $20, $25, $30,000 a month kind of income, and you suddenly cut everything off but set an amount of $1, you know? That's just as bad. And I know that's an extreme, but if your spouse has a large or a high monthly spending habit, but it's something that works within your budget, understand cutting it dramatically down can also result in that same reaction. So, I'm not saying it would be wrong. I mean, if you have a spouse who just spends and spends and spends and you're like, well, I'm putting an end to it, that's fine. I mean, I get it. But remember, you need to think longterm. That's a short term goal, right? Or a short term solution, rather. And by doing that, you may be saving a few dollars that month, or maybe that month and the next month, but now your case may take two, three, four, five more months and include a lot more expense.

Todd Orston: So, you have to be strategic. You have to think, is this something that I really have to do right now? Or is it just something where, I'm going to draw a line. And however it ends up, it ends up. Meaning, if it angers my spouse, well, so be it. But you need to be thinking. I have this conversation all the time with people. Think about, is this something you have to do right now? Or something you're just... It's principle. I just, I have to do it. All right, well then, just understand there are consequences.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And along those lines, don't liquidate assets, going back to where we left off, the silver bars. I was in court one time, and... I mean, this person, between the lawyers, they probably spent $5, $10,000. They'd wait around all day to get their case heard, both sides had to pay their lawyer. And what happened was, I happened to be sitting in the court room listening to this, the husband liquidated an IRA, converted it to silver bars, I didn't even know you could do this, but I learned in this case. Converted all of the silver bars, and then put the silver bars in his attic, that's what the wife testified to, and now the silver bars have disappeared! And he was trying to claim, "Well, I don't know what happened to them. I'm not sure." And the court wasn't buying it, and the court said, "Either those silver bars turn up," and then I've forgot what the court ruled, where do they need to stay. But they said, "If they don't show up in the next week, you need to report back for jail," basically what they were saying. They were going to have a subsequent hearing.

Todd Orston: That's where the attorney has to have the right argument. I mean, I know I would have probably just told the court, "My client's a werewolf hunter." You don't think the court would buy that?

Leh Meriwether: I don't think they would buy that one.

Todd Orston: All right.

Leh Meriwether: That wouldn't work.

Todd Orston: All right, I'm going to [crosstalk 00:19:01].

Leh Meriwether: Maybe in another country, but not here.

Todd Orston: Not here. Transylvania, right? Maybe. All right, I get it, I get it. Next one.

Leh Meriwether: Along those lines, we're going to hit some... Well, running up debts. All of this kind of combines together like, just running up debt unnecessarily. Whether it be a big car, a giant purchase. Just running up debt that you didn't do traditionally, and didn't absolutely need. So that's one. What's the next one?

Todd Orston: Using marital money to undergo all of the surgeries and procedures and elective things that maybe you've been thinking about for years. I've had several cases where all of a sudden, somebody comes to me and they're like, "My wife," or whoever, "basically I just heard," they'd been separated for a period of time. "And I just found out that she's in rehabilitation right now, because she had a whole bunch of surgeries." And by the way, this has happened with husbands, with wives. It goes both ways. But where they've undergone tremendous amounts of elective surgeries, and that costs a lot of money. And that is something that... I'm not saying you don't deserve it, I'm not saying that you shouldn't have it. But by doing that, you are absolutely going to anger the other side and create problems in your divorce.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, everything from... I've seen dental work, that costs a lot of money, orthodontic dental work that wasn't absolutely necessary. All kinds of plastic surgeries that were not necessary at all. And then, when you combine that with a significant other...

Todd Orston: Oh yeah, yeah. And that's a great message. Listen-

Leh Meriwether: The grand finale of fireworks.

Todd Orston: I was okay looking okay for you, but now that I'm with this other person I'm having an affair with, I need to look good! And by the way, you're going to pay for it.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And then along those same lines, giving your paramour a credit card with no limit.

Todd Orston: I'm going to take the end off of that, giving them a credit card, period. How many times do we go through the financial documents, and we start looking and seeing how much money was spent on that paramour? Meals, and gifts, and then you even look and it's like, wait, hold on one second. And we look, and there was another card issued, and it's clear the paramour's doing direct shopping. It's not just gifts for that person. And that absolutely creates chaos in a case.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I've never seen a judge look favorably on that kind of behavior, at all.

Todd Orston: Ever, ever.

Leh Meriwether: Ever! So, when we come back we're going to talk about how actions involving stuff, and then actions involving custody can also set off fireworks.

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 write 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.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd on Divorce Team Radio, a show sponsored by Meriwether and Tharp, Georgia's largest divorce and family law firm. You can read more about us at atlantadivorceteam.com. Okay, today we're talking about the top actions that will set off fireworks in your divorce. And when we left off the last segment, we had wrapped up things involving money that will set off fireworks in divorce, and now we're going to talk about things involving stuff. What do we mean by stuff, Todd?

Todd Orston: Stuff. Property. All your stuff. You know?

Leh Meriwether: It's a technical term.

Todd Orston: Keep your hands off my stuff! I don't know, I'm not sure I like that word, but all right, whatever.

Leh Meriwether: Come up with something better, because I don't like it either actually.

Todd Orston: All right, how about property? I mean, it's not like we don't use that word all the time in our business. But personal property. And how about the first one, cleaning out the house, taking everything while the other party's out of town.

Leh Meriwether: Oh man.

Todd Orston: I mean, I've never seen that cause problems. But I can assume.

Leh Meriwether: One time I had a client email me a video, he'd literally walked through the house, everything was gone. And then the funny thing was, he was actually taking it really well. He was like, "Oh look! Man, she was really thinking of me. She left me a fork, a knife, a spoon, a plate, a bowl, and a coffee cup. Wow!" He was really funny. But I mean, I was really impressed. He was only gone for a day, and she must have had some friends come and just... I mean, everything. She even removed the cables from the walls. It was impressive!

Todd Orston: Well, what people don't realize is, aside from the fact that it's going to anger the other party and make it more difficult to have, like I said, non emotional settlement discussions, because the other party's like, "You took everything. And now you want me to be reasonable?" But on top of that, I mean, tell me if I'm wrong, as an attorney, representing somebody who, let's say is victimized that way, I'd be going to the court immediately. I'd be saying, "Judge, something needs to happen. We need some of that property back. This was improper, it was wrong. It was all of the above." And then on top of that, I'd also be saying... I know you were joking saying it was nice to leave a fork and a spoon and a knife and a coffee cup, and a bowl, I'd be using that against the party. Saying, "That was a statement."

Leh Meriwether: Oh yeah.

Todd Orston: That was basically saying, "Haha! I won. So, you know what, your honor? I don't know who she hired, or he hired, I want everything returned. That's what we're asking for, we want everything returned. And we'll maintain it in the house. And by the way, my client should have primary use of the residence during the pendency of the case."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And there are some judged who might do that. All right, next one; calling your estranged wife for your tuxedo, because you need it for a formal date.

Todd Orston: I hadn't read that one ahead of time, but I truly have not had that one happen. But-

Leh Meriwether: I had one, it wasn't a tuxedo, it was a suit.

Todd Orston: My advice to a client would probably be, if my client was the one who needed the tux, go rent one. Because that call probably won't go well! It definitely won't help you in your settlement efforts.

Leh Meriwether: No. All right, next one.

Todd Orston: How about, having your flight tickets to Hawaii for your next wedding sent to your marital home.

Leh Meriwether: Whoa!

Todd Orston: Yeah. And yes, we said wedding. And yes, they are still married. So... Yeah, probably not good.

Leh Meriwether: That's definitely going to delay things, after the wedding date.

Todd Orston: Yeah, I don't think you're going to get much sympathy or assistance from the other party saying, "Oh, you know what? I'm sorry, I didn't realize that your new wedding date is already set. Yeah, let's get through this process quickly." Probably not going to pay out that way.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Am I up next? Moving the family heirloom, or something of significant emotional value to the other one, other spouse, from the house.

Todd Orston: Yeah, and look, let's put it this way; I don't have many objects like that. One would be, I have a frame with my grandfather on my father's side, all of the medals that he received in World War Two. And I framed it very nicely, and it's up on the wall. If I came back and that was gone, I would just be angry. And it would just be an emotional response, because I'd be looking at my spouse saying, "It's not yours. You don't need it. You have no connection to that, emotional or otherwise." And it would just anger me.

Leh Meriwether: You can't replace that.

Todd Orston: Right! And that's not replaceable, and so I would have to go to my attorney, and I would have to be asking my attorney, "Get me in front of a judge, because I'm not going to wait until the end of the case, only to find out, oh I'm sorry. They got lost." This is something we're going to deal with until, or before rather, anything else gets resolved. So, taking those things... Bad idea. If it's something, an heirloom meaning both of you accumulated it, a piece of art, something like that, that's a little different. If you fear the other party might do something silly with that asset, taking it, putting it somewhere safe so that when opposing council or a judge looks at you and says, "Where is it?" You can go, "It's right here. It's safe, I moved it to keep it safe." That's different, okay? And also, there's a reasonable argument as to why you did it.

Todd Orston: But someone else's personal family heirloom? You're just asking for the case to get prolonged.

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. All right, next one.

Todd Orston: Asking for something in a divorce settlement that you never wanted in the marriage. So, I think you have an example of this?

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, like woodworking tools. I've seen cases where... Actually, there was a few chainsaws. And some of these chainsaws are very expensive, $1,500 and up. And they don't go down in value. They keep their value a long time, especially [inaudible 00:29:12]. And some people just love their woodworking tools. Hand planes, some hand tools are worth $500 and more.

Todd Orston: Well the hand plane tools I understand, but asking for a chainsaw in the middle of a divorce? Also could have... I don't know. I mean... It could raise eyebrows!

Leh Meriwether: Yeah. But I mean, if you never wanted these things, if you never woodworked, if you never did any of that stuff and then one day your spouse comes home and you've cleaned out all those things you didn't want to touch during an entire marriage? That's going to set off fireworks. They're going to be ticked off.

Todd Orston: Well I mean, look. You love woodworking, I dabble. You love it, you have the tools, that's not your wife's thing. And therefore, if all of a sudden all that disappeared, you and I both know, and anyone involved, judge or otherwise, would know that was a spiteful act. That had nothing to do with the divorce, it had... All it had to do with was a retaliatory sort of attack. I'm going to take these things that mean something to you for no reason other than it hurts you. And the court will recognize that.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. And so, taking that to the next level, is taking tools from someone's trade, like mechanics, who own their own tools.

Todd Orston: Mechanics, yep.

Leh Meriwether: And they need their tools to perform their job. But it doesn't have to be just a mechanic, perhaps it's someone who is... They're a consultant, and they have a laptop, and their laptop has all their consulting tools or templates, or whatever they use, and then you take that laptop, you take the tools, whatever it may be, out of spite. I mean, that's going to create this cascading effect, because now they can't perform their job. I've literally seen people take the tools that someone needs to live on, and then file a contempt when that person didn't pay the bills. Well, they couldn't pay the bills because they tool the tools! It was unbelievable.

Todd Orston: Yeah. What you're doing, is you are slamming on the brakes in your case. Meaning, if your case is a car, you have slammed on the brakes, the car is now at a dead stop because oftentimes, that becomes an issue, like I was saying before, with the medals. Where, I know if it was me, I'd be like, "No, no. I'm not talking about settlement until I get my tools back. I can't work, I can't earn. I'm about to lose my job. I need my tools back." So, if you're taking something like that, A, talk to your attorney first. And B, make sure that you have a really valid reason why you felt it was necessary to take them.

Todd Orston: If they're mechanic tools, and it's $10,000 worth of tools, and you found out that your spouse who's no longer a mechanic is about to sell them, that's a different story. Okay? But if they are an active working individual who uses those tools on a daily basis and needs them, then you're just asking, again, to prolong the case.

Leh Meriwether: And so, often I've seen this happen when the other spouse discovers, perhaps, an adultery situation. And so, out of anger, they take those tools, whatever the tools may be. It could be a car, too. Or a truck. They take them out of spite. But all you're actually doing is hurting yourself. You're better off letting your lawyer, or let the legal system handle the adultery, rather than you taking actions into your own hands that can wind up ultimately hurting you when it comes up to prolonging the case, costing more money, and creating a lot of tension in the family if there's kids.

Todd Orston: And switching the focus off of the adultery onto your behavior.

Leh Meriwether: Exactly.

Todd Orston: So, the court is then looking at you going, "Well, why'd you do that?" Which is losing sight of that fact that you did it really because you were hurt because your spouse cheated on you.

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Not trying to minimize that at all, but you have to approach this very calmly. And up next, we're going to talk about the actions that can set off fireworks involving custody.

Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you've ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings, on WSB. So, you can always check us out there as well.

Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep I guess, right? You can turn on the show and we'll help you call asleep.

Leh Meriwether: There you go.

Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.

Leh Meriwether: Welcome back to Divorce Team Radio, this is Leh and Todd. And we're here talking about the top actions that will set off fireworks in your divorce. If you've just tuned in, you can always go back to divorceteamradio.com to hear the rest of the show, and also see transcripts of the show, in case you want to read something that Todd said that didn't quite make sense.

Todd Orston: You're going to have to review all 175 shows then. I'm sure there something that falls into that category in each one of those shows, but whatever.

Leh Meriwether: But this last segment, we're going to talk about actions involving custody that will set off fireworks. All right. We've done this show once before, two years ago, but I had to add this one in here; using a pandemic to block the other parent from seeing the children. Oh my goodness gracious.

Todd Orston: Yeah, again, it comes down to your actions have to be reasonable, because you're under a microscope and it may come back and bite you. Putting aside the fact that the other party is going to then emotionally respond, because you've taken away contact with a child, a court could then hold that against you. So, if you do something like that, jokes aside, absolutely make sure that you're doing it for the right reason, and that the concern is something that you can explain to a judge at the appropriate moment. Because that question's going to come up. If you're saying, "Well, COVID." Okay, I get it, COVID is concerning. But if the other party has been sheltering in place just like you are, then there really isn't a justifiable reason why you're saying, "No, I'm sorry. You can't have any contact." And the court's probably going to look at it that way.

Todd Orston: If the other party is out partying all the time and you say, "Yeah, sorry, COVID." Well, then you might have a reasonable explanation and you'll be prepared if and when a judge says, "Well, why? Why did you unilaterally make that decision?" And you'll say, "Well, I don't know, they're at a club four nights a week. And I'm concerned." And the court might say, "You know what? All right, I get it."

Leh Meriwether: But that also can evolve, because apparently Dr. Fauci was testifying... Was it yesterday? And he was being questioned about, well why should kids not go back to school? Because in the entire country, I'm not aware of a single death under 17. And I mean, some kids caught it, but if I'm remembering what the senator was questioning. And they went back and forth, and finally Dr. Fauci said, "Well, there's no real reason that kids can't go back to school." So, new evidence may come out where that sounds like that was a reasonable position to take, but the new evidence comes out and says that's not so much of a reasonable position.

Leh Meriwether: So, this is a very... I mean, I know that a lot of judges got very upset when people were using this as an excuse. And sometimes it was just like, "Oh, well school's out, so we don't need to follow the school... Or the thing applying to school before." And all the counties issued a separate order saying, "No, school is still in session." So, that's why I had to throw that in there. Because the courts, I mean, people were doing that immediately to the point where every county, at least here in Georgia that I'm aware of, and I think other states had the same issue, issued a subsequent order saying, "Hey, just because the kids aren't going to a physical location, doesn't mean the school year schedule doesn't apply." So, it was a widespread issue, shockingly.

Todd Orston: So, I know we're going to run out of time. Let's try and hit some of these other ones. How about taking off with the kids while you're out of town, without notifying the other parent? So in other words, just... You disappear, and then the next time you have contact with the other parent you're like, "Oh I didn't tell you we were going to California? Sorry, my bad. Yeah, we're going to be here for a month."

Leh Meriwether: Yeah, that's not going to-

Todd Orston: That causes problems.

Leh Meriwether: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh yeah. And often that happens because someone brought it up, "Hey, I'm taking the kids and moving." And the other side's like, "Wait, without us discussing anything? I'm not comfortable with that." And so, that person says, "Oh, they don't want to talk about it so I'm just going to do it." Judges are not... Unless there's some sort of physical abuse that one spouse is fleeing from, judges are not happy with that. And I've seen judges order the other parent, with the children, because it's been both moms and dads that have done this, bring the children back.

Todd Orston: Actually, I just saw it. So, something like that just happened. And it's not the first time that I've seen it. So yeah, judges absolutely frown on that kind of behavior. And have no problem saying, "Yep, bring the kids back." All right. How about the next one, of telling the other parent, "You're never going to see the kids again."

Leh Meriwether: Boy, you want to talk about setting off World War Three and having a guardian involved, and maybe a custody evaluation, and just tripling the cost of your divorce? Saying something like that, you just never... If you're getting angry enough where you want to say that, walk away.

Todd Orston: Yep, that's right. Because it's also, absent justifiable reasoning as to why no contact will occur, it's not even true. So, all it is, is an emotional response. The court's not going to say no contact. And therefore, all you're doing is triggering the other party, making it that much more difficult to try and settle things amicably.

Leh Meriwether: Here's another one that really sets it off; bringing children around the boyfriend or girlfriend while you're still going through the divorce.

Todd Orston: Ah. Happy days. I don't see what the problem is, other than fireworks. I mean, major...

Leh Meriwether: Somebody getting hurt sometime.

Todd Orston: Major, major fireworks. The only time I've ever seen it work, is when the party's been separated for a long time, the other party has... Meaning, the party who's getting angry or could get angry, he has had time to just process the fact that they're separated, they've moved on individually, they have other people in their lives. And then, okay, fine. You're going to introduce the kids, let's do it responsibly. But, something where it's new, and if adultery is involved, then it's like, "Well yes, I did cheat on you. Oh, and by the way, we're all taking the kids..."

Leh Meriwether: To Disney World.

Todd Orston: "... my paramour and I, we're going to take the kids," yeah, "to Disney World." Yeah, that's going to create major problems.

Leh Meriwether: All right, next one.

Todd Orston: How about, showing up to events with your significant other before the divorce is over?

Leh Meriwether: Oh boy.

Todd Orston: Like a recital, sporting events. Yeah. That's probably not going to go over well! And jokes aside, I could sit here and I could make jokes, but at the end of the day, look. I'm not saying it's okay, I'm not saying it's right. I'm not saying that you should do this. But if you're going to engage in that kind of a relationship with somebody other than your wife, and a divorce is pending, at the very least, just keep it on the down low, all right? The advice we always give is, don't do it. Just wait until the divorce is over.

Todd Orston: But I've had many conversations with people where they're like, "Look, I want to move on with my life." And I know that nothing I say is going to stop them from, let's say, seeing this person they've been seeing. So then my advice has to change to, "Listen. Just keep it quiet. Don't bring the kids around, don't do these types of things. It's just going to cause problems."

Leh Meriwether: Yep. All right, next one. We're going to start going rapid fire, because we are running out of time. Relocation. And I'm just going to say, that sets off fireworks, but that actually... I mean, often people will bring that up, and it's not because someone's trying to be retaliatory or not. But still, the other parent, it's painful to hear that you're going to move away with your children. So, we just put that in there, just say, "Hey, look. Be aware, if your plan is to relocate with the children, that will set off fireworks. And you may be doing nothing wrong, per se." Meaning, you're not trying to do it out of spite, it's just an economic decision you have to make. But that will set off fireworks.

Leh Meriwether: All right, next.

Todd Orston: How about making unilateral decisions when it comes to the kids? You break those down into, extracurricular activities, religion, school, choices, medical choices, we could have a whole show on that. But when you start making decisions and you don't incorporate the other parent into that decision making process, it creates major, major problems that usually land you in front of a judge on a temporary, maybe even an emergency nature.

Leh Meriwether: Yep. And we had a whole show just about religion on that.

Todd Orston: That's right.

Leh Meriwether: All right. Accusations of child abuse or sexual abuse. I mean, some of the most expensive divorces I've ever been involved in was when someone made a false accusation of child abuse or sexual abuse. That set off, I mean... That was the fireworks of all fireworks.

Todd Orston: Yeah, and don't get us wrong. If it's true, or you truly believe that it happened... I'm a former prosecutor, and that's not even the point. Because, forget about that. Right and wrong. If something is happening, if a child has been injured and assaulted in that way, definitely get help and bring it to light. But, if not, just understand that you're going to make the accusation, it's going to absolutely prolong the case. And ultimately if it's found out that you really didn't have any basis to make the accusation, it could absolutely put in jeopardy your ability to be named the primary custodial parent.

Leh Meriwether: In every case I've ever had where my client was accused, we wound up winning custody.

Todd Orston: Yeah.

Leh Meriwether: I'm going to do the last two really rapid fire. Social media, either discussing your case on Facebook or a similar social media, just discussing it. Not even badmouthing, but just talking about your personal life, and that of your family on social media going through a divorce will set off fireworks. And then, using sarcasm and condescending comments constantly, slowly builds up to a point where you just have this huge explosion. There's no place for practical jokes in this section. Hey everyone, we're out of time. Thanks so much for listening.

Contact M&T Today

We can help with all your questions...