Mr./Ms. Divorce Attorney, Do you have your Finance Ducks in a Row????
Divorce Attorneys who have their Ducks in a Row usually receive a better outcome for their client’s then those who don’t. I have been blessed with working with some of the finest Divorce Attorneys in the State. Recently I was hired by a wife a mere one week before mediation and only ten days before final trial and saw what can happen when Mr. Attorney has not done his homework and doesn’t have his ducks in a row.
A little background on this case: Wife had to move out of the marital home with basically the clothes on her back and those on the back of her children at the end of March. Husband is self employed owning two businesses. Wife assisted husband with most aspects of the business except finances, husband kept those private. Temporary Orders were not entered until November, which was when the wife finally began receiving any form of financial assistance from the husband. Husband’s attorney didn’t file his Inventory and Appraisement until November 17. The mediation was scheduled for Wednesday, December 3, and final trial was set for December 5.
When I ask the wife what documents they had received she told me they had only received 5 years of income tax returns that had never been filed. Her husband is self employed (two businesses) and husband’s attorney had gotten the judge to order her to sign the returns without being able to see any of the documents that were used to prepare the returns. She was able to provide me with additional information relating to the businesses and put me in touch with a couple of ex-clients of her husband. The wife also told me that she had ask her attorney numerous times about documents and was only told that they had been requested but not presented. When I ask about a copy of her Inventory and Appraisement I was informed that she had not prepared one.
When I spoke with wife’s attorney he told me that he had received some spreadsheets from husband’s attorney and that he would forward them to me. He told me that he had told his client that he was afraid that she was wasting the limited amount of funds that she was receiving by hiring an expert. I ask if he had requested documents and he said that he had but never provided me with a copy of the request or tell me what day the request had been made. I ask if he had filed a Motion to Compel and was informed that he had NOT.
The afternoon before mediation I was able to contact wife’s attorney and inform him that there was a great likely hood that the Federal Income Tax Return that the wife was forced to sign did not show the proper amount of income and expenses. I was also able to explain how I had determined what I had anticipated his annual into was, which was more than $100,000 above what he claimed.
At mediation wife’s attorney wanted to begin by offering tens of thousands of dollars less than what was finally agreed to. When it was just him and myself in the mediation room and I ask about him requesting a continuance and file a Motion to Compel he informed me that the Judge would be mad at him.
Three days later we are at final trial and the only issue to be heard is child support. The parties have two school age children and husband wanted to pay under $800 per month total and health insurance which was $202. per month. Wife’s attorney never asks that wife go over her monthly expenses. Husband’s attorney only ask questions regarding the Federal Income Tax Returns that the wife was court ordered to sign.
When the husband testified wife’s attorney questioning was all over the place and had no rhyme or reason to the questions. I had prepared a list of question, in an orderly format, which would have been easy to follow, prepare a recap while husband was testifying and then recap all sources of income for the Judge. While the wife’s attorney was questioning the husband the Judge interrupted him and reminded the attorney that he, the Judge, had and appointment that he would need to leave for shortly and that if the attorney was not going to be able to finish his questioning of the husband then he would schedule additional time on another day. The wife’s attorney choose to end his questioning of the husband.
With the testimony given the Judge made the best ruling he could. You could actually see him struggling with his ruling. So now we have a mother who isn’t receiving half of what she needs to support her children and will undoubtedly be back in court next year this time.
What can you do to have your ducks in a row, especially if opposing party is self employed and your client repeatedly tells you that the income being report is incorrect —- hire at the minimum a CDFA™. A CDFA™ can:
- help create a clear understanding of the financial aspects of the parties;
- help the client have a clearer view of their financial future and approach a legal settlement that fully address their financial needs and capabilities;
- help the client avoid long-term financial pitfalls related to divorce agreements;
- assist the client with developing a detailed household budget to present to the court and to use as a post divorce tool;
- assist in reducing the amount of apprehension and misunderstanding during the divorce process;
- assist the attorney with understanding all forms of income available to the parties;
- review Income Tax Returns;
- determine if it is necessary to hire a Forensic Accountant;
- attend mediation; and
- testify in court.