How not to blow your divorce!
Sure there was some snickering when Rick Perry blew it during a nationally televised presidential debate. Yet while his self professed “oops” may have doomed his presidential aspirations it also triggered my own “ahah” moment.
Let me explain.
The same week Rick Perry’s gaff made headlines I met with a separated guy (I’ll call him Bill) who had some legal questions regarding his separation. Several years earlier Bill and his ex had signed an agreement which he showed me at our meeting.
It’s the same kind of basic do-it-youself separation agreement precedent I’ve seen before, and available almost anywhere. You simply fill in various sections and cross out what you don’t want.
Unfortunately for Bill, and many others like him, if you don’t take the time to understand, or pay any attention, to what you’re signing, the results can be financially disastrous.
When I asked if Bill, (or his ex), had obtained any legal advice beforehand he told me he hadn’t bothered, since they had both agreed not to “involve lawyers”.
Of course, as I mentioned to Bill, while this may mean that while his spouse may not want have wanted Bill to see a lawyer, (to learn his legal rights and responsibilities) she may already have done so, and he’ll never know.
Nervously, Bill mentioned that his ex was now asking him to pay her spousal support, and he wanted to know my legal opinion.
I returned to review the terms of the agreement.
While Bill had in fact ended up with fewer, and less valuable, family assets, and had assumed far more family debt, than his spouse, (typically the type of unequal asset division which is negotiated in return for waiving monthly spousal support), there was no mention in the agreement that spousal support had been waived.
Then the next shoe dropped.
Bill informed me that while his own income had in fact increased substantially in the several years since the agreement, the same wasn’t the case for his ex, whose income had actually diminished.
I plugged in the numbers in the Spousal Support Advisory Guideline Divorcemate calculator (the same software calculator used by courts in BC to determine the range of spousal support) and told Bill the grim news.
Bill remained potentially liable to pay his ex tens of thousands of dollars in spousal support for a long time.
Liability and distress which Bill could have avoided altogether by spending several hundred dollars for good legal advice before signing the agreement.
So if your ex says let’s not involve lawyers to settle your matrimonial issues, just nod.
Then call me.
Unless of course you want to blow it like Bill.