I am working on a mediated divorce between two people who have more debts than assets. Frankly, I have been doing quite a few of these lately. We have clients who have everything worked out but cannot complete their divorce until the marital residence sells or gets foreclosed or refinanced. So, this couple is waiting for the house debt to be over and then they can pay off some debts.
The Husband tells me that all of the debt is in his name alone. The wife believes that the debt is in both of their names. They are both in a hurry to finalize the divorce so they ask me to draft an agreement — each based on their own interpretation of “the truth.”
The Truth is that this is NOT an agreement. Until they two of them both have the same understanding of their debts and assets, they cannot sign an “Agreement,” because they do not, well, agree.
So, I ask a simple question. I ask the Husband to verify that the loans are signed by him with nothing that can lead the creditors to go after the wife. It is not that I think the Husband is lying, nor do I think the wife is lying. The bottom line is that I do not have to think about whether anyone is lying if all I do is request verification.
I recommend this tactic for all sorts of situations. Make a habit of asking for verification. Not in an insulting way, just matter-of-factly. Here are some useful examples:
“You already paid this month’s child support? Great, just send me the canceled check for my file.”
“Thank you for the list of credit card debts, please just send me the statements as they come in, so I can keep an accurate record.”
What We Love: No one is insulted. There is no question as to trust-worthiness. It is all just record keeping. Keep accurate records by tracking as much verification as possible. It is never a bad idea.
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