The High Costs of Non-Compliance

Day 150: And that's that.
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Recently, I was sitting in the conference room at my office, meeting with a husband and a wife who were signing their final agreement, we’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Phillips.  We were reviewing terms, crossing Ts and dotting Is, and getting ready to go before the Judge for our hearing.  The hearing will be known in the courthouse as an “Uncontested Dissolution Hearing.” 

I will go to court with both parties and their signed paperwork.  I will call the Wife to witness stand and she will explain to the judge that the terms of the agreement make sense to her and are fair and reasonable given the totality of the circumstances.  Then, the judge will ask the husband what he thinks of all this, and he will basically say the same things.

Including waiting our turn to be heard by the judge, we should be in the courthouse a total of one hour.  Then, the parties will leave having determined their own set of circumstances – not what a judge who doesn’t know them or their children might have ordered.  It is not ideal; I think most people would prefer never to have to be divorced at all.  But, it is an ideal way to divorce.

Just as we were walking out of the conference room, another client walked in — a man who is in the middle of a battle with his wife.  She asks for bank account statements; and he produces half of what she requests.   He asks if they can speak to each other, and she has her attorney call him back.  These people are spending most of their life savings on attorneys, when they have hardly any assets worth disputing.  They don’t even have minor children to divvy up.  We’ll call this client Steven.

Steven has been to court 4 times already.  Every time he goes, he and his wife both go, and each one brings a lawyer. He has met 2 different judges and spends an average of 3 hours per visit in the courthouse, waiting in various offices to meet with various court personnel.  Just about every time he goes to court he ends up with an order or an agreement commanding him to produce the paperwork his wife has been requesting.

So, if every party were paying their attorneys $100 per hour to go to court, the Philips’ divorce would cost their family $100, and Steven’s divorce would cost his family $2400. No matter what papers his wife wants to see; showing them to her would probably end up costing him a lot less than the $2400 he is spending to hide them.

Plus, the court has the right to compel any party to show any relevant document to the other side in a disputed matter. This is called the right to Discovery, and parties who do not comply with court orders could find themselves in contempt of court; a finding frequently accompanied by fines, incarceration or both.

As proud as I am of Mr. and Mrs. Philips for working out their differences together; I am even more concerned for Steven that he is creating a bad foundation to his entire divorce.  The problems, and costs, he creates now, could follow him for the rest of his life.

What We Love:  Recognizing that each party to a divorce has the opportunity at every single moment to improve the way things are going.  It is never too late to love your divorce.

Published by Sharon Oberst DeFala

Sharon Oberst DeFala has practiced low-impact safe divorce since 1992.

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