Monday, March 31, 2014

Why you should avoid social media during a divorce

Everyone is on social media these days, whether it's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another website.  It's a quick and easy way to express ourselves, gain support from family, friends and acquaintances and show our support for those people as well.  During a divorce or custody case, however, you may want to keep those things limited to more private settings and here's why:

1.  You never know who can really see what you're posting.
Let's say you are recently separated and went out last weekend for a fun, crazy, girls weekend.  You had a great time and want to share those hilarious pictures with your circle of friends.  But do you want your spouse to see those pictures?  His attorney?  The Judge handling your divorce case?  Probably not.  The most innocent pictures and posts can be taken completely out of context and used against you during your case.  Even if you've blocked your spouse, maybe you forgot to block his best friend.  May his best friend saw the pictures, saved them and emailed them to your spouse.  Or maybe you're still Facebook friends with his sister because you still get along great and she saw those pictures and held onto them herself.  The point is, when you post something on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, your audience may be larger than intended.

2.  You cannot control who posts things about you.
You can only limit posts about you.  Back to the previous scenario, let's say it's your best friend who wants to post those pictures.  If you are not on the social media sites, at the very least, your friend cannot tag you in those pictures and advertise that you are in them.  However, if you are going through a divorce or custody case, you should talk with your friends and family and make sure they understand that you do not want anything involving you to be put on social media.  Most people will understand where you are coming from.  If not, talk with your attorney about how to limit any unwanted exposure on social media. 

3.  The support you get from your social media group may actually hurt you.
You're in the middle of trying to settle a custody dispute with your soon to be ex-spouse and you're frustrated.  So you turn to Facebook to express that frustration.  Next thing you know you have a full list of friends providing advice on how to handle those negotiations: "tell him you're the mom so you should obviously have the children", "bring out the fact that he had a speeding ticket 10 years ago and you'll definitely win", etc.  While these are most likely friends and family members that intend on supporting you during this tough time, this support can actually hurt you.  Your custody case and any negotiations taking place are specific to your case.  What worked for your best friend's cousin, may not be applicable in your case.  Leave these discussions for you and your attorney.  If you need to vent to someone, talk with your attorney about an appropriate person to vent to and how to keep yourself focused on your case. 

The bottom line is that social media can hurt you in unexpected ways when you are going through a sensitive case. Always be careful what you put on the internet, you never know where it'll end up.  Turn to close friends and family for support in ways other than social media.  And always keep your attorney involved and up-to-date on anything that is posted on the internet.

If you are going through a divorce or custody case and would like more information or a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Going through a divorce? Think twice before spending "your" money.

This is the messiest time of a relationship: you are separated from your spouse but not officially divorced.  You have unofficially split up some assets.  Maybe you each opened a separate checking account.  Maybe you took some money out of the joint checking account and moved it to your personal checking account.  Maybe you cashed in some retirement funds.  Think twice before you spend a large chunk of money during separation; here's why:

The technical term is "dissipation of marital assets" and what it means is that you have spent marital money (i.e. money that belonged to you and your spouse jointly) on personal items (i.e. a weekend girls' trip to the beach, a new wardrobe for yourself, etc.).  The result of this is that you may owe some money back to your spouse at the end of the divorce for what you spent.  Here's an example:

You and your spouse has $25,000 in your joint checking account at the time of separation.  During the separation $10,000 is used to maintain marital assets and the family.  Also during the separation, you take $10,000 and spend it on a vacation for you and your friends.  Due to those expenses, at the time of your final divorce hearing there is $5,000 left in your joint checking account.  $10,000 of that was spent permissibly on maintaining marital assets and the family.  Because the court will consider your $10,000 spent on a vacation as dissipation of marital assets, that amount will not be deducted from the $25,000 you started with at the time of separation.  That leaves you with marital property of $15,000.  To recap: there is actually $5,000 in your joint checking account but there is $15,000 worth of marital property from that joint checking account.  Let's say the court determines marital property is split 50/50.  You get $7,5000 and your spouse gets $7,500.  Because there is only $5,000 in that joint checking account and you already spent $10,000 of that joint checking account money on yourself, you will be required to repay $2,500 to your spouse. 

Now, this does not mean you cannot use money to pay the mortgage and the bills and for groceries.  Marital funds can permissibly be spent to maintain the family and marital assets (i.e. the marital home, cars, etc.). 

As you can see, even with a simple example and even numbers, this area of law can get quite complicated.  If you are separated or contemplating separation, take a quick read on why you should consult with a lawyer first here and what you can expect from an initial consultation with an attorney here.  If you would like more information or a consultation, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How can you enforce a Property Settlement Agreement, Final Decree of Divorce or custody arrangment?

A property settlement agreement or a final decree of divorce setting out each party's future obligations (dividing assets, paying spousal or child support, custody and visitation, etc.) are great...until someone doesn't do what they are supposed to.  So what do you do when your ex-spouse is not paying you support or won't sign the title to transfer ownership of a home or vehicle?

The most common avenue for enforcing these arrangements is through a "Show Cause".  A Show Cause is filed by the party who feels the other party is not abiding by the terms of the court order.  It requires the offending party to appear in court and show cause, or some reason, why they are not abiding by the court order.

You will be obligated to prove that the offending party is not actually abiding by the court order.  There are different ways to go about proving a violation of the court order, but all evidence is subject to the state's evidence rules.  There are also some reasons for violating an order that a court will excuse the offending party from punishment (i.e., I was in the hospital and unable to write the check until I got out so the payment came a few days late).  Those legitimate reasons vary depending on the court, the judge, the circumstances, etc.

Because of the complex and subjective nature of these proceedings, you should seriously consider retaining an attorney to represent you in the proceedings.  The consequences of a show cause could include a fine, jailtime, payment of the other party's attorneys fees, etc.

If you would like more information or a consultation on a show cause proceeding, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 or clbaudean@baudeanlaw.com.