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Ask the divorce lawyer

In this post, divorce lawyers from Thyden Gross and Callahan answer your family law questions.

The Dispute

Q: The children didn’t have school today (Friday).  My ex says I have to pick them up at her house.  I say that she has to drop them off to me. Who’s right?

Divorce Lawyer Answer:  First let’s look at the divorce order or separation agreement if you have one.

What the Agreement Says

Q:  Our separation agreement says:  “The father shall have the children on Wednesdays and Fridays from pickup at daycare/school/camp (hereinafter referred to as “school”) or from 8:30 am for any child not attending school that day.”

Divorce Lawyer Answer:  The agreement is not clear. The drafter tried to cram too many thoughts into that one run-on sentence.  It would have been better if the sentence ended with the parenthetical.

The next sentence would read:  “The father will pick up the children from mother’s home at 8:30 am on days when they are not in school.”  Or the mother will drop them off at the father’s house.  What have you been doing so far?

Past Conduct

Q:  On the mornings that I have the kids, but it is my ex’s day, if the kids are sick, I will drop them off at my ex’s.  So on her mornings, when it is my day, she should do the same.

The issue with Fridays is that every two weeks, there is no school on Friday. Teacher development day or something. So I have it worked out with my boss, that I work from home every other Friday so I can watch the kids.  This way, it is good for both of us, I don’t lose wages, and my ex also gets to go to work and not lose wages either.

I will also not pay her lost wages claims. I told her that I will not pick them up today and she’s causing her own wage loss.  I want her to pay for my legal fees as well.

The Solution

Divorce Lawyer Answer:  I agree that you should not have to pay her for lost wages.  And I agree that both of you win and it is therefore best for the children if she drops them off on Fridays.

However, the agreement doesn’t say that, so in the event of a dispute, you either have to reach a mutual agreement or go to mediation or court.  The American Rule applies to legal fees – each pays their own.

Can’t afford a divorce lawyer?   Need new furniture for your divorce apartment?  Plumfund.com is a website where you can ask people to contribute money for your divorce.

The site describes itself as “Free online crowdfunding for the people we love.”  It has different categories, from baby to funeral, to create a registry for your life events.

You can register your wedding and honeymoon under the Honeyfund category.  I found the divorce requests under “divorce” by using the site search function.

“How much will my custody case cost?” is a question I hear over and over.  I don’t know is the answer.  If things go well, if both parents and attorneys are reasonable, and you are lucky, the cost may be below my initial retainer of $5,000 and you will get a refund. If you get into litigation, your fees could be two or three times that, or even more.  The sky really is the limit.

Witness the Toronto case known as M. and F.  The mother alleged that the father was not entited to overnight visits with their six year old son because he had been violent toward her.  That made him, according to the mother, unsafe to be alone with the child. The mother owns a successful insurance brokerage.  The father is a lawyer.

The trial lasted 34 days. Then the case went to the Ontario Court of Appeal.  In the end, the father won.  The court ordered the mother to pay $540,000 of the father’s legal fees.  The total amount of legal fees spent by the two parents was over two million dollars.

Divorce lawyer Morris Green answered his phone on the second ring as was his custom.

“Morris!,” said the angry voice on the other end, “This is Ivana Copernica.  I’m calling you about your client, Stanton Fields.  Did you know that he has taken $10,000 out of his pension plan?”

“Yes, I did know,” Green replied calmly.

“He can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s marital property and my client did not agree,” said Ivana.

“I don’t think that your client’s consent is required.  Marital funds are expended by one party or the other in almost every divorce.  Unless they have separate property, that’s how they pay their living expenses.”

“What did he spend $10,000 on?” inquired Ivana.

“Why, his legal fees, of course.”

“Legal fees are not a marital expense.  That is a dissipation of marital assets and we’re going to ask the court to make him put those fees back in the pension account,” snapped Ivana.

“Before you do that, Ivana, better read the Allison case.  I’ll email it to you.  Let me read you the holding.  ‘We hold that when, as here, a spouse uses marital property to pay his or her own reasonable attorney’s fees, such expenditures do not constitute dissipation of marital assets.’”

Allison v. Allison, 160 Md. App. 331, 864 A.2d 191 (2004)

“Marvin worked really hard on getting those papers filed overnight for Givens and was very upset she fired him and never paid him the $15,000,” says Marcella Mitchelson.

Marcella is the widow of celebrity lawyer Marvin Mitchelson who prepared divorce pleadings for Robin Givens when she was married to Mike Tyson from 1988 to 1989.

Raoul Felder, the attorney who took over Given’s divorce case, says “That was 24 years ago.”  He denies that anything is due.

Meanwhile, Craig Gordon, obtained a judgment against Kim Kardashian and her ex-husband Damon Thomas ten years ago for procedures totaling $1,675.73, but now $3,320.48 with interest.

Kardashian says it is her ex-husband’s bill, but Gordon has filed a lien on anything Kardashian recovers from her divorce from Kris Humphries.