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What can happen in a divorce like this?
July 25, 2012 8:59 AM   Subscribe

My friend's and his ex are divorcing. The ex is being financially irresponsible, which could be influencing the outcome of the settlement. The lawyer has suddenly dropped of the face of the earth. What can my friend do to find out what's going on?

YANAL...

A close friend of mine is going through a no-fault divorce. They have no children. She moved out long ago and is living locally with her family; he's living in the house they had together.

Both my friend and his ex have lawyers, but for the sake of simplicity and to avoid incurring more costs, they agreed to work primarily through her lawyer.

At this point, both my friend and his ex have submitted all the necessary documentation, records, etc. to her lawyer. The only thing that now remains is the settlement.

The divorce process began in May of this year; it started out moving rather quickly and my friend was told (by her lawyer) that this was a relatively simple divorce case and as such would be a priority case for her, one that could be resolved in a matter of weeks.

They were both issued a "financial restraining order" which mandates that neither party can do anything fiscally irresponsible (e.g., no buying that island in the sun) until after the divorce is complete. It also mandates that each party must continue to pay all their bills and meet all their regular financial obligations.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, my friend started receiving messages from debt collectors who were asking for his ex. The calls became very persistent. Finally, he informed them that she no longer lived there and gave them her contact info at her family's house, and since then, the collections calls have stopped. Judging by the extent of the calls prior to that time, she must have seriously
ruined her credit in a very short time, something he informs me she had never had a problem with before. All of the credit cards are in her name; he is not affiliated with her credit accounts in any way whatsoever.

Around the same time that the collection calls started, the contact from her lawyer came to an abrupt halt. The lawyer would only communicate via email (no phone calls), but now there is hardly any
communication from the lawyer at all. My friend is understandably feeling a bit anxious to have some kind of update on the settlement. He has sent several emails of a courteous and professional nature requesting any kind of response and has not heard anything back.

So the questions are:

1. Will her credit issues affect the outcome of the settlement (in other words, can he end up getting screwed in the settlement because of her current financial problems, which did not begin until after the divorce paperwork was submitted by both parties, and even though his name is not associated with her credit cards)?

2. Does anyone have any insights into her financial behaviour? In terms of the timing, it seems interesting. Is this some kind of ploy or game? Is what she's doing slowing down the settlement process?

3. Why is the lawyer suddenly so unresponsive? What can my friend do in order to facilitate more frequent communication with his ex's lawyer?

This is in the state of Nevada, fyi.
posted by chatelaine to Human Relations (18 answers total)
 
Why isn't he contacting his own lawyer for advice? I don't mean that rhetorically -- it seems from your post that it's almost like he's forgotten he has one, or that "the" lawyer is HER lawyer, not theirs.
posted by endless_forms at 9:06 AM on July 25, 2012 [23 favorites]


Your friend's lawyer is the best person to answer question #3. Maybe the ex's lawyer is busy, or maybe she did not pay the lawyer. If one party is being super-irresponsible, it may make most sense for the other person's attorney (in this case, your friend's attorney) to take the lead.
posted by slidell at 9:07 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes. It is crazy to keep using her lawyer in this situation.
posted by alms at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


He should contact his own lawyer because relying on a friend to post his business on the Internet secondhand is not going to yield helpful advice, especially since posting a "his ex is a devious, manipulative woman" is not going to make levelheaded professionals want to try to get to the facts of the matter.

Especially since he has a lawyer he should be talking to.

His ex may have had her identity stolen.
posted by discopolo at 9:14 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm also wondering why he doesn't contact *his* lawyer and leave it in that lawyer's hands. That would make the most sense. Assuming he is not liable for any of these accounts, his ex's financial behavior isn't anyone's business, but I would not be surprised if she is using credit cards to make up the gap of living in a two-income household. Seriously, though, he should call *his* lawyer and, if for some reason he ended that arrangement, he needs to retain that lawyer again or find a new one.
posted by katemcd at 9:18 AM on July 25, 2012


Totally Nthing everything said above.

You say:

Both my friend and his ex have lawyers, but for the sake of simplicity and to avoid incurring more costs, they agreed to work primarily through her lawyer.

It is no longer "simple." Your friend needs to involve his lawyer ASAP. Considering the "financial restraining order" in place, your friend probably has a good case if he involves his lawyer. If he keeps relying on his soon-to-be-ex's lawyer, he could be screwed. Maybe it's just a coincidence (e.g. his ex had her identity stolen and her lawyer is on vacation), but it's not worth taking that risk.
posted by Betelgeuse at 9:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


If she's running up debt and you haven't heard from her lawyer, that most likely means she's not paying her lawyer anymore. It's time for him to go through his lawyer and get the ball rolling again.
posted by Kimberly at 9:19 AM on July 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


Nthing talk to your own lawyer, but having seen something similar in a divorce a few years ago, it is highly likely that if the ex ruined her credit in that short amount of time, she probably isn't bothering to keep up on her lawyer's invoices either. Which would explain the lack of responsiveness.
posted by COD at 9:22 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Around the same time that the collection calls started, the contact from her lawyer came to an abrupt halt.

Probably means she stopped paying. Time to rely on your own lawyer.

Generally speaking, debts and assets acquired after a couple breaks off domestic relations are their own, even before the divorce decree is officially entered. Making sure the ex gets stuck with her own debts is something your lawyer is going to need to work at, but it should be doable.
posted by valkyryn at 9:28 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wanted to chime in that your friend needs to get his lawyer involved.

This needs to move along now, and divorcing in Nevada should be quick and painless.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:45 AM on July 25, 2012


From my experience in Missouri (which is not the state of Nevada and obviously YMMV), we had to file initial paperwork for the separation and then had a waiting period before the divorce could be finalized. During that time we did all of the paperwork that listed the assets, etc. If your friend has any paperwork like that and the ex wife wants to somehow pin the debts onto your friend, it should be relatively easy to show dates that the debts were incurred (credit card bills, etc). Also, the cards being in her name only is helpful to your friend.

HOWEVER, your friend really needs to contact his lawyer. Lawyer can probably find out the status of the paperwork in the court system and what still needs to happen in order to finish everything. I know my lawyer wouldn't file anything with the court until I had paid part of the bill (I paid the rest later) so if she's not paying her lawyer anymore the paperwork may be sitting in a folder somewhere. Friend should also receive a copy of anything filed with the court, including the date/time stamp that it was filed.

So yeah...get his lawyer to contact other lawyer to find out what's going on. His lawyer might easily be able to move the process forward if wife's lawyer isn't getting paid or dropped the ball or something.
posted by MultiFaceted at 9:56 AM on July 25, 2012


(a) get a new lawyer immediately
(b) report original lawyer to the bar for being unresponsive.
posted by bananafish at 12:42 PM on July 25, 2012


oops sorry I misread that to be that his lawyer had become unresponsive. He should contact his lawyer now.
posted by bananafish at 12:43 PM on July 25, 2012


Oh man... doing everything through her lawyer was a terrible idea. Who suggested that?

Even in an "uncomplicated", no-fault divorce, both parties need their own counsel, if for no other reason than using the other party's lawyer automatically puts that person in conflict of interest. If he was thinking he would save money, he has a misunderstanding of what divorce actually means. Nobody wins. It will cost money, even in the best of cases.

My unsolicited opinion is that this has "NUTS" written all over it.

Advice: he needs to stop messing about and activate his own lawyer yesterday, before there's nothing left to salvage and he gets saddled with a mountain of debt that's not his. Speculating about her state of mind and motives is a complete waste of valuable time. This thing is past that.
posted by rhombus at 1:50 PM on July 25, 2012


Both my friend and his ex have lawyers, but for the sake of simplicity and to avoid incurring more costs, they agreed to work primarily through her lawyer.

By law, her lawyer cannot advocate for him (at least where I live), and so his lawyer needs to get involved stat.
posted by davejay at 2:05 PM on July 25, 2012


Even in an "uncomplicated", no-fault divorce, both parties need their own counsel, if for no other reason than using the other party's lawyer automatically puts that person in conflict of interest.

By law, her lawyer cannot advocate for him...


Neither of these things is strictly correct. One of the features of so-called collaborative divorce is that a single attorney can represent both sides.

The way this generally works is that the parties sign an agreement saying they're opting for collaborative divorce and that if it doesn't work, none of the lawyers involved--sometimes one, sometimes two--will represent either party in the resulting litigation.

So the idea that a couple could be using a single lawyer in a divorce matter is not inherently problematic, just potentially problematic. Not enough facts to tell what went down here besides the obvious, that it seems that ex stopped paying her lawyer.
posted by valkyryn at 8:20 AM on July 26, 2012


Valkyryn, you linked to collaborative lawyers, but in a collaborative divorce, each spouse must have his or her own collaborative lawyer. That is, it's impossible for two clients to share one collaborative lawyer. On the other hand, I've heard of spouses sharing a single lawyer in a litigated divorce.

As an aside, collaborative divorce is a disaster for anybody who actually needs a lawyer, such as the poster.
posted by Transl3y at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2012


It isn't impossible. I personally know attorneys who do CD, and they routinely handle both sides. It's not their favorite, but they do it.
posted by valkyryn at 3:57 AM on July 27, 2012


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