How to be a better legal consumer

Mace Greenfield Your lawyer

Too often, during the pendency of a divorce, with custody child support, spousal support and carrying charge issues, clients are asking me if they should pay for things their spouse is asking them to under the temporary order or stipulation.  My question to the client is always: What’s cheaper, paying for that or paying for me to go back and forth with the other lawyer?  Sometimes it is worth fighting it, sometimes its not.  It is not about right and wrong, or “justice,” its about being a good consumer, what will cost you the least in the long run.  But then, don’t you have to take a stand to end the financial bleeding?

Once the case ends, there will be a court order delineating what you do and do not have to pay for.  You just need to make sure the stipulation of settlement is clear and not ambiguous.  But if you entered stipulation that is ambiguous without limitations, it can get very costly.

Sadly, this is true of too many cases that I did not have from day one and someone else let the client enter the temporary stipulation.  The client is now stuck with it until the final agreement, final order, or the rare case something happens to let you try to modify it.  Most often when you try to modify it, the court tells you that your proper remedy is a speedy trial and that almost never happens in a divorce in New York State.

Even sadder is when someone comes to me post judgment because of final stipulation that is ambiguous without limitations that I had no part in.  In rare instances there are defects to permit a plenary action to vacate the child support provisions causing the financial bleed, but not in most cases.

So make sure your financial obligations are clearly defined, has limits to exposure (i.e., electric bill not exceed $X.00), and are without ambiguity.