Too often I have taken over a divorce and or custody case to find my new client stopped paying a legal obligation, such as court ordered support or mortgage or rent payments. When I ask why, the answer is my prior lawyer told me to stop, that I do not have to it. I ask did your lawyer tell you this in writing? No is always the answer. I guarantee that even if the prior lawyer said this, he or she would deny it. Remember, the Courts expect you to try to blame the prior lawyer. Here are a few examples I have encountered.
Post judgment contempt against a client: He was being sued for contempt for not paying court ordered support. I asked why, he said his prior lawyer told him if she has not yet transferred the deed to the house as in the settlement agreement, to stop paying support until she does. He owed that lawyer money. That lawyer was supposed to draft the deed and send it to the ex-wife so she could transfer it. That lawyer never did. The Family Court Magistrate believed my client, Supreme Court Judge did not. If he had gotten this in writing, he would be believed, but it still would not negate his nonpayment. So ask for it in writing, and if he or she will not give it to you in writing, do not stop paying.
Why won’t the Court believe you that your prior lawyer said not to pay? Because too many lie and say this. I was relieved on a case in court in which my client refused to follow my advice and pay his court ordered payments and stop deducting things. While I was still in courtroom he claimed I told him to do it. I stood there and shook my head no. I would never give such advice and had told him not to in writing prior.
A Father always paid rent on apartment where the mother of his child and the child resided. The cost of the rent exceeded what child support would have been. She sued him for child support, his lawyer told him to stop paying the rent. The lease was in his name, so he would still be liable to the landlord in court. If he kept paying the rent, he could have received a credit to retroactive arrears for the rent paid on the apartment he did not live in. Five months of retroactive arrears accrued. He had to pay his child’s mother five months of retroactive child support arrears and was sued in landlord tenant court for the rent by the landlord. If he had gotten this advice in writing, he could have sued his lawyer. I doubt the lawyer ever would have put it in writing.
A client’s prior lawyer told him not to worry about paying pendente lite support. He told him just do not pay it if he does not have the money. The cost of legal fees from all the motion practice and contempt applications far exceeded borrowing the money to pay the court ordered obligations. Again, he was not given this in writing. When I asked the prior lawyer, he said that is not what he said to him.
Here’s a situation that did not involve lawyers. An old friend went to refinance her house. The mortgage broker told her to stop paying the mortgage, they will roll those payments into the new loan. Well, this was long before the recession during a real estate boom. The original mortgage company quickly moved to foreclose. Due to the pending foreclosure, the mortgage broker