FICO and Divorce

September 30, 2008

How a divorce can trash your credit score and what to do about it…

A divorce can provide many opportunities for credit destruction. The mere act of setting up two households can place a huge strain on finances not to mention extortionate levels of child support or alimony ordered by the court (I was ordered to pay 90% of my income in “temporary” support orders). 

On the other hand, there are also vindictive attacks on your credit. In Nevada, your assets and liabilities remain community property until the divorce decree is signed by the judge. Thus, your soon-to-be-ex wife can rack up debts, clear out bank accounts, and not pay bills – damaging the credit of both of you. Nevada has a provision for a “joint preliminary injunction” that orders both parties to not accrue debt. However, these orders can and do get violated all the time. 

My ex-wife has also used a creative ploy of not paying the co-pays for medical visits involving my children. The bills get sent to her address but I am the ‘guarantor’ on the health insurance policy. So when the bill goes to collections, the collection agency holds me responsible for the unpaid $15 bill that I have never seen. Two of these collections in the last six months have seen my FICO score plunge by 80 points. 

The solution is to file a motion seeking a) damages for credit destruction and b) a court ordered deletion notice to remove the negative information. While courts may find it difficult to quantify the damages (although services are springing up offering to value the effect of lost credit), they have an easier time of issuing a deletion notice that instructs the credit agencies to remove the offending information.


Excerpt from Alec Baldwin’s new book

September 20, 2008

An excerpt from Alec Baldwin’s new book “A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce” can be found here at ABC.

Kudos to Alec Baldwin

September 20, 2008

…for a wonderful interview on 20/20 last night (click here for link to story).

I was particularly impressed by three aspects of the interview:

1) The way that Alec dodged traps (by explicitly stating that he does not support abusers or deadbeat dads for instance) and by calling out Diane Sawyer several times on her attitude “What, you don’t believe what I saying?”  (about judges being corrupt and inefficient).

2) Alec also apparently took time outs when he began to get heated in the interview (and what was up with the hot room – was it premeditated to make him look flustered and “hot under the collar”?)

3) How he managed to slip sound bites into the interview (like judges in the divorce industry being like pit bosses at a Vegas casino keeping people at the tables). The latter point echoing many of the same observations I have made on this blog (here and here for instance).  

I think he has also done great service in bringing the debate on parental alienation into the public spotlight. I am looking forward to purchasing a copy of Alec’s book when it is released on Tuesday.

Can a man file a protection order?

September 17, 2008

The short answer is YES – the law applies equally to men and women. The exact law relating to protection orders in Nevada can be found in my post here.

The bottom line is:

“if you hurt someone or threaten to hurt someone via actions or words (so that they had a reasonable fear of the threat being carried out) then you are guilty of domestic violence…Naturally, any case will be strengthened if there is more evidence than he said/she said testimony. Medical records, police reports, a criminal record, and witnesses all strengthen a case.”

A good rule of thumb is that if it comes down to “he said/she said” you will most likely lose – perhaps even finding that SHE gets a protection order awarded against YOU. At the very least, you should fully expect her to claim that YOU assaulted her (and self-inflicted wounds are not uncommon). This post is highly recommended to give you the correct state of mind on these matters. Good luck!

More lawyers, more divorce laws

September 8, 2008

Hans Bader has made an interesting link between the number of lawyers and lawyer-intensive divorce laws in this article.

The head of the Virginia bar association is concerned because Virginia, which once had the highest percentage of lawyer-legislators in America, now ranks behind New York and Massachusetts and on par with New Jersey. Although I am a lawyer myself, I view this as cause for celebration, because the more lawyers are in a state legislature, the more unfair a state’s divorce laws tend to be, and the more anti-business they tend to be. The states with the weirdest, most lawyer-intensive divorce laws are New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts — states with lawyer-heavy legislatures. (Given the ideology of my classmates at Harvard Law School, this doesn’t surprise me).

Hans goes on to explore many freakish or bizarre cases that invite on-going litigation in a number of lawyer-heavy states.

Lazenby v. Shriver

August 26, 2008

Former 007 George Lazenby and tennis star Pam Shriver offer a near textbook case of the family law “industry” in action. Lazenby clearly wants to be in his children’s lives and act as a responsible parent but finds himself with a restraining order and 3 supervised visits a week instead. Remember none of the allegations against him were grounds to steal his children BEFORE he entered family court.

Both sides have been encouraged to dig up as much dirt on the other as possible and the lawyers are looking forward to a “big trial”. Exactly how is this in the children’s best interests? This is a system seriously out of control.

The Parenting Coordinator

August 25, 2008

I just discovered (through personal experience) that Nevada can refer “high conflict” parenting cases to a “parenting coordinator” (also called a friend of the court or family court advisor in other jurisdictions).

A parenting coordinator is a licensed family therapist whose duties are to: 1) educate parents on communication and the damage that conflict does to children, 2) monitor compliance with custody agreements and 3) arbitrate disputes. The latter is the most controversial. The parenting coordinator will listen to both sides of the case and then make recommendations for resolving issues. However, unlike traditional therapy, these recommendations are passed on to the court – they are not privileged or confidential. The parents are also asked to sign an agreement to be bound by the coordinator’s recommendations unless they are over-turned by the court.

At $150 an hour (split 50:50 by the parties) the use of a parenting coordinator is considerably cheaper than using lawyers for litigation in court. It also frees up the court’s time that would otherwise be spent on relatively trivial issues.

As I approach my first parenting coordinator (PC) experience I am cautiously optimistic. The PC will have more time to listen to both sides of the case (unlike the judge) and will hopefully call my ex-wife on some of her destructive behavior. I will reserve my doubts until I can report back later on the experience.