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Q. We went to a law office today to have our agreement reviewed, but the lawyer said that we both needed to have independent legal counsel. How come when we have agreed?

A. He/she can not represent both of you. If you want legal advice you need separate lawyers.
So far so good, you have agreed to terms and simply want things recorded legally, but what happens next should frighten you. Your lawyer does what is best for you, and the other side's lawyer does the same thing. That is only fair; but the lawyers will find your agreement as appealing as burnt toast, and start writing letters and arranging meetings. You are billed for each phone call, each letter and every meeting. We all know that lawyers bill for time not necessarily results.

Q. "I have a big problem. My spousal support payments are killing me, I've been downsized and now I don't have enough left over at the end of month. She has a live-in boyfriend who is helping her but she refuses to talk about lowering the alimony. Can you help?"

A. There are two methods available to have your payments lowered. The first on the surface sounds like a dead end, but I suspect it's all in your presentation. If you are like most people you either talked to her on the phone or in the driveway when picking up the kids. All agreements or court orders can be revisited if there has been a change in circumstances. Your book will show you how to properly present things to your ex. If your words fall on deaf ears then you will be solidly prepared to ask a court to vary the agreement or issue a new order, and by managing your own case it won't make a dent in your already depleted wallet.

Q How long does it take?

A. This is a question without a solid answer because you never know how long it will take to resolve legal issues. A valid defense strategy is to delay things until the other side runs out of money or simply gives up. Attorneys are in no hurry and the courts are jammed. So how long does it take if you go the court route? I do not want to even guess. I do know that many prepared couples come to satisfactory arrangements very quickly.

Here is an interesting point, and you can ask any lawyer to confirm this. At trial or at a settlement conference the judge will often tell the litigants to go into an interview room and come to an agreement. I call it "Let's Make a Deal" and it is something the lawyers should have done months ago.

Q How, in a ten minute interview does her lawyer say she could get $3,000 a month for life?

A. A short question with a longish answer. First there is the danger of 'spin' It happens when anyone hears anything. and retells the conversation. The spin comes the retelling of what then think they heard. You can usually discount things that start with "My lawyer says..."

To calculate alimony you need to examine several factors but some lawyers will give an answer based on very basic information about income and length of marriage, and in seconds come up with a number that is often too high. Sometimes a lawyer may be saying what the potential client wants to hear. If you ex goes to two lawyers and one gives her a higher amount - which lawyer is your ex likely to hire?


Q. I have heard of guidelines, and know that the guidelines are used by the courts to determine the amount of support and the time period. Where do I find the tables?

A. True there are published guidelines, and lawyers like to use them. However, unlike child support these guidelines are not legal. A good example is the SSAG written by a professor; it's a long paper which has been posted on federal government web sites. Yet even with the disclaimers there are those out there in law offices who use this paper as 'gospel". There is no court in North America with any duty to follow any such guidelines. Each alimony case stands on its own, and there are three essential elements the court needs to consider even before the number crunching. The point? If the other side is quoting guidelines then sit back and smile because you just may have a big advantage.


Q. When I consulted with a lawyer she said not to bother going after alimony because a judge would not be sympathetic. I don't understand why the lawyer would tell me not to go after support.

A. The lawyer may be correct, in the long haul you may not come out ahead. On the other hand the lawyer may have decided that you can not afford to pay her fees and she has other profitable cases on her plate.

You have options; you can roll over or you can use the book to get what you want.