Saturday, July 09, 2005

Divorce Delays

This week my divorce could have been final again. For the first time, however, it was my idea to hold off on it. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the four-way meeting with myself and my attorney and my STBX and her attorney. In this meeting the possibility of her filing for bankruptcy after the divorce was final was discussed. My attorney asked her attorney if her creditors could come after me, and he seemed to indicate that they could not. However, when I look back on what he said, he never actually gave a firm answer. Somebody mentioned in a comment, and I’m too lazy right now with only half a cup of coffee in me to go and find out who (my apologies), that the laws in their state allowed the creditors to come after either party if the debt was incurred during the marriage. That made me think.

The STBX was very upset about this possibility, as money has always been one of her biggest stressors. In the time since then she’s been remarkably calm, and even chipper when I pick up and drop off my son. One thing about the STBX is that she doesn’t act like that unless she’s hiding something. It is not in character for her to be relaxed in the slightest if there is the possibility of financial hardship of any kind in her life. Her attitude made me wonder what was going on there.

I decided to do some research and found numerous instances of creditors going after an ex-spouse in the case of bankruptcy, and there’s no clear-cut way of finding out the rules and regulations on my own.

This is what I think could happen if I allowed the current agreement to go forward: The agreement would have me giving up all of my equity in the condo (each sides estimates vary, she says it’s nothing, her attorney says it’s about $15,000, my attorney and I say it’s between $15-20,000) in return for her keeping all of her debt. My half of her credit card debt would be around $10,000. That means I’d be giving up an extra 5 or 10 thousand dollars, but I really don’t mind that – if she feels she got the better of me in the divorce and relaxes it will only help things in the long term. However, I don’t want to give up that extra money to be rid of that debt if the creditors are going to come after me later for the money. That makes no sense whatsoever. That means I’d be paying her for my half of the debt, an extra 5 or 10 thousand dollars, and then being stuck with the debt again anyway. This would be ideal as far as the STBX would be concerned. She'd benefit financially from the settlement, file for bankruptcy, then watch as the creditors went after me. She wouldn't lose the condo or her car and would end up with lot more money at my expense.

My attorney tried to tell me on the phone that this wouldn’t happen, but based her argument in common sense rather than in legal research or knowledge. She basically said “your name isn’t on the credit cards, right? How would they come after you?” She deflated a bit when I said something along the lines of “well, there are cases I’ve found, even in our state, where credit card companies have come after ex-spouses even years after a divorce was final, and I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to me.” I think she was thinking that the whole thing didn’t matter to her because once the divorce was final it wouldn’t be her problem anymore.

If you’re wondering why she’s still my attorney, there are reasons. I’ve talked with my dad about the mistakes she’s made and he feels that I should be very careful following her advice. There isn’t much more left to do – the only thing is making sure my STBX’s possible bankruptcy can’t come back and bite me later. For that I’ve decided to contact a bankruptcy attorney to get reliable advice. So basically, I’m checking on everything my attorney is telling me. She hasn’t mentioned her bill once since being confronted on her “advice” before.

I’m sure I annoyed everybody else (including my own attorney) by delaying things, but I figure after all the ridiculous delays the STBX has caused my delay is more than reasonable. I’m wondering what her attitude will be today when I pick up my son – it might give me some more insight into what she’s thinking.