DIVORCE ETC… PODCAST – FULL TRANSCRIPT
POST JUDGEMENT AFTER DIVORCE CONSIDERATIONS
SEASON 3, EPISODE 45
Jessica: Are you divorced and unhappy with some of the terms you’ve agreed to? Is it worth hiring a lawyer again and going back to court? We know there are two sides, actually three sides to every situation, as well as what an emotional and financial toll it is to have to revisit aspects of your settlement. But sometimes it’s worth it. Post-judgment decisions are what we’re talking about in today’s episode of the Divorce etc… podcast. We’re the experts, Jessica and T.H. We focus on helping you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life. Please follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS, and check out www.exexperts.com for tons of free divorce related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.
T.H.: Hey, everybody, it’s T.H. here. We are thrilled to have Kimberly Cook with us. She is a highly acclaimed divorce attorney and mediator and well versed in all things divorce. She has built up her own practice and is successful in her own right. We are really thrilled to have you here and really educating our community. We’re really happy to have you on Divorce etc… today.
Kimberly: Thank you, ladies. I’m excited to be here and jump into this conversation, because I actually don’t think people talk about post-judgment as much as they should. I’m thrilled to chat about this because we talk a lot about pre. But actually, post is really, I think, more challenging, and so very excited to talk, and hopefully, people will come away with some information so that they don’t end up back in post-judgment.
T.H.: And listen, if you’re in the process, you definitely need to hear this because you want to make sure that you address these issues while the timing’s hot.
T.H.: You don’t want to come back again and have to revisit this. Nobody wants to.
Jessica: Kimberly, just for people to know, is there any stat of like X number or a percentage of divorces do end up with at least one type of post-judgment situation?
Kimberly: Yeah, it’s as high as like 65%. Now, I think it’s really important for people to understand though when you look at statistics, oftentimes, the statistics don’t break down between the numbers of marriages, right? When we think of these high numbers, people who have been divorced once and their post-judgment, that rate may be a little bit lower than say, I’m on divorce number two. And so those rates are all combined in there. However, when we look just across the board though in terms of statistics of new filings every year, people are so shocked to learn that most new filings are post-judgment matters. It’s not necessarily just new divorces. When we’re looking at new filings, a lot of it deals with that post-judgment, specifically kid issues, and we’ll talk about why it’s mostly kid issues and they’re not financial. But the kid issues, we find that in large part, people come back to court pretty regularly post-judgment.
T.H.: Okay, so let’s start right there. What are the top four most common post-judgment divorce issues?
Kimberly: Yeah, that’s great. First and foremost, you’re dealing with schedule, so parenting schedule issues. That will be your day to day regular schedule where the kids are sleeping, those type of things. Number two, in terms of coming back, would then be decision making. I know that people think it should be the other way around. But generally, people come back into court about the day to day, where my kids are in the schedule, more so than the decision making. And decision meaning my co-parent and I can no longer make decisions. Or things just aren’t working out, and I’m going to come back in to try to change that. That would be number two. Three, of course then you’re dealing with child support, child related expenses. I’m going to group in that college contribution, so the child related financial pieces. Then I’d say number four would then be maintenance or spousal support or alimony, depending on what state or jurisdiction you live in, those issues related to I need to terminate support or I need to modify spousal support. Those would be your top four. So, scheduling, certainly then decision making, and then we’re dealing with child support, and then lastly, maintenance and alimony. Those are why people come back into court.
Jessica: I’m curious because I feel like—look, T.H. and I have been out of it for 15 years.
Kimberly: Yay you ladies.
Jessica: Yay. But I feel like on a regular basis, I’m dealing with annoying, stupid bullshit from my ex. By the way, it was very amicable. We get along very well. I think our relationship is great considering we’re divorced.
Jessica: I kind of wonder if there’s a bar that you can tell people when it’s at this level, you probably don’t want to go back in and deal with the post-judgment, but here is where you need to start dealing with it.
Kimberly: Yeah, that’s a great question. Here’s the thing. Realistically, you should not be running into court for everything, right? You got to be realistic about timing and the cost as it relates to the issue. I tell people all the time, what’s the cost benefit analysis before you start going down this road? The year after your divorce, and maybe even two years, you got to give yourself a little bit of what I call transition period. This is new for everybody. And so in those first two years, oftentimes, judges will even say to you, “You can’t come back in here within the first two years.” Depending on where you live, there are some statutes that require you to actually have a significant showing, or there has to be an extreme change of circumstance, or something that’s more than just “Yep, I don’t like this parenting schedule that we put in place.” And so think about when you’re deciding whether or not this is worth going back into court, whether or not 1) you can afford to do it. Afford to do it doesn’t just mean writing a check. It really means the time and the emotional cost that it takes to go back and otherwise litigate this thing. The other thing, is this something that a court can actually give you relief? Can they do something for you? I know it sounds a little selfish in many ways, like, “What can you do for me?” But that’s true, right? If you’re going into court and your issue is, “Well, my spouse or my former spouse doesn’t respond to me by 8:00 every night, even though our judgment says that,” there’s a good chance there’s nothing a judge can do. You don’t have a judge sitting in your house every day. You got to think about what exactly they can help you with before you go into court. That’s the kind of, I think, self-evaluation. Cost benefit analysis one, and then two, what’s the relief that I’m requesting? If it takes you a minute to be realistic about what the relief is—I’ll tell you out the gate, your ex is not going to have parenting time. That’s not happening, right? If that’s the scenario where you are saying, “My ex should never have parenting time,” then you got to be coming into court with some really serious allegations that’s not “They’re now dating another person.” You just have to be mindful. But give yourself some time to figure it out.
Jessica: I feel like when I think about the cost benefit analysis, immediately, the thought of hiring a lawyer, I’m already like “I’m out.”
Kimberly: “I’m done.”
Jessica: I can’t even think about what comes next.
Kimberly: Mm-mm. No.
Jessica: Yeah. So I don’t get it.
T.H.: Well, the only scenario that I can think of is if there was hidden money.
Jessica: Well, yes.
T.H.: We hear from people a lot saying, “I agreed to all of this, and now there’s a windfall of money all of the sudden.”
T.H.: And that was hidden from evidence and discovery and all of that through the process. That’s just people reaching out to us saying, “How can you help me? He lied or she lied. We signed the papers and I agreed to X, Y, and Z, and now there’s like a shit ton of money.”
Kimberly: Well, okay, let’s address that. Because when we think about the things that legitimately a court can actually do something about, something like fraud, yes. But here is the exception. The resident lawyer in the room, there’s all the exceptions, right? Make sure that pre-judgment, you didn’t waive or agree to not go forward with additional discovery, or you didn’t read everything, you didn’t ask questions, because those things are going to come back to bite you later when the judge is saying, “Sir or ma’am, it looks like here you had the opportunity to investigate this account, and you chose not to,” or “You had the ability to sit this person down for a deposition.” So pre-judgment, it’s critically important that you ask all the questions all the time. Ask your lawyer why are we doing this, or why aren’t we pursuing that? You really want to make sure that you cross all T’s and dot the I’s, because once you enter the judgment, it is very difficult, especially in dealing with money and property settlements, to have that opened back up. It’s not “easy” to have kid issues opened up, but it’s certainly easier than things related to property and finances. Because the presumption is that you had the opportunity to get that information through what’s known as the discovery process. You had the ability to discover those things. And so if you’re now coming back saying, “I didn’t know,” “I wasn’t provided,” you have the burden of then showing that the other person actively did something, they affirmatively hid something, or that on their financial disclosure statement or whatever affidavit, that they intentionally lied about things. It’s a really high burden. I certainly recommend that before you get divorced, you want to make sure that you understand everything 1) that you’re signing, everything that you’re waiving. If you really do have questions about finances, income, assets, debts, liabilities, then take the time and sit down and go through everything with a lawyer, with your financial planner, even if it’s with your girlfriend who is a lot more organized and detail oriented than you. Get a second set of eyes on it. Because you do want to make sure that you understand what you’re agreeing to because it’s really hard post-judgment to open that back up.
T.H.: Wait, hang on one second. Hang on a second. Just for definition purposes, explain, because we came right into it saying post-judgment. Can you explain what post-judgment is in layman’s terms?
Kimberly: Yes, it is the litigation or the process, whether that’s going to mediation or litigation—litigation being court—that happens after the entry of your divorce judgment. Pre-judgment is all of the stuff leading up to the divorce judgment. Post-judgment is everything that comes after you now are divorced. That’s the difference between pre and post.
T.H.: Right, after your divorce is finalized.
Kimberly: Yes, after your divorce.
T.H.: So you were granted your divorce?
Kimberly: That’s right. That’s right.
T.H.: Okay, good.
Jessica: Is there a requirement that you have to waive certain things when you sign the final judgment?
Kimberly: No. That comes down to your own comfort level. And that sounds easier said than done. Here’s the deal with waivers. Waivers are absolute in most cases. I live in Illinois, and if somebody waives maintenance, which is also known as spousal support, that’s a forever waiver. That means you can’t come back to court later saying, “Oh, I now need spousal support.” When you’re thinking about I’m going to waive further discovery, further research into certain accounts, or I’m not going to go forward with a trial because we’ve settled our case, just make sure you understand the boundaries of which waiver it sets you in. You want to just be very clear. This is a great opportunity to ask your lawyer, “Okay, help me understand. If I’m waiving my right to review, am I waiving my ability to contest fraud later? Am I waiving my ability to modify the terms of the parenting agreement?” This is the great opportunity to ask good questions when you’re thinking about things like waiver. You don’t want to sign anything unless you really do feel comfortable and understanding all of the components of your judgment. That’s really important to do.
Jessica: When people go back for post-judgment situations, is there an expectation with regards to how long something like that can be? I mean, divorce itself can take a really long time. You can go in with a motion and it may not be heard. You may not be in court or in front of the judge for months on end. Now you’re already done, you have stuff. Everyone thinks it’s a huge sense of urgency, but realistically, I feel like that’s also something to consider when it comes to the cost benefit analysis. You could have this situation and it may not be resolved for six months from now.
Kimberly: 100%. A part of your cost benefit analysis is the time, right? Because here’s the thing, you’re now post-judgment, so it’s not an emergency. You’ve shifted into a new dynamic. Unless it’s a situation where again, it’s dealing with the kids and there truly is an emergency dealing with their overall health, safety, well-being, yes. But when we’re talking about things like money or finances, those things, this is not a sitcom. It’s not going to be resolved within the next 30 minutes. This could take several months to get done. That is something that you should really consider when you’re thinking about, should I file again? I will say that also, though, maybe instead of filing with the court, maybe it’s the opportunity to explore mediation. And so certainly with mediation, this allows you and your ex to come together and discuss the issues before going into court in an attempt to resolve the problem and see if that can do it without then going into court. Because chances are you can get into mediation a lot faster than you can get before a judge. That would be my little two cents on mediation and why I think—
T.H.: I think there’s a big benefit to your two cents. We’re going to pause for a quick moment here. Because we know it’s hard to get honest and reliable information about your divorce and how to move on from it, so we’ve done the work for you. As the exEXPERTS, we get questions every day from people looking for a trustworthy resource to support them through this difficult time. From legal, money, kids, your self-care, and all of the other stuff, we cover it at www.exexperts.com and here on our Divorce etc… podcast. Be sure to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to hear directly from us as we educate you on how to navigate your way through divorce and get what you need and have what you want. Just visit www.exexperts.com. We’ve lived it, so we get it.
Jessica: So, Kimberly, I want to pivot a little bit just for a second. I know with Grown Girl Divorce and with the services that you offer, we love a specialty, and we feel like our missions are totally aligned with regards to empowerment via education and knowing everything like that. Your niche is women of color—helping black women with divorce. And so I’m curious if you can help us understand what’s the difference what color someone is when they’re going to get divorced.
Kimberly: Fantastic question. With Grown Girl Divorce, we are about educating and empowering black women through the divorce process. People often ask, what’s the difference? Isn’t divorce the same no matter who you are? Here’s my response to that. First and foremost, the legal process should arguably be the same, regardless of whether you’re male, female, black, white, South Asian, Asian. It doesn’t matter in terms of process. The experience, though, is very different for women, for men, for black women, for Muslim women, for Israeli women, for all types of people. And so Grown Girl Divorce came from a space where I recognized that black women didn’t have a space of relatability, and the relatability, coming from how we are received, how we are engaged during the process. It’s not about the filing piece, but it’s really about your lived experience as a black woman or a woman of color through the divorce process. And so our goal at Grown Girl Divorce is to educate and empower women who are going through the process and speaking to their experience as women of color. Because certainly, there are differences, right? There are cultural nuances. There are stereotypes, misconceptions, and all the things that impact your decision in the divorce process that isn’t always talked about or understood. Here we are, all women, and certainly, I’m sure we could list out ten reasons why it was important to give voice to women in the divorce process. It’s not because technically, filing papers between men and women are different. But we know that as women, the divorce experience is very different. It’s the same thing for black women. That’s the difference.
Jessica: Our audience is all colors, all walks of life. What are some things that you can say to black women that are like, “Here are things that you really should be thinking about that unfortunately, you may not be thinking about.” What are like the three things maybe?
Kimberly: Yeah, that’s great. First and foremost, I think it’s really important to understand your knowledge base and your team. Let me break that down. When we think about your knowledge base, we’re thinking about things in terms of the legal process. And so as black women culturally, we don’t talk about divorce and what it means to get divorced because there’s a lot of shame. There’s stigma in the black community surrounding the idea of being divorced. The first thing that you want to make sure is that you’re getting good, solid information. That doesn’t mean that you’re getting it from what I’m going to call the community leaders: your aunts, your uncle, your girlfriend sometimes. You want to make sure 1) that you put aside some of the cultural knowledge base as it relates to the legal process. Okay, then 2) when we think about how you can navigate the process as a black woman or a woman of color, we want to make sure that you know there are going to be stereotypes. There are going to be assumptions that are made about you before you open your mouth. Knowing that, it’s really important to get out ahead of that. People ask all the time, “Well, how do you do that?” Well, you come armed with information and you’re organized. And so when somebody is making the assumption that I come from a wealthy family—well, stereotypically, black families are not wealthy unless they’re what, unless they’re Beyonce and Jay-Z, or unless you’re an Obama. I don’t think those girls are married yet. But there are these real misconceptions about us as a community. So you come in the door very clear about this is who I am, and this is who my family is. And so there are no questions, and you can dispel these misconceptions right away. Then I’d say the third thing that is going to be really important is that again, as a part of our community, and culturally, that black women do get divorced. Women of color get divorced all the time. And so you’re not alone, even though in large part, it may appear that no one looks like you. Depending on where you live, there may not be a person of color who is representing you in terms of lawyers, or the judges sitting on the bench, or the child representative, and so knowing that there are a community of women who are available and support. And so I think it’s really important that even if you live in an area where there are no other minorities, that you’re not the only one out there. That’s important to have that kind of support system. Because oftentimes, what we see is that women don’t go forward with the process because they feel very much isolated. You feel very much like this is not going to work, particularly in mixed race households or multi-race households where you are in an environment where you might be the only black or brown face in an entire community, outside of even dealing with the legal system. And so it’s really important to find a community where you can be able to express your own frustrations, again, having a space of relatability, even if there’s not someone in your community. The last thing I’ll say in that vein, make no mistake, I have been a divorce professional for the better part of 16 years. I’ve represented every race, ethnic background. I’ve represented men and women. This isn’t to say that if you were a person of color that you should only work with people of color. That is not what we do at Grown Girl Divorce. But we want to make sure that you know that there is a community, that we understand that your experience may not be someone else’s experience, and that everybody should deserves good support in the way that they need it. I want to make sure that that’s really clear. You want to find good counsel. You want to find good support. But recognizing that we all need a little touch of, “Here’s who I am, and you can connect with me in this way.”
Jessica: Yeah for sure.
T.H.: We really talk about the importance of your relationship, especially with your attorney. If you do not feel that your attorney is respecting you, that you’re not being heard, that your concerns are not being addressed—and by the way, you might hear things that you don’t like. That doesn’t mean you’re not being heard. I also want to clarify that because someone will say, “My lawyer didn’t do X, Y, and Z, but they told me…” So you also have to listen. But the dynamic between you and your lawyer is critical, because if you hire someone, they’re speaking on your behalf. I want to know that Kimberly, when she goes in to talk to the judge, is fully representing my best interest. I so appreciate that you’ve created this additional niche of support because we are all about empowering people through education. The more you know, the better off you will be. People, don’t be lazy. Don’t be complacent. And don’t be naive because that’s when you get burned, and that’s when you’re going to end up post-judgment kicking yourself that you didn’t speak up sooner. I want everybody to listen to this and share this with people thinking about divorce, in the divorce. Don’t wait to hear this when you’re done. Because then, honestly, it’s a little bit too late.
Kimberly: I would agree. 100%. I think you hit the nail on the head. Look, a lawyer’s job is not to tell you what you want to hear. They’re there to tell you what you need to hear. That’s first and foremost. But there is a difference between working with someone who doesn’t hear you, doesn’t see you, doesn’t understand you, and somebody who actually does but is also giving you in many ways, the tough love of “Hey, we actually need to have a real conversation.” I think that certainly, it’s critically important when we think about the relationship between attorney and client, but that also extends, I think, to your certified divorce financial planner and your child representative and your—
T.H.: Your whole team.
Kimberly: The whole team. You got to make sure that they get you and you are able to bring your authentic self, one. Then two, you said don’t be lazy. Oh my gosh, that’s number one across the board, pre-judgment and post-judgment. This is your divorce, right?
T.H.: It’s your life.
Kimberly: It’s your life.
T.H.: It’s literally your life.
Jessica: And it’s going to have impact for years to come.
Kimberly: Yes. Yes. And so I don’t care if you have a pre-judgment case that you’re like, “Oh, you know what? I just want to get it done. And so I’m going to agree to all this stuff and we’ll deal with it later.” No, no, no, deal with it now so that you don’t have to deal with it later. If you’re now on that other end, the same kind of thing, sit down and really figure out, okay, of all of the issues that I think are an issue, let me prioritize these and make some decisions about what makes the most sense for next steps. Because I don’t know about anybody else, and yes, my bread and butter is in the divorce space, but I got to tell you, I don’t know anybody who should be or would want to be entangled in the legal process of divorce after they’ve entered their judgment. I mean, you really want to be done. You should be done, right? Like, no, no, thank you. You’re better off doing it right, not being lazy—
Jessica: Do it right the first time.
Kimberly: The first time, so that when that judgment is entered, you’re like, “See ya. I don’t ever have to come back to court again, like, not interested. Not interested.”
Jessica: This has been such a great conversation, so much information. Honestly, so many great tips that really apply for everyone. I mean, you’re talking about things that people need to start thinking about before they’re done, in order to make sure they protect themselves so they don’t have to go back once they are done. It’s really been such a pleasure. We’d love to finish this conversation, have more of this conversation at a future date for sure. For everyone out there, if you enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast with the exEXPERTS today, then can you help a few girls out? Please take a moment to subscribe, rate, and review our Divorce etc… podcast because that actually helps to bump it up on the lists on podcast platforms so more people can find us, and we can help support them as they’re going through divorce and beyond. Check the show notes for more info on Kimberly, her podcast, Grown Girl Divorce, and all of the services she offers. And of course, share this episode with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Have a great day.