Add-on expenses are a soft spot for many divorced parents. When I hear from parents, many of them are frustrated over, late reimbursements, expenses that are not in the agreement, or just complete neglect of add-on expenses. There are thousands of parents upset enough to storm into litigation over these expenses, and my advice to them is always the same, make sure you’ve done all possible to resolve without filing a petition. If you haven’t been to family court yet, you might believe that this is where you’ll find justice, but trust when I tell you that this is a last resort.
The courts are overwhelmed with cases and judges that need to move them along, are prone to dismiss, or can’t discern the facts completely before coming to conclusions. This note isn’t intended to disparage judges or attorneys as they have the impossible job of understanding the dynamics of warring coparents and at the same time applying the law. It doesn’t help that it is not unusual that parents are dishonest in family court. I have heard attorneys say that people bring their best selves to criminal court and the worst version of themselves to family court.
It’s also important to consider the emotional and financial cost associated with trial in family court. In many places just retaining your attorney might start at $1,500 and jump to $10,000 with hourly rates ranging from $200-$500 per hour. Let’s assume an attorney’s rate of $300 per hour for preparing a petition and going to trial and assume this is 30 hours of total billed time, this example would cost $9000. Then consider what you might gain from the experience, one outcome is that you lose and gain nothing, but even if you win will it be worth more than $9000? Your ex will also likely spend a similar amount. In this example, a legal fight costs between a semester to a year of college tuition. Surely, if you’re considering a petition, your coparenting relationship is already difficult, but after relitigating your divorce, it might be impossible. This would likely have a lasting impact on your children and reopen the wounds from the divorce. To my earlier point, the petition is a last resort.
Many parents have turned to using apps to navigate co-parenting challenges, but for them to work well, you’ll need your co-parent to use them with you, and that’s not easy. However, there is a new app called DComply that lets parents save receipts and automatically email and bill the other parent for reimbursements. The other parent doesn’t need to download DComply to receive email reimbursement notifications and the app will offer proof of attempts to collect reimbursements.
If a co-parent starts to make payments, that parent can download the and send payment directly to your bank account and pay child support online. If a parent pays offline, the app has a paid offline button to record the transaction. Ultimately, if your co-parent continues to not comply with your agreement, DComply supplies a report that we recommend that you bring to a mediator to help provide an accurate summary of what has occurred. When all fails, mediation is the best course of action. It offers the opportunity for you and your ex-spouse to control your destinies and if done well can also be therapeutic for both parties. It also can cost much less than litigation as mediation leads to quicker resolution and, in some states, parents are paying for one divorce professional not two of them.