Don’t Be “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish”
Do You Know What It Means?
In a nutshell, it warns that you should not be careful over spending small amounts of money while being careless when spending larger amounts of money. This is very applicable to many legal situations that you could face. For example, many people will not invest a little time and money to have a will, trust agreement, power of attorney, and/or health care directive prepared, choosing instead to leave more expensive and complicated legal problems for their family to deal with in the future. We see this principle over and over in many areas of the law including individuals who do not want to spend a little money having a proper lease agreement, contract, promissory note, deed or other legal document properly prepared at the outset of a transaction. All too often, an attempt to save a little money on the front end of a legal situation results in a much larger expense later on. Unfortunately, this is also seen very often in the divorce context.
Very often, we have seen individuals try to avoid paying a small amount of money to an attorney looking out for them to review proposed divorce documents before they sign them. A divorce creates a conflict of interest where the same attorney cannot ethically represent both parties. Hastily agreeing to terms of a divorce presented by your estranged spouse or his/her lawyer or just letting them take your default on their terms can be a costly mistake that can take a lot of time and money to correct, if at all. These divorces are often very one-sided but people sign them because “they just want to be done” with the divorce. We caution clients to not be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to signing or ignoring a legally enforceable agreement that can affect their lives for many years to come. Avoid the stress and turmoil that will inevitably come down the road by signing something you do not fully understand. Simply schedule a one hour consultation to have a competent attorney help you understand what your rights are and what a fair settlement should look like. It is always easier and cheaper to make sure a divorce is done right at the beginning of the case rather than to try and correct or change it later down the road.
It is much easier, legally, to ensure the terms of legal and physical child custody, child support, alimony, debt division and property division are properly addressed at the time of divorce—not years down the road. Once a divorce decree is entered, even if unfair and one-sided in favor of the other party, the legal standard to modify the terms of the divorce already entered changes and the person asking the court to change the terms of the divorce generally has the burden of proving that a material change in circumstances has taken place. These divorce modification proceedings are a lot like the original divorce case—they start with a petition and end with a trial.
Don’t try to save a little money to avoid paying for a divorce consultation at the expense of untold thousands later and stress for years to come because you don’t understand the consequences of signing a legally enforceable and binding contract that could be enforced by garnishment, contempt proceedings, fines, attorney’s fees, and possible jail time. Also, do not rely on your spouse’s “promise” that if you will just sign the document that he/she will not seek to enforce it later. They almost always do and you are left to defend yourself against whatever the written order says, no matter what they promised you verbally.
At Graff Law, we recommend that a party to a divorce proceeding receive independent legal advice from an attorney before a binding, enforceable court order is entered against them. If you need legal advice about a family law issue, contact the attorneys at Graff Law and find out what they can do to protect you and to ensure that the divorce is done right the first time.