Five Tips for Obtaining Life Insurance from Your Ex After Divorce

Separation agreements, or Final Orders in divorce and child support actions, commonly require spouses paying child support or alimony to maintain life insurance on themselves. Why? Because this provision ensures that such payments will continue after death.

Typically, a life insurance provision will require the paying spouse to maintain life insurance in an amount that covers his or her remaining financial obligations. A separation agreement may contain a provision similar to this one:

Defendant will obtain a collateral life insurance policy within thirty (30) days after the Final Judgment and Decree of Divorce is entered and will name Plaintiff as beneficiary to the extent of Defendant’s child support and/or alimony obligations as defined in this Agreement.

Notably, compliance with this provision occurs after the divorce is finalized. Therefore, it is critical you ensure your ex-spouse continues to comply with the provision by maintaining life insurance. Below are five tips for life insurance after divorce.

  1. Be Sure You are the Beneficiary. If your ex-spouse is court ordered to pay alimony and/or child support, read the separation agreement carefully to ensure he/she is required to name you as the life insurance policy’s beneficiary. This will guarantee your support in the event your ex dies. It is not enough simply to require your ex to maintain life insurance.
  2. Include a “Required Proof” Provision with a Specific Date for Compliance. There should be specific language in the agreement that requires your ex to provide annual proof that his or her policy is still in effect and is unencumbered by any debt. This will ensure that the premiums have been paid, the policy has not been canceled, and that you are still protected.
  3. Get a Release from your Ex to Contact the Insurance Company Directly. To avoid policy cancelation due to unpaid premiums, you can ask your attorney to draft a release form for your ex to sign. This will grant the insurance company permission to give you information about the policy, including if the premiums have been paid. This form should be attached to the Agreement as an exhibit, so there is no question as to whether the insurance company has permission from your ex to provide his/her insurance information.
  4. Obtain a First Charge against Ex’s Estate. If you are worried that your ex will fail to maintain life insurance, you can include a condition in your separation agreement where the unpaid premiums and financial obligations will be a first charge against your ex’s estate if he or she fails to maintain life insurance.
  5. Email Your Ex a Pre-Written Letter. Communicating with your ex can be emotional and uncomfortable. However, if you have a pre-written letter that requests proof of life insurance (as required by your agreement) you can simply forward the message in a quick, stress-free manner. You should send the email with a certified receipt to ensure that your ex received it.

The above tips are important. Not only do they ensure your ex complies with the life insurance provision in your Settlement Agreement or Final Order, but they also offer you peace of mind in your post-divorce life.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Getting Your Ex-Spouse to Pay for Medical Costs

THREE TIPS TO GET YOUR EX TO REIMBURSE YOU FOR OUT-OF-POCKET MEDICAL COSTS FOR YOUR CHILD

Your divorce or child support case has been finalized. Either the court has issued an Order or you and your ex have reached an agreement specifying a formula to divide out of pocket medical expenses.  But exactly what does a custodial parent have to do to be reimbursed for medical expenses for your child from your ex.

A typical provision in a separation agreement and child support order would contain a provision similar to this one:

The parties shall each pay one-half of the child’s reasonable and necessary medical and dental expenses that are not reimbursed by insurance. The party incurring an out of pocket cost for the child’s health care shall provide the other parent with a copy of the medical bill, receipt or statement no later than thirty (30) days after such cost is incurred and the other parent shall reimburse the parent who incurred the expense within thirty (30) days of presentation of such proof of payment.

Below are three tips to assist you in receiving payment from your ex.

  • Be Diligent About Tracking Your Child’s Medical Expenses. As soon as your case is finalized track your child’s medical expenses and continue to follow through for each and every expense.
  • Open or Designate a Credit Card to be Used Solely Your Child. Use this credit card to pay for any expenses directly benefiting your child. Do not use this credit card for your personal or household expenses.
  • Open a Checking Account that is Used Solely for Your Child. Use this bank account to pay for any expenses related to your child.  Deposit child support and any other monies given to you by your child’s parent.  Do not use this bank account for any purchases or services that are not related to your children.

It is essential that you are able to document every item that you are requesting to be reimbursed.  The simplest way is to have a credit card and a checking account that is used solely for your child’s needs.  By keeping your other household and personal expenses separate, you will not be providing information about your personal spending habits to your ex, if you are required to produce these documents in court or through discovery.  It will be also much easier to insure that you are not leaving out any items are eligible for reimbursement.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Five Reasons Not to Delay Filing for Divorce this Summer

     Recent studies show “divorces follow the seasons.” This phenomenon represents itself in a “twins peak” pattern, where divorce filings explode in March and August. That is, most divorces are initiated soon after the winter holidays and summer vacation.

     While the reasons behind this pattern may vary, there are some common explanations. For example, the winter holidays and summer vacations are special times of the year. They represent new beginnings and a fresh start. Unfortunately, however, the burdening stress arising from a broken relationship proves too heavy, and the idyllic, conjured images of a happy family life quickly fade.

     The decision to file for divorce is never easy—and it shouldn’t be. However, if you have come to terms with your decision, and know that divorce is best for you and your children, delaying the filing process may only make things more painful. Below are five reasons you should not “follow the seasons”, and why you should think about filing for divorce this summer:

  1. Lawyers may have more time. Generally, divorce lawyers are less busy in the summer months, which means more attention and faster results for you.
  2. StressFree Holiday Season. By filing for divorce in the summer, there is a good possibility that your divorce will be finalized before the holiday season.
  3. “Test Driving” Parenting Plans. The summer is a great time to experiment with visitation schedules to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Your children are on summer break, and that means both you and the children have time to adjust to your new lifestyles before the hectic school year begins. This will facilitate a smooth transition into the fall months.
  4. Complete the Divorcing Parents Seminar Early. The summer is a good time to take the Divorcing Parents Seminar, which is required in most jurisdictions. Generally, Divorcing Parents Seminars are about four hours.  You can complete the seminar and receive your certificate, even if you have not yet filed for divorce. Finishing this course early in the process not only prepares you psychologically, but also eases the divorce process.   
  5. Your workload is usually lighter. You, personally, may have more time to adjust and cope with your divorce and minimize the stress on your career. You will also most likely have more time to spend communicating with your attorney, which will lead to a better result.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Guardian Ad Litem

Q: How Does the Guardian Ad Litem Obtain the Information Needed to Make Recommendations to the Court?

The GAL must conduct a thorough investigation of all of the allegations each party has made and determine their validity and the impact of the allegations on the children.   A GAL is in many ways “the eyes and ears” of the court.  The GAL must review all documents available concerning the parents and the child which can have an impact on custody.  It is routine for the GAL to have each party sign a release to obtain all medical files.  This includes psychological files.

It is very common for a GAL to provide a questionnaire to each party at the beginning of their involvement.  Complete each item as best as you can and then have your attorney review it before sending to the GAL.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Guardian Ad Litem

What Information Does The Guardian Ad Litem Need?

Q: What does the GAL want to know about me and my children?

Generally, the GAL’s questionnaire will ask routine questions about your education and work history.  The GAL will want to know if you have ever been arrested, convicted of a crime, and if you have had any problems with alcohol or drugs. The GAL will also want to know about your marriage and how and when the relationship soured. 

          The GAL will want to know if any of your children have special needs.  They will  usually ask  how you disciplined the children prior to the separation. The GAL will want to know how your children perform in school and extra-curricular activities.  The GAL will inquire how the childcare responsibilities were handled prior to the separation and what is the current division of childcare responsibilities. 

When responding to each question it is most important to be truthful.  Far better for you (or your attorney) to be forthright about any unpleasant detail, than for the GAL to hear about it from your former partner or discover it themselves.  Keep in mind, that there are very few individuals that have lead unflawed lives – even the Judge and your GAL!

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Guardian Ad Litem

How is the Guardian Ad Litem Paid?

Q:      The judge ordered my spouse and I deposit $1000 into the court’s registry.  The Judge stated in his Order that at the end of the case, she would decide if either of us should receive payment from the other.  I do not think it is “fair” that I should have to pay for a Guardian that I do not feel is needed.

          If both parties are unable to pay the GAL’s fees, the Court may appoint a GAL who has agreed to work on the case as a volunteer or at a reduced rate. Most of the time, GAL’s charge on an hourly basis and both sides will be required to pay an initial retainer.  The Order for the GAL will specify how the GAL’s fees will be handled.  It is very common for the Judge at the end of the case, to decide that one party will pay more than the other of the GAL’s total fees.  If one party earns substantially more money than the other, the Judge will have the higher earning party contribute more to the GAL’s services than the other.  It is also possible, that if one side does not cooperate with the GAL and be forthcoming with information, the Court can “punish” that party and require that the uncooperative party pay more than the cooperative party.  Many judges will state in their initial Order appointing the GAL specific terms concerning the payments to the GAL.  A typical provision reads: “In the event that there is a hearing or mediation in this case, and the GAL is called as a witness by either party or requested to appear, all of the GAL’s fee due at that time will be paid in full before the GAL is required to attend.” Another common provision in the judge’s initial order is: “In the event a written report is necessary, all fees due at that time, and a deposit of the full retainer shall be paid in full prior to the GAL writing the report.”

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Guardian Ad Litem

How is a Guardian Ad Litem Selected?

Q: I am getting a divorce. My husband is asking for primary custody, even though he has not been the “on the ground” parent. My husband’s lawyer requested  the judge to appoint a GAL.  The judge told both attorneys to suggest individuals they wanted to be the Guardian Ad Litem in my case and he would choose from those names.  The judge did not select the Guardian my lawyer requested.  The Guardian the judge selected is a member of the same church as my husband.  I am afraid that the Guardian will recommend that my husband have primary custody.  This is not fair.  What should I do?

          It is understandable that you are concerned that the Guardian could be more receptive to your husband than he/she is toward you.  However, experienced Guardians will not be influenced by facts that are not connected to the case.  In smaller cities and towns, it is very probable that Guardians know the parties in their cases.  Judges may prefer one Guardian over another for many legitimate reasons.  Some of the reasons could be that one Guardian may have a lower hourly rate or that the judge is more familiar with certain Guardians and wants to use someone he/she has experience working with. You need to put your feelings aside and do your best to develop a “connection” with the chosen Guardian.  Complaining about fairness will not accomplish anything productive.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Guardian Ad Litem

Q:      I do not understand why the Judge appointed a Guardian Ad Litem when I have always done everything for the children, i.e., take them to school, help them with their homework, take them to their pediatrician, dentist, etc.

         Many judges will routinely appoint a GAL when both sides are seeking custody.  If one party requests a GAL and the other is opposed, the judge will usually allow both sides to state their position, prior to making a decision.  If there are any allegations of abuse or neglect, it is more likely that the judge will appoint a GAL.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

Guardian Ad Litem

Q: What legal authority does the court give a Guardian Ad Litem in a Family Law Case?

          When the Guardian Ad Litem is appointed it is very important to read the order appointing the GAL.  Sometimes the judge will give special powers to the GAL, such as acting as a mediator for the parties.  It is the GAL’s responsibility to represent the best interest of the child.  The GAL is required to investigate claims made by the parties and witnesses; interview parties and all individuals with knowledge concerning the child and/or the parents and advise the court as to the custody and parenting plan which would be in the child’s best interest.

          Depending on the particular case, the GAL can make custody recommendations to the court; and testify at trial as an “expert” or fact witness as to the best interest of the child; and/or participate at the custody trial as a third lawyer (representing the best interest of the child) and is permitted to subpoena and cross examine witnesses.  The GAL has the ability to request that the court order the parties and their child to have psychological examinations.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

Q: I just filed for divorce and I have always been the stay at home parent.  My spouse suddenly wants to have the children half the time.  We just had a temporary hearing and the judge appointed a Guardian Ad Litem (or GAL).   The Judge did not explain what a Guardian Ad Litem is, what they will do in my case or why one is needed?

          A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is an individual (most often an attorney – but does not have to be) appointed by the court to represent the child/children’s best interest in a custody action.  The court can also appoint a GAL for an adult who is alleged to be incompetent to make their own decisions. 

          Most jurisdictions will require that a GAL complete a specialized training program.  The GAL is basically the “eyes and ears” of the court.  The GAL will conduct an investigation and will make recommendations to the court.  The court is not required to follow the recommendations of the GAL, but if the GAL is very experienced, it is likely that the court will put a lot of weight on the recommendations.

Do you have legal questions? We’re here to help your family. Call us at 770-333-1620.