A truly worthless piece of paper

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2010

Your Divorce will end up on a piece of paper: either a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage (a judgment written by a Judge after a trial) OR, a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage incorporating a Marital Settlement Agreement (which is an agreement agreed to and signed by you and your spouse. The point is you need to be very aware of whether or not you can actually enforce what is written on that piece of paper. For example, if your spouse agrees to pay a credit card debt in your name only and he or she does not pay it, can the Judge do anything to your spouse to make them actually pay it? If it is alimony or child support they were supposed to pay and did not, the Judge can incarcerate (put in jail) your spouse. That is "enforcement".

But with regard to credit card debt, the Judge is basically powerless to enforce payment of it, and the Judge's options are limited. If you agreed to lower or no alimony in exchange for your spouse paying your credit card debt, you are only receiving a piece of paper with ink on it. It is useless (if your spouse is not honorable and does not pay that credit card debt.) Be careful. It is the job of your attorney to advise you whether what you are agreeing to or seeking from the Judge will actually be enforceable after it is ordered. A piece of paper that is not enforceable is a waste of time and money. Do not fall into that trap. I have had many consultations with former spouses where the damage is done because their Final Judgment is just a worthless piece of paper. A good attorney would plan adequate remedies and safeguards for this situation.