Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's a math question.

There are many family law issues that involve soul searching, asking tough moral and ethical questions striving to find the right answer.

This is not one of them.

I will often consult with someone who has a money question.  Much of family law is a money question.  Quite often the subject is child support modification.  Regardless of which parent is asking me, the analysis is the same: how much money do you stand to gain (either through an increase in child support you receive or decrease in the child support you pay)?  You want to be as realistic as possible in your assessment because you want the math to be correct.

If the amount in controversy is less than, equal to or only somewhat greater than the attorney fees involved, for God's sakes don't do it.  Don't spend good money after bad.  Don't roll the dice on a slightly favorable verdict.

Modification only makes sense when you are necessarily going to make or save some significant money after the process if done.  And if an attorney tells you that the attorney fees don't matter because you'll get them awarded by the court, ask them if they will give you a contract that provides that they will only get paid by the other side.  See if that attorney will take the risk.  If he or she won't, then what does that tell you?

Let me give you an example.  Suppose a fellow wants to reduce his child support.  He's making a little less money now so we feel comfortable that his child support would be approximately $100 less per month.  This means that over the course of a year he will save $1,200.00.  This means that over the course of two years he will save $2,400.00.  I use a two year figure because parties can seek to re-adjust their child support after two years. 

Now you need to factor in the attorney fees.  Suppose the attorney fees are slightly greater than the two year savings.  It makes no sense to spend that money to save less money.  Again, it is possible that the judge could award you attorney fees, if you are the prevailing party, but you won't know until the money is spent and you've played your hand.  That is a risk which better be worth taking.  For example, if you were going to save $5,000.00 over two years you have more motivation to spend $2,500.00.  Now we enter the realm of "what is it worth to you."  Everyone has a different threshold here.  Some folks feel that the probability of saving $5,000.00 makes is worthwhile to spend $2,500.00 with a hope of recovering even that.  Some folks hold out for far more savings before they make that kind of investment.

Of course, no one expects you to know off the top of your head what child support would probably look like under a new scenario, that's why God gave us family law lawyers.  So you should call one for a free consultation to find out the facts, gain knowledge.

After all, knowledge is power.  And it's never a bad idea to have a little more power now and then.

Michael Manely

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