Written by attorney Ashley Buckman Schepens

Don't Put Off Tomorrow What You Can Finalize Today

One saying that I try hard to live by in my personal life as well as my professional career is “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today" and this holds true for several important reasons.

We all know good and well that life is just too darn short, and unfortunately nearly everyone knows someone who has tragically passed away at too young of an age. The truth is that none of us really know when the last time we will wake up on this Earth will be. It is easy to forget this concept when you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the weekdays and your jam-packed busy weekends, but somewhere in between your late work nights, driving the kids’ carpool, fixing dinner for your family, cheering on your son during his soccer games and dropping your daughter off at her dancing classes, take some time today to think about those things in life that are important to you.

I challenge you from today forward to consciously focus on the positives of your life and do those things today that you can easily put off until tomorrow. Tomorrow will eventually be today and your today’s to-do list will be perpetual if you continue to put things off until tomorrow. Take advantage of today.

Call your mom and dad today. Don’t wait until tomorrow. It will only take a few minutes. Tell them that you love them and thank them for everything they have done for you. Make it a habit to call or write to the people in your life who mean the world to you. Don’t wait until tomorrow.

Now, on a more family law related topic … In Louisiana you are able to walk through the divorce process in piece-meal form, meaning that you can obtain a divorce and address only the divorce so long as you have met the requisite physical separation period (180 days when there are no minor children of the marriage and 365 days when there are minor children on the marriage). These last few months I have come across a surprising number of clients who did just that – got divorced. Period. However, many issues were left untouched by the court system, such as custody, child support and the division of the community property.

Regarding custody and child support, it is better to just deal with it at the time of the divorce. It will be so much easier to handle it now than years down the road. I promise. You may be best friends with your soon-to-be ex and getting along fabulously, but inevitably down the road (I’ve seen it a thousand times) things and people change and the situation goes from all smiles to bitter fights over whether little Johnny will be dropped off at your house at 10:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. and whether your daughter really needs to be enrolled in dancing, gymnastics, piano, swim team, soccer and cheerleading when her grades are slipping.

You are getting a divorce for a reason, right? Surely you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything or you wouldn’t be in this boat. So why leave custody and child support up in the air? If you are still friendly with each other, GREAT!! You will never have to look at the divorce paperwork and you can co-parent effectively and will be the ideal role model for every other divorced parent out there. I’m sorry to report, though, that these situations are few and far between. Listen to your lawyer. Just do it. Just address custody and child support at the time of the divorce. No matter what.

Regarding the community property, I relate this situation to that of playing Monopoly with your soon-to-be ex. You start the game at the beginning of your marriage and as you roll the dice, the months and years go by. You pass “GO" for income and accumulate your Monopoly “community" by purchasing and selling properties. Similarly to life in the real world, when you draw a Chance Card, you may end up having to pay an unexpected medical expense or you may land on the Luxury Tax square and have to pay a surprising amount in taxes. For the most part, how each of you plays the game determines your community and depending upon how long the game lasts, you may have accumulated a decent sized community.

For one reason or another, the game ends when you find yourself in the process of obtaining a divorce. From this point forward, there are no chance cards, no more rolling of the dice, and no more playing. It’s game over for you and your ex. You’ve obviously stopped accumulating a community together now, but what happens to Marvin Gardens, Baltic Avenue or Park Place? What happens to all of the “stuff" that you and your ex have collected together during your marriage?

In Louisiana you have three main options regarding your community at the time of the divorce: 1) You can do nothing (which I strongly advise against); 2) You can divide the property on your own without court intervention or lawyers becoming involved (9 times out of 10 this does not pan out like it should and I would be very, very skeptical of permanently dividing your property without the advice of an attorney); or 3) You can formerly partition the community property through the court system.

Obviously, 99% of the time you should choose option #3 and partition your community property. Now, you are not legally required to partition the community at the time of the divorce and recently I have run into several clients who have come to me years and years down the road following the divorce because their names were still on the community home that their ex just stopped paying for and it is severely damaging their credit or because their ex refuses to take his or her name off of the loan on the community vehicle and even though he or she is making timely payments, it continues to show up on my client’s credit report and is causing problems when my client wants to purchase a new vehicle.

The types of problems that can pop up are endless if you ignore the community at the time of the divorce. My philosophy on the matter is - Get it done right and get it done right, right now. Admittedly, it will take a few months to finalize the community property partition, but it is more than worth it in the long run. Ask any one of my recent clients who have come back years later faced with major problems. He would say without hesitation to someone going through a divorce “get it done right, right now."

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you should take care of today. You’ll thank me for it later.

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