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In this episode, Chelsea speaks with NYC-based family law attorney Aimee Richter about how families are coping with quarantine, the domestic issues that are even more apparent during this time, and what it's like to go to court over Zoom.

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Hello, everyone.

It's Chelsea. And before we get into this week's video, I wanted to let you guys know about an exciting new thing we're doing at TFD.

It's called "The Studio At TFD," and it is a series of digital workshops around all sorts of topics, from money management to mental health to organization to entrepreneurship and everything in between. We've got several amazing events coming up. And you can find out more about all of them at

See you guys there! Hello, everyone. And welcome back to a brand-new episode of The Financial Confessions.

Today, we have a guest who has an expertise that you guys love to hear from-- someone we have been looking forward to talking to you for a little bit now. And I'm very excited to introduce you to her. But before we get to our guest, I wanted to say a quick hello to our beloved partners with whom we make every episode of The Financial Confessions.

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And it was the first thing that ever allowed me to get a real hold on my finances. They also make, as I mentioned, QuickBooks, which is a truly fantastic business software that allows you to just see all of the ins and outs of your various small business needs and finances, I've been using it at TFD for years now. And every single morning, I log onto QuickBooks to look at our dashboard and see what's going on in TFD-- who's paying us, who we need to be paying, everything that we might be late on, preparing our expenses, all of our reports.

It is a fantastic piece of software. So Intuit's products have essentially allowed me, in basically every facet of my life, to live better financially. And they can do the same for you.

And the good news is, some of their most fantastic products are also totally free. I'll tell you more about Intuit later in the show. But if you can't wait to get started, check them out at the link in our description or our show notes.

So as promised, you guys, we have a very exciting guest today. Is she is a family law and matrimonial attorney. She is a past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association and an expert on all things family and matrimonial law.

Welcome to the show, Aimee Richter. Hi, Chelsea. Thank you for having me.

Thank you for being here. Very excited to be here. Very excited to be here.

And also, I have to say, with as little human contact as we're all getting these days, it's just so exciting to be in a space talking to someone face-to-face. I could not wait to get dressed, put on makeup-- Right? --do my hair. Look like a human being.

Put on some shoes. Right. Get out of the house.

It was perfect. We've all been looking ridiculous from the waist down for a long time now in our pajama pants and then a button-up shirt. Slippers.

Slippers, if we're lucky. [LAUGHS] So tell us a little bit about what you do every day, what family law, matrimonial law-- what all of these things are and kind of a little bit of the work you do. So basically, my practice is 100% dealing with family issues. OK.

You hear "matrimonial lawyers," most people think about divorce right away. Right. There's clearly a lot of that.

But there are a lot of other things that go into family law and matrimonial law. There's issues sometimes with children. There's issues with families in general.

Sometimes there are disputes between mothers and children, fathers and cousins. That stuff all falls into the realm of family law. We do a lot of prenuptial agreements for people who are contemplating getting married, which is always a nice thing.

Yeah. And basically, child support. Custody is obviously a very big thing that we deal with.

People have a lot of problems sometimes figuring out when their relationship goes bad how to deal with their kids. And that's a hard thing for a lot of people. And how long have you been practicing? 26 years.

Wow. Yeah. What's changed in those 26 years?

Yeah, the interesting thing that has changed the most, in my opinion, is the definition of "family." And that's like, to the core of what we do, right-- family law. When I started practicing, the family was mom, dad, and kids, right. That was the family.

And as time has gone on and things have changed, families have changed. Sometimes family is two dads and children. Or sometimes family is two moms and children.

Or sometimes family is a combination of all kinds of people. So as the times have changed, that has really, really changed, what the definition is. And as the definition's changed, the laws have changed about who can come in and be involved in these kinds of cases.

Have you seen the nature of gender roles change a lot in that time? I mean, for example, I know that it's, I think, often considered a big problem that we so default child care to the mother and really kind of assume that she should be or is the primary caregiver. And obviously, that problem can manifest in a ton of ways-- in the workplace, in our societal expectations.

But when it comes specifically to family law, that can often be a real default. Have you seen any evolution on those roles? I have.

I think, again, when I first started, it was assumed that mom would be the one to have custody. And custody is hard to define. People think if they have custody that means that they get to make all the decisions and they get to do everything and the other parent doesn't.

And that's really not what it is. When we refer to custody, we kind of talk about who makes the decisions-- if they make them together, and if they don't-- and where the kids primarily live. So like I said, back then, I think it was sort of a general assumption that mom was going to have the physical custody.

They live with her. Dad would visit on the weekends, maybe have a dinner. And that has completely changed in the last, I would say, at least 10 years.

Could be a little more that it started evolving. Fathers say, we have rights too. We love our children just as much as moms do.

But just because we have to go out all day and work doesn't mean that we can't be involved and make decisions. So it's a tricky thing. And the same thing-- women's roles have evolved in the last 25 or 26 years.

So I think that's something that's definitely changed since I started, as well. When you work with clients, do you find that typically when things are acrimonious or, let's just say, hotly contested, that people tend to walk in like that? Or that it tends to develop as things progress?

I think it can be a number of different ways. I think that sometimes people come in and they're not looking to be acrimonious. Or they say, look, I want this to be easy.

I don't want to fight. I don't want to spend a lot of time or money on this. I'd rather save it for my kids' college or whatever.

And then sometimes things happen. It could be the other side becomes very aggressive, in which case you don't have a choice. Sometimes people find out things during the course of litigation that makes them less apt to play nice because something they might not have known-- maybe someone's hiding money, maybe someone had a relationship.

I mean, these things are so emotionally explosive in a way, that I think a lawyer's job-- and I've said this before-- we're not just there to be weapons, aggressive, to fight it out. We're also counselors, right. We're attorneys and counselors at law.

Part of our job is to counsel the client to talk about different ways that things can get done, to figure out how to diffuse if there is a very tense situation, which sometimes there is. There's a lot that goes into it. Would you say that the financial element of whatever the case may be at hand is typically the biggest driver of acrimoniousness?

I think it's either the financial-- that is a huge driver, obviously-- or the kids, which obviously is another huge driver. And then sometimes one thing drives the other. Yeah.

And if it's done for strategy purposes-- one side says, oh, I'll be nice about this if you're nice about that, and the other side says, well, you won't give me this, so I'm not going to give you that-- they're interrelated, although they're really not supposed to be. The financial is supposed to be completely separate from what people decide to do with their children. But it's really not.

It's all entwined. One of the things that we talk a lot about at TFD-- because most of our audience is women-- is a lot of the data around how little women in marriages-- heteronormative marriages-- are often aware or a part of the long-term finances in the long-term financial planning of a couple. I don't have the exact stat off the top of my head.

But I think it's something like 52-- the majority of women, to this day, are not actively managing their long-term financial planning when they're married to a man, except in case of divorce or death of a spouse. That often, it takes these big, earth-shattering events for women to regain control of or at least have a 50/50 say in the financial planning. And this is inclusive of women who are increasingly equal partners financially, who are bringing as much to the table.

There's just still a default assumption in a lot of heterosexual marriages that it's the man who takes care of the finances. Have you found in your practice that women are often coming to the situation not really knowing what's going on financially? Absolutely.

And that stat doesn't surprise me. Yeah. I mean, I can't tell you how many women I have who come in, who say, I don't know anything.

I don't know where anything is. They don't even know the passwords. I don't know the accounts, where they are.

I don't know the passwords. I can't get in. Money comes into account, and I use it.

But I have no idea if we have savings or where they are. It's huge. And it's not women who are not sophisticated in other ways.

You're right about that. Right. Some of these women are working women who bring in income.

And if they leave it to their spouse to manage, and they don't ask questions, or they're not given the "keys to the kingdom," so to speak, there's going to be a real feeling of helplessness because they don't know. And it's scary. And that's why divorce, I think, is so scary in a lot of ways.

What are some simple things, aside from prenups-- which we'll get into, because we have a lot of questions about that-- what are some simple things that you see that women could have done way earlier in their marriage, or even before their marriage and before having children, that could have really helped them in case of any kind of issue? Yeah. I think that talking about money is something that's very, very difficult for a lot of couples, and just people in general.

There's something surrounding the idea of speaking about money that gives people anxiety. Yeah. Whether they're afraid they don't understand it, or they think they're not good at it, or they have some concerns in their past, they don't want to talk about it.

But it's really important that a couple, while things are good, make that a priority-- just as much as you would talk about, well, where are we going to live? And what kind of house do we want? And what do we see for ourselves in the future?

Make that conversation, that money conversation, part of it. Every month, there's a bill-paying session regardless of who you are. Every month, there's bills, right.

You have to pay the rent. You have to pay the mortgage. You have to pay the credit cards, whatever it is.

I always advise couples-- when we're talking about prenups, sometimes we talk about what it should look like-- to sit down every month. Take an hour, and sit down with the bills. And go through it.

And ask questions if you don't know the answers. And I also say that everyone should have access to their own money, meaning that even if you are not working outside of the home and you're someone who stays home and takes care of children, that's still a job. I mean, you are working every single day.

And it's very difficult work. That person should not be at the mercy of someone saying, here, you get $5 a week, or here, here is money. They should have an account.

They should have their own money in it. However that gets funded, that's something they would discuss with their spouse. I mean, I think there are a lot of things that can be done to sort of alleviate the problem that a lot of people find themselves in when a marriage goes bad.

You say that you also represent people who are family, but not a husband and wife-- people who are maybe brother and sister, or parent and child. Can you talk to us a little bit about the kinds of cases that you see between family members? Some patterns?

What often tends to be issues that bring them to court? Yeah. I mean, a lot of the cases that come to mind are grandparent visitation cases.

Interesting. Which are a thing that a lot of people don't necessarily know about. There was a Supreme Court case-- I don't know-- it was about five or six years ago-- it could be longer now-- that gives grandparents independent rights to see their grandchildren under certain circumstances.

And you have to go to court first. And the court has to decide whether you meet that test. And if you do, then you can apply to have parenting time-- well, it's not parenting time.

It's grandparent visitation time, right. And the main circumstance is when the grandparents' child passes away, right. And then the surviving spouse, so the daughter-in-law or the son-in-law, said, oh, OK, I never liked you anyway.

So-- [GASPS] --it was nice to know you. And goodbye and good luck. And then these people don't get to see their grandchildren.

So that is something that's fairly common, believe it or not. It's very sad. But it's fairly common.

That is so fascinating. Yeah. It's funny.

I feel like there are a lot of kind of old world wisdoms about getting married. I'm a millennial. A lot of our generation, I think, is very quick to, like, oh, whatever, about a lot of that advice.

But one of the things my mom would always say, which I think is so apt, is, you're marrying a whole family. You're not just marrying one person. And the relationship that you have with that extended family, particularly if you have kids, is going to be incredibly impactful on your life.

Are there ways that you've advised your clients to improve their relationship with family members outside of just their spouse? I mean, I think that when a divorce-- this is what I've seen over the years. When a divorce happens, it goes one of two ways.

Your in-laws, either they are completely on the side of your spouse and they cut you off completely-- even if you had a good relationship. Because, remember, so someone's parents are hearing from them their side of the story. Right.

They're not really, necessarily getting the full effect of what's actually happened. And I've seen that happen. But I've also seen grandparents try to play sort of a mediation kind of role.

Like, I've seen grandparents or the parents of spouses come together and say, hey, this is our family. Maybe you two are not going to be together anymore. But they're our grandchildren.

And you all loved each other. And let's figure out a way to try to make this work so we don't end up in a War of the Roses situation. Because at the end of the day, who does that hurt?

It really hurts the kids. Yeah. And your wallet.

Your wallet, especially. And, again, there's always those two considerations, right-- the children and how expensive this thing is going to be. And every dollar that you pay for divorce when you could have resolved something without litigation is a dollar that could go to the children's college fund.

I mean, I say that frequently. But it's true. Do you feel like people get married too easily or that they don't think it through?

It's hard to say. I think, again-- when you asked me about changes-- in the last, say, 10 years or 15 years, there are more prenups for first-time marriages. So before prenups were in vogue and before they started making their way into music and TV, before everyone heard of them, prenups were being done for people who were very, very wealthy, right.

It was the very wealthy. And it sort of trickled down to everybody. So in a sense, maybe they do think about it more before getting married.

People maybe do have those conversations more about, how are we going to spend our money? And what happens to the money I came in with? And what happens if we break up?

Who gets to do this? And who gets to do that? So I think there probably is some more thought to it.

The thing is-- and I tell people-- it's a lot easier to get married than it is to get divorced, right? That is true. So you've got to be really careful because a split-second decision can set off a chain of events that you might never have foreseen or even thought about.

If you know the statistics, something like 95% of all cases-- divorce cases, family law cases-- get resolved without ever stepping foot into a courtroom. So remember, what everyone's seeing is the 5%-- or maybe it could be even less-- that just can't get it together. Right.

Right? And that's not typical. Yeah.

But when they can't get it together, there's usually enough money to fight about it-- people who want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, fighting about these things. Or there is some very serious problem that can't be resolved, whether it's mental illness or drug use or-- Abusive behavior. --abusive behavior, which is obviously a huge thing. So I think, yes.

There are some people who probably shouldn't have gotten there. But they did. But most of the cases resolve.

That is actually surprising to me that 95% of cases resolve without a ton of drama. Yeah. I always say, because reasonable people can take a look, and they say, we're not doing this.

We're not doing this. We're not going to spend the money on this. We're not going to spend the time on this.

We want to keep our kids out of litigation. And then there's that other percentage. And that's why there are so many of us in business.

We're the ones who litigate, who go to court, who take the hard cases and try them. And it's very difficult. It's a difficult area.

It's emotionally draining for the people who are involved in it. And our job is tough because we're not just fighting about some business or some contract. I mean, we're holding people's lives in our hands.

It's very serious. And we take it very seriously. But it can be very rewarding in a lot of ways. [SIGHS] I mean, it wouldn't be The Financial Confessions if we didn't talk about some of the juicy stuff.

Ooh, juicy stuff, yes. Do you ever work with a client that you feel is just wrong and is just behaving badly? Yeah.

And what is your course of action when that happens? What do you do? Right.

So lucky for me that I'm in a position where, if I find that someone who is my client is behaving badly and not following court orders, not doing the right thing, not listening to my advice or anyone's advice, and is, in fact, doing something that I consider wrong-- I mean, literally you doing things that they're not supposed be doing-- I have the luxury of saying, I'm sorry, but I can't represent you anymore. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to go find somebody else because I cannot represent you under these circumstances. And I'm very lucky that I can do that.

Listen, not everyone can do that, right. So if somebody works for someone else and their boss gives them a client and says, there you go, maybe their boss doesn't want to lose that client and won't let them do that. Look, people are going to act badly in these things.

It's a thing. We always say, in criminal law, OK, the client-- It's bad people at their best, or something? That's right.

It's bad people at their best behavior. And in family law and matrimonial law, it's really good people at their worst behavior, right. Because they are going through one of the most stressful things that's ever happened.

So you've got to give people a little bit of a break. But there is the client that you just say, I'm not doing this. I don't like what you want me to do.

And I won't do it. And you go find someone who will. And I think that's probably something that most lawyers do.

Because like I said, we're not hired guns, in the sense that we're just out there to hurt people. We are there to get a job done. And we want to help our clients along the way.

But certainly we're not going to do anything that we shouldn't. And everyone has their own line, right. Yeah.

I think everybody, every person has their own line that they're not going to cross when they get to it. And they say, that's it. What is the pettiest thing you've ever seen someone go to the mat for?

Oh, boy. Oh, yeah. So, I mean, talk about a case-- the clients, the husband and wife, literally got separated on their honeymoon. [LAUGHS] OK?

You want to-- Whoa! --talk about a short-term marriage, right. They get married. They have a very, very expensive wedding-- Oh no. --at a very, very expensive place in New York City.

And I won't say where. But leave it at that. They go on their honeymoon.

And when they get to where they're going, something happens. And she goes one way. And he goes another.

And they come back. And boom, they don't want to be married anymore. And so you think, oh, you're married like what, two weeks?

What is there to fight about? Just get an annulment maybe? You can get an annulment.

But they still want to fight about-- Oh no. --that my parents spent x amount of dollars on this wedding. And you got this gift. What about the ring?

I mean, and can you believe that that was something that was litigated? That is so humiliating for that couple. Well, that's why I say, it's much easier to get married than it is to get out of it.

Oh my god. You've got to be really careful. Do people fight over the ring a lot?

So in New York, technically the rule is that if you get an engagement ring and you get married, you keep the ring no matter what happens because it's a gift in contemplation of marriage. And it's almost like a contract. I give you this ring, and you marry me.

Once I get married, that's done. It's my ring. Sometimes it gets complicated because someone will say, well, I gave you that gift on your birthday.

So it wasn't a gift in contemplation of marriage. It was a birthday present. And I want it back.

Or sometimes it's a family heirloom. It was Grandma's ring. And they're like, I'm going to melt down Grandma's ring-- That's right. --and turn it into, I don't know, studs.

And so, I mean, again, these are the kinds of things-- there's a straight-up rule. Yeah, it's your ring. But if it's your husband's grandmother's ring, are you going to give it back?

And those are areas in which it's like, come on. Yeah. Just be nice.

I get it. I get it. When you work with cases that are involving parents and children-- I mean adult parents, adult children-- what are some common dynamics that you see play out in adult parents and adult children that lead to disputes, that lead to situations getting out of control?

Right. Well, so it's really sort of tangential to what we do. A lot of it's adult parents and adult children.

Parents and children are out of our purview once a child hits 18. Right, they're adults. So after that, generally, a lot of times they're estate issues.

They're issues with money, clearly, with mental health and children taking care of parents in terms of elder care planning. And sometimes there are issues with wills. I mean, there are a lot of things that come along.

And that's sort of right outside of our area. But it's something we deal with sometimes in prenups. Most of the cases that we have involving families are really minor children.

Sometimes there's a lot of domestic violence, obviously, out there, which is like a huge issue. And sometimes there are domestic violence cases between family members and like an uncle and a niece, or not direct family members. And so that, we can handle, because that's usually in family court.

And they're orders of protection kind of cases. Yeah. Yeah, wow.

There's a lot. There's a lot. There's a lot.

What are some things you think more people should know about domestic and family violence? Yeah. Well, look.

During this time, I think there's been a lot of stories about it, that people are stuck in houses and apartments with people who are violent towards them, whether it's emotional abuse or it's physical abuse. Sometimes the emotional abuse cases are much, much harder for the victim because they say, well, no one ever hit me or it's that power and control kind of thing. And that's something that I think-- I mean, I hate to say it-- but women are the ones that are most often on the receiving end of this.

Not to say that there aren't men who are abused. I'm not going to say that, because I'm sure there are. But I think that power and control is a big thing in divorces, in domestic violence cases.

Because you can't see it, right? Right, right. And the abusers are so good at making the victim feel like they're crazy.

Right. Right? Gaslighting.

Gaslighting. And it rears its ugly head in divorce cases, without a doubt. Because all of a sudden, they use this power and control in ways that scare someone from defending themselves.

There say, I'm going to take your children away from you. I'm going to leave you with nothing. I read a really interesting article.

You know how houses are becoming very gadget-friendly, like they can control the lights and the air and the music and whatever, that domestic abusers are using these gadgets to abuse their spouses. Really? Like, they'll put on music really loud in the middle of the night and wake them up. [GASPS] Or they'll lock them out of the house.

Oh my god. It's really very interesting the way that it can happen. And I want people-- women, especially-- who feel that, oh, I don't get hit, so I'm not abused.

That's not the standard. That's not the standard. Yeah.

That's not the standard. And I want people to know that. Yeah, and speaking of people being trapped in a house together, I think everyone has been reading all of these anecdotal articles about divorces are on the rise, Google searches about legal separation are on the rise, all this stuff.

Do you think that this is happening because those couples were going to get divorced anyway? Or do you think this is happening because it's not healthy for couples to be living in quarantine together? Actually, I don't think it's either one of those things.

I've done a lot of thinking about this. Ooh! Yes, tell me.

Yes, I have. So here's my thoughts. So we all had to pause, right-- especially New York.

We all, all of a sudden, we went from our daily lives, right-- everyone goes out, goes to work, comes back, runs around-- to all of a sudden sitting in your house pretty much 24/7, at least at the beginning, with our spouses. But I think everybody started contemplating, right. It was really a time, March, when everyone was so scared, and even April, and even now, I guess, about life and really you had a minute to stop and think about what you'd like your life to look like, right?

Right. And then I think people started saying, OK, do I want to live like this anymore? So I think it may be a combination of both, that people who have problems are going to start thinking about them when they have nothing to do but think about them.

Right? Yeah. So people who might have gotten divorced before, but who used their life to avoid all the issues, they're staring at them right in the face.

Right? Totally. And so I think everything got compounded.

On the flip side, I think people could have-- certainly I think I did-- I made a conscious effort to do this-- used the time to improve their relationships with their spouses, because I said to my husband, I never spent this much time with you in all the time we've been married. We're married 12 years. I don't think I've ever spent this much time with him in the 12 years we've been married.

And it's actually been good for us. Oh, hmm. But you have to make it good for you.

Yeah, what are some ways that you make it good? Oh, you know. I mean, be nice to each other.

Do nice things for each other. Say thank you when someone cooks you a meal. Help.

Help each other. I mean, I think be supportive of each other. I think that there's a chance for anything to go any way when you have a new situation.

And so like I said, the bad marriages, if they're not going to take the opportunity to make them good, they're going to get divorced. It's going to just-- It's going to stir the pot, right. Yeah, it's funny.

I think a lot of married couples-- it's easy to overlook the simple act of just being really nice. Yeah. Just being sweet.

Little compliments, little acts of kindness, just having the kind of positive attitude that you would have with a guest in your home. You get so used to being-- I don't know what the word is-- almost like lazy, emotionally. I think you're right.

You don't see the value in those little acts of kindness that you do see the value in when it's someone who you're not seeing every single day. That's right. I think you're absolutely right.

And I feel like those things really compound. And it's funny, because obviously once you get into a divorce, things can spiral really quickly in a bad way, in terms of, you're being an asshole, so I'm going to be an asshole, and vice versa. And maybe I'm wrong on this, but I would speculate that a lot of divorces are not from some like, big bang moment of like one terrible thing that happened.

It's often just a kind of erosion like water against a rock of not taking care of each other, not being nice to each other, ignoring each other's needs that just sort of accumulate over time. And if that pattern had been stopped earlier on, it probably wouldn't have gotten to that point. Exactly.

It's just that. It's just that. At some point, you can't fix it because it's too much.

And if you would have thought about it sooner, you may have been able to fix it. It's funny. I once had a client, came to me.

And he said, here. And he handed me a book. I think he was married for about 12 years.

And I said, what's this? He said, is everything my wife did wrong in the last 12 years. Oh my god.

And I was like, oh my god. Really, I said to myself, if he would have addressed each one of those things over the last 12 years, like, you did this, and I didn't like it-- let's figure out how this doesn't happen again-- this might not have happened. But at some point, it's too far gone.

And you look. You see the high incidence of when people have kids and then the kids go to college, then they get divorced, right. Why does that happen then?

Because they keep themselves busy-- With other things. With distractions. --with other things, but not each other. And I think that is a big part of why people get divorced.

I do. [BLOWS RASPBERRY] The behavior, the mindset that it requires to keep a book over the course of 12 years of everything someone does wrong is unbelievable to me. But the funny thing is, that book could be written about any person. But just as easily, a book of everything they're doing right could be written.

That's right. All the good things they're doing. That's true.

That's true. I never thought of that. Why not write a list every time your spouse does something nice?

Right, or just what you love about them. And you could give it to them for an anniversary gift or something. Exactly.

I think that we need to-- and, again, this was my pause. I work 15, 20 hours a day sometimes before this, because I'm in court almost every day. And then I have meetings.

And I have bar associations. And I'm involved in all kinds of things. I'm never home.

I don't think I ever ate any meals at home, ever, in my life. Wow. Not even dinner.

And now I eat three meals a day with my husband. And I've been thinking about this, for all of us. How could that make me maybe a better divorce lawyer?

Yeah. Coming at it from a different perspective, perhaps. Definitely.

I know when they get to me, they're far gone. I'm not expecting that I'm going to get people back together. That's not my job.

But maybe with some sensitivity and thinking about things, maybe you can make it better. I think you totally can. And I also think there are all those psychological studies that show that when you force yourself to smile that you start to feel happy just from the act of smiling.

And I think when you focus on positive things, you notice them more. And they start to be the defining narrative. And I feel like especially in a time when everyone is now suddenly, if they're married, or even just in a long-term relationship with their spouse or significant other, way more than they ever have been before, if you choose to focus on the things that annoy you, you're going to be incredibly annoyed.

But if you choose to focus on all the things that are wonderful and lucky about it, that's what you'll notice-- I agree. --I think, primarily. Do you ever have clients that you feel shouldn't be getting divorced? Yeah.

I have funny stories. I mean, it's amazing. Tell them.

I have people who fought like cats and dogs. I mean, it was brutal and ugly, from day one through the end. And then the day they got divorced in that courtroom, they both cried and hugged each other.

OK. What a waste. Right.

And you have the complete opposite. You have people who acted like their divorce, it couldn't wait. Yeah.

It couldn't wait. It couldn't wait. I mean, I don't know.

You know? It's tough. Because like I said, we don't really know what went on before we get there.

We're sort of there in a minute of time. We do get history. We go back.

We find out all these things that happened before and after and during. But it's very hard to know. But I think that some people at the end when they get divorced-- I've probably done hundreds of them in a courtroom, if not thousands at this point-- the actual divorce, sometimes they're excited.

They go to have a party. And sometimes people cry. And sometimes people go home together.

And I have a couple that got remarried years later. [CHUCKLES] So I did their first divorce. I did their divorce. Yeah.

And then my client married someone else. And then I did his second divorce. Oh my god.

And then, guess what? He called me one day and said, hey, guess I'm remarrying my first wife. I said, ah, excellent!

So I mean, in terms of personal relationships, it's hard to read. It's hard to know. This is a question that you maybe can't answer.

But I'd be curious just of your opinion on it from having seen so many divorces. I think a lot of people wonder, are there certain things that should be automatic deal breakers in a marriage? Obviously, infidelity being one, financial dishonesty being one.

Are there things which you think should always be a deal breaker and things that you think shouldn't necessarily be one? So you mean in the inception, right? Are you talking about before-- While you're married. --or while you're married?

While you're married. Look, I think that everybody makes their deals in life. So I don't know that there are deal breakers.

If you look, sometimes older gentleman marry young women and you say, well, what's that all about? And they made a deal where there's a very attractive, young girl who has an older man who's got a lot of money. And she gets what she wants, and he gets what he wants.

So everyone makes their deal. Maybe that's not the kind of marriage someone else would want, right. Maybe I want a different kind of marriage.

I think that marriage, most of all, it's a contract. It's a marriage. It's a contract.

In almost every religion there's a marriage contract. No matter what your religion is, there's something you sign. And if you get divorced, you get 10 horses or 6 hens.

That goes back to the old days. Yeah, exactly. 200 pieces of gold. I mean.

It's a contract. People make their deals. So who's to say what's a deal breaker?

I mean, clearly violence is a deal breaker as far as I'm concerned. I don't know that you could agree to violence, right? Right.

So there's that. I think, obviously, dishonesty-- whether it's financial or otherwise-- is something that's probably not healthy for a marriage. You have to trust the person.

But know what you want out of the marriage when you enter into it. I think the better you know yourself and the better you know your spouse, or your soon-to-be spouse, the better off you going to be. Which brings you back to your money thing.

I mean, you can't get married and never talk about it. Right, don't let it be a surprise. Yeah.

Are there couples that you've seen who opt not to get divorced, just because they're like, we'll maybe just live separate lives? Yeah, sure. I think there's financial considerations sometimes, that sometimes you can't get divorced.

First of all, just consider New York City, right. It's very expensive to live here. Yeah There are people who make decent amounts of money in New York City.

But say they live in a nice place and it costs them-- I don't know, whatever it costs them to live. They've got two kids that go to private school. That costs a lot of money.

And then there is summer camp. And there's food. And there's this, and there's that.

So someone might make a great salary. But if you do divide it up-- and say you have a spouse that's a stay-at-home person and they do their work in the home with the kids, I mean, how does that work? How do you have two houses and two this?

Some people just can't do it. Right. They say, I'd rather not.

I'd rather just stay like this. Yeah, and just make some other kind of arrangement. And just make some other kind of arrangement.

I think that happens. One of the things that has changed a lot, I think, in the past couple of decades is women are having children later in life. And as a result, there is much, much more frequent use of various fertility treatments that are often quite expensive, that have a lot of kind of moving parts in terms of what that might entail.

Obviously, freezing eggs is becoming very common. IVF is becoming very common. Are you seeing those kinds of factors start to play out more and more?

Yeah. There's actually a lot of litigation about the fertilized eggs. The embryos.

The embryos that are already there in storage, right? Right. So depending on the agreements-- and I've read so many of them now because I've had this come up in several cases-- if the parties get divorced, one example is mom/wife says, I want these because I want to have a child.

I have no more eggs. This is my chance, right. We did it.

We fertilized the eggs. Here they are. Dad says, well, I don't want to have a child.

And mom says, well, you don't have to worry about it. It won't be your child. Well, dad says, well, A, it's my child because it's got my-- DNA. --DNA in there.

But, B, it's my child because the law says it is. And what, am I going to have to pay child support? And I mean, there are a lot of really serious issues.

And there's been a lot of litigation about it because most of the agreements that the people sign, they're these really crazy agreements you sign. With the fertility? With the fertility, which basically say that if either party wants to destroy, they have to destroy.

That's what they mostly say. That's what most of them say. So if one person or the other says, I don't want them, destroy them, then the place is legally obligated to destroy them.

And there's been a lot of litigation about that. I mean, but that's probably the cleanest way to do it, right? Because otherwise you have children being born where one parent is not in agreement.

Well, how about if you could legally figure out a way that the parent who doesn't want the child doesn't have to have anything to do with the child? Even though it has his DNA, I mean, if you argue that, what's the difference between that and some random-- A sperm donor. If you bought sperm-- a sperm donor.

And there was no liability on, say, the dad's part to pay child support or if there was some way to do that legally, would that change your opinion? Because that's something we all talk about. There's no steadfast rule about it.

Some places say you cannot do that. You can't say it's not yours. It is yours, right?

Right. Yeah. Some people say, well, fine, but I'll never affirmatively do anything about it.

I won't ever come after you for child support or for anything. And if I do, then this will happen. There's a lot of very interesting things that come into that.

Because I think a lot of people don't realize that, in a lot of these fertility processes, you're often creating multiple embryos that are now just existing kind of in limbo, essentially. So it's not just the child that you do or don't have in that time-- That's right, there's more. --with your partner. There's storage.

I think my advice, by the way-- Yes, please. --just is to read those agreements extremely carefully before you sign them, to both people. And maybe to get a little bit of a legal opinion before doing something like that. Because people say, oh, great, we're in love.

Well, I can't tell you how many times I've had cases where the wife was going through the fertility and the shots and the getting it done and whatever, and the husband really wasn't that interested in it, right. Ugh. And then it's a huge thing when the party breaks up, besides the fact that they spent thousands and thousands of dollars.

He wasn't that interested, in the sense that he was ambivalent on having the kid in the first place? Yeah. [GASPS] Yeah. I mean, but there has been litigation about that over the years.

And, again, also with surrogacy rules changing. How so? Well, I think New York just-- I'm not sure if it was actually signed into law or not yet.

But it was illegal in New York state to do surrogacy. Other states, it was legal-- California, there are various other states. But New York was always very strict about that.

And so that's going to change things also. Because it will be legal? Yes, it's going to be legal.

I don't know enough about the bill to really talk about it in specifics. But it's going to be legal if it isn't already. And that's going to bring a whole host of new issues that come up with the mothers who are surrogates and what rights they have.

It's very complicated. So speaking of reading the fine print, one of the things that you are absolutely going to want to read the fine print on is the details of your finances. And if you are looking to get an understanding of your finances that go beyond just the everyday managing your budget and making sure you're not going over a spending category, I highly recommend you check out the totally free app, Turbo.

Turbo basically serves to give you a higher level view on all of the various ins and outs of your bigger picture finances-- things like your debt-to-income ratio, the nuances of things like your credit score, all of the stuff that someone like a lender might look at or anything that you would really want to have a handle on for those bigger decisions. And if you are, for example, entering a period of your life where you might be thinking of having children soon or buying a home or making a big career move, it's great to have access to all that information and to learn how you can improve it before you start to go and make those decisions. A lot of great finances is just about having your ducks in a row and making sure that you're ahead of the game.

So if you want to get ahead of your game, check out Turbo-- again, totally for free-- at the link in our description or our show notes. So as promised, we have a fair amount of questions from our audience for you-- some big themes here. So we can just go through them real quick.

And, again, if there are some that maybe are not totally your expertise, feel free to pass. Are there limitations to postnups? There are-- prenups and postnups.

Well, there's limitations to prenups in the sense that you can't prenup about kids that don't exist yet. So prenuptial agreements don't allow you to talk about child support, custody, anything like that. Postnups actually have less limitations.

If there are children that are there, they allow you to deal with all those issues, plus they allow you to deal with any of the financial issues. So postnups are actually a little bit different in the sense that it's bigger. There's more places that you can-- We spoke to a divorce attorney on an episode a while back, who did point out to our audience that there are a lot of complications with upholding postnups.

So I'm curious if you have advice for things people should be really aware of or look out for in the creation of a postnup. Right. I mean, so think about, to start with, why would one have a postnup?

Right? Right, why would one? OK.

Give us some good reasons. So why would one? So you're married.

You don't have a prenup, obviously. Or maybe you do, but whatever. And one side wants a postnup.

OK. So I always say when that person comes to me and says, my husband or my wife said, here, I want to do a postnup, I say this is the pre-divorce step, OK. If someone wants a postnup during the marriage, usually the reason is, is because they're looking to get out.

And they're saying, you know what, I won't get out if you do this. Interesting. Think about it.

If it comes from one side, why would you need a postnup? Would there ever be a good reason to do it? As in a couple who's like, wow, we never did a prenup.

Yes. We missed the boat. Correct.

That's the other thing that happens. Sometimes you can't get the prenup done before the wedding for whatever reason-- there's too much going on, or someone forgot, or someone wasn't into it, or it just didn't work out. So they say, OK, after we get married, then we'll do a postnup.

That's something different. That's people saying, look, we want to talk about what happens if this ends. And we want to do it in a fair and rational way.

So there's two different kinds of postnups. There's that. And then there's the postnup where one spouse says, hey, you want me to stay?

You sign this. I mean, that's a problem, right, in a lot of ways. Yeah.

It's a problem upholding it if it's undue pressure on someone to have to sign it. It's a problem if they making them sign something without financial knowledge-- if they don't know what they're signing away. Like we said, a lot of people are not aware of what the finances are.

So if their spouse says, here, this is what we've got. If we get divorced, we'll split it up like this, and you say, OK, and you sign away, how do you know that that's true? Right.

So I think there are a lot of problems with postnups. If people really want, for some reason, the two of them to effectuate a postnup and it's give and take and it's a deal that they're making, then that would be OK. What are some reasons that non-rich people would need a prenup?

Yeah. It's funny. People always say that-- why?

Right. So sometimes, it's dealing with estate rights, which is a kind of a parallel crossover with what we do. But we handle it with prenups.

And there are estate lawyers. Sometimes people may not have money, but they have family money. Or they have an interest in a family business.

Their parents or their grandparents, they have a trust or something. And they want to make sure that if they get divorced at some point, that that is not included in the fight. And they want to specifically say, I don't have anything now.

But there are these things out there. And they're mine. And they come from my family.

And I don't want you to have them. If we get divorced or if I die, you shouldn't have them. They should go back to my family.

Should everyone have a prenup? I don't know that everyone needs a prenup. But I think that it probably can't hurt if you do a prenup, right, which I call it my "baby prenup." It's like first-time marriages, just starting out in life, nobody really has anything of significance.

Why not do a prenup? You could talk about anything. It's a good excuse, actually, to have that money conversation that we talked about.

A simple thing, like we're going to buy a house. And when we buy that house, if something happens, we're going to share it 50/50. Right, we're going to open up a joint bank account.

And everyone's going to put $1,000 a month in. And that's going to pay the bills. Anything that you want to do.

I mean, how does that hurt? Not every prenup has to say, if we get divorced, you get $5, you get $10. They can say, if we get divorced, everything we have, we'll share it 50/50.

There are a lot of reasons to do it. That's a good point. [SIGHS] It's interesting, because I think for a lot of people, I think there's definitely still the default assumption that it's just for really rich people. Which it's not.

But I think for a lot of people, the idea kind of is, if we're even talking about a prenup, we're acknowledging that we might get divorced. Right. Which, I feel like it's like Beetlejuice.

No. And you don't want to say the name, you know? Yeah.

No, no, you're 100% right. And this is what I say to try to get people to sort of think about it in a different way. If you were going into business with a business partner-- it might be your best friend, someone you've known, you come out of college, you had this great idea, you're going to start a company together, or two lawyers who know each other for 20 years, and we say, hey, let's go in together-- you go in with the best intentions.

The plan is to make millions of dollars together and to work hard and have a great life-- business life. But you know what? You have a plan if that business fails.

I mean, people who go into business together have business dissolution plans. That they made when things were going well. That's right.

That's when you want to make them, when you have goodwill towards each other. And you say, hey, I love this person. And if something should go wrong, this is the fair way to do it.

That's the time to do it, not when you hate each other and you can't stand to be in the same room as each other. How are you going to get that fair result under those circumstances? Definitely.

Yeah. I mean, I don't think everyone needs one. I don't think that you have to have one.

But I think if someone wants to start the conversation, it's not a terrible conversation to start. Yeah. And also, I mean, I think-- listen, if you're adult enough to be getting married and entering into that contract, you should be adult enough to acknowledge that half of married couples get divorced.

Yeah. That has to be somebody. Yeah, you've got to flip a coin.

It's going to be you, or it's going to be your friends. I mean, so it's really not a terrible idea. There's a lot of things that you can do in there that can make your financial life better going forward.

And I also feel like it's so strange to me how much of a focus there is on the wedding and how little a focus there is on the incredibly legally binding elements of being married. Because I'm someone who has business partners. And that, as you say, is very black and white.

And I would consider them friends. But if you do not arm yourselves with an enormous amount of paperwork to make sure everything is perfectly clear and fair and agreed upon, you're in for a world of trouble. That's right.

And it's funny, because I think the romantic side of it-- like, oh, the white dress, the house, the dog, all that stuff-- I think some people almost feel that talking about the legal aspect of it or the financial aspect of it almost cheapens it a little bit. But I feel it's quite the opposite. Quite.

I mean, in an equitable distribution decision from a court, when you have a trial about money, the very first thing that they normally write is, "marriage is a financial partnership." It is. Marriage is a financial partnership, period, end of story-- along with another kind of partnership. But it still is a financial partnership.

And so you've got a wind it down. Sometimes the best way to wind something down is when everything's good, and you can say, oh, this will be fair if this doesn't happen the way we-- but look, sometimes it's not possible, right. But I mean, I think that the wedding is just sort of the icing on the cake of the fun of it.

But there are some things that you have to consider. Before they legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, before the Supreme Court said it was legal, the fight and the people who wanted it were saying that people who are married have-- I think it was about 1,076 laws and rules that apply to them that don't apply to people who aren't married. 1,076 legal ramifications of being married, one way or the other, whether it was tax or divorce or whatever it is. That's pretty big.

That's a lot of things that come from the simple act of getting married. That's huge. Yeah.

And it's surprising to me that we talk so much in terms of a couple compatibility about, are you compatible socially, romantically, all these different things. But we don't talk about, are you compatible financially? Because ultimately, more than anything, you're choosing a partner in all of the sort of financial aspects of your life.

And it's weird to me that that's not a bigger part of the conversation. And it should be. They need to talk about, are we going to have kids?

And when we have kids, who's going to be the parent, if any-- Where you live. --to stay home, right? Yeah. Maybe.

Or are we going to have a nanny? Or are we going to send the child to daycare? Where are we going to live?

How are we going to save? Are we going to spend everything we own on clothes and vacations and dinners? Or are we going to set a set amount every month and put it away, so if there's ever an emergency we're OK?

I think that people don't talk about these things. And it's really, really important that they do. And it's funny, because almost everything that we talk about on the surface level-- the wedding, kids, home, social life, travel-- all of that is money.

It's just money and how you relate to it. I agree. Pull back the curtain is what I say.

Yeah, I say. Absolutely. Oh, this is a good one.

What is the difference between marriage and common law marriage from a legal perspective? OK, so people get confused about that. New York does not have common law marriage.

Can we explain what common law marriage is, actually? OK. So common law marriage would basically mean that you live with somebody and you sort of outwardly look like you're married.

It's almost like you're not married, but you live in the same house. And you share a bank account. And you may have kids.

And you drive the same car or whatever it is. It's common law. It means that, in common law, they would say you are married even though you weren't married.

Right. OK. New York does not have common law marriage, meaning that there is no way to get a ruling that something should happen because you're married, unless you're actually married.

So you can live in sin as much as you want, New Yorkers. That's right. You can live in sin as much as you want.

And you will not have any consequences to it from the matrimonial court. However, clearly, if you have kids together, then there are other issues. There's a whole bunch of other stuff.

It's a whole other bunch of things that apply. Plus, again, I've had some cases where I said it's not necessarily married people. I had a case where they were living together.

They were engaged. They had joint bank accounts. They planned their wedding.

I've had two cases like this. And for whatever the reason, at the end of the day, they didn't end up getting married. They ended up breaking up.

You have to sort of resolve all those issues. But it's not as if they were married. It's separate.

But think about how much worse it would have been if they went through with the marriage and then got divorced. That's right. Even more complicated.

That's right. Absolutely. What kinds of paperwork do childless couples need?

Things like deeds, health-care-related, wills? Well, childless or not, I think everybody should have wills, right? Yeah.

I think that if you want to make sure that your spouse is taken care of in the event something happens to you, you have a will, and, of course, your children. Probably some life insurance. Life insurance, I think, is a big one.

You can get term policies that last for 20 years. And if you're young and you're healthy, they're relatively inexpensive. Yeah.

And they pay out pretty well. Yeah. And you can guarantee that, god forbid something happens, your spouse has enough money to maintain the way they live, pay their mortgage or their rent, stay in their house.

Deeds-- I mean, look. The fact is, this is something we deal with in prenups, which is interesting. If you're going to buy a house at some point together, shouldn't you both be on the deed?

You encounter couples where they're not both on the deed? Correct. [GASPS] There are couples where they're not both on the deed. What if one of the couples pays for the down payment-- say it's $100,000-- with their separate property with their money from before, and then they put their spouse on, did you just make a gift of $100,000 to your spouse?

And if you get divorced, don't you want that back? So those are things that people should think about. Also, when you own a piece property together, there's ways that you can hold that property so if you die, the rest of the property automatically goes to your spouse.

You don't have to go through like any kind of proceeding to make that happen. That's why deeds are important, how they're taken. So my advice would be, if someone's buying a house or an apartment with a spouse, just talk to your real estate lawyer about the way that you want the deed to read, because that's meaningful.

Hmm, good to know. Yeah. Hmm.

Ooh, this is a good one. A sad one, but good. Are there ways you can legally protect yourself from estranged parents?

Are there ways you can legally protect yourself from estranged parents? That's right. I wonder if they are referring to the parents being able to see their children.

Let's use that as an example. Well, as an example, I mean, yes. Obviously, if you have estranged parents and you don't want them to see your children, then you have to make sure that they don't see your children and they don't have a relationship.

Because that's the basis upon which-- Ah, if they establish a relationship-- That's right. --you can't, then, take them away. Yeah. I mean, it's harder if the child is alive and says, I hate you, and I don't want you to see my kids.

A lot of times, courts aren't going to go for that. It's really, like I said-- the slam dunk is if a child dies and the other spouse will let them see their grandchildren. But there are cases like that. "Protecting," I'm not exactly sure what they're asking.

Money-wise? I mean, I don't know what hold parents would have on adult children. Well, I guess, I mean, a good thing to know is that, at birth, your parents don't automatically have a right to be in your child's life.

That's right, they do not. They do not automatically have the right. So don't let them tell you otherwise.

That's right. By the way, just remember, this is New-York-specific. We're all lawyers.

I don't know, you have a pretty big audience. They might be all around the country. Oh yeah, they're everywhere.

So New York, every lawyer is specific to the state. So you're admitted in a specific state so I know all New York law-- not all New York law, but my area of New York law. I don't really know about other areas.

Right. You can get a restraining order against a parent? Yeah, you can.

That's the thing I was talking about in the family court. You can get a restraining order against a parent, a sibling, a child, even, if they're old enough. And relatives-- girlfriends, boyfriends.

I had a case last year-- college students-- high school girlfriend a boyfriend broke up. And the girlfriend brought a restraining order against the boyfriend, saying he was stalking her. That was in family court.

I actually handled that case. These are two kids. There were literally kids.

The judge was like, really? I was like-- It happens. It happens, right?

So yes, in family court, you can get restraining orders against anybody who's deemed a "family member." And that includes girlfriends, boyfriends, parents, nieces, aunts, uncles, that kind of thing. This may not be your area of expertise, but what are some family law issues that an international couple could face in regards to children? Oh, yeah.

There are very, very, very serious international family law issues. Yeah. So most of them revolve around what happens when one parent has, say, residence in two countries and wants to take the child to one of those countries, and the other parent fears they're not going to bring the child back.

That is a whole area of law in itself. International Child Abduction Act. Gosh.

There is a whole bunch of case law about that. And it's in federal courts called the Hague Convention, which many of you may have heard about or not. If countries are part of the Hague Convention, it means that they will abide by court orders from New York about a child.

But countries that don't belong to the Hague Convention, you're basically shit out of luck, pardon my French. No, no, please. Right, so just say one, Iran.

Not part of the Hague, right. So you have two parents. One might come from Iran.

One is from New York. If that parent takes that kid to Iran and says, I'm not going back, that mother is never going to get that kid back. [GASPS] Because you have to go to Iran to get the kid back. Mm, OK.

I mean, of course, there's kidnapping, there's international abduction, there's FBI. That's criminal behavior if you kidnap a child. But I'm talking about from the family law perspective.

Right. It's funny. When my husband and I were separated because of the border closures with COVID, obviously, very quickly, we familiarized ourselves with all of the various family protocols.

And luckily, obviously, as spouses, we're exempt from the travel ban. So we can see each other. But I was just reading the page of all of the laws pertaining to parents who are divorced internationally and have children.

That's right. And of course, all of these exemptions and regulations are being put in place in a matter of days, basically. That's right.

Because there was no precedent for the COVID situation. And so it's just kind of interesting to see how much, in a split second, even all the rules that were established before now need to be completely rethought. And I'm sure there are also issues even just across state lines.

Oh, that was all the litigation that we had between March and essentially stopped right about now, since everything started to open up again. But for every day of March and a lot of April, all the litigation was focused on people bringing their kids here and not bringing them back-- to Connecticut, to New Jersey, to upstate New York. When mom lives in the city, dad said the kids should stay in upstate New York.

Mom says, no. I want to see my kid. I live in the city.

I don't live in upstate New York. And it's dangerous, and it's not dangerous. And the governor said you could do this.

And the governor said you can't. There was so much litigation about it. I've never seen anything like that.

That was what was happening. Visitation-- people have every other weekend and every other Tuesday for dinner. Like, if the kid's four hours away, how is that other person going to have their Tuesday dinner?

And all kinds of those things. Back to international, when we have international couples, when we know that there are parents who either are from-- their parents lived in another country or they do a lot of travel there, or they may go back and forth and they want to bring the child, we have very specific provisions that we can put into an agreements to make sure that the child is protected. There are a lot of things you can do.

So you should definitely consider that when and if someone breaks up and there's international ties. Yeah, it's funny. I think a lot of couples don't often think about when you have in-laws who are very, very far apart from each other-- even if you don't get divorced, even if you're together-- how much that is going to become a factor in your life choices from now on, like the travel.

Oh, yeah. I mean, my husband and I, we don't want children. And it's not even in the top 10.

But one of the reasons is because his family lives in a very remote area in another country nowhere near where my family lives. And they don't move. So we already have to factor that travel into our lives in a huge way.

And that comes at the expense of other travel and all that stuff. Add kids to that mix and getting them over there with frequency. I mean, that's your whole life now, is just shuttling children back and forth between these things.

And I think there are a lot of people for whom that's fine. And they like doing that. But I don't know if people think about it a lot.

Yeah. I mean, that's another thing-- the decision whether to have children or not have children-- that's something that needs to be identified as soon as possible. Maybe when you're 22 when you get married, you can't really know.

But if you're older, maybe it's a conversation you should have. I mean, that's a big deal for some people. Talk about a deal breaker, right?

Oh, for sure. I want kids, you don't. Well, how can we stay married?

I mean, it happens. But I think it's still that people operate on the assumption when they get married that they do want children, automatically, and that both parties do. Right.

And you have to talk about it. It's just like money. Yeah.

It's like anything else. I mean, you really have to talk about these things. Yeah.

So the last question is kind of a complicated one. My brother and his girlfriend have a toxic relationship. And I see the effects of it on their child.

What options do I have, as his sister, to make sure that the child is supported? Interesting. I assume you mean supported emotionally?

Or would it mean supported financially? Let's say emotionally. Let's say emotionally supported.

I mean, look, the fact is, it's not your child. It's your niece. So you really need to sit down and talk with your sibling and have a heart-to-heart about what you see happening and really begging them to take some sort of action.

I mean, there must be cases where family members invoke things like child protective services. They do. [SIGHS] It's been my experience that it doesn't work out well. How so?

Because if her brother or sister or whatever-- the sibling is not on board with what's happening, it's very problematic. I mean, what happens if the aunt makes a report to child protective services and then the child's father or mother says, this is not true? I mean, I've seen things like this.

I've seen a mom report and her daughter didn't back her up on it. [GASPS] Right. And the mom didn't report her daughter. The mom reported her daughter's husband.

The son-in-law. Right, the son-in-law. And the daughter and the son-in-law were like, no, I don't know what she's talking about.

Stay out of it, essentially. Stay out of it, essentially. And so, however, I will say, though, if she believes a child is in actual physical danger-- abuse, physical, real danger-- she has a duty, obviously, to call child services.

I mean, she must call them. Yeah. But I mean, for things like they're fighting too much.

Yeah. Child protective services is there to protect children to make sure that they're not getting hurt physically-- and emotionally, right. It's a nuclear option.

It's a nuclear option. It's nuclear. You certainly have the right to do it.

Where it will go, it's difficult to say. I would say, go to your sibling and say, I only want to help. What can I do?

Right. But ultimately, as you said, it's their kid. That's right.

And a lot of kids have not great parents. That's right. They should be able to get a license.

Parents should have to have a license. You have to get a license to drive a car. You have to get a license to have a gun.

You have to get a license to get married. You have to get a license to do a lot of things. You should have to pass at least a minimal competency test to be a parent.

Listen, I agree with that. [LAUGHS] So we are going to finish up with our rapid-fire questions. OK. So just, quick-hit answers to some financial questions that we ask all of our guests.

Always feel free to pass. OK. What is the big financial secret of your industry?

Ooh. I'm supposed to do this fast? The big financial institute of my industry is that we really are not looking to take every last dollar from our clients.

We're really looking to help them get it resolved. But people see lawyers as, we're only trying to spend everyone's money and use everyone's money. And I don't really think that that's true.

What do you invest in, versus what are you cheap about? I invest in my home and my family because I want to have a nice place for everyone to be together. I don't know that I'm really cheap about anything.

I'm not good at saving, believe it or not. I don't know if that's being cheap. It's the opposite.

I wish I were better at saving. Ah. What has been your best investment and why?

Real estate has always been my best investment. I got lucky as-- my first place-- a young person. I got something.

And then I bought, and I sold high. And then I bought in another place. I move to different areas that I think are up and coming.

And I buy, and then I sell. And I've done well that way. Oh.

What has been your biggest money mistake and why? I think it's the same as my question before-- not saving. So when you're younger, you don't really think about it.

And I think, now that I've hit 52, I'm starting to think about retirement because I could work for another 10 or 15 years, but then whatever. And that's where you start to say, oh, I wish I would have started that 401(k) earlier, or I would put more in, or I would have put away better. Yeah.

What is your biggest current money insecurity? Worrying about debt, I think. I think I always worried about debt-- taking on a mortgage, taking on any kind of loan.

I don't feel good about that. And I think that COVID's made it worse, because all of a sudden, you see how quick everything can stop. Right.

Right? And your income could stop just like that. You never really think about it.

But when you're on the hook for something big, that doesn't stop. That's right. That doesn't stop.

What has been a financial habit that has helped you the most? I think that it's been paying attention to all of it-- like you said at the beginning, knowing everything, looking at your books, trying to see where you're spending and where you could not spend. Yeah.

But that's really important. And when did you first feel successful? And what does that word mean to you?

I think I first felt successful when I started my own business, which was 2002. I worked for somebody for 10 years. And then I said, I can do this on my own.

And I went out on my own, all by myself, without really any idea what it was going to look like. And I've been self-employed ever since. So it's been a long time.

That's awesome. I feel good about that. And speaking of starting your own business, I could not be more happy every day that that is exactly what I did.

And a reminder to those who think that starting a business only entails some big operation with a bunch of employees and a brick-and-mortar office, it totally doesn't. If you are a freelancer or even a side freelancer, you are a business of one. And if you are a small business, you need the right tools to be able to manage the finances of your business.

And coming from someone who used to manage the finances of her business with a literal pen and paper slash really messy Excel sheets, I can say without a doubt that QuickBooks has been one of the single best investments that I've made in my business. It allows me to have a complete view of everything that's going on in my company financially on any given day, quickly pull any information or report I might need, and totally understand the financial status of our company at any given moment. I use QuickBooks every single morning when I start my day.

And I could not recommend it more if you are doing your own freelance, side gig, small business operation yourself. Check out QuickBooks at the link in our description or our show notes to learn more. Thank you so much for being here.

This was really lovely to talk about. Any parting words of wisdom for our lovebirds out there who are thinking of getting married and starting a family? Parting words of wisdom-- I think, be kind.

Yeah. That's my parting words of wisdom. Be kind, and talk about things before you get married.

Because when things go bad, it's too late. Great words of wisdom. Well, thank you so much for being here.

And keep fighting the good fight. I was going to say, where should our audience find out more about you if they're getting divorced? Ah.

But you know what, maybe why not? Yeah, Some of you might be getting divorced in the state of New York. Yeah.

Well, the name of the firm, OK, is very long. But I'm going to say it anyway. It's Lee Anav Chung White Kim Ruger & Victor.

And if you just google "Aimee Richter," you'll find me. And feel free to call if you have questions, you need advice, or for any other reason. Some of you guys have to drop out of that firm name.

How does that fit on a business card? It's so many. It does fit.

We use "LACWK." OK. That's what we do. We use the initials now.

But, yeah, it's gotten longer as time's gone on. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for being here.

And we will see all of you guys next Monday on The Financial Confessions. [MUSIC PLAYING]