Today’s divorce attorney has to combine the skills of a legal advocate, an accountant, a counselor, and in some cases, an arbitrator in representing a client. Obtaining the dissolution of a marriage is only a small part of the general duties that a practitioner must fulfill in this area of the law. Before the granting of a final decree, the lawyer will have to negotiate and prepare a separation agreement, present the corresponding court documents and attend the necessary procedures to end the marriage.
Long after the judge signs the order, there are a number of ancillary matters that will need to be monitored for some time. Below are some of the most important issues in this post-decree phase.
Child support is one of the two most controversial areas that a divorce attorney will face once the court proceedings are concluded. Very often, the defendant in a domestic matter will be reluctant or even hostile to paying child support. It is the responsibility of the legal advocate to represent the interests of his client’s children in such situations by seeking appropriate legal remedies.
Even if there is no animosity between the parties, the changing circumstances of one of the parties or the other (loss of employment, remarriage, etc.) may require modification of the child support orders. Here, too, the lawyer must inform the court of the situation and ensure that the changes are reflected in the corresponding legal documents.
Visits are the other contentious area that a divorce attorney must navigate. Very often, the parties will try to link visitation with child support. The petitioner often refuses to grant visitation unless support is paid, while the defendant can withhold support unless better visitation is allowed. What makes this so difficult is that, in the eyes of the law, these two elements are separate and distinct. Whether or not child support is paid is not an excuse, in itself, for withholding visitation. Conversely, requiring more visits cannot justify non-payment of child support.
Attorneys in this area have the delicate task of making clients realize that these two elements of the postmarital state must be handled individually. Ultimately, the court will seek to protect the interests of the children from the emotional wishes of the parties. By counseling their clients, these legal professionals can often mitigate the negative aspects of ending a domestic relationship and help everyone involved move beyond the present to a new life as separate individuals.
Remarriage, relocation, and minor children coming of age are some of the major life events that a divorce attorney will continue to help clients deal with, even years after the decree is issued. Maintaining solid lines of communication, keeping up to date with changes in the law and updating client information are elements that make the practice in this legal area a continuous and dynamic challenge.