This article was written by Hance Law Group associate attorney Jonathan James.
In my last article, I talked about the limited scope services we provide for divorce. Though divorce is where we concentrate a lot of our family law services, we also do a good deal of work post-divorce. And because of the nature of the post-divorce work we do, the limited scope is a useful option for people who seek our post-divorce services.
Typically, there are one of two issues that come up after divorce. Either one party isn’t complying with the divorce decree, or one party wants the custody portions of a divorce decree to be modified to better reflect changes in the former couple’s post-divorce lives.
In the first instance, since the divorce decree is a legally-binding document, legal action can be sought by one party if the other party isn’t adequately complying with it. In child support disputes, the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Support Division can and often does play a role in enforcement and compliance. In other types of cases, such as with custody or an issue related to the financial division in a divorce, family lawyers will work on behalf of clients and petition the courts for hearings to resolve disputes.
Sometimes, just the threat of litigation will foster better cooperation. One of the most common limited scope services we offer post-divorce clients are crafting and sending demand letters (or, depending on the situation, cease and desist letters).
In the second instance, limited scope services can be used to put together a proposed modification of the divorce decree, and that can be presented to the other party for their consideration. This is often an effective “first step” in trying to modify terms of custody, visitation, or child support in a decree. If this first step does not achieve the change the client wants, then that client still has all of his/her options in filing a lawsuit with the Court to modify the Decree or prior order.
In a recent case involving a dispute over custody, we were able to use a simple demand letter as the catalyst for the change in the divorce decree. The change made the possession/ visitation schedule of the children work better for each parent, and in my opinion, better for the children.
We also may be needed to answer questions when disputes come up, on a sort of consulting retainer basis, and that’s another common means by which clients will utilize us for post-divorce services. With a limited scope retainer for consulting, we would have a small retainer to be used when a client has a question or needs advice on a particular issue. This is especially helpful for a client who has a time-sensitive issue or question.
It’s possible that those limited scope situations could evolve into litigation, and we’re prepared to move into litigation should it be necessary. But disputes don’t necessarily require litigation in order to be resolved, and if we can be effective with a more cost-effective and less time-intensive means, then we’ll pursue that option in our client’s interest.