The Value of Family Law Attorneys

February 25, 2010

By Jennifer Moore, Family Law Attorney

The Need for a Family Law Attorney in Complex Cases

Last week, I visited with a woman who had been married for twenty five years. While she stayed home and took care of the children, her husband built several successful businesses. Now, he wants a divorce. They mostly agree about how to raise the children. They mostly agree on the issue of parenting time. They have had a difficult time agreeing to the financial terms of a divorce. And given the situation, I don’t know how they could. During the marriage, the husband took care of all of the finances. Although she was involved in the business early on, as the children were born and demanded more of her time, she left the business to focus on the family issues. Eventually, she found a part-time job that she enjoyed, even if she did earn far less than her husband.

He doesn’t want anyone to look too closely into his business finances. He doesn’t want the house appraised. He doesn’t want to pay spousal maintenance. Even he has difficulty identifying what his gross income is for purposes of child support.

This is a case that requires a family law attorney. It will probably also require significant litigation to unravel.

The Need for a Family Law Attorney in “Simple” Cases

Yesterday, I met with a man who had been served with divorce papers. He has a hard time talking to his wife. She has an even harder time talking to him. Their financial situation does not seem too complicated. There is not enough money to go around. I have hopes that this man will be able to obtain a divorce using mediation, with minimal attorney participation. I will refer him to a mediator, but his wife has already hired an attorney who may not like the idea of letting her client mediate without her.

Eventually, this man will need an attorney even if it’s just to review a final settlement. If he and his wife cannot agree on issues of custody, his case may require the intervention of attorneys.

You May Still Need a Family Law Attorney if the Available Resources Are Not Enough

Minnesota Courts have done a fine job of providing resources for people who have relatively simple cases. I link to those resources on my website and often cite them in my blog.

However, most of my time is not spent on cases that could be resolved without me. Most of my time is spent representing clients with stories that are diametrically opposed to the other parties in the case. I have listened to these stories and most of the time, I believe that my client needs representation. I presume that the other side is equally certain of their case, although I may not know why. Sometimes, the facts are not easily ascertainable–either because there is no clear financial record or because there are too many financial records. It is rare that at least one party in the case doesn’t express the concern that litigation is an inappropriate way to expend family resources.

This weekend, the Star Tribune published a story about the difficulties with obtaining a divorce in the recessionary economy. The article spoke to some hard facts about the recession and the difficulty of finding a workable solution when there are simply no resources. The comments were a scathing indictment on family law attorneys, judges, and litigants.

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