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Part 3: Choosing Collaborative Divorce Complicates Addressing Future Post-Decree Issues

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Introducing a new five-part series of revealing articles focusing on the collaborative approach to divorce. At the Law Office of Ronald L. Hendrix, P.C., we seek to educate and inform individuals who browse the internet in search of accurate information about the available divorce options. Our series on collaborative divorce is a must-read for anyone considering divorce.

In the years after a divorce is finalized, sometimes couples find it necessary to make changes to their divorce decree. Understandably, individuals often choose to return to the attorney who handled their divorce to make these post-decree changes. It may come as a surprise to them that, by initially participating in what is known as the “collaborative” divorce process, it may not be an option to return to their original collaborative divorce attorney for post decree issues.

There are many situations that may arise in which an update to a decree is warranted. Whether it is a matter of terminating maintenance due to the receiving party cohabitating, clarifying how the parties will pay for college tuition, or negotiations due to one party’s desire to relocate minor children, post-decree issues such as these are relatively common. Those who choose to return to the attorney who handled their divorce case do so for several reasons. First and foremost, a returning client often feels that their attorney represented them well in their divorce, and there is no substitute for a skilled and effective attorney. Additionally, a divorce attorney is required to maintain their client files for seven years after the conclusion of a case. This means that for that length of time all the documents, financial information and personal information related to the case are readily available through the original attorney. Eliminating the need to re-compile this information saves considerable time and expense. Finally, an individual is likely to return to the attorney who has personal knowledge and the details of their case, and with whom they have previously established a working relationship and a level of comfort.

For these reasons, it is understandably upsetting to a client who returns to their collaborative attorney with a post-decree concern, only to be informed that the attorney cannot represent them. Collaborative attorneys are restricted from representing their former clients in any post-decree, court-filed action that is not proceeding in a collaborative manner. During the years I have been practicing divorce law, I have encountered several instances when a former collaborative client has returned to me with a post-decree issue only to be frustrated upon learning that I cannot represent them further, and they will need to start over with a new attorney.

Even extensive research of the available divorce options may not uncover all of the pros and cons related to each approach. Couples who choose the collaborative approach to divorce should be aware of the inability of their collaborative attorney to represent them in future post-decree matters. As frequently as post-decree issues occur, this is an important factor to consider before moving forward in a collaborative divorce.

Part 1: Beware! The Reality of Collaborative Divorce Attorney Cliques
Part 2: Lack of Formal Discovery Process Raises Concern in Collaborative Divorce
Part 3: Choosing Collaborative Divorce Complicates Addressing Future Post-Decree Issues
Part 4: Collaborative Divorce Practice May Attract Inexperienced Attorneys
Part 5: When Collaborative Divorce Fails: The Cost of Starting Over and Prolonging the Divorce.

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