June 22nd, 2022
Divorce does not need to be a combative process that drags on for months or years in courtrooms and conference rooms. Many tools are available to help people resolve their differences, reach a settlement, and move forward into new stages of their lives. Sometimes, two spouses are able to come to an agreement on most or all issues in their divorce. A family lawyer’s help can still be very valuable in order to make certain that they can complete their divorce or child custody order in accordance with Minnesota family law. Legal drafting requires very precise language. Even a small mistake or omission could cause big problems in the future. Louise Livesay has offered limited-scope representation to help clients with drafting and reviewing family court documents for more than two decades. She can make sure your court paperwork is in order.
What Is Limited-Scope Representation?
When you hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce, child custody dispute, or other family law matter, you and the attorney can agree on specific services that the attorney will and will not provide. In limited-scope representation, you agree that the lawyer will help you with specific parts of the process.
You and your spouse might want to negotiate among yourselves, or you plan on using a divorce mediator to help you reach an agreement. An attorney providing limited-scope representation might provide services like:
- Consultation on Minnesota family law and the divorce process;
- Drafting of legal documents; or
- Review of legal documents.
Why Is Drafting Important?
Future problems can arise when something in a divorce agreement is not drafted well. Family lawyers know how to draft agreements and orders that fit a family’s particular circumstances, and that can adapt to changes that will occur over time.
Lawyers often write in ways that non-lawyers find difficult to read. We even have a rather unflattering name for this style of legal writing: “legalese.” Lawyers have a good reason for writing this way, though. When a lawyer drafts a contract, divorce settlement agreement, or other legal document, the language they use must be as precise as possible.
Some forms of writing allow, encourage, or even celebrate some amount of ambiguity. A divorce decree, ideally, should not be subject to multiple interpretations. The English language rarely works this way, but it is a lawyer’s job to try to make it as unambiguous as possible.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Using self-help forms on the web can be challenging because they try to provide a form that can be applied to all situations. Each family is different, though. It is better to have a legal document that addresses your specific circumstances and needs and cuts out what is not applicable, clear, and concise.
Drafting should be a collaborative process that includes both parties. The settlement must include every point of the parties’ agreement, and the final order should incorporate all of the agreement’s terms. These documents will be critically important as the parties work on dividing their property. If they have children, the settlement agreement and order will be their guide for co-parenting. Both parties should review a legal document.
Looking to the Future
A settlement agreement and divorce decree require flexibility. They need to look farther than the circumstances of the spouses and their children at the moment of the divorce. As children grow up, custody and parenting time arrangements that worked when they were babies or toddlers might not work as well anymore. An agreement regarding custody should allow for growth and change as much as possible.
The final court documents should also plan for future disagreements between the parties. Dispute resolution procedures are available to help them get through any conflicts that might arise. Spouses who are in the middle of a divorce might be so focused on the here and now that it is difficult to think that far ahead. A family lawyer with experience in legal drafting can help.
How Can a Family Lawyer Help with Reviewing Documents?
The parties to a divorce might have reached an agreement on their own and prepared a written document. They might have done so after going through divorce mediation, and now they have an agreement that the mediator helped them prepare. One spouse might have hired a lawyer to prepare the court documents, and now the other spouse wants another lawyer to take a look. In any of these situations, a family lawyer can help by doing the initial drafting of the court documents, reviewing a settlement agreement, reviewing the divorce decree drafted by another attorney, and other documents.
Reviewing the Agreement
A spouse might want a lawyer to compare the final agreement or decree with the less-formal document that they and their spouse prepared to make sure the final document contains the spouses’ entire agreement. Sometimes, whether accidentally or intentionally, whoever prepared the final divorce documents left out something from the agreement that needs to be included. Both spouses and their attorneys must sign off on a divorce decree before a judge will approve it. If you have children and one or both do not have an attorney signing the documents, you will need to appear in court for a default hearing even if you have a jointly signed divorce decree.
Reviewing the Terms of the Agreement
The parties to a divorce might try to include terms in their settlement agreement that, unbeknownst to them, go against Minnesota law. If a final divorce decree includes unlawful provisions regarding property division, child support, or other matters, the court may refuse to grant a divorce until the spouses fix the documents.
Reviewing the Form of the Documents
A family lawyer can review the divorce decree and other documents to see whether they comply with the requirements of Minnesota law and local court rules. The documents might be missing certain required language, which could lead to a judge not allowing the divorce. A family law attorney can also make sure you take care of needed paperwork after the divorce is final, such as a qualified domestic relations order to divide a retirement account or change title on a home and make sure names are off of joint debts, such as a mortgage.
For over twenty years, family attorney Louise Livesay has helped families in the Twin Cities area resolve disputes arising from divorce, child custody, and other issues. She uses Minnesota’s family laws to guide clients in transforming their relationships. If you have questions about divorce mediation or collaborative law, please contact us today online or at (651) 964-3887.
Categories: Other Family Law Needs