For anyone in the middle of a divorce case – which I imagine is most of the readers of this blog – reaching the finish line of your case may seem like an impossible dream. I am here to tell you it happens every day and it will happen for you. What is not often discussed is what happens once your Judgment of Dissolution is filed.
Notice of Withdrawal
Your attorney will prepare a document titled Notice of Withdrawal of Attorney of Record. This is a form that puts the court, the other party, and the world at large on notice that you are no longer represented by an attorney. These forms can only be filed when a case has concluded and gone to Judgment or final order.
Despite the name, your attorney is not abandoning you; in fact your attorney is trying to protect you by filing the form. Family law is unique in that we have post Judgment motions and discovery. These can be requests to modify support orders or to change child custody orders. If a motion of this type is filed post Judgment, if I am your attorney of record, then it is possible to serve that motion on me and my office. If I have moved offices or retired by that point, you may never know a motion was filed and could end up in trouble or without support because you did not even know there was a hearing.
By filing the Notice of Withdrawal it forces the other party to personally serve you with any post judgment pleadings or motions. This ensures you have notice of the hearing and an opportunity to present your case. I tell clients the Notice of Withdrawal does not mean I do not want to represent you in the future, it just means I want to make sure you are protected until you need me again.
Closing Your File and Retrieving Originals
Once we have withdrawn from the case, we will close your file and return your original documents to you. It is important to contact us to let us know we have your original documents. If we do not hear from you, we will assume you do not need anything from our file and will send your file to an offsite storage facility. It will remain there for at least 5 years before it is destroyed. You are not charged for our storage of your files.
If you realize later that we have original documents from your file that you need, and the file is still in storage, we can order the file back for you at a fee. This is why it is so important to take the time to think about whether we have originals. If you are not sure, we are happy to schedule a time for you to review the file we are sending to storage to make sure you do not need anything from the file.
Update the Other Party of Your New Address
It is very important that you keep the other party apprised of your address if you move after you case concluded. Most Marital Settlement Agreements will contain a current address for both parties where all notices and pleadings should be delivered. If you move, make sure to update the other party of your new address. (This is required if you have minor children together). There are circumstances where you should not update your address, such as in domestic violence cases, but speak with you attorney before you make any decisions.
Reviewing Estate Planning Documents
Finally, as soon as you receive your filed Judgment, you should revise any Will, Trust Documents, or Beneficiary Designations. This is something that is often overlooked in the excitement of finalizing your divorce. I cannot tell you how many times people have forgotten to amend a Will or other estate planning document and found out later (sometimes too late) that they left/were leaving all of their possession to the former spouse. A good family law attorney can direct you to competent estate planning attorneys if you have the need or want questions answered.
A qualified family law attorney will explain all of this to you when your case is over. However make sure to discuss your exit as one of the firm’s clients with your attorney because there may be issues that have not been considered. It is always better to address these issues when your case is concluded and changes can be made, then it is to look back and wish you had done things differently
Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding what to do when you case has concluded. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.