Dealing with Holiday Visitation Problems

Dealing with Holiday Visitation Problems

The Christmas holidays are a time for family. Still, for many single parents, they can also be a time of stress dealing with holiday visitation problems. Child custody arrangements often mean that visitation schedules must be worked out well in advance. If there are problems, it can be challenging to resolve things. If you’re a single parent facing holiday visitation issues, here are a few tips to help you get through the season:

Dealing with the other parent:

First, try to be flexible in your visitation schedule. If your ex-partner wants to have the kids on Christmas Eve, see if you can work something out so that you can still spend time with them on Christmas Day. It’s important to remember that the holidays are about giving children the opportunity to spend time with both of their parents.

Set reasonable expectations:

During the holidays, it’s not uncommon for divorced or separated parents to have disagreements about visitation. In some cases, one parent may try to take advantage of the other parent’s generosity by extending their visit beyond what was initially agreed upon. Or, a parent may unexpectedly show up at their ex’s door expecting to be able to spend time with the kids. This leads to dealing with holiday visitation problems.

To avoid conflict and ensure everyone has a happy holiday season, it’s essential to set reasonable expectations for visitation. The place to start is your court-ordered custody plan. If you don’t have a custody plan and disagreements keep cropping up, it is a good idea to seek one. The custody plan is the tiebreaker when there is disagreement. The two parents can operate outside the plan if they agree, but the custody plan rules if they cannot agree. Custody plans take time to negotiate and get court approval. So start working to clarify the current plan or to get one before next year’s holiday season.

If you’re the custodial parent, communicate a proposed holiday schedule to the other parent that allows maximum time for the kids with each parent. And if you’re a non-custodial parent, don’t assume that you can show up unannounced and expect to be able to spend time with your kids.

By respecting each other’s time and space and putting the kids first, you can avoid holiday drama and ensure that your children have a joyful holiday season. Step away if the other parent refuses to cooperate and continues to cause drama. Take the high road, then seek the advice of your attorney. Remember, the holidays can be magical for kids. Don’t let the drama take that away, even if that means that for this year, you must give in to keep the drama at a minimum. Court access is limited during the holidays, so spend your energy on getting an ordered plan for next year instead of draining yourself with a fight during the holidays.


When it comes to co-parenting, one of the most important things you can do is to keep the lines of communication open with the other parent. This can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you don’t see eye to eye on everything, but it is vital for the sake of your children. Remember that you’re working towards the same goal: raising happy, healthy kids.

Respect the other parent’s boundaries. Robo-calling or incessant texting is not going to end well. Needing constant assurance that your children are okay while in the other parent’s custody is unhealthy for you. It interferes with your children’s ability to relax and enjoy their time with the other parent. The golden rule is sound wisdom here. Would you want the other parent Robo-calling or incessantly texting you? Would you like the other parent to constantly check that the children are okay while in your care?

Avoid making assumptions about the other parent’s thoughts or feelings. Always communicate directly with the other parent and do not send messages through the kids. Remember that there will be times when you disagree – that’s okay! Just agree to disagree and move on.

There are several tools to make communication easier when co-parenting, but we recommend Our Family Wizard. See our post on how it works, but you can find it here.


Sometimes things just can’t be worked out without outside help. It is better to take the high road and let it go for now. The holidays are no time for a war with the other parent. You may need to seek legal advice and court intervention; both will take time, and time is scarce over the holidays. In the meantime, document what is going on. Save your text messages and emails with the other parent. Back up your phone and computer to be sure the communications are preserved. Make notes about times and dates. It may be months before you get into court, and your memory of some details will fail or become distorted. Our Family Wizard is an excellent tool for documenting communications.

Dealing with the kids.

Dealing with problematic behavior is never easy, but parenting can be incredibly challenging during the holidays with holiday visitation problems. Children may be excited and energetic, which can lead to disruptive behavior. And if you’re sharing custody with an ex, you may have different parenting styles. But there are some things you can do to make the situation more manageable:

  1. Try to be understanding and patient. Children may not be able to express themselves in words so they may act out in other ways.
  2. Set clear limits and consequences for bad behavior. This will help children know what is expected of them.
  3. Let them have some say in what activities they participate in. You are still the parent but take their wishes into account.
  4. Build in some downtime for the kids. Tired and overwhelmed kids can be cranky kids.

Step away for a few minutes to clear your head if you feel overwhelmed. Take a break if you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family members. Feel free to ask if you need someone to watch the kids while working or running errands. Single parents often must do everything on their own, but during the holidays, it’s important to accept help from others. Why not ask the other parent? They should be your first call when taking the kids off your hands so you can get some things done. They may appreciate the extra time with the kiddos, and your offer may help smooth the way to a more cooperative relationship. If they say no, then move to other family members or friends.

Discuss and coordinate gift-giving with the other parent. Be sure to share with your family and friends beforehand what you’re comfortable with your children receiving consistent with the plan. That way, there are no surprises on Christmas morning.

Try to stay positive. The holidays can be tricky when dealing with child custody issues but remember that it’s only temporary. Hopefully, you’ll work out a visitation schedule that works for everyone involved. If not, we are here to help. Until then, focus on spending quality time with your children and enjoy the holiday season.

As a parent, it is essential to know your rights and responsibilities. Please call our office for a consultation if you have any questions or need help dealing with custody issues dealing with holiday visitation problems. We are here to help you protect your rights as a parent.


Get the legal help you need. Contact Goff and Goff Attorneys today! 📞 (318) 255-1760

4 Tips to Help You Find the Right Family Law Attorney

4 Tips to Help You Find the Right Family Law Attorney

Divorce can be a complicated process, but you don’t have to do it alone- and you shouldn’t. Having a good lawyer on your side is essential when you go through a divorce. But finding the right lawyer can be tricky. Here are 4 tips to help you find the right family law attorney for you:

Do your research.

There are many lawyers, and not all of them are created equal. Finding the right lawyer can take time and effort. You want a specialist who will take your case to trial if necessary.
Look for a true specialist.
In Louisiana, any lawyer can call themselves a specialist. That’s why it’s essential to hire a board-certified family law attorney. A board certification attorney has passed rigorous testing on all aspects of family law (not just the bar exam that all attorneys must take). They have been screened by the bar association’s specialization committee and recommended for certification by other lawyers. Out of over 21,000 licensed attorneys in Louisiana, less than 100 are board certified in family law. So if you’re looking for the best possible representation in your divorce case, hire a board-certified family law attorney. Suppose you’re going through a divorce, custody case, or property division. It is imperative to have a knowledgeable, experienced lawyer on your side when you go through a divorce, custody case, or property division.
Be sure that the lawyer tries cases.
Hiring a lawyer who tries cases is essential to the best divorce case representation. Many lawyers claim to be specialists in family law, but they’ve never tried a lawsuit in court. So how can you be sure that they know what they’re doing?

You need an attorney who knows how to handle themselves in court. They’ll have the knowledge and skills to represent you y before a judge. A detailed understanding of evidence, the law, and trial procedure is necessary to present your case in court effectively. Not all cases need to go to trial. However, having a seasoned trial attorney on your side means they have the clout to negotiate the best possible settlement for you. A reasonable resolution is more likely if your ex’s attorney knows your attorney is not afraid of the courtroom.

So if you’re going through a divorce, hire a board-certified family law attorney with lots of trial experience. You’ll be glad you did.

Ask around

When looking for the best divorce lawyer, it can be helpful to talk to people who have been through a separation, divorce, or child custody case. They can recommend attorneys who may be a good fit for your case or even steer you away from those they had a bad experience with. Ask them what they liked or did not like about their attorney. Did the attorney explain the process to them and answer their questions? Did the attorney over-promise and under-deliver? Were their phone calls returned? Did the attorney take their case to trial or get a reasonable settlement? So don’t be afraid to ask around for advice. You may be surprised at the wealth of information people are willing to share.

Read the Google reviews

Attorney reviews on Google can help you find the right lawyer. Great reviews are helpful, but so are negative reviews. Understand, however, that negative reviews can be fake or written by people who are unhappy with how their case turned out through no fault of the lawyer. We have seen reviews written by people who are not clients and even some written by the client’s ex-spouse. Attorneys cannot always respond to negative reviews. This is because the Rules of Professional Conduct forbid attorneys from revealing confidential information about their clients. So, suppose the client complains the attorney didn’t do their job. In that case, the attorney cannot explain why they could not do the job. Perhaps the client didn’t pay their bill, didn’t follow instructions, didn’t pay their court-ordered child support, failed to obey court orders, hid evidence. . . you get the picture. Take negative reviews with a grain of salt.

Beware of free consultations

Family law is not personal injury, where free consultations are the norm. The initial consultation in a family law case is an important meeting. It is not just a sales meeting or a dog-and-pony show to get you to hire the attorney.
Dealing with a family law issue can make you overwhelmed and confused about what to do next. An attorney can help guide you through the process, and the initial consultation is the first step. The attorney will ask you many questions to better understand your situation and make a plan to help you achieve your goals. You and the attorney will explore options and determine if you can work together. The attorney will also explain the process to you and answer any questions. Be prepared to have an honest dialogue with the attorney so that they can best advise and represent you.

When the attorney meets with you, they will learn confidential information about your situation. After that, they should not meet with your ex, even if you don’t hire them to handle your case. So be sure to budget for this expense. It is well worth the cost to get the guidance of a qualified professional.

After the initial consultation, you should better know your rights and what can and cannot be done.

Ready to move forward?

Contact us today if you’re looking for a top-rated family law attorney in Louisiana. Shelley Goff is a board-certified family law specialist. She has 33 years of experience and knowledge to guide you through your legal situation quickly and efficiently.

At Goff and Goff Attorneys, we understand the challenges of family law. We are here to help you every step of the way, and our goal is to provide you with the information and support you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your children. With these 4 tips to help you find the right law attorney , you’ll be ready in no time. You deserve quality legal representation during this challenging time. We are committed to providing our clients with the highest service possible. Contact us today to schedule a paid consultation, and let us help you start the next chapter of your life.

Get the legal help you need. Contact Goff and Goff Attorneys today! 📞 (318) 255-1760

So you and your ex disagree about vaccinating your kids. What to do?

COVID has become more than just an illness. It is now a political statement, with both sides of the vaccine issue so polarized that they cannot see the other’s point of view.

Parents who reside together usually agree on whether the children should get the “jab.” If they don’t, one usually gives in to the other. But with more and more children growing up with separated parents, the debates on whether to vaccinate are happening more often.

In the age of COVID, the vaccination of children has become a hot topic. The topic, and arguments, become even more contentious when one parent wants the vaccine and the other is opposed. This argument did not arise as often with different types of vaccines, but because the COVID issue is so divisive separated parents are threatening each other with legal action. So, what happens when separated parents disagree? Can one vaccinate the child over the objection of the other?

The answer depends on whether there is a custody order, and if not, whether the parents were married.   Suppose the parents were never married and there is no custody order in place. In that case, the mother has the upper hand when making decisions about the child. Even if the parents live together and the father is on the birth certificate, this is true.   If the parents were married and didn’t have a custody order, neither party has the upper hand or the veto power. The lack of a custody order breeds disputes, so it is advisable to seek a custody order.

Most custody orders in Louisiana designate one of the parents as the “domiciliary” parent. Even when custody is shared 50/50, one parent will be identified as the domiciliary parent in most instances.   The domiciliary parent is the tie-breaker. This parent makes all major decisions regarding the child, such as medical and health care decisions, unless the court order says otherwise. Some court orders will require the parents to agree on major medical decisions. Others are silent on the subject. When that happens, the domiciliary parent makes the final decision. So, when only one parent wants the kids vaccinated, the domiciliary parent decides.

By law, the decisions of the domiciliary parent are presumed to be in the best interest of the child. Suppose the other parent believes the domiciliary parent’s decision will harm the child. In that case, that parent will have to file a request with the court to review the decision. It will be that parent’s burden to show the domiciliary parent’s decision is harmful. While court review is available, a hearing will be held, which will take some time to schedule. It will be expensive, as the contesting parent may need to bring in an expert witness, such as a medical doctor, to back up their position.

What happens when the other parent vaccinates the child over the objection of the domiciliary parent? Because COVID vaccines for kids have only been available for a short time, there are no established court decisions to guide us. Suppose the vaccine has not yet been given but only threatened. In that case, the domiciliary parent’s option is to seek an emergency order to stop the vaccination until a hearing can be held. If the vaccine has been given, the domiciliary parent’s recourse would be to seek to find the other parent in contempt of court.

When deciding whether to ask for court review, parents need to remember that it is the child’s best interest that the court will seek to protect in family court. The court will not protect mom or dad’s beliefs or find that one view is more valid than the other. It will look to medical professionals to determine whether the child should or should not get a vaccine.

Most mainstream medical professionals support vaccinating children against measles, mumps, and other childhood diseases. They urge parents to follow vaccination schedules, and schools require children to be immunized in most instances. The Center for Disease Control strongly supports subjecting children to the COVID vaccine. It calls the COVID vaccine “safe and effective.” The CDC’s position is the vaccine is safe, saying the vaccine was widely tested on children and was rigorously reviewed. “The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for children ages 5 through 11 years outweigh the known and potential risks.” You can find their official position here: Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines for Children.

The CDC claims that while vaccines do not stop kids from getting COVID, it reduces the risk that the child will have serious complications. It argues that COVID ranks as one of the top ten causes of death for children 5 through 11 years. It calls the theory that a child should get COVID to build up natural immunity a myth.

While a parent may find a medical professional to testify that the vaccine is dangerous for kids, the other parent will be able to find several more that side with the CDC. Suppose medical professionals testify the child should be vaccinated. In that case, we are betting that the court will side with the parent wanting vaccination.

The bottom line is if the domiciliary parent wants to vaccinate the kids, they probably win. Suppose the domiciliary parent does not want to vaccinate the kids, and the other parent takes it to court. In that case, the court will likely allow the vaccination.

Please call our office 318-255-1760 if you need assistance with a child custody or parental rights issue. We are here to help.

Are Divorce Rates Up Because of COVID -19?

Are divorce rates up because of Covid? The answer depends on who you ask.

Some experts report an increase.

The National Law Journal reports that divorce inquiries were up  34% by April of 2020. Mostly couples married less than five years.  And marriages that were already rocky are pushed over the edge. Shelter-in-place, homeschooling, and arguments about parenting increased the stressors on already troubled relationships.  Add financial stress and boredom, and nerves get raw.   As a result, the Journal believes there will be an increase of 10% to 20% in the second half of 2020.

On the other hand, some experts report a decline.

In contrast,  professor Brad Wilcox, believes divorce rates have actually fallen. He credits the decrease to two likely factors.  First, it was hard to file for divorce when the courts were closed.  Second, in some marriages, hardship makes the relationship stronger. Couples developed a new appreciation for each other.  Couples who live the “we before me” rather than the “me first” lifestyle Wilcox talks about in his book “We Before Me”  have a better chance of surviving.

What is reality?  Are divorce rates up because of Covid-19?

What is reality? Are divorce filings up because of Covid? Goff and Goff has seen an increase in inquiries over the last several months. It became easier to file once the shelter-in-place order was lifted. Until then, most court proceedings were on hold resulting in less filing. As a result divorce filings historically spread over many months, are now happening in a compressed timeframe.    Only time will tell if the stresses of COVID kills more marriages.  Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a real increase in North Louisiana.  At least not yet.

If you and your spouse are on each other’s last nerve, get professional help.  Marriage counseling can be very effective and it is always worth a try.   Also, check out Dr. Wilcox’s book “We Before Me” (coming soon).

If you have a question about divorce call us at 318-255-1760, email us at  or  visit our online appointment scheduler to book a consultation.  We’re here to help!

Yours, Mine and Ours. Who gets the “stuff?” The Senior Divorce Edition

Divorce after 50 can be an eye-opener for many. Your kids are gone and no longer the biggest concern. Instead, you are concerned about retirement. You want to hang on to some financial security because you know it will cost more to live apart than to live together. How are you going to divide the “stuff.”

You may be in for a surprise.

Louisiana is a community property state. As a general rule, everything you accumulated (assets and debt) is owned one-half by your spouse. How property is titled does not determine whether it is a community asset or not. Likewise, who earned money or who stayed home and cared for the children does not matter.

Let’s consider John and Sarah.

Married for 25 years, John works at the plant, and Sarah stays home with the kids. John accumulated a large 401K. Some of the 401K came from several years before they married. One-half of the portion accumulated during the marriage belongs to Sarah.

John’s credit was lousy, so when the couple needed a new car, Sarah borrowed the money. As a result, she put the title in her name. John owns one-half of the vehicle and owes one-half of the debt.

John lost his dad a few years ago, and he inherited his dad’s old truck. Sarah does not own any of it.

It’s not always this straightforward.

What about the debt or property you brought into the marriage? Did you pay off your spouse’s student loans from before the wedding? How about that remodel project on the rent house that your spouse inherited? Are you living in a house the two of you built on your spouse’s family land? Did you start a business with a friend? Your spouse inherited mineral rights that paid him monthly, and he put that in the savings account. Who owns that? Were you or your spouse married before? All of these issues can complicate the division.

Need help?

Dividing your community property in Louisiana can be very complicated. Therefore, before you make decisions regarding how to split up the”stuff,” call us. We can help untangle the knot. 318-255-1760.



Discussing the divorce with your children: What not to do

How you handle the discussion may well cost you your custody case.

A direct quote from a judge this morning:  “If I hear that either party has discussed these proceedings with the child, it will not go well for that parent.”

In a hotly contested custody case, it is tempting to try to get the kids to take sides.  The temptation sometimes moves parents to even threaten or punish a child who speaks out about what is going on at home.  One of the easiest ways to lose custody of your children is to try and manipulate the child’s affection for the other parent.

Children often feel they are caught in the middle when parents split up.  While loving, mature parents should know that the child still loves the other parent and has a right to a meaningful relationship and frequent contact with both parents, greed, fear and a need for revenge against the other spouse many times lead parents to say things they should not to the children.  The best course of action is to say as little as possible about the divorce and make sure the children know that both parents love them and the divorce is NOT their fault or about them.

Things not to do:

Never make derogatory statements about the other parent in front of the child.  Do not allow others to do so.

Asking the child to take sides between you and your spouse puts the child in the middle of a dispute that really has nothing to do with them.

Do not attempt to change the child’s love for the other parent.  Whether you like your soon to be ex spouse or not, that person is still the child’s parent.

Never bring the child to court unless you were court ordered to do so.  Court is not a field trip or a civics lesson for kids whose parents are divorcing.

Refrain from discussing the legal proceedings with the child or within the child’s hearing.  Do not tell the child what happened in court.  They do not need to even know there was court.  They do not need to hear about the paperwork a visit to the attorneys office.

Do not secret the child away or interfere with the other parent’s custodial rights.  If you believe the child is in danger from the other parent, seek court intervention. Do not take the matter into your own hands.




Marriage ending? Preplanning can help smooth the way

One of the most stressful in life is said to be a divorce.  It will not be easy, but pre-planning and taking some steps before you pull the trigger on the divorce will help lower the stress level.

Know what you (both) own and owe.

What you own:

Inventory your assets.  Include bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, antiques, collections, motor vehicles, real estate, guns, and anything else of real value.  Do not get hung up on household goods and furniture (unless the piece is an antique) as used household goods and furniture have a very small value in the real world.  For each item estimate (do a good faith estimate for now):

  • the value of the asset
  • indicate when the asset was acquired
  • describe what funds were used to acquire the assets, such as were the funds inherited or gifted, or in the possession of either spouse before the marriage
  • determine if there is money owed against the property and if so how much.

It is easier to inventory your assets before you split up.  Make copies of any documentation that backs up your data.

What you owe:

It is a good idea check your credit report.  Like assets, it is easier to determine what you owe before you split.  Running a credit report can be an eye opening experience, especially if your spouse has opened credit accounts without your knowledge and listed you as a creditor.  No, they are not supposed to do that, but it does happen.

Make a list of all of your debts and include:

  • The current balance of the debt
  • What the debt was for
  • The monthly payment on the debt
  • When the debt was incurred.

Be sure to include student loans, including student loans incurred by your spouse during the marriage.  Yep, those may be community debts.

Determine whether your income taxes have been paid up to date.

This can be an ugly surprise if you have let your spouse handle the taxes.  Get copies of your last 5 years income tax returns.  If a return has not been filed, sit down with your accountant pronto and determine how to minimize the damage.  Failure to file and failure to pay can lead to significant penalties and interest.

Copy all of your important papers and keep them in  place that will always be accessible to you.

Keep a copy of all of your important papers in a place outside of your marital residence.  Safe deposit boxes work well.  Be sure to gather:

  • Tax returns
  • Mortgage and loan documents
  • Bank records
  • Titles and deeds
  • Investment and bank account records

If an emergency requires you to walk away in the middle of the night, you won’t have time to scramble around to get your documents.  It may be months before you are able to get copies through the divorce process.

Put aside money for the process.

Divorce can be an expensive project.  Most experienced divorce lawyers will require a substantial retainer before taking on your case.  There are no contingent fee (only pay if we win) cases in family law.  The more complex or bitter the divorce, the more it will cost.  In addition to the attorney fees, there will be court fees and there maybe expert witness fees, appraiser expenses and court reporter fees.

Make a budget.

Two people can live together cheaper than two people living separate.  Assume you will get no funds from your spouse for six months.  How are you going to live pending a court order or resolution?  You will need rent, food, transportation costs, etc.  The last thing you want to do is to have to settle your support or property division on terms that are not fair because you are desperate for money.

Change your passwords and logins.

All of them:

  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Lock screen on your phone
  • Websites
  • Your computer.

While you are at it, back up your hard drive to the cloud, copy the files or make a clone and make sure you will have access to your documents and data if your spouse grabs the computer and runs.

Don’t wait until the last minute to hire a lawyer.

It is good insurance to sit down with an attorney to preplan.  Things to cover with the attorney:

  • Ask them to educate you on what property and debts are divided
  • Have them explain the process to your so you know what to expect when and if you actually proceed
  • Discuss costs and fees so you can plan ahead
  • Be honest with the attorney about the facts and circumstances of the case.  If you are not honest, you may get bad advice because the attorney is unaware of the real facts.


Don’t risk a disaster.  Instead, hire an experienced family law lawyer to protect your interests.  Shelley Goff at Goff and Goff Attorneys has been practicing family law for 28 years.  Call us. We can help you navigate the divorce process as smoothly as possible.  318-255-1760.



The Pitfalls of the Do It Yourself Divorce Part#5

This is the fifth post in a series where we alert you to the Pitfalls of the Do It Yourself Divorce.

Pitfall # 5  Thinking you are “doing the right thing.”

The old saying, no good deed goes unpunished, applies to divorce.  We have heard it a million times.  Ok, thats an exaggeration, but we hear it a lot.  You don’t get representation because you just want to do the right thing by your spouse and move on.  Or you have a lot of guilt about the break up of the marriage.  So you don’t fight for yourself.  You thought you moved on, but you find out you still have a mess.

The Risk

People define things differently.  Your definition of the right thing is likely to be very different that your spouse’s. You think you are buying your peace by agreeing to your spouse’s demands and you simply sign whatever they or their attorney puts under you nose.  You believe you bought your peace, but what you find out is that you just committed yourself to something without the protections of reciprocity from your spouse.

An Example

John’s marriage disintegrated after he had a fling with a coworker.  His guilt for ruining his home led him to try to do the “right thing” by his wife.  She demanded the house and a handsome amount of monthly spousal support.  As penance, he agreed.  He failed to sit down and determine how he was going to pay for a place to live, utilities and food.  All was well for awhile, until his reserves were gone.  But there he was, stuck with a court ordered monthly bill to pay his wife. And she was still not in a forgiveness mood.  To fix the mess, he had to hire an attorney to renegotiate if possible and litigate if necessary, something he wishes he had done in the beginning.

Avoid The Risk

Don’t risk a disaster.  Instead, hire an experienced family law lawyer to protect your interests and make sure your divorce is valid.  Shelley Goff at Goff and Goff Attorneys has been practicing family law for 28 years.  Call us. We can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible.  318-255-1760.



The Pitfalls of the Do It Yourself Divorce Part #4

This post is the fourth post in a series where we alert you to the pitfalls of the Do It Yourself divorce.

Pitfall #4  Letting your spouse hire the attorney.

You decided not to hire an attorney.  Instead you will trust your spouse to hire the attorney to do the paperwork.  After all, you know your spouse will be fair.  Besides this will save a ton of money.

The Risks

That attorney your spouse hired?  He doesn’t represent you.  Your spouse is the client and the attorney owes a loyalty only to your spouse.  The attorney will work to get only what his client, your spouse, wants, not what you want.  That attorney does not have a duty to explain to you the implications of your agreement with your spouse.

Example:  You agree to do something without understanding the repercussions:

You and your spouse bought a home and there is a mortgage payment due every month.  Your spouse files for divorce. You agree to make the house payment while the divorce is pending or until it is sold.    The attorney writes the agreement up saying you make the house payment as spousal support.  You think, no big deal, I agreed to make the house payment, and you sign the agreement.  The court approves the agreement and makes it an order of the court.  Do you see what happened there?  If not, you needed an attorney.  You just cost yourself some money in your property division.

Example:  You don’t know your rights:

Your spouse’s attorney advises them to wait the separation period before filing for a divorce.  You go along with this plan.  You know you can’t get a divorce in Louisiana until you have lived separate and apart for 365 days if you have children.  Its 180 days if you have no children.  So you wait.  In the meantime, your spouse starts galavanting around the world, spending his paycheck on himself, taking trips and generally living it up.  You, on the other hand, are slaving to make ends meet.  He gives you a bit of cash here and there to “help” with the kids.  That’s only fair because he makes 3 times what you make.

As the separation time gets short, things start to go south quickly.  He stops giving you any cash and jets off on a vacation.  Its then that you make an appointment with an attorney.  You find out that he should have been paying you a lot more, enough that you would not have struggled over the past 11 months.  But, those months are gone, and he isn’t going to have to pay retroactive because you had nothing on file at the courthouse.

Avoid The Risk

Don’t risk a disaster.  Instead, hire an experienced family law lawyer to protect your interests and make sure you know your rights.  Shelley Goff at Goff and Goff Attorneys has been practicing family law for 28 years.  Call us. We can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible.  318-255-1760.


The Pitfalls of the Do It Yourself Divorce Part #2

This post is the second post in a series where we alert you to the pitfalls of the Do It Yourself divorce.

Pitfall #2  Utilizing forms drafted by non-lawyers.

You may have seen those creative entrepreneurs marketing their divorce document preparation services on social media pages like Facebook.  “Save money!  No attorney needed!  Let me draft your divorce documents for you!”  Just like the problems with internet forms (see Pitfall #1) you risk an invalid divorce if those forms are incorrect. In addition,  forms created by a non-lawyer may not operate the way you thought they were going to, or meet the technical requirements of the statutes.

The Risk

Also, there is much more to a divorce than simply filling out documents and filing them with a court.  You need to know the implications of the documents your sign and file.  Do you understand your rights and obligations under the law?  Are you utilizing the correct process for your situation?  The process your friendly document preparer choses to use may not be the right one for your situation.  And by using one process you may be losing the benefits of another process.

For example, we recently represented a client who had been told to wait to file for divorce until she could utilize the quick process.  By doing so, she lost out on a large sum of money she was entitled as support under the  more complicated process.  She didn’t know because her non-lawyer friend didn’t know.  The money she saved by not getting legal counsel at the beginning of the case is very small in comparison to the amount of money she lost by not utilizing the more “expensive” procedure in the beginning.   Her opportunity is gone and we can’t bring it back.

In another example, a client almost ended up with an invalid divorce because he thought he could “fudge” on some facts.   His non-lawyer preparation person did not understand the importance of the details of the divorce, and nearly caused a disaster.

Non-lawyers Practicing Law

Not only is it risky to use a non-lawyer to draft legal documents, the non-lawyer is practicing law without a license punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine.  You have a right to prepare your own legal documents and make your own mistakes. However, a non-lawyer does not have the right to prepare legal documents for you.  If they say they do, they clearly do not understand the law and that should make you hesitate in accepting their help.

Avoid The Risk

Don’t risk a disaster.  Instead, hire an experienced family law lawyer to protect your interests and make sure your divorce is valid.  Shelley Goff at Goff and Goff Attorneys has been practicing family law for 28 years.  Call us. We can help you navigate the process as smoothly as possible.  318-255-1760.

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