As a divorce lawyer in Dallas for 20+ years, I’ve learned that divorce lawyers wear many hats when working for their clients. From mental health counselor to financial planner, from creditor’s rights to business litigation, divorce lawyers give advice to clients about many different areas of their life.
This week, I wore the hat of a landlord/tenant lawyer. My client received two rental properties in the asset division and now he must learn to deal with issues such as property managers, security deposits, and rent collection. At the same time that he assumed the ownership and responsibility for the properties, the tenants in both properties moved out. Thus, we had to address the return of the security deposits to them in accordance with the law. The rental properties are in another state, so this complicated matters. We also had to reconcile the rents received, mortgages paid, and HOA dues paid. I’ve been asked to interface with the property management for both units to make sure that the security deposits are addressed properly and to ensure my client’s records are up-to-date with his take over. Having a basic understanding of landlord/tenant law assisted me in helping the client navigate these new waters.
I also was called upon in another case to research the criminal record of the opposing party. We found that he has multiple criminal convictions. Because I’m not as familiar with criminal law, and especially federal criminal law, I called a friend who practices in that area for advice. Sometimes it is better and more economical to seek help from a specialist in an area rather than charting new waters.
I’ve also had to address bankruptcy issues this week regarding a third client. For various reasons, the client may need to file for bankruptcy and we had to evaluate whether to file now or whether it would be better for him to file at some point in the future. He was under the mistaken impression that filing bankruptcy would speed up the divorce process. To the contrary, I had to explain to him that filing bankruptcy actually works to stay the divorce proceedings, which will elongate the process, not shorten it. Again, I called in a bankruptcy lawyer to advise the client in areas unfamiliar to me.
At any point in time, a divorce lawyer must also know something about business law, corporate litigation, bankruptcy law, creditor’s rights, criminal law, landlord/tenant, real estate law, estate planning, and many other areas.