You’re recently remarried after divorcing your first husband or wife three years ago. You’re happy and excited to be starting fresh. You decide to buy a new house with your new spouse, and the lender asks for a copy of your divorce decree, but you can’t find it in your documents at home. No big deal, you’ll just go to the court house and get a copy. Shockingly, when you arrive, you’re told that there is no divorce decree on file. Surprise! Your divorce was never finalized, and according to the court, your case is still active. Imagine going home to the person you just married, and having to tell him/her that on paper, they’re not the only wife or husband you are legally married to. Talk about cutting the honeymoon period short!
That’s the exact situation a potential client was in when he went to buy a house and along the way discovered his dissolution of marriage was never finalized. He was the respondent, and currently pays child support every month as ordered by the judge. His question was whether or not his lawyer had the responsibility to “see the case all the way through”, especially considering the fact that he was given the impression that everything was taken care of. And, if so, what recourse could he take considering the economic and emotional stress this newfound discovery places upon his and his new wife’s head.
Now, despite the considerable carelessness of this man in his divorce and remarriage, a lawyer has a fiduciary duty to his/her client. That being said, he should contact his lawyer and demand the situation be remedied. A threat to report the incident to the State Bar should grab their attention. Of course, the nature of the last communication between this man and his lawyer could be of importance. It’s possible there is a letter in file asking for him to contact his attorney and he failed to do so, or something along those lines. No matter the circumstance, the first step is to meet with his lawyer and find out how this colossal mistake occurred. Going from there with the legalities, from now on he should remember to dot his i’s, cross his t’s, and double knot his shoelaces.
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