Through her work as a therapist, Natalie Guadalupe often went to court to testify for clients — who had drug or family issues — to speak about their progress. It didn’t take her long to realize how lawyers help people too. In 2007, she applied to law school and quickly fell into family law, which she says brought her back to her roots of wanting to assist people.
Now, as both a licensed therapist and lawyer, Guadalupe has a Texas-based firm that specializes in divorce, custody, and visitation, and an approach that’s all about compassion. “There’s always an emotional component to a family law case,” says Guadalupe, who goes by @dfwdivorceattorney on TikTok. “It’s not just a case with facts. It’s people’s lives, and it’s, for most people, the most difficult thing that they’ve had to go through. I’m very sensitive to that.”
Below, the Xennial attorney takes us through a day of Zoom court, client consultations, and filming TikToks for her 11,800 followers.
Thursday, Jan 21, 2022
6 a.m.: I’m not a morning person, but Monday to Thursday, I wake up at 6 a.m. and leave for my office at 6:45. My husband takes care of the household and our 3- and 17-year-olds’ needs while also working a full-time job. On Friday mornings, I take my little one to ballet and lunch and I work the second half of Friday.
7:10 a.m.: When I arrive at the office, I make tea and eat little Morningstar sausage patties and fruit. I’m in my 40s, so I have to keep my digestive tract in order. I try to have the first thing I eat be somewhat healthy to get my gut started the right way. Then I start to review my case for court today. At this point, whether I’m going to court in person or over Zoom depends on the judge and the county your court is in. Today’s judge has multiple counties and he does them all on Zoom.
As an attorney, one pro of Zoom court is that I don’t have to print out 500 pages of exhibits. Another bonus is that you’re more comfortable and you don’t have to physically travel to court. You’re in your own office or own home, and you don’t have to wear uncomfortable shoes to court. For a lot of people, it’s more efficient and more convenient. A con, though, is that you’re missing the in-person interaction between you and your client. Also, when you’re cross-examining or direct examining anyone on the stand over a screen, you’re not able to pick up on some of the things you can see more in person. In person, I make direct eye contact with people and get a sense of their truthfulness, discomfort, anger, and other emotions that help my approach to direct and cross-examination. Following their eye gaze and seeing how they look at my client also helps me.
8 a.m.: I call my client, who is going through a divorce, ahead of court. It’s a chance to review what we’re going to do, our approach, and if there’s anything they specifically want me to say or not say. We’ve discussed these things before, but it’s a condensed conversation from what we’ve prepared. Sometimes clients have last-minute questions, like “Can I get on my phone?” or “Is this background OK?”
8:45 a.m.: I log into Zoom court and wait for it to start at 9 a.m. It doesn’t start right then, so I review my notes and make sure I have all of my exhibits ready and they’re easy to get to so they’ll appear the way I want when I share my screen. I print out a bullet-pointed summary of the ruling that my client is requesting from the judge to keep me organized during the presentation of the case. That’s my ritual, whether I’m in person or online.
9:10 a.m: I’m in Zoom court for a quick 50-minute hearing, which is short compared to the four-hour hearings I’ve had before where each side has two hours to present their case. The length of time varies — I’ve had hearings that started at 1 and went until 5:30. The court has a very hard job. They have to decide which cases to hear first and which ones they think are going to be quick. They call the faster cases first.
10 a.m.: Zoom court is over, and I take a break before going back to my desk. I use the restroom, get some more water and tea, and I text my husband to check on our daughters. I zone out for a little bit before I have to be focused again.
10:30 a.m.: Right now, I have about 20 clients. I like being a family law attorney because I’m connected to the clients. It’s not like when I’ve done corporate work where your client or your customer is several steps away from you. I get to directly see an impact on my clients, work with them face-to-face, and really feel like I’m helping people. I have one or two cases that are not family law cases, but it’s about half divorce and half custody, paternity, and visitation.
I try to not open emails until I’m ready to respond. Sometimes they involve research, and sometimes it’s just an update. I also get emails like “Hey, my ex is doing this. Can I do this?” It’s almost anything you’d think someone could ask during a divorce process.
Noon: Now, I have my Continuing Legal Education (CLE) online. I have way more hours than I need, but I love learning. This CLE was about a new system that I’m using to help me with law practice stuff, but I got credit for a legal education hour. I was like, “OK, I’ll learn about this stuff and also get my credit for my license.”
1 p.m: I’m drafting a petition for divorce and sending it to the client for approval, which takes lots of focused attention. Even though people can download these forms, websites often don’t have all the things you need to have in your petition or in your final divorce decree. I can only draft legal documents after I’ve met with the client.
I spend a lot of time combing through all of the details and making sure that they’re comfortable with it if it’s an agreed divorce. If it’s a divorce where the judge has rendered their decision and we, the attorneys, have to type it up or prepare it, I make sure I have covered everything the court said. If the court didn’t quite touch on it, but it’s something that belongs in there, then I put it in there. After that, I send it to the opposing counsel or the party who’s representing themselves to make sure they’re OK with it. Then we get our final divorce decree. When the judge renders it and we have to draft it, that takes more than five hours. But it’s part of the process — it’s part of being an attorney.
2 p.m.: Next, I’m drafting a final Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR) modification order [a case that asks a judge to make a custody, visitation, child support, medical support, and dental support order for a child] and sending it to my client.
For these cases, I draft the order, my client approves it, and then we have a bit of back and forth with the opposing party for edits before both parties sign it. Then, because my client was the petitioner, I e-file it with the clerk’s office so the judge can review it and sign it. It’s a long process. These cases can take six months to a year.
2:30 p.m.: Now, I have an in-person consultation with a potential client. I’ve gotten their basic information ahead of time, so this is them telling me their story.
It’s a little therapeutic. Afterward, people say, “Oh, this is not what I expected,” but I can’t help it. Even though I don’t practice now, I am a therapist. I love feeling like I get to help people, that people open up to me. I’m privileged and honored that people will share a very sensitive topic with me.
We’ll also get into the reason for the case, and I give them legal advice. I let them know what to expect out of the legal process, from the filing to the final decree, and what can happen in between if we have mediation, exchange discovery, and/or if we go to court for temporary orders.
On my end, I’m looking out for how well I can communicate with this person. Are they out to just punish the other person? If they have kids, do they have an idea of what’s in the best interest of their children, or are they mostly angry and can’t really see the impact on the child? Because the child’s the center of the case. The judge is going to look at what’s in the child’s best interest, not what’s in the parents’ best interest.
2:45 p.m.: Next, I take a 15-minute break and go back to answering emails. I get my client’s approval to go ahead and e-file the petition I drafted. I ask that my clients approve everything before I file it. I have another call with a client, and I receive my client’s approval for the SAPCR order that I drafted. Then I send that over to the opposing party.
4 p.m.: Now, I’m making TikToks. Sometimes making videos is my release after being so technical, factual, and precise.
I’m generally not a social media person, but I joined TikTok during the pandemic out of both boredom and thinking, “Well, I have this background and training — is it going to waste?” I thought I could help people and provide some information about the emotional part of divorce since I’m also a therapist. So I decided to try to put some educational videos out there. I made my first 10 or so videos private because they were terrible. I was super awkward and was just learning how to use the app.
From what I’ve seen on TikTok, it seems like a lot of people are hurting and a lot of people are in really bad, toxic relationships. I’m seeing that millennials aren’t afraid to be transparent about what they’re going through. Today, if it’s a bad situation, a lot of us feel the freedom to say, “I’m not going to do this anymore because it’s not healthy for me.”
Millennials don’t have as much shame about it as my older clients do. I hear some of my older clients looking back and saying, “Wow, I’ve lived in this terrible relationship for 50 years. I’m so happy I’m out of it, but I spent 50 years in this.” Sometimes people regret it. But millennials are just like, “I’m out. I’m not going to live like this anymore and I’m not going to attach to any of this shame or guilt because this is not healthy.” There’s a little less judgment about getting divorced. We don’t have that much time on this Earth. Why live miserably?
5:15 p.m.: I go to the gym and edit TikToks while I’m on the bike. I was going to download some of those editing apps, but that’s way over my head. So I just record them in the app.
Recently, I’ve been trying to do transitions. I’ll start at home when I’m about to go to bed and I’m using my phone. Then the next day, I’ll finish the transition at work. At the gym, I’ll add my words. I try to always multitask as much as possible.
6:30 p.m: I go home and shower. It’s good that I’m physically in an office outside of my house because I can really compartmentalize work. Now, it’s family time!
7 p.m.: It’s playtime, where we dance, sing songs, and have snacks. We have bath time, and I get the little one ready for bed. It’s a special time for me, but I really don’t spend as much time with her as I wish I could.
My husband does an excellent job. He’s the only reason that I’m able to get up at 6 and be at the office at 7 — all I have to do is the evening part. I’m very blessed.
9:15 p.m.: When everyone’s gone to bed, my husband and I sit at the table and joke around before we go to sleep at 11:15. I’ve been trying to read my Bible for inspiration before bed. I try to make that the last thing I read instead of scrolling through TikTok, which I used to do. This is my evening routine — my family time. I love our fun evenings together.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.