February 3

Can You (Should You) Change Attorneys During Your Divorce?

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dealing with divorce, divorce blog, divorce court, divorce lawyer, divorce strategy


Attorney sitting at a table with a sign "Matrimonial Lawyer." Should you change attorneys during your divorce?

You walk out of the court room with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Your case just got continued for what seems like the hundredth time. It’s been dragging on for well over a year. Your divorce lawyer has doesn’t seem to care.  He told you not to worry. Now you’re wondering whether a different attorney might move things along more quickly. Does it make sense to change attorneys during your divorce?

Figuring Out the Problem with Your Divorce Attorney

Before you do anything rash, it helps to identify the problem with your divorce attorney. Why are you frustrated? What exactly is the problem?

Is your case going too slowly? Are you not getting the results you expected? Are you not getting any results at all?

Maybe the problem is that you don’t know whether you are getting results or not because your divorce lawyer never talks to you. Or, maybe you think your lawyer is charging too much.

Whatever your issue is, if you want to address it effectively, you have to start by identifying it correctly.

Time for a Reality CheckYellow Caution Sign Saying, "Reality Check Ahead."

After you know what the problem is, your next step is to figure out the source of the problem. Is your divorce attorney the problem? Or, is it you? (Ouch! Hang with me here. You may not want to hear this, but if you’re willing to be just a little bit self-reflective, it could save you thousands of dollars.)

The divorce system, as a whole, doesn’t work the way most people think it does. You can’t just waltz into a court room and tell the judge your story the way you would tell it to a friend in the bar.

Unlike the divorce court on T.V., people rarely get to speak to the judge, and only completely uncontested cases are resolved in 30 minutes or less. Cases often take months or years to wind their way through the system. In the meantime, lawyers go to court again and again in the same case, attending countless status conferences, hearings, and pre-trial conferences.

It’s frustrating!So, when you’re trying to figure out if the problem in your divorce is your divorce lawyer, you have to start by assessing your own expectations. Is it realistic for you to have believed that your case would be done by now? Are your settlement demands out of line? Do you expect your lawyer to win every hearing?

If your expectations are unrealistic, then changing divorce attorneys is not going to solve your problem. It’s only going to cost you more money, while leaving you just as frustrated as you are now.

How Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

If you don’t know whether or not your expectations are realistic or not, go to another divorce lawyer and get a second opinion. You may have to pay for a consultation, but even if you do, it will be money well spent.

(A word of warning, though: Beware of the divorce attorney who promises you the sun, the moon, and the stars!

If you are a celebrity, or you have a lot of money, any divorce lawyer you go to for a second opinion may be salivating at the chance to take over your case. If the lawyer you go to for a second opinion seems a little too critical of your current attorney, or seems to be promising you too much, take a step back.

I know that talking to yet a third attorney is the last thing you probably want to do, but under these circumstances, it may be worth it!)

Perplexed woman holding her face with a question mark above her head.What if Your Divorce Expectations are NOT the Problem?

Once you’ve ruled out your own expectations as being the source of your problem, the next step is to take a good, hard look at your attorney.

If your attorney is doing any of these things, then changing attorneys during your divorce might make sense:

  • Not returning your phone calls or voice mails within a couple of days, or ever!
  • Consistently missing court appearances.
  • Not letting you know what is happening in your case.
  • Telling you s/he will do something and then not doing it.
  • Yelling at you, calling you names, insulting you, or making you cry.
  • Refusing to send you a bill so you can see how your money is being spent (or how much you owe!).
  • Doing something else that causes you to lose confidence in your attorney.

You might also want to change attorneys during your divorce if you and your attorney no longer see eye-to-eye on your divorce strategy, or if you just don’t trust your attorney any more.

Remember though, no matter why you change attorneys during your divorce, doing so comes at a price.

What Happens if You Change Attorneys During Your Divorce?Close up of an old briefcase being carried by a lawyer.

Just because you’ve determined that it’s time for you and your divorce attorney to part ways, that doesn’t mean that doing so will be easy – or cheap!
If your case is in court, you may need permission from the judge to fire your attorney. While most judges will readily grant your request, if you’ve got a trial date coming up soon or, worse yet, if you’re in the middle of a trial, the judge may be reluctant to allow you to let your divorce lawyer go.

Before allowing you to dump your divorce lawyer, the judge may require you to agree that your trial will proceed as scheduled, even if you don’t have a new lawyer by the trial date. While you may think that’s not a problem, a lot of divorce attorneys will be unwilling to take over a case that is going to trial in a week or two. So, unless you’re prepared to try your case yourself (which is NEVER a good idea!) changing your divorce attorney at that point may be rough.

Even if nothing is happening in your divorce case at the moment, changing divorce lawyers mid-stream will cost you money. How much it costs will depend on how complicated your case is and how close you are to trial or a major hearing.

The Cost of Changing Attorneys During Divorce

Your new lawyer will have to review everything that has gone on in your case up to that point. S/he will have to go through all of your financial documents, and your spouse’s financial documents. Of course, you will have to pay your new lawyer to do all of that.

If your divorce case has only been pending for a few months then switching lawyers may not cost you all that much. The same thing is true if your divorce is relatively simple. But if you and your spouse have been locked in battle for years, or your case is complex, then paying a new divorce attorney to spend days going through your file can be expensive.

Remember, too, that your new attorney is probably going to want a retainer before taking your case. Depending upon your case, that retainer could range from a few thousand dollars, to tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have that kind of money to give a new attorney, you may have trouble hiring one.

What if Your Attorney is Leaving the Law Firm?

If your divorce case is being handled by an attorney who is leaving the law firm that represents you, you have a different kind of problem. Your lawyer may have been doing a great job, but now you’ve got a dilemma. Do you follow the lawyer who has been handling your case? Or, do you stay with your law firm (which effectively means you will be getting a new lawyer)?

Like all good divorce lawyers, I will tell you that the answer is: it depends.

Obviously, if you didn’t like your lawyer to start with, your decision is easy. But, if your lawyer was doing a good job, and you were satisfied with him/her, then you may feel like following that lawyer.

Before you make any decision, you’ve got to get the facts – including the facts related to money.

If you stay with your original law firm, are you going to be billed for the time it takes a new attorney to review and get up to speed in your case? (HINT: If you don’t know the answer to that question, ask now!)

If you have an unused retainer with your original firm, what happens to that? Will the old firm turn it over to the lawyer who is leaving? If so, then going with the new lawyer becomes much easier. Or, will you have to scrape together another retainer if you follow your lawyer?

All of these questions can affect your decision.

You’ve also got to think about the state of your divorce. If your case is close to trial, then staying with your original law firm might cause your trial to get postponed. If you don’t have a trial date, or it’s far away, then getting a new lawyer might not matter as much.

Magnifying Glass over the word action with an arrow to change: Should you act to change attorneys during divorce?Figuring it All Out

The bottom line is that changing divorce lawyers before your case is over is a big decision, and not one to take lightly. At the same time, if you have a good reason to change attorneys during your divorce, then NOT making a change can be a big mistake, too.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

If you’ve gotten all the facts, and gotten a second opinion, and you’re sure that the problem is your attorney and not your expectations, but you still can’t decide what to do, then maybe it’s time to do a gut check. Obviously, on some level, you’re questioning your attorney.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t even be thinking about making a change.

So, if all else fails, trust your gut.

____________

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  • Hi Karen. Your compass must be pointing at me???????????? This exactly what is happening to me,. I fired my lawyer yesterday for a number of obnoxious reasons, and had to call a police escort to try to retrieve my documents. He has threatened me, and everything got so ugly!!! I stood up for myself against his bully tactics!!! Been threatened with collections, lawsuit, slander (because in the end I called him a scheister), was accused of being crazy because he couldn’t avoid my answers to his arguments, he cut me off every time and not let me finish what I am saying and asked him if he will stop talking, let me finish what I am saying or he will keep interrupting me, and was told that no wonder my husband wanted to divorce me, and even that I told him he does not know anything about us. Very verbally abusive and unprofessional to the end. I also told him that I don’t need to pay somebody to terrorize me and traumatize me when I am already going through a very stressful time in my life!!! More stories, but nothing good. Still waiting to get my documents, my due date to answer the summons has passed because he did not do as he promised, argued with me about it!!! Now, my only choice is to go along with my husband’s terms, and will just file to Ames the terms as time comes. This is negligence!!! I will be reporting him to State Bar, the Law2 , who referred him, and write a yelp review. What a mess, and what a horrific experience!!!

  • Hi Karen,

    Would love to see an article on what the divorce decree MUST contain. I am so frustrated that my attorney did not put a deadline as to when my husband has to pick up personal property. Also, I wanted a clause that said he needed to remove ALL his debris as my ex’s response to this is “it’s my house, my mess”.. Bottom line is the more difficult the spouse is, the more detailed the decree should be. (I guess that I’ll be better prepared on my next divorce! NEVER)

    • Unfortunately, what needs to be in a divorce decree depends so much on the facts and circumstances of each case, that it would be tough to put together a list of what every decree MUST contain.

      I can understand your frustration about not having a deadline in your divorce decree about when your husband has to pick up his personal property. I wish I could tell you that you were the only person who has had this problem. (You’re not!)

      Perhaps you should go back to your attorney and find out how long you have to wait, and what steps you have to take, in order to get your husband’s stuff out of your house. You do NOT have to keep it for him forever.

      As for your husband’s debris, forget about ever getting your husband to clean it up. You will spend more energy trying to get him to clean it up, and then watching as he does it wrong or half-way. You will then spend even MORE time trying to fix the even bigger mess he made. (Have you ever tried to get a teenager to do something that they really don’t want to do? That’s easier than getting an ex to do something he doesn’t want to do!)

      You’re absolutely right that the more difficult your spouse is, the more detailed your divorce decree needs to be. That being said, if your ex is truly that difficult, he would likely find a way to make problems even if you had the most detailed divorce decree on the planet.

      On the bright side of things, at least you’re divorced!

      Karen

  • Hi Karen:

    Great article!!! I get this question often from clients about wanting to change attorneys. I will keep your article and forward a copy the next time the question comes up!

  • I would like to change my Attorney, just because I don’t have moneys. How can I get Pro bono Lawyer? If I can’t afford a lawyer and could not find an Pro bono Lawyer, what will happening to me? Doe Pro bono Lawyer is good or bad. My case involved with child custody. I have daughter 2 and half year old. I have a house under both name and a Lexus under both name.

    • If you are looking for a pro bono lawyer, you can check the Legal Aid office in your area. You can also call the local bar associations. They often have lists of pro bono lawyers who can help you.

      I have to warn you though: the demand for pro bono lawyers is high, and the supply is low. If you have a house and a Lexus, you may have a hard time qualifying for a pro bono lawyer. If you can’t find a pro bono lawyer and you can’t pay a lawyer, you will have to represent yourself. If your case involves child custody issues, representing yourself will NOT be a good idea. But, you may have no choice.

      You may want to look into unbundled legal services. That is a way to get limited representation for a limited fee. You can check out my article on unbundled legal services by CLICKING HERE.

      I wish I had better news for you. But, there just are not a ton of options for people to get free legal services.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    My daughter is trying to divorce her husband who physically and emotionally abused her 3-year-old son since he was about 18 months old. The husband ended up laying his hands on my daughter as well. Social services recommended applying for police protection. When she first met with her lawyer he said that he’d definitely recommend police protection. He seemed like a respected lawyer with lots of expertise. He also seemed busy and that police protection hearing was rescheduled twice because of him. When the hearing finally happened, the judge said that she is sorry about what happened to my daughter but she cannot grant police protection because it was too long since the last incident (my daughter fled her house and came to my house with the kids after the last incident and right before the meeting with the lawyer). Then my daughter officially filed for divorce and her husband got a lawyer. Our lawyer said that he knows this lady and he will try to negotiate the terms. His lawyer replied that her client would like to settle everything out of court but literally next day they called for the emergency meeting claiming that the kids were taken to undisclosed location that was a bold lie (all of it with timing and everything), and besides my house is only a 5-minute ride away from my daughter’s house. We have tons of evidence that everything about this “emergency” was a lie but no one cared about the evidence. So the husband got 3.5 hours Wednesdays and 10 hours Sundays supervised visitations. They also appointed a separate child lawyer who my daughter met with and who seemed to listen and to trust her and do not trust the husbands lies. Today they had a hearing that was scheduled regarding police protection because it was denied due to timing at the beginning. Children’s lawyer recommended to go for supervision instead of police protection reasoning that with this judge if you lose protection it will be bad. His lawyer is extremely aggressive and came demanding full weekends every week and 2 week days and saying that my daughter is crazy and needs to be evaluated. As the result he got no supervision and full Saturdays and 2 week evenings every week. My daughter has tons of evidence on him hitting my kid, choking her, lying non stop etc. but no one seems to care. She feels they totally failed her and her kids, probably because they set up the wrong tone at the beginning and didn’t negotiate hard enough on her behalf with his super aggressive lawyer. She feels she is sending her kids to their abuser and now that he is emboldened by his victories and with the approval of the system he will be hitting them for sports. And btw he now wants a full custody and full possession of the house, her not being allowed to go inside the house, and her paying for the house (she is a physician so she is a cash cow).

    Should she change the lawyer? Is there anything that could be done to save the kids?

    Please help!!!

    • I wish I had the perfect solution I could share with you, but, unfortunately, I don’t. I hate to say it, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this kind of scenario play out like this in court.

      Whatever has happened in your daughter’s case is now history. It can’t be undone. All your daughter can do is move forward from where she is at now.

      At this point your daughter certainly seems to be getting the short end of the stick. Will a different lawyer be able to help? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly worth getting a second (or maybe even a third!) opinion.

      I can’t give you legal advice online, but I’m willing to bet that there are plenty of good divorce attorneys in your area who would be willing to talk with your daughter and strategize options with her. Your daughter would be well-advised to meet with a new attorney or two and get their legal advice about her situation.

      I wish I had better news. But, getting another legal opinion or two could help you understand what has happened so far and get a better strategy for the future. Once your daughter has those opinions, she will be better able to evaluate her current lawyer and decide whether changing lawyers now makes sense.

      Good luck.

      Karen

  • Hi my name is nicole I have been in court with my husband for divorce since December 2017. We have been there three times already and no motion for child support has been made. I am on disibilty and things are getting harder every day. All that has been ordered is to continue to pay my mortage and my car lease which is in his name. Every time I ask my attorney he say next time I will make a motion. Next time is not for three months and I’m struggling. I’m torn between wanting to change attorneys or staying with this one. HELP!! I feel like child support should have been the first order of business

    • Oh my! I don’t know why your attorney hasn’t filed for child support. But I would ask him that question. I would also ask him if he can file for child support now. Not in 3 months. Now. See what he says. If he says yes, then ask him to do it now. If he still hasn’t filed a motion in another week, after he said he would, then you would be wise to go talk to another attorney and get a second opinion.

      If your attorney tells you there is some reason why he can’t file a motion for child support now, I would also go get a second opinion from another attorney.

      Understand that you can get a second opinion without changing lawyers. Maybe after you get that second opinion, you do change lawyers. Or maybe you don’t. But step one is to get a second opinion.

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen, is my attorney supposed to notify me when myy wife gets served with the papers?
    Is has been a month since papers were filed, but haven’t heard anything from attorney. Please advice.

    • Theoretically, yes, your attorney should let you know when your wife is served. But, since your wife has several weeks to file an appearance after she is served, your lawyer might not feel it’s important to call you until your wife has found a lawyer who appeared for her.

      You also should know that ,depending on where you live, it can take up to 30 days to get someone served. If your wife is avoiding service, or there is some other problem, it can take even longer. I would either give your attorney a quick call, or shoot him/her an email and just ask whether your wife has been served. That’s the easiest way to get your answer.

      Hope that helps.

  • Hi Karen,
    I just got a huge bill of over $11,000. from my attorney, its been almost two years(nov.2016) since she has dragged my case and now i have to go through a trail.
    when I first met with her the consultation was free because i was a referral. she told me that my case was a plain cut dry divorce. one house, two cars an a minor 13yrs, I was not working at the time, she told me if would cost $3000. flat no more and if she did not use it, she will return the difference and if my husband pays my attorneys fee she will refund it. now she is telling me she did not say it. i started working last year so she saw how much i made. she was not ready for mediation nov. 2017 she never obtained my husbands bank acct. info. the mediation ended and I was not apart of the decision to end. I was waiting for them to draft the agreement while he prints out his accounts. but because she did not want to stay late. his attorney promised to have it the next day. I chase her for several months, i left without an agreement of him signing the house over, alimony and child support, she has cause me so much grief and tears. what can do?

    • I’m so sorry to hear about all of this. I know you probably don’t want anything to do with attorneys at this point, but, unfortunately, the best thing you can do is to talk to another attorney in your area and get a second opinion.

      I would also re-read the agreement you signed with her. If that agreement says she would only charge you a flat fee of $3000, then you may not owe her more. On the other hand, if that agreement says the $3000 was just a retainer, and that you were being billed by the hour no matter how much work was done, then you may be stuck. (Sorry.)

      You also may want to try to settle your case directly with your husband if that’s possible. (I don’t know if it is or not.) But that is one way of avoiding trial.

      I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. I’m only licensed to practice law in Illinois and I can’t give legal advice online. Honestly, you need to get a second opinion from a lawyer in your area.

      Karen

  • I have 13 years of marriage and 2 kids and i started working from last 1 year after 5 years gap due to kids. My attorney said I am entitled to Alimony. and did not let me settle. Before trial , she is suggesting , I might not get a alimony. I am planning to hire new attorney. but it is very expensive before trial. what i should do?

    • You’re right, changing lawyers can be really expensive. If you try to make a change too close to trial, it gets even more expensive and more difficult.

      Unfortunately, what you’re experiencing is all too common. In the beginning of a case, a lawyer will get you all fired up by telling you everything you’re entitled to get. Then, if your case doesn’t settle, their recommendations get a little less rosy the closer you get to trial. That’s because, when it comes to trials, nothing is guaranteed.

      So, will you or won’t you get alimony? I honestly don’t know. But, what you need is a realistic evaluation from an attorney in your area.

      What you might want to try first is getting a second opinion from another lawyer. Ask them honestly if you’re likely to get alimony or not. Do that before you let your current attorney go. It may give you a better perspective on whether you are or are not really likely to get alimony if you go all the way to trial.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,
    I am still in the middle of a custody case for my son but my lawyer is asking me to sign a release because she is becoming the next judge and will be sworn in Nov 2018 but our next court date isn’t until December. I can’t come up with the funds to get another lawyer at this point. Is that the only option I have?
    Also, what if I don’t agree to sign the release? What if my lawyer is now going to be MY custody case Judge? Is that possible or is that considered a conflict of interest? We are in a very small town and I think she might be becoming the only judge for our county. So discouraged!
    Thank you!

    • Oh my! This is a bit of an unusual problem.

      First of all, since I haven’t seen the release, and I can only talk about Illinois law, I can’t say what your release will or won’t do. If you want to know what will happen if you don’t sign the release, ask your lawyer! (Sometimes things are that simple!) It may be that if you don’t sign the release, your lawyer will withdraw from representing you. But, again, the only way to get a definite answer to your question is to ask your lawyer.

      Can someone who has represented you in your case then be your judge in that same case? No.

      As for your options, the way I see it you can stay with the lawyer you have, hire a new lawyer, or try to go it alone. GIven that you’re in the middle of a custody case, “going it alone” is probably your worst choice. But, it’s a choice.

      I know this probably wasn’t what you wanted to hear. Sorry!

      Karen

  • Karen,
    I have a question. How can I help my son. He has an attorney that a friend had recommended. I went with him to help him get the divorce started.
    The lawyer assured me and my son that this would not be an expensive divorce because there was no property or assists just the welfare of the child.
    To this date my son has spend almost $10,000.00, his attorney does not talk to him or schedule meetings to go over things and just keeps charging more and more money of which we have no idea if it is legit or not. What can we do. The so called final hearing is scheduled for November 26th, but his ex wife has not filed her sworn financial affidavit and his lawyer is doing nothing about it. It has been since august when my son filed for divorce and nothing is being done. I am reviewing his documents on Parent Planning and his SFS to make sure they are correct. Can you please help us?

    • The biggest problem with lawyers is that they often don’t communicate well with their clients. That doesn’t mean they’re bad lawyers. They’re just poor communicators.

      That having been said, there also could be a bigger problem going on here. I don’t know.

      I know the clock is ticking, but I would suggest that you and your son contact an attorney in your area and get a second opinion about what’s going on and whether your son’s lawyer is doing the best for your son. You don’t need to fire your son’s current lawyer first. In fact, you SHOULDN’T do that. First go get a second opinion (and maybe a third). Then you can re-evaluate where you’re at and make a decision based on better information.

      Hope that helps.

      Karen

  • My attorney is not specifically a divorce attorney. He has represented clients in divorces but he doesn’t specialize in that area. There are things coming up in my case now that i feel he sould have known, but doesn’t. He is also not a great communicator, and when i ask why, he says he is saving me money by not emailing or calling me. I am not the primary breadwinner and i din’t have a pendente lite in place. The money my spouse is giving me is minimal. When i ask about getting more money per month, the answer is always “we can file for it but it takrs time and money”, i dont have money, and more time means my husband stays in the house longer. Is this a good time to switch lawyers?

    • Without knowing a WHOLE lot more about your case (which is NOT stuff to post on the internet!) I can’t say whether it’s a good time for you to switch lawyers. What I can tell you is that it’s a great time to go get a second opinion from a divorce lawyer in your area.

      You don’t have to specialize in divorce to be a good divorce lawyer. But you do have to practice divorce law regularly. If your attorney only does one or two divorces a year s/he is probably not going to be as well-versed in divorce law as someone who does fifty divorces a year. Also, the smaller the town you live in, the more likely it will be that most of the lawyers in your area practice in many areas of the law. So how much of a specialist you need depends to some extent on where you live.

      All that having been said, if you have serious concerns (and it sounds like you do) getting a second opinion can be money well spent. Some lawyers may even offer you a free initial consultation. So this is definitely something to check out.

      Karen

      PS I hate to tell you this, but MOST lawyers are not good communicators with their clients! I can’t begin to tell you how many people complain that their lawyer never gets back to them, or takes forever to return a call or email! Part of this lack of communication may well be that your attorney is trying to save you money. Every time a lawyer does ANYTHING on your case, it costs you money. But another part may also be just the way lawyers are. (I’m not saying that’s right or good, mind you. I’m just saying that that’s a very common complaint.)

  • We are going through a divorce now. Joined house. 2 minor kids. Started 6 months ago. We just had our first mediation session. Husband has been in denial until we walked into mediation. We didn’t accomplish ANYTHING during mediation because the mediator took almost the whole time to explain things to him. Then said to come back for another session and we can hopefully sort things out after husband has a better understanding of the process or have had the chance to hire a lawyer this time. I feel it’s just dragging and my lawyer is not moving it very fast. Also, the mediator grilled me during the session and my lawyer just sat there (while I’m paying him). We are supposed to have mediation round 2 scheduled soon if husband does not hire a lawyer, then trial afterwards if we don’t come to a conclusion. Our main disagreement is custody. Husband has OCD issues.

    1- is it bad to change lawyers at this point?
    2- is there anything I can do to speed it up?
    3- to save cost, can I ask my lawyer not to attend mediation??
    4- lastly, is it possible to be awarded full legal/physical custody based on his OCD habits?

    • Wow! You’ve packed a lot in here!

      I will do my best to answer your questions in order.

      1. You can change lawyers at any time, but before you do you need to figure out if your lawyer is the problem. What will another lawyer do differently? How do you know? (Have you gotten a second opinion from another lawyer about your case? If not, that’s something you might want to do BEFORE you change lawyers.)

      Changing lawyers always costs you more money and takes more time. IF your lawyer is doing a bad job, then changing lawyers makes sense. But if not, then changing lawyers won’t necessarily change anything else in your divorce.

      2. Probably not. If you can get your husband to settle, then you can speed things up. But it sounds like your husband is dragging things out since he has been in denial. So getting him to settle right now is probably not possible. Unfortunately, divorce only goes as fast as the slowest person.

      3. Yes. But if your husband gets a lawyer who attends mediation, and you go alone, that’s dangerous.

      4. This is a legal question. You have to ask your attorney this one.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Hello, I have a question mostly out of curiosity. We’ve been going through the courts now since October of 2017 fighting for the custody of my kids. In the beginning, we saw a court-appointment mediator whose recommendations are in my favor. They say the children should only be with dad every other weekend, but it won’t be sole custody. I’ve had to file motions to get my kids into counseling, because after dad agreed to it, he pulled them out once they started opening up about his physical abuse. We barely got my kids back in a couple of months ago. I’ve had to file a motion for a drug test – which he only showed up positive for marijuana (there were suspisions of cocaine). He has been arrested for battery on a household and false imprisonment against his ex-fiance who was pregnant at the time. The police report reports he kicked her in the stomach among other things, but placed my kids in the same room as the fight and during the fight. This was actually my initial reason for starting the custody process. He has other arrests for driving on a suspended license, which he did not take care of one of them in a city a couple of hours away, and after our recent court hearing, the judge actually read him his rights and had him arrested on a warrant. Our next hearing (and most likely last) is April 3rd, which is our Objection to the Recommendations hearing, which he objected.
    In the last couple of days, we received a request to withdraw from the case from his attorney, reason being “there has been a breakdown in their relationship, and council can no longer represent Respondent (dad)”. What can this mean?
    Also, the withdraw was approved by the judge on the 22nd, and in the order it states that Respondent (dad) is aware of the upcoming hearing and is ready to proceed without delay and that unless he hires a new attorney within 20 days, he will be required to proceed as pro se. Dad called into my attorney’s office yesterday and set up a phone appointment, saying he wants to try and “wrap things up”.
    My question is what are the chances of an attorney taking on a case at this point? Although, it’s not guaranteed the recommendations are going to be approved by the judge, with everything else taken into consideration – he is definitely losing the custody battle. What are some reasons an attorney would and would not want to take this case on and what are the actual chances?
    It sounds to me like he may be trying to settle before the hearing, but he’s always got something up his sleeve.

    Thank you for your time.

    • What are the chances an attorney would take his case at this late date? Unfortunately, that’s a question I can’t answer. I have no idea where you live, how many attorneys are around, or how much he’s willing to pay an attorney to try to get him through this hearing.

      If he’s willing to pay an attorney a LOT of money, and he is willing to sign an agreement with the attorney that clearly states that he knows that because he’s hiring a lawyer so late in the game that there’s only so much the lawyer may be able to do, then maybe he can find an attorney to take his case.

      But, honestly, I just don’t know. (Sorry!)

      Karen

  • Corruption and just really bad council is abundant. Their are good and bad in everything. I am watching a friend go through a divorce which took forever to get itemized billing. He is getting billed for work product which doesn’t exist. Between discovery and preparing for mediation has cost way to much. Now the problem is that the only discovery that my friends lawyer has received is his. How many people have to produce discovery to their attorney before opposing council request it. How did he prepare for mediation without discovery. Every attorney and legal assistant in this case are colluding. Will not give him his case file. Refuses to with zero reason. They can’t because the billing is so horrific that it would be impossible to recreate. Example: Filed his response to the divorce. In the order it was very specific but his lawyer knowing that he wasn’t paying attention just lied and thought he could do anything. He was taking care of his mother in her final day’s. The only reason I am typing this is because people need an adviser to help them through these times. But attorney’s do not want that because it would make them have to play right. Attorney / Client privilege is the client’s. We will all answer one day but today the worm will turn. May advise is to anyone getting legal advise. GET IT IN WRITING with time lines and get a commitment in writing of what they are going to do. Discovery/Interrogatories which is answers under oath and depositions if needed. How much and how long if will not give you an answer move on. Respectfully Brad Baker

  • I’m going through a divorce since May 2018. My wife is and has been in denial even though she filed for divorce, then begged me the next day to stay with her, only to promise later to want to kill me. On Nov. 26, she took our two kids out of the house when told to leave by police after she caused an altercation to occur. On Dec. 4, I contacted my lawyer and told him it felt like kidnapping as she would not allow me to see my kids despite my asking. Lawyer clearly failed to advise me on the potential to simply file a kidnapping motion against her instead of acting as if she had de facto custody of the kids. The next day, Dec. 5, almost as if she was tipped off by my lawyer the night before, wife filed an emergency OP using the very event that got her kicked out of the house by police and represented that I was harrassing her and she feared for her life. During the OP hearing, I felt that my lawyer once against didn’t properly represent me. My OP defense was weak although it carried a lot of weight or ramifications. He even failed to point out to the judge that it was the police that kicked out the wife after assessment of the situation (i.e. she was the harrassor). Judge extended OP for 30 days and ordered parenting classes for both. Since then, wife has regained access to the property, kept me from seeing the kids. I feel betrayed by my lawyer’s incompetence or laissez-faire attitude. I feel that I need a more aggressive lawyer as wife is not shy about lying her way through the process. Should I fire my lawyer?

    • Should you fire your divorce lawyer? Unfortunately, that’s a question I can’t answer. I don’t know the laws in your state or the rules of the court that you’re in.

      What I can tell you is that if you feel like your lawyer is not representing you properly, or that you need a more aggressive lawyer, you should definitely seek out a second opinion from a divorce lawyer in your area. S/he would be able to give you the best advice.

      Karen

  • Hello. I have been separated from my estranged wife since May 2013. As of this date (February 22,2019) I am still not divorced. The problem is my employer’s policy that they will not take a spouse off of our employer funded health insurance policy until they have a divorce decree in hand and my estranged wife and her attornwy’s knowledge of this policy. The last time I was in court (November 2018) it was agreed by both parties and entered into court records that a bifurcation would take effect on January 1 2019 and the distribution of assets would be taken care of thereafter. My attorney has told me that the asset distribution has been agreed too also and that he has drawn up the divorce decree and sent it to her attorney for review. I am just sitting here waiting to move on with my life. My attorney seems content to sit and wait for her attorney to respond but it’s no longer acceptable to me. I have tried to hire another lawyer because mine told me that I should find another attorney. The problem there is that no other attorney in my area will take my cars based on the reputation of her attorney. Please, if you have any advice for me I would appreciate it. It looks like I’m on my own with this divorce. Thank you.

    • Ouch! You are in a tough spot!

      Can you move forward with your divorce on your own? Sure. But if your divorce has already been dragging on for 6 years and it’s still not resolved, trying to get to the finish line alone, without legal help, won’t be easy. It’s also not wise. If you can find an attorney in a neighboring town outside of your area who will take your case, that’s a possibility. (Maybe.)

      If you do have to finish your case yourself, then I suppose you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. If no other attorney will represent you then you may have to represent yourself. Hopefully, things will work out and you can put this all behind you soon.

      Good luck.

      Karen

  • Hi Karen,

    My name is Mary and I have been trying to get a divorce and fair time with my kids for 3 years. We have had case management hearings, mediations, a full final hearing in April 2017, and before a ruling the Magistrate retired. The transcript of my full day hearing is just sitting with another judge since March of 2018, which she agreed to make judgement on. In the meantime my spouse lives in the marital home with the kids and its in foreclosure and just got a real estate license. My pay is garnished at a ridiculous amount from the department of revenue for child support, and i keep getting told to just wait it will all be back dated to April 2017 once there is a judgement. Child support was finally temporarily adjusted to show my temporary timeshare arrangement, and the other attorney is appealing the judges order saying they have no jurisdiction to access an hourly rate on my ex as well as back date support, because of this I cant have any hearings until the appeal is done, which my attorney is positive that we will win. This case really should just be cut and dry 50/50, everything back dated to April 2017, the house should have been ordered to be sold by the judge. My attorney has also met with the administrative judge as well to try and get this done, and all we are getting told is it will get done and we cant put a time frame on it. My final hearing was 2 years ago, and I only have my children 35 percent of the time, and they are young. I really don’t know if my attorney is doing everything that he can. He did make a suggestion a few weeks ago to draw up a final judgement to send to the judge as a guide to maybe help her along, but of course its not done yet. He does have a paralegal that is very responsive to email but is always very dismissive. For example right now my attorneys mother is in hospice and he hasn’t been in the office much. I do have a conscious but I feel you run a business and you need to be attentive. In the 3 years he has had a Mother in law, father in law and father passing away, plus taking vacations. It’s so annoying I just don’t understand why this is happening

    • I can’t tell you why this is happening. What I can tell you is that you have a choice to either stick with your attorney, or find a new one.

      Typically, changing attorneys makes your case take longer. (Sorry!) But if your case is going nowhere anyway, then changing attorneys may be the best thing you can do.

      Maybe you want to at least go get a second opinion. Find out what another attorney says about your case. See if s/he can share a strategy with you that your attorney hasn’t thought about or pursued. If you find an attorney who thinks s/he can move your case to a conclusion soon, and is willing to take your case on (not every attorney does appellate work and trial work) then maybe changing lawyers makes sense. But you can’t make that decision until you know what your options are. That means getting a second opinion from a good divorce lawyer in your area. Armed with the knowledge you get there, you’ll have a better idea of how to move forward.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

    • You have a couple of choices. First you can (and probably should) talk to your attorney to find out why s/he won’t propose the settlement you want. There may be a strategic reason for NOT sharing it at the moment. You need to know that. If there is no reason, or you and your attorney are no longer on the same page, you should probably find a new attorney and at least get a second opinion.

      Finally, there is nothing to prevent you from talking directly to your spouse and making your proposal yourself. Mind you, that doesn’t always go well, so I would think long and hard about it first. But if your spouse wants to get a divorce as much as you do, talking with her directly is often the fastest and cheapest way to do that.

  • I left my first attorney because she would not handle real estate issues and asked me to see a real estate attorney. The real estate attorney told me that the divorce attorney need to handle the situation. I felt it was a catch 22, so I switched attorney, but the second attorney was incompetent. Just to give you an example, she asked the opponent lawyer to file for child support which it never got filed. My 3rd attorney goes by the book, he is knowledgeable, but not proactive. My estranged husband is getting away with murder, and nothing has happened yet. Court dates are being delayed, my estranged and his lawyer are scamming and file motions falsely and unnecessary. The lawyers are still in the process of reviewing financials, and my estranged has no paper trail of his money and side jobs. It is a mess, I am left paying all the family expanses ( mortgage, children expenses, schools, utilities, groceries, and the likes), while the estranged is living in one of our joint apartment building with his girlfriend,, for free, collecting all the rental money and having no obligations, while now I am in between jobs. I have paid a huge amount of legal fees, and I am regretting every day for leaving my first lawyer. I would like to go back to my first lawyer. Is it advisable? I own quite bit of money to the incumbent lawyer, and I am concerned that returning to my first lawyer ( 1: She will not take my case, and 2, it will look bad in court for changing lawyers so many times. ) The opponent lawyer has already tried to make me look bad for changing lawyers 3 times. What should my strategy be. I cannot sleep at night for the bad decisions I have been made with divorce lawyers
    I greatly appreciate your advise, thanks in advance

    • You definitely need a good attorney. The question is: why do you keep choosing bad ones? A second question is whether the lawyers you’ve chosen in the past were really bad, or whether it just seemed like they were bad to you? I don’t want to be hard on you, but maybe your expectations are out of line. If your current attorney goes by the book and is knowledgeable, I’m not sure what the problem is.

      I can hear that you’re frustrated because you think your case is taking too long. But litigated divorces often take a long time. Cases are continued All. The. Time. The problem may be the system itself and not your lawyer.

      Finally, changing lawyers is expensive. Changing lawyers once is common. Changing three or four times is not. And, you’re right: it doesn’t look good. (Sorry!)

      While you want to go back to your first lawyer, if s/he won’t take your case, that’s not an option. So stop thinking about it.

      I don’t know whether your current lawyer is good or bad. I can’t tell you what to do. But it sounds like you need to stop the financial bleeding right now, especially if you’re in between jobs. So perhaps now isn’t the best time to change lawyers again. But, it’s up to you.

  • Hi Ms Covy,
    I have filed a divorce Oct 2017. It is still dragging on. I don’t think I have the most competent lawyer. I already signed a stipulation to get 50% legal and residential custody of my kids and agreed to child support and other things because I was so desperate to leave the resident without seeming like I’m abandoning the children. The reason it is dragging on because the ex said she does what ever her lawyer said. The piece that is left is the division of financial assets. I stupidly did not sign a pre-nup of court so legally all my asset during the marriage is in jeopardy for 50% division. I would like to fire my current attorney since I already explained 2x to her and going in circle with my financial circumstance. She doesn’t seem to to really get it. Can the stipulation be voided or is that more or less a permanent contract that will stand? I do not see any advantage of keeping my lawyer and pay by the hour to explain something she doesn’t get to another lawyer whose interest is charge by the hours. I would like to self represent.

    • Going without a lawyer, especially when your spouse has a lawyer and you have assets to lose and kids involved, can be dangerous. If you don’t have confidence in your lawyer, get a consultation with another one. But going without a lawyer when you have anything to lose is not a great choice.

      As for whether you can void a stipulation, that’s a legal question you’ll have to ask your next lawyer. I can’t answer that online. (Sorry.)

      Karen

  • Hello,
    I have been considering changing lawyers for a while. my case has been going on for the past 3 years! I work for a company that offers ARAG which is help for anything related with law. I found my lawyer thru them (she is getting paid) . At first she made it seemed as if I had a case and being that my ex has a business (trucker) I could get a good amount of Child support and alimony. She seemed confident and wanted to even go for his business. I being all naive and DUMB didn’t want any of his Business. I didn’t want to jeopardize any of his income I just want for him to be fair on child support payments and alimony. Being that he makes 150,000 a year. well things turn to worse! at court the judge ruled my child support amount to 100 a month! and keep in mind he is keeping house, trailer, Harley motorcycle, furniture, pretty much all! my lawyer turns out she knows his girlfriend and “as courtesy” (like she said) she had to let me know. Ever since finding out about that I feel like she is not fighting for me at all. court ruled 60/40 custody, every other friday my boys are with me (15 and 17 now) and 100 dlls child support. the case is still in process. I have no money and had to filed bankrupt. he pays himself from his business enough to make it look like he makes less than me. I NEED ADVISE! should I change attorney’s? is this enough reason for me to make the switch?
    Please help!

    Thank you in advance.

    • I can’t tell you whether you should change attorneys, but I can tell you that you should probably go get a second opinion from a good divorce lawyer in your area. That lawyer will know the law in your state and can look at your case with fresh eyes. S/he will be able to give you the information you need to make a decision.

      Hope this helps.

      Karen

  • Dear Karen, I am an older man, late in the first year of a contested divorce proceeding with no children. There are some property issues as usual, and my choice of counsel after 3-4 interviews was a bright, young woman in her 30’s from an older, well established law office, who at the time, was starting a new law firm alone. My choice was based on her integrity vs aggressiveness (I interviewed both types) and a good referral by her previous law office. Her performance thus far has been reasonable, but in contest with the cunning and wisdom of the older opposing counsel, it sometimes reflects her younger age and experience, not surprisingly. In the course of her initial interview with me, in an effort to determine possible conflict of interest, I asked her where she obtained her natal medical care, as my spouse has an established practice, many years old in her area. She assured me that she had no children and wasn’t even married. Shortly after retaining her services, she announced the hire of a yet younger understudy attorney, (out of a different field of law) that would be helping in the case at a reduced rate. Long story short, five months later she married her fiancé, and four months after that, announced she will be taking maternity leave and her understudy will be responsible for the majority of my case, ie. court appearances, meetings, email etc., which is currently at a pivotal point in conflict. Points I’m left to consider are: the understudy has now only nine months of Family Law experience, bills me more aggressively and tends to be more eager to act and consider more aggressive tactics. I’m kind of lost here. It feels like I have a different attorney, younger and less experienced, and I am a male left with the uncomfortable situation of understanding how the right of childbirth has crossed into my legal case, let alone whether there could have been more disclosure initially. My current concern is that in your advice above, it seems that, with court dates shortly pending, there will be little interest in my plight. Should I contact one of the attorneys I previously met with for a second opinion anyway?

    • Short answer: Yes!

      You feel like you have a different attorney because you DO have a different attorney! The attorney you hired is on maternity leave. If you’re not comfortable with the new young attorney, definitely go get a second opinion asap. If you have court dates coming up, you need to get on this now. No attorney wants to jump into a case without having enough time to properly prepare for court.

      Best,

      Karen

  • My stepson has gone through a divorce which involved 2 minor children. His ex is extremely difficult and has caused him to have to go to court several times. His attorney understands what a problem the ex is but he does not think the attorney is working his best to resolve these repeated issues. He was wondering if he should fire this attorney and hire a new one to handle the issues he deals with related to the children.

    • His best bet is to get a second opinion from another divorce lawyer in your area. Then he’ll have more information and will be in a better position to know if his attorney is doing a good job or not.

  • You made an interesting point when you explained that it will expensive to find a new divorce attorney if you have been battling in court for years. I can imagine that a case that lasts as long as that can be very stressful. It seems like it is a good idea to do a lot of research before hiring a divorce attorney.

  • Hi Karen,
    I filed for divorce from my husband of over six years in May 2018. We didn’t own property or have children. I have a lawyer. My ex did not respond to the petition. I requested a default, the court requested more information, I gave it, default was entered in November 2018. Judgement Entered in December 2018, Court sent it back, requesting more information. Every time its something, its either clerical or something wasn’t filled out correctly by the lawyers office and when I asked the lawyer’s assistant it is like pulling teeth. My judgement has been returned 4 times since then, my phone calls are ignored. The legal assistant will say they will meet me at court and not show. No lie, I even requested a substitution of attorney so I could just go to the family law center ( I know they do not help with representation) and finish this on my own and the lawyer ignored my request because they were busy moving location. I know you cannot give legal advice and I am not here for that I just need some sort of perspective because I have been separated from my ex since 2013.
    LET ME REWIND, I am leaving out that he filed for divorce first. Yes, he filed for divorce in 2013, (I still have that petition as well) somehow our case at the time which I signed and returned just fell through the cracks in Los Angeles county and in August 2016 I was summoned to court, showed up, he didn’t. So, the judge explained how I was in default. I was confused. That original case was dismissed because my ex decided not to show up to the next court date. So I was like, the reset button has been hit on this? of course now I had to file, actually get lawyer and do it “right” Look how that worked out.
    I don’t think waiting this out with this lawyer is the right thing to do. Something tells me my case is not of any importance to him.

    • I can’t tell you what to do, but I will suggest that you take your case, and ALL of the paperwork, to a better lawyer and have them help you figure out your next step. You don’t need to fire your current attorney first. Just go get a second opinion. If changing lawyers will finally end this for you, whatever money you spend on a new lawyer will be well worth it.

  • Dear Karen,
    My son has been working with a law firm since July regarding a very simple divorce. They had not been living together for approximately 3 years. They do have a little girl age 6 who was living with my son and mom had her on weekends. Recently mom left the state and abandon their little girl. At this point is when he decided he needed to file for a divorce. Neither he nor his wife have decent job and do not have much money. That is where I come in. He went to this law firm and had his initial consultation. At that time they told him it shouldn’t cost more than $6000. but most likely less, since neither one of them were fighting it, there is no property and no arguments regarding the custody. Since then the lawyer he had left the firm and he was assigned another, who is of course more expensive. We are supposed to keep $2800. in the trust funds. This has been extremely hard since the lawyer continues to go through it as fast as I put it in. I have talked with this lawyer on the phone and each time he has assured me that it shouldn’t cost much more, But not long after that conversation that money is gone and I am owing more. So far we are at $9421.49. We have a court date on February 7, 2020. But before he can proceed with that we are being asked for another $2800.00 bringing our total to 12,221.50 Is this excessive. It just seems like a very cut and dry case. She was served and never responded to anything during the time lines and will most likely not even be at the court hearing. I really feel like this guy is taking us. He knows my son has no money so now he is milking me. I am not sure what to do. I can’t afford anymore and every time he tells me that most likely we will be getting money back. But with in a week after the call he is out of money again. He does provide a list of what he is doing on line. But honestly to a person who is not familiar with all this, it just looks like he just keeps doing the same old thing. He is now telling me he can’t go any further because he needs the money to prepare for the case. I guess my question is what has be been doing for the last 7 months? The last time he asked for more money he told me it shouldn’t be any more because we are just waiting for a court date. Well during that time he spent it all and is now asking for more to prepare the case. I am sure we can’t get a new lawyer at this time but is there anything we can do. If something happens and this court date gets changed he is just going to keep doing this. I can’t afford it. Any suggestions?

    • I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your comment. I’m only one person (with a full-time job!) so sometimes I get a little behind. I apologize.

      As for your question, without looking at all of your son’s paperwork, I can’t give you an opinion about whether you’re being taken or not. It sure sounds like you may be overpaying … a lot! But I honestly don’t know whether that’s true. What I CAN tell you is that you would be very wise to go get a second opinion from a good divorce lawyer in your area. (And, YES, you can get a new lawyer at this point!)

      Many divorce lawyers do initial consultations for free. Even if you have to pay for one, spending a few hundred dollars makes sense if it can potentially save you thousands! So, if your son’s court date got continued and his case is still pending, go find a reputable divorce lawyer in your area and get a second opinion.

      On the other hand, if your son’s case is over, then at least that ends things. You still may have overpaid, but at least you will have stopped the bleeding. (I know. Small consolation. I’m so sorry!)

      I wish I had better news.

      Karen

      • After my husband abandoning me 2 1/2 years ago, years of emotional abuse, and finally discovering affairs, our settlement hearing is one 9 days away. I have a struggled with a very unethical attorney, hired quickly when my husband made a trheat to me. I have since experienced zero communication, a very drug out case, extremely unethical behavior, and have done all research myself. She has spent the last year simply taking actions and billing me ($100 an hour more than all the attorneys in the area I have just discovered) constantly. I have borrowed from family and friends. She is now angry with me for choosing to work with a mediator, creating a settlement with my husband, and not going to trial, even though I told her from the beginng we wanted to work toward a settlement agreement. I now found out my settlement hearing is in one week, put on the docket two weeks ago, and she has not even told me that or contacted me. She is also demanding a letter absolving her of all responsibility as I ” chose not to follow her advice to continue sanctioning and go to trial”. Many more details left out, of course, but due many things, I am concerned about her representing me in this hearing, even though my husband and I have had the formal settlement drawn up. I am trying to determine whether I should fire her and represent myself next week, or try to find an attorney to represent me just to finalize the settlement? I should have changed attorneys months ago, but stress is a foggy thing. I don’t want to raise issues in court that might delay the divorce. Any guidance on what I should do?

        • Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what to do. You have to make that choice yourself. (Sorry.)

          What I can tell you is that it will probably be very hard to get an attorney to take over your case with a hearing that’s less than one week away. I can’t say for sure, but if you do try to get another attorney you may very well delay the hearing. If you want, you can try to consult with another divorce attorney in your area asap. S/he would be able to tell you what would be involved in switching attorneys at this late date, as well as whether it would delay your case.

          Finally, representing yourself when you’re foggy is a bad idea.

          Best.

          Karen

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