Have you tried to reach your attorney and he or she won’t come to the phone? Are you not sure you attorney is representing your best interests? Sometimes the only course is to divorce your divorce attorney.
Here are five reasons to do it:
• Personality Clash. Maybe your attorney’s brutal aggression and blunt attitude was exciting when you met, but now that the whip’s been turned on you, it doesn’t feel so good. Plus, your attorney is making your husband’s attorney angry, turning the judge against you, and making the whole case run on and on. You just don’t like your attorney and don’t want to work another day with him or her.
• Mishandling the Case. You’ve gotten a second and third opinion on your case and have discovered new strategies and cost-saving ideas that your current attorney ignores. You don’t want to waste another minute or dime hitting dead ends.
• The Never-ending Case. The divorce negotiations were moving along fine, but now, things are stuck. You can’t get a straight answer from your attorney about what’s holding things up, and that’s if you can get a call through. You think your case has been pushed to the side and, at this point, you’d rather find a new attorney, go to a mediator, or handle the case yourself, pro se, rather than pay this attorney for nothing.
• Too Much Money. Your attorney gave you an original estimate that now seems like a walk in the park. Costs have doubled (while the case is going as predicted) and your wallet is being drained. When you ask for an explanation of charges, the answer doesn’t make sense.
• Unethical Behavior. You ask your attorney not to share something with your husband’s attorney, and it got passed on anyway. You think your attorney is too buddy-buddy with your husband’s attorney, and offering deals you don’t want to make. Your attorney isn’t representing your interests, so why is s/he representing you at all?
If you decide you don’t want to continue with your attorney you can suggest he or she stop work while you and your husband go to a mediator. (Neither of you benefits if the divorce impoverishes you and the children.) Your attorney doesn’t attend the mediation sessions, just examines the agreement afterward to make sure nothing has been overlooked.
This is a holding action. But what if you want to fire the lawyer?
First, mention your concerns and let your attorney offer an explanation or remedy. If that doesn’t work, fire away with these 4 Steps to Fire Your Attorney:
1. Get the Bill. Get your most up-to-date bill by e-mail, fax or mail. Say that you’d like to make a payment. Only after you have the last bill, should you (or your new attorney) fire your former attorney. This will ensure that there is no creative math on your final bill.
2.Hire a New Attorney. Pick a new attorney before you fire the old one, and that means you will be interviewing attorneys. The new attorney will then draft a motion or notice generally called “Substitution of Attorney,” which will be filed with the court and sent to all parties to the action. The new attorney will communicate with your old attorney to obtain all of the divorce files. But of course the new attorney will charge you for this work, including reviewing everything that’s been done so far. Or:
3. Consider Representing Yourself. If you want to represent yourself, i.e. go pro se, your path is a little harder. Assuming your attorney has already filed divorce papers, call the county clerk’s office or the pro se office at the courthouse and ask them if they have a procedure or form for firing your attorney and going pro se. Most likely, they will ask you to write a letter addressed to the court and all parties informing them that your current lawyer is no longer working for you, that you are pro se, and that all documents and correspondence should be directed to you. You will need to date, sign, list the Index number and case name on the letter and mail a copy of it to all parties, the judge, and the trial support office. You will then have to communicate with your former attorney to obtain all of your divorce files.
4. Pay Your Bill. Firing your attorney does not get you off the hook. If you owe back payments, you may find the former attorney is resistant to sending you your files. Discuss this with the former attorney (or have your new attorney discuss it) and set up a payment schedule. If the attorney owes you part of your retainer, ask for it on the phone and in writing. If he refuses to give it to you, call your state or city bar association and ask about how to arbitrate the dispute.
Don’t be afraid to fire your attorney, but choose your words carefully. If you speak directly to the attorney, explain calmly that you felt your personalities weren’t a match or that as much as you needed help at the beginning you feel you can now manage the case on your own. Be kind because you still need the attorney to send you your files and give you a final update on the case. The faster and smoother the change over, the sooner you’ll get your divorce back on track.
5 Ways to Help Your Attorney Help You Through Your Divorce - by Christina Rowe
Don't Let Your Divorce Attorney Overcharge You - by Jill Brooke
Click the following for articles and resource videos on Getting A Divorce.