Submitted by: Cathy
You Don’t Have to Settle For a Bad Divorce Attorney
I had three divorce attorneys. The first one cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars due to incompetence. The second called me one afternoon after office hours and said to me, “if you ever get horny just give me a call.” Not exactly the service I had paid for!
The third was a sweet woman but unorganized with massive personal problems of her own. I did most of the legwork, paperwork and everything else while she represented me. At least I knew it was being done.
Needless to say, due to the incompetent and unethical behavior of my divorce attorneys the divorce process did not progress in the way I had hoped. There is nothing worse than dealing with the emotional devastation of divorce while, at the same time the frustration of poor legal representation.
When choosing a divorce attorney do your homework AND remember you are not obligated to stay with an attorney who is not meeting your needs and your expectations.
What should you expect from a divorce attorney?
- Empathy…you are going through a trying time, your attorney should show concern.
- Your phone calls to be returned within one day. There is no excuse for an attorney to put off communicating with his/her client upon request.
- To understand the direction your case is taking. Your attorney should be willing to discuss in full with you what is happening in your case and what they expect to happen in the future.
- To know where your case is in the process. If the case isn’t progressing your attorney should have an explanation. There are reasons divorce cases don’t move smoothly through the family court system and you have a right to know the reason.
- To know what work is yet to be done to adequately represent you. You should be given an explanation of what the divorce process is like in your area. Will there be interrogatories to respond to? What will the discovery phase be like?
- Your appointments to be kept. This should go without saying, wish it did. If you have an attorney who cancels appointments, you have a bad attorney.
- Basic courtesy and civility. Divorce attorneys make a lot of money off their clients. They also have a tendency to view divorcing clients as overly emotional pains in the butt. I have friends who are divorce attorneys, believe me, they enjoy the money but don’t care for the clients. Make sure your attorney pays you the respect you are paying him/her for.
When should you fire a divorce attorney?
- Mistrust and doubt. The moment you feel doubt about your attorneys motivation to do what is in your best interest is the moment you need to move on.
- Not responding to phone calls or emails. You can’t expect your attorney to communicate with you daily but if you are asking for reasonable communication and not getting it, get another attorney.
- Pressure to do something you don’t want to do. Divorce attorneys are notorious for pushing clients to settle divorce cases. If you are savvy you’ve learned your state’s divorce laws and what to expect from a divorce settlement. Don’t let an attorney push you into settling less than you are legally owed.
I put full faith and trust in my first attorney. I was ignorant of the divorce process and an emotional mess. I didn’t bother her with phone calls or communications. I felt she had my back and was getting the job done.
Two days before we went to family court, I had not heard from her. I called her office and she was on the way out for the day. The receptionist thought she had put me on hold but I could hear the conversation on the other end.
My attorney told whomever she was with to “hold on, I’ve got a f…king, insane divorce client I have to talk to.” I had been her client for nine months. During that nine month period, I had had two face-to-face meetings with her and three phone conversations.
During our second meeting my ex husband’s divorce attorney called and my attorney put him on speakerphone so I could listen. He called my ex a “weasel,” said he was a “spineless idiot” who couldn’t make a decision without first talking to his attorney.
I sat, listened, and wondered what my attorney said about me when I wasn’t around. I eventually found out.
Divorce attorneys are not saviors. Most of them are not going to rescue you from an ex who is driving you mad. They are not going to keep you safe from the family court system. They are people who went to law school. They know more about the nasty divorce process than you do but don’t ever make the mistake of putting full faith and trust in a divorce attorney.
When you aren’t getting what you have a right to expect rescue yourself and move on to the next one.
How to fire your divorce attorney
If you do decide to fire your lawyer, you should do so in writing. Your letter should set forth and document any conduct or reasons supporting your decision. It should also give instruction as to where he or she needs to send your file.
However, if papers have already been filed with the court, the process of firing your divorce lawyer is a little bit more complex. While it may vary from one state to the next, there is often a “substitution of Attorney” form, or similar type of form, that you will need to submit to the court. This form has to be signed by your former attorney, you, and your new attorney.
Your new attorney can typically take care of getting your file from your former attorney, as well as filing the necessary form with the court and notifying your spouse’s attorney.
To Change or Not to Change…The Locks