Should I change divorce attorneys?

Patience is virtue, or so you’ve been told.  If you find yourself beginning a Divorce, patience is probably the last virtue you want to hear about.  Divorce can be one of the most terrifying, frustrating and biggest emotional roller coaster rides you may ever endure.

Complications and disagreements are just the tip of the iceberg of challenges you will face during a divorce.  But what happens when you are not seeing the results you would like or feel your interests are not being protected or considered by the attorney you have hired?  How do you talk with your attorney about your concerns?  How do you know what to expect next?  How do you handle rebuttal from the opposing party?  How do you communicate your preferred outcome of your divorce to your attorney?

First, let’s talk about the things to expect when you file for divorce.  Prepare yourself for the long haul.  A divorce   especially a contested divorce, does not happen overnight.  There are specific rules in place by the Court that require time.  For example, once you file for divorce the opposing party has to be served the divorce paperwork.  The opposing party generally has at least 30 days to file an answer with the Court or hire an attorney.  Next could be the discovery phase of the divorce.   Discovery is when both sides begin to gather information about the other party. Both sides can request a list of documents (referred to as Production of Documents), request answers to a list of questions (referred to as Interrogatories), request a sworn testimony from the opposing party (referred to as a Deposition) and the list can continue.

Next, there can be a requirement for Mediation.  This is a meeting with a specially trained neutral party with no connections to your case to listen to both parties and try to negotiate an agreement.   If an agreement is not reached, your divorce attorney may request a hearing before the Judge to determine the terms and conditions of your divorce.

Divorce is a cumbersome and very meticulous process.   Here are some tips to consider when hiring a divorce attorney.

  • Trust your attorney.  From the beginning, have a clear understanding of what to expect and what your responsibilities are as a client.
  • Your attorney is hired to represent you and your best interest.   Your attorney will provide you with guidance within the guidelines of the law.  While your attorney should always be empathetic to your situation, remember, he/she isn’t a therapist.
  • Determine the most effective method of communication with your attorney.  Ask your attorney to copy you on all correspondence and ask if the attorney prefers email or phone call for communication.
  • Be mindful of timelines.  It is general practice that you give your attorney at least 24 hours to return your phone call or email.  Also, daily updates are not typically feasible either.  With Court determined timelines, you should to touch base with your attorney every 30-45 days.

If you feel that your attorney is not representing you to the best of his/her ability and your best interest is not being protected and you are considering changing attorney’s mid-voyage, consider the following before making the decision:

  • Are my expectations unrealistic?
  • Am I making this decision out of anger and emotion?
  • Have I given my attorney all of the items he/she has asked for?
  • Have my legal needs changed from the initial divorce petition?
  • Have my expectations changed from the initial divorce petition?

Your right to discharge your attorney is absolute, meaning you can discharge him/her at anytime during the case.  You are still responsible for fees incurred.

There are also some other considerations you should take into account prior to deciding to change attorneys mid-case.  Not only will your new attorney need to take time to read over the paperwork you already have, your new attorney will need to determine what has been done, what you would like to do and what it will take to accomplish your goals.  Generally, you will have to pay another retainer; you will have to pay the attorney for his/her time to go through the paperwork already completed and for future work on your case.

Best advice is talk with your divorce attorney.  If the case factors have changed since the initial divorce petition, maybe it is time to map out another plan of action for your case.

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