What Should You do if You Feel Your Lawyer Isn't Representing Your Needs?
Getting a divorce can be stressful enough, but what if the attorney you have chosen to represent you doesn’t seem to be working out?
When you find yourself having to hire a divorce lawyer, the attorney you hire can easily make or break your case. Your attorney will affect the outcome and compensation you might receive.
As much as it is pains me to say, not all of my fellow lawyers are equally skilled or competent when it comes to handling the ins and outs of a divorce case. Knowing how to find a good lawyer and avoid a bad one isn’t always easy.
It’s important to learn how to recognize the signs of a bad lawyer. Here are some red flags that may indicate that you need to find another attorney that truly has your best interests at heart.
Unresponsive or Lack of Communication
One of the most common complaints regarding attorneys is that he or she is unresponsive. While you want to hire an attorney that is good enough to have several clients, you also want one that that can give each client individual attention.
Does your divorce attorney take forever to return your calls, texts, or emails? Or worse, not respond at all? This can be a gigantic red flag, especially if the questions you’re asking are time-sensitive.
If a lawyer constantly doesn’t respond to your questions in a reasonable amount of time, this is a sign that you lawyer (1) has taken on too many cases to give proper attention your case; (2) has poor time management skills; or (3) does not care about your case.
You are paying your attorney and have the right to expect regular updates regarding your case. If your lawyer doesn’t have the courtesy to do so, it might be time to find yourself a new divorce attorney.
Your attorney may be busy, but that doesn’t mean that you should be treated like a case file number.
Your attorney should make you feel heard and understood. They should show compassion for you and the stressful situation you are going through. This is especially important when your divorce case involves children and custody issues.
While they don’t have to be your best friend, good lawyers have empathy and care about their clients.
An attorney who is rude, impatient, condescending or disrespectful is not only unprofessional, but difficult to work with.
Be aware of the way in which your attorney interacts with you. While you may unfamiliar with the legal aspects of getting a divorce, that is no excuse for an attorney to treat you in a condescending manner.
When a divorce lawyer can’t maintain professionalism with a client, it will only create tension, conflict and ill-will.
If a lawyer has trouble maintaining professionalism with their client, they will most likely be unable to do so in the courtroom as well. This is not the type of person you want to represent your interests in a divorce case. Attorneys who disrespect their clients are not worth continuing to deal with.
Forgetful and/or Disorganized
Paperwork makes up a large part every lawyer’s day. Is your attorney telling you to fill out forms that you have already filled out? Is he or she repeatedly asking for documents that you have already provided? Court paperwork requirements can change and mistakes can happen, but a good lawyer should be able to find the paperwork related to your case in a reasonable amount of time and keep track of what has been submitted and what the court still needs.
While some lawyers admit that organizational skills aren’t their strong suite, they should have staff and/or software that helps keep track of clients, files and appointments. If you are receiving notifications from the court saying that you have missed a deadline or that your case is going to be dismissed due to lack of activity or missing paperwork, consider it a warning sign.
An attorney that seems to forget important details regarding your case can also be troubling. Of course it’s unrealistic to expect your lawyer to remember every tiny detail of your pending divorce, but he or she should be clear on the main facts.
One of the worst things an attorney can do is forget or miss a court date. Sometimes a lawyer can become ill, or is unable to make a court date due to unforeseen circumstances. In those situations, the lawyer should still make arrangements with colleagues to make sure the client's interests are protected.
If no one shows up at all, consider it a ‘deal breaker’ and hire a different divorce lawyer. Court dates can often take several weeks--or months--to arrange and judges do not look kindly on having to reschedule them.
The important thing to remember is that even if you have hired a lawyer to represent you, YOU have to show up in court if summoned to do so--or you can be held in contempt--whether your attorney is there or not.
Promise of a Certain Outcome
Any attorney that says that they can guarantee a certain amount of alimony or that you will get full custody of your children isn’t telling you the truth. A lawyer cannot ethically--and in most states legally--promise a specific outcome, no matter how likely that outcome may seem.
While an experienced divorce lawyer can tell you how strong of a case you have or how similar cases he or she had in the past turned out, no one can predict or know the future or tell you that they “know” how the judge is going to rule in your particular divorce case.
Almost every legal case will have periods of time where nothing much seems to be happening.
Each couple’s situation is unique, so the amount of time a divorce or dissolution it will take will vary. Several factors come into play—the exact amount depends on whether the divorce is uncontested or contested, the amount of marital property and whether there are any minor children involved.
Your lawyer should explain this to you and let you know that this common in divorce cases. However, if nothing ever seems to be done, no court dates have been set, there is never any new details or there is no exchange of information with the other spouse, then it may be time to get a different lawyer.
Trust Your Intuition
Whether you call it your “gut,” your intuition or your “little voice,” trust your instincts!
You consult with an attorney loved by your friends or that has fabulous online reviews, but you feel something is amiss, go with that feeling. Even if they’re a great attorney who would do a perfectly fine job for you, it may simply be a case of your personalities not meshing--which could still be detrimental to your divorce case.
Get a Second Opinion!
You may feel like you have talked your case to death and just want it to be over, but if you have experienced any of the above warning signs or just have serious doubts about how your case is being handled, get another opinion from a different lawyer.
Get as much information and paperwork together so you can give the second attorney as many details as they need to see whether your case is being handled correctly and what might be done differently.
Second opinions are relatively inexpensive and can be valuable in helping you decide whether or not your current lawyer is better suited to work on your case. Just keep in mind that while a second opinion is helpful, no two lawyers will handle your case in the exact same way.
One of the reason so many marriages fall apart is the lack of communication. This goes for problems between lawyers and clients as well.
Your divorce changes much of what you have built in your lifetime and will affect your future, so don’t just give your lawyer your credit card number and expect them to deal with everything for you.
When you first you meet with your lawyer, you both should be able to lay out a plan for how to proceed with your divorce. Determine how information such as court dates and other important details will be communicated to you--by email, over the phone, by text, all three? What can you do if you feel that you are not getting what need in response to your concerns?
Be actively involved in your case. Communicate with your divorce attorney and insist that they communicate with you. Being actively involved in your case will help you maintain a sense of control--when so much seems to be spinning out of control--and help you make informed decisions about your divorce and your future.
Are you looking for someone who understands what you are going through and can help you navigate the process? Jack can help you get to a better place and help you start a new life. Give his Columbus office a call at (614) 751-5058.