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Divorce | Family

Can You Change Attorneys During Divorce?

8 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

You can change attorneys during your divorce proceedings. You may choose to do this if the divorce attorney is not meeting your needs or there is a conflict of interest with the current lawyer. Changing lawyers in the middle of a divorce is completely legal and within your rights to do so.  

If you feel uncomfortable with your current attorney, change attorneys as soon as possible. Having an attorney that you are comfortable with and have the utmost trust in is essential. This process can take some time and potentially delay the divorce timeline.

For this reason, hiring the right attorney from the beginning is often recommended. We can connect with a local divorce lawyer today and start your process on the right foot.

Reasons for Considering a Change Divorce Attorney

At the start of your divorce proceedings, you should hire an attorney who specializes in family law and can provide you with all of the services needed for a successful process.

Unfortunately, some parties make the wrong choice from the beginning. This could result from hiring someone too quickly and without doing enough research, or the attorney not having the experience required for your specific case.

Here are common reasons for considering a change in divorce attorneys:

Personality Clashes

Though it is possible to work with someone whom you may not get along with, your attorney should have the same goals and values as you do. If a divorce lawyer does not share your personal interests or core beliefs, this could lead to disagreements further down the line.

Don’t be afraid to find an attorney better suited to your situation. The attorney you choose can be a strong advocate for your interests in court and during negotiations, so make sure you are comfortable with them from the beginning.

Lack of Communication and Availability

When you are in the process of a divorce, it is natural to feel overwhelmed. One of your divorce attorney’s primary roles is to provide comfort and assurance. Good communication is essential in any legal process and making sure you are on the same page.

If your attorney is unavailable, unresponsive to emails and phone calls, or missing court appearances, it might be time to look for a more involved lawyer. Every proceeding and court appearance is critical during your case. Ensure your attorney is aware of any changes in circumstances so they can provide updated advice that is relevant and useful to you.

Unreasonable Fees and Additional Costs

Divorce can be an expensive process, but that doesn’t mean you should pay more than is necessary. Before hiring a lawyer, always ask for details about their charges – including any additional costs that might arise during your case.

The majority of divorce attorneys charge an hourly rate for their services, and you should be aware of how and when these fees are billed. Discuss their pricing upfront so that there are no surprises later on.

Disregards Your Wishes

The end goal of any divorce case is to reach an agreement that both parties are satisfied with. The decisions about your divorce should be made by you and your spouse. However, your attorney should provide guidance and advice to ensure that you are making wise choices.

When it comes to legal matters, especially those pertaining to family law, emotions can often run high. If your lawyer does not appreciate your point of view and is instead pushing their own agenda, it may be time to switch.

Lack of Progress

Certain family or divorce cases can get complex. From property division to spousal support, some cases can be more challenging than others. Divorce lawyers should have the knowledge needed for your type of case. 

Although divorce proceedings can take some time, if your case is not going anywhere, that could be a sign that your lawyer isn’t doing enough. Your divorce lawyer should be able to give you a timeline and explain the process clearly, so you know what to expect along the way.

Unethical Practices

Any attorney has to adhere to the rules and regulations of the American Bar Association. If the court discovers any unethical behavior during your divorce proceedings, it could damage your case.

You can spot signs of unethical behavior, such as a lack of truthfulness, not filing the necessary paperwork on time, or telling you to file false documents. Choose an attorney who is honest and respectful of both you and the court system.

Evaluating Whether to Change Your Divorce Attorney

Changing attorneys during your divorce is a big decision. Consider the pros and cons of continuing with your current lawyer or switching to another one, and make sure that whatever you decide is within the bounds of the law.

  • Pros of changing: Your new attorney may be better suited to your case; you might have greater access to updates, feedback, and advice; a fresh perspective could bring more success in negotiations.
  • Cons of changing: You will have to pay new legal fees; you might end up in the same situation as before with a former lawyer; you might lose valuable time in the process.

Take Time to Reflect

Take time out of the process and reflect on why you want to switch attorneys. Ensure it is for legitimate reasons and not just because things don’t seem to go your way. Consider whether your concerns can be addressed by finding a new attorney or if it is better to stay the course and work with the lawyer you already have.

Speak to Your Attorney

Before making final decisions, speak to your current lawyer about your concerns. Explain what has been going wrong and politely express your dissatisfaction. It may be possible to work out an agreement between you both so that the process can continue without significant disruptions.

Seek Advice

Talk to a neutral third party and ask for their advice. This could be a friend or family member who has undergone the same process or even another lawyer. This will give you a second opinion to make the best decision for yourself and your case.

How to Tell Your Current Divorce Attorney That You Want to Switch

It is not easy to tell someone that you no longer want their help. Keep the conversation professional, and try to maintain respect for your attorney. You also should be aware of any legal implications of the transition.

Start by expressing that you appreciate their service and explain your reasons for wanting to change. Explain the situation in detail and allow them to address your concerns.

If possible, provide a timeline for when you would like the transition to take place. This will make it easier for both parties as it clearly outlines expectations and allows for a more organized transfer of responsibilities.

What Happens to the Fees You Already Paid Your Previous Divorce Attorney?

You must discuss this with the previous lawyer and be aware that their fees may not be transferable. Depending on the retainer agreement, you may have to pay for any work, even if it is incomplete.

In some cases, the new divorce attorney may agree to reimburse a portion of these fees or accept them as payment in full. Before deciding, read the agreement you signed with your previous lawyer to understand the situation better.

Can You Change Your Divorce Attorney Without Notifying Them?

You should always inform your divorce attorney if you wish to make a change. Even if the other party is aware of your decision, keeping them in the loop is important. Your prior counsel may have information or paperwork that needs to be transferred over, and notifying them will ensure this process goes smoothly.

Failing to inform them may lead to legal ramifications, and you do not want to risk your case being compromised because of a lack of communication.

What to Expect When Changing Your Divorce Attorney in Mid-Process

Once you have decided to switch divorce attorneys, contact your first attorney and let them know that you plan to change. The attorney’s office will be required to provide the necessary legal documents, records, and court filings. etc.

In some cases, the judge and opposing counsel will need to be notified of the change in a lawyer. The process should be relatively simple and straightforward as long as there are no complications, such as an ongoing trial or a signed agreement between you and your former attorney.

Your new legal representation may also need some time to review your case before they can give you legal advice or represent you in court. During this interim period, continue communicating with your former lawyer about any progress or developments that have occurred since the change.

Can Attorney/Client Privilege Survive Changing Lawyers?

The attorney-client privilege is still in effect even after you switch lawyers. This means any confidential conversations between you and your existing attorney and their legal advice remain protected from disclosure unless waived by both parties.

This also applies to your current attorney. Your previous lawyer can only divulge confidential information with the signed waiver from you or your new lawyer. This ensures that the legal process remains fair and transparent and all parties involved are held to a high standard of ethics.

Keep in mind that if your case is ongoing, some privileged information may be revealed as part of legal proceedings or discovery. However, this should only happen in certain circumstances and will usually be discussed with both attorneys before disclosing any information.

Get the Fresh Start You Deserve

No one should feel stuck in a situation they don’t want to be in. This applies to the divorce process as well. If you are unhappy with your attorney, you have the right to make a change throughout the proceedings.

Unbundled Legal Help can simplify this transition. We have a network of attorneys who offer unbundled legal services, meaning you can select the services that best fit your needs and pay for only those services.

Fees for our Unbundled Lawyers start at $500-$1500. Get in contact with us today and find an attorney in your area who can help you navigate the divorce process.

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