Yes. However, should you?
Divorce is often the best of times and the worst of times at the same time. The turmoil of separating marital assets and deciding custody can take its toll. However, the excitement of the future outside a bad marriage is often exhilarating. That said, divorce is still emotionally taxing and financially hard. And, frankly, sometimes you do not get what you want at hearings and the case drags on and becomes a significant financial burden. It is at this time that all of this hardship leaves many litigants contemplating a change in counsel. This blog covers four considerations you should take in deciding to change counsel.
What is the problem? This may seem basic, but oftentimes your divorce lawyer is not the problem and source of your frustration. For instance, if one spouse wants a divorce (perhaps because they have a new relationship and want to move on) and the other is emotionally “hurt” by this fact, a scorned litigant can find a number of ways to slow down the process, from not timely responding to their counsel to sending incomplete documents in response to discovery. Thus, you need to analyze and determine why you are frustrated, and if you cannot figure it out, sit down with your divorce attorney and have a candid conversation about your concerns and frustrations. Bottom line—figure out the real source of your frustration before you jump ship. It may well be that there is simply a misunderstanding between you and counsel about your relationship or the case that you do not understand that a blunt conversation can resolve.
Do you understand the law? While most divorce litigants have some general understanding of the law applicable to their case, the reality is that the divorce system is not set up for the judge to get your “no-brainer”. Yes, you may have plenty of “proof” that “everyone” knows that makes your case easy to decide, but this is probably the way most of your life works and is based on hearsay and speculation. In court this is not admissible—unless you get witnesses who have actually observed the event you need evidence for or documentary evidence in a form that is admissible, which is time-consuming and expensive. So it is important you understand the process and the law and rules applicable to your case or you may be frustrated at things that are totally out of the control of your divorce attorney.
Can you afford to change counsel? In order to be a good divorce advocate, your attorney has to understand your life, children, and business almost as well as you do. If you change counsel, it may be impossible for new counsel to get up to speed before a trial. And courts do not always give you continuances just because you fire one attorney and hire a new one. Certainly, if there is time, you are going to incur a lot of duplicate costs while your successor counsel learns what your prior counsel already knew. So in some respects, there is a cost to changing counsel in terms of money and lost knowledge that may not be known to new counsel to use in the courtroom. Thus the cost of new counsel in terms of money and lost knowledge should be carefully considered.
When you should change counsel? Although all attorneys are professionals and charged with professional competence, no profession is absent individuals who may not live up to best practices. There are certain signals or signs that you should change counsel or that are red flags:
- Not returning phone calls or emails.
- Missing or being late for court.
- Not keeping you posted on what is going on in your case.
- Advising you he/she will file something or take some action and not doing so.
While this list of considerations for changing counsel in the middle of divorce proceedings is far from exhaustive, a change of counsel is a serious consideration that could have negative or positive consequences in your case and your life in the post-divorce world. You should not just make an emotional decision about changing counsel. This is a relationship that should have its ups and downs because divorce is not a fun process. Know this and make an informed decision to stay with or change counsel. We hope this blog helps you evaluate whether you should change counsel. It is written by advocates at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who practice throughout the state and frequently take on cases as successor counsel. This blog is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services.