Can a Client Change Lawyers during a Divorce Case?
I was recently asked by someone going through a divorce whether she had the right to switch lawyers during the case. The answer to her explicit question is yes, absolutely. A party to a lawsuit has the right to hire any licensed attorney they choose to represent them, including the right to change lawyers while a case is pending.
Does It Make Sense to Change Divorce Attorneys
The more important question that I was not asked is ‘when is it a good idea to change lawyers in the middle of a divorce case?’ Parties in contested divorce cases do change lawyers at times. In my experience, whether a party should change lawyers is primarily determined by the reason for wanting to change.
Good Reasons to Change Lawyers
If a client is experiencing any of the following they have legitimate reason to be concerned and might want to consider changing lawyers:
- The attorney is not responding to the client’s calls or emails and the client has a very difficult time getting questions answered by either the lawyer or the lawyer’s staff.
- In court the attorney seems unprepared and lacks a basic knowledge of the facts of the case.
- When the client asks how to move the case forward the attorney is unable to give a clear answer and seems to have no proactive plan.
Bad Reasons to Change Lawyers
However, not everyone’s reason for wanting to switch attorneys is a good one. Here are some examples of bad reasons for wanting to switch attorneys:
- The attorney gave the client an objective analysis of the case and the client believes he/she deserves a better outcome. In other words, the client doesn’t like the attorney’s advice.
- Related to the previous reason, what the client really wants is a lawyer who will tell them what they want to hear.
- The client feels the attorney is too expensive and wants to find someone cheaper.
Changing Lawyers is a Very Significant Decision
Whether the reasons for switching attorneys are good or bad it is a significant decision and one that should be made after giving is serious consideration of all the issues in the case. For example, if the case is scheduled for trial in a week it would be extremely difficult for any lawyer to adequately prepare that quickly.
Another significant factor is the cost involved. Changing attorneys is inevitably expensive because there will be a great deal of work involved for the new attorney to get up to speed on the case. My experience is that it is less work to take a case from the beginning than it is to pick up an existing case that is halfway through the process. Usually there are things that have happened in the case previously that make the case more work than it should be.
So changing lawyers in the middle of the case is a very important decision and one that should not be taken lightly. If you have thoughts, experiences, or questions about changing lawyers during a divorce case feel free to comment below.
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