Working with an attorney is like working with any other professional. Sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. In rare cases, a family law attorney could make a mistake, fail to listen to you, or do things you don’t agree with. If your NJ divorce attorney doesn’t return your calls, take you seriously, or fight for what you need and want, you might feel it is time to make a change. It is your right to choose another attorney and find someone you are comfortable with and who has the experience you need.
If you are thinking about changing family law attorneys, you need to be aware that sometimes this decision is not entirely up to you. If you are already in the trial phase of your case, your NJ divorce attorney will need to get permission from the court to withdraw from the case. In most instances, the judge will allow the change, but clients who are constantly changing attorneys out of indecision or to purposely delay the proceedings may be denied permission to do so.
If you are thinking of changing attorneys, there are several things you need to do:
- Be clear that you no longer need the services of your current NJ divorce attorney and that you are leaving the practice.
- Ask for a final bill that shows how charges have been applied against your retainer and what, if anything you owe.
- Request a copy of your file. Doing so will greatly reduce the amount of work your new NJ family-law attorney will need to do.
- Carefully research and interview new attorneys so that you are certain the person you are switching to will meet your needs and work well with you.
- Be completely honest with your new family-law attorney, and establish a good working relationship.
How to choose a new divorce lawyer
If you are considering changing lawyers but your case isn’t over yet, you’ll need to find a new NJ family-law attorney who can represent you. Choosing a divorce attorney can seem daunting the second time around. Follow these tips to make a choice that is a better fit for you:
- Understand the different types of attorneys
Any attorney in New Jersey can handle a divorce case, however, the New Jersey Supreme Court certifies attorneys who have years of experience, education, and knowledge in divorce cases as “certified matrimonial attorneys.” When you work with an NJ divorce attorney who has this designation, you know you are working with someone who is highly skilled and respected.
- Find someone you feel comfortable with
Just as you look for a doctor you feel you can communicate well with, you want an NJ divorce attorney who understands you and talks with you in a way that is respectful and compassionate. Make an appointment for a consultation so that you can meet in person and get to know one another. Ask about his or her background, experience, and approach.
- Understand fees
Your divorce is an investment in your future. You need to understand what the costs will be before you can commit to working with any attorney.
- Consider alternatives
Find out if the NJ divorce attorney you are considering handles divorce mediation or collaborative divorce. These two methods allow you to spend less, move your case more quickly, and reduce conflict with your spouse.
What your NJ family-law attorney should offer
As you go through with the process of changing attorneys, you should be able to look to your new NJ divorce attorney for his or her expertise and knowledge to help guide you through the rest of your case. Here are three things that every family law attorney should be offering to you as the client:
- Creative solutions to resolve your case
No case is exactly like any other, and what works for one family might not work for yours. It is important that your NJ divorce attorney has suggestions for some creative solutions in your particular case. For example, you may still have a good relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. In that case, it may not be in anyone’s best interest to immediately file a complaint for divorce. You might benefit from being able to resolve your case entirely before either party files—either with the assistance of a mediator or just your respective attorneys. There are also situations in which you can structure your settlement in a creative manner. For example, if your spouse is going to pay you alimony but cannot afford the monthly amount you believe you need, your attorney could propose structuring the support obligation in a way that works out to slightly lower monthly payments, but then you receive a larger portion of an annual bonus. Settlement agreements can be creative, and your attorney should be offering you suggestions for resolution that may not be the standard but are appropriate for your case.
- Referrals to experts that may be necessary in your case
In many cases, it is necessary to utilize experts to support your case in the event of a trial. There is a wide range of experts that may be used, including custody experts, appraisers of homes and personal property, employability evaluators, and financial experts. NJ family-law attorneys are well-acquainted with the various experts that may be useful in your particular matter. Your attorney should be offering you suggestions about what types of experts may be needed in your case. He or she should also offer you the names of some experts that they have used previously or are familiar with through the course of their practice. There is a wide array of experts available, and your NJ divorce attorney will be able to guide you toward the experts that will allow you to present the strongest case you can.
- Realistic goals for resolution in your matter
Sometimes clients are swept away by the emotion in their case and begin making demands regarding what they want their settlement to be. These demands may not be realistic, and your attorney should be telling you why a particular request may not be included in a final settlement agreement. Your NJ divorce attorney knows the law and will be able to guide you toward a more realistic resolution in your case. For example, it’s common for clients to say that they have been a stay-at-home parent for a number of years and they wish to continue to do so and receive alimony for their expenses. Your attorney should discuss with you the two issues that this request raises: 1. That you have an obligation to contribute to the support of yourself and the children; and 2. That, more than likely, it is not financially possible for one spouse to support two households on his or her income. Your attorney should discuss with you the likelihood that you will have to work in some capacity and will likely be imputed an income even if you choose not to work. Allowing unrealistic demands to continue will only serve to harm the client as it will likely result in a longer divorce process.
DeTorres & DeGeorge represents clients in divorce, custody, child support, alimony, and property division cases. If you’re ready to discuss your case or have any questions, contact us today.