A frequent question in Family Court: may I change lawyers if I have already filed a case?
Perhaps you may be contemplating filing an action for divorce. Perhaps you may be filing an action regarding custody of your children. Some grandparents need to hire an attorney to get custody of their grandchildren or to get visitation rights with them. If you are in this position, then you know that this is a stressful time and choosing the right lawyer for you and your case is crucial. It is preferable to do your research up front and to consult with reputable, experienced family law attorneys at the outset. In addition to experience, you should consider the potential costs of litigation and whether or not you have a rapport with the attorney you intend to hire. However, despite your best efforts, you may find that circumstances exist that lead you to believe that changing your lawyer is necessary.
How do I start the process? There are many reasons that people decide to change attorneys during their pending litigation. YES, you are able to change attorneys, but this does NOT mean that you should just release your attorney without having researched your options. You may ask your attorney to provide you a letter for a second opinion and begin making arrangements for other consultation(s).
What do I bring to the appointment? At that consultation, it is vital that you are honest about why you want to hire a different lawyer. It is also very important that you bring as much documentation with you as you are able. For example, you should bring with you any documents filed with the Clerk of Court in the current case such as a summons, complaint, answer, counterclaim, copies of motions, financial declarations, and all court orders. If there is a guardian ad litem report, you will need to take it with you. If you have copies of any mediation report, signed agreements or offers of settlement, you should take those to the meeting. If your case is a modification case (such as custody, visitation, child support, or alimony), be sure to bring the prior court order(s) as well.
Where do I find the information that I need? You are entitled to copies of this information out of your file and your current attorney should provide it to you. Also, you may get items filed with the Court from the Family Court Clerk of Court in the county where your lawsuit has been filed. The Clerk of Court will likely charge you per page for copies.
What should I expect during the appointment? You should expect the consulting attorney to review the information that you provide him or her. The attorney will ask you questions to gain an understanding of the status of the case to include whether or not there are any motion hearings or contempt hearings or a trial already set. The lawyer will likely ask why you are dissatisfied with your current attorney and will strive to understand what your objectives are if you change lawyers. You should expect to pay a consultation fee that will vary by law firm.
Should I change lawyers? This is a very different question than may I change lawyers. There are many things to consider if you are contemplating a change. One of the most significant considerations may be the timing of the change and how far along you are in the process. The further along you are in the case, the harder it may be to get a lawyer to take your case especially if the case is already set for trial. Another consideration is whether or not there are immediate deadlines for information that is due to the opposing lawyer. Be sure during the consultation that you tell the consulting lawyer of any and all court dates, deposition dates, and known discovery deadlines.
Allison Dunham practices exclusively in the area of family law and is a partner with the law firm Harrison White, P.C. Click here to read more about Allison.
The posts on this website/blog are published as a service to our clients and friends. They are intended to provide general information only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice regarding any specific situation and should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. Success in the past does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future representation.