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|Note that answers given in this section cannot take the place of independant legal or financial advise. Please read our disclaimer.
|"What if I don't agree with my lawyer's tactics and strategies? Can I get a second legal opinion without firing my lawyer?"
It's not uncommon for a client to feel some anxiety about the advice his or her attorney is giving during the divorce proceedings. Often, the high level of emotions surrounding the divorce process, the financial pressures, and the stress of living with an uncertain future create a climate where it is difficult for a client to assess the quality of the advice he or she is receiving. And sometimes, a client simply loses trust in his or her attorney.
While your attorney is not required to follow your specific direction and tactics (particularly if what you are suggesting is unethical, illegal, or unconscionable), you do want to feel that your attorney shares your goals and is taking positive steps to achieve them.
If you don't believe you are receiving adequate representation, it may be appropriate to obtain a second opinion from another attorney just to make sure everything is on the right track. This is certainly preferable to asking friends and family members, who may have little knowledge of the law or how the courts work. You need not fire your lawyer in order to seek another professional opinion about your case. In fact, you may want to share your concerns with your present attorney and let him or her know that you'd like to get another opinion. If you don't feel comfortable with that approach, you may simply consult with another attorney.
The professional you consult should review enough of your matrimonial file to give you a thorough and accurate assessment of your case. Naturally, he or she will expect to be compensated for the time spent in this endeavor. Be honest. Explain that you are currently represented by counsel and are seeking a second opinion. Don't expect one attorney to blatantly criticize another. Be skeptical of bold promises for outstanding results. However, do expect and insist upon a meaningful analysis of your case and an outline of the strategies and tactics that the professional would follow to achieve your goals.
If, after meeting with a second attorney, you're convinced that your case could be better managed by someone else, give careful consideration to changing attorneys. Don't wait until your case is close to trial; the transition should be early enough in the proceedings to allow your new attorney to implement his or her strategy in resolving the issues.
David Wildstein, Esq. has been practicing matrimonial law for more than 30 years. He heads the 12-member family-law department of Wilentz Goldman Spitzer P.A. in Woodbridge, NJ and New York City. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America. He can be reached at (212) 267-3091. View his Divorce Magazine profile.