Jay A. Frank, a family lawyer in Chicago, answers:
Sure, you can fire your divorce lawyer. You can do it just about any time and for any reason whatsoever. Here’s how it works: the golden rule is that the lawyer works for you, not the other way around. If you are not satisfied with the way the lawyer is handling your case, you can fire him. The lawyer should return your calls and reply to your emails promptly, send you copies of all important documents and letters, and keep you involved and informed. If these things aren’t happening, you might want to consider discharging the lawyer and hiring a different one. Even if the lawyer seems to be doing everything right, but you just don’t get along, you can let the lawyer go. You don’t need anything more than that.
The best way to discharge your lawyer is in writing, either by email or by letter. You simply need to state that the representation isn’t working out, and that the lawyer should withdraw from the case. The lawyer will then have to receive permission from the court to withdraw from the case. Most often, the court will allow the withdrawal. There are, however, circumstances where the court might deny the request to withdraw – such as at a time when the case will shortly be going to trial. In those circumstances, the judge might want the trial to go forward without the delay that would result from the lawyer leaving the case and another lawyer coming in.
The lawyer leaving the case is entitled to be paid for his services, unless they were somehow improper. He is also required to return any unused portion of your retainer and must transfer the file to your new lawyer.
Going through a divorce is a life-changing event. The outcome of the case can affect your life and the lives of the children for many years to come. Therefore, it’s important to have a good lawyer with whom you have a good working relationship. If that’s not the case, the lawyer should be discharged.
Jay A. Frank is a senior divorce practitioner with Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa in Chicago. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. With more than 35 years of experience, he focuses his practice on all aspects of Illinois family law. He can be reached at (312) 828-9600. View his Divorce Magazine profile.