“What can I do if my lawyer isn’t answering questions I feel are important?”
In family law matters, more than in any other area of law (with the possible exception of estate planning), finding a comfort level with your selected professional representative is critical. Assuming you have an emotional rapport with him/her, you should look at your frustration level from several perspectives:
Are your questions clear?
Is your lawyer actually hearing your questions?
Do you believe he or she should either know the answer or be able to research it?
Let’s take these points one at a time. First, if you believe your questions are presented in a logical manner, and they are not being heard or properly responded to, you might question whether you and your attorney are the right “fit.” If not, perhaps you should consider changing attorneys.
If, after introspection, you realize you are asking subjective questions which might be better (and more economically) brought up in therapy, there is an option to explore. A life-changing process such as divorce, with or without custody battles, is an emotionally draining experience. No matter how resistant you may have previously been to therapy, either individual counseling or a support group can prove invaluable, not only in giving you emotional support, but also in guiding you so that you can more clearly frame your questions.
Next, if you believe your attorney is listening to your questions but not really “hearing” or understanding what it is you want, you might consider saving up a day’s worth of inquiries, sending them to him/her by fax, and requesting that a written response be faxed back. As a side benefit of this approach, you’ll conserve legal fees as well as time, and encourage clarity on both sides. It also helps facilitate getting a “second opinion.”
If your lawyer is achieving positive results but you still feel misunderstood, communicate that to him/her to clear the air, and then get to the library, a bookstore, or on-line with one of the many relevant and informative websites. This will serve to answer your questions, yet allow your case to proceed without interruption.
After all these efforts, if your concerns are still not being properly addressed, you may have to change legal partners as well as life partners. You have the right to feel as confident and professionally comfortable with your lawyer as with your doctor, dentist, therapist, or any other professional to whom you entrust your life.
Rosaline L. Zukerman has been practicing primarily in the family law area for over 22 years. Her background in psychology and counseling makes her especially adept at dispute resolution, in addition to active representation of families in crisis. For over 15 years, she has volunteered her pro-bono services through the Los Angeles County Bar Attorney-Client Fee Disputes Arbitration Services.