You definitely can get a second legal opinion without firing your divorce lawyer. Here are some things you should consider:
Most family law attorneys charge by the hour to act as consultants. (Some lawyers will meet with you for free if they think they will get a new case, but their advice may be less than impartial.) An impartial consultation, though, may be a valuable expenditure if it gives you peace of mind.
Sometimes, however, getting a lot of divorce advice is confusing. Every one has a different style, and many family law decisions are judgment calls, not black-and-white options. Second-guessing another divorce attorney’s decisions is difficult at best for the attorney, and many clients find it difficult to sort out which opinion is better.
The advice you will receive is also limited by the input you provide. If the consulting divorce attorney does not have all the facts, or if you present information in a biased or confusing manner, the advice you get will be less valuable. To avoid getting back the information you want rather than the truth, ask your consulting lawyer not to advocate for a particular position. Choose reality over wishful thinking.
You may also be confusing your unhappiness about the divorce with your unhappiness with your legal representation. Use counseling to sort out your emotional issues.
If the issue is one of personality and you are unhappy with your attorney, a consultation with another attorney may help open up your options. A relationship with an attorney during a divorce is a close one, and you must be comfortable with your attorney. You must also feel that your attorney is behaving in a way which does not make the process worse for you or your children in the future.
Be careful in choosing a second divorce attorney, though. It is the general folk wisdom among family lawyers that clients who have had more than two attorneys are not good clients, and judges also look askance at parties with serial lawyers.
Fern Salka is a Certified Family Law Specialist with a law and mediation practice in Brentwood. She is the former chair of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Family Law Section and is listed by Los Angeles magazine as a SuperLawyer for 2004 and 2005. She can be reached at (310) 207-1049. View her website and Divorce Magazine profile.