Can my divorce attorney stop representing me if I can't pay him? 26 Answers as of June 26, 2013

My attorney asked for $25,000 for my divorce. I paid him the amount. After 60 days, he is asking for another large retainer fee. I don't have money anymore. Can he stop representing me if I don't pay?

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Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
$25,000 is a lot of fees for a divorce attorney to run through in 60 days. You should ask the attorney for an itemized statement to see what he claims that he did. The attorney cannot ethically cease your representation unless you voluntarily sign a Substitution of Attorney relieving him, or unless he files and is granted a Motion to be relieved as your attorney of record.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 11/28/2011
Beaulier Law Office
Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
Yes. A family law attorney may withdraw from the case for non-payment of legal fees. However, the rules of professional responsibility dictate that they must do so sufficiently in advance of any hearing that the client's case is not significantly prejudiced.
Answer Applies to: Minnesota
Replied: 11/18/2011
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
It all depends upon how the written retainer reads. That is the written contract he/she was required to give you before starting to work for you on your divorce. You should have a copy of that retainer in your possession along with a copy of your Rights as a Divorce Client. Review those Rights carefully, since they explain everything completely. As for whether your attorney can get off the case if you don't pay beyond the $25,000, that will again depend upon whether the attorney has already invested more than that amount of time into your case based upon his/her hourly rate. If your retainer (which means a down payment to cover hours spent on yourbehalf) has been used up and the attorneywill be required to invest more of their time into your case, then you may be required to pay the attorney or he/she may be allowed by the Court to decline to work further on your case. However, the attorney may not simply stop working on your case without aCourt order, sodemand a full accounting of the attorney's billings and make sure that they areconsistent with your understanding of the amount of time spent already by the attorney on your behalf. Otherwise, you may wish to hire a new attorney to represent you. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 11/18/2011
Law Office of Michael W. Bugni
Law Office of Michael W. Bugni | Jay W. Neff
Not knowing any of the details of your case, I cannot speak to the propriety of the size of the fees involved. As to whether an attorney can quit a case, the answer is "yes." No one is required to work for free. So, if the money you have paid so far has been used up, and if you are telling the attorney you can't pay any more, then, in general, he has the right to quit. There are some limits on exactly how he has to quit. For example, in general, an attorney won't be allowed to quit the day before trial, or in similar circumstances that would damage a client, but, absent such circumstances, he or she has a right to get out of the case.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 11/18/2011
Dunnings Law Firm
Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
Yes.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 5/31/2013
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
    Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
    Yes, but having already paid him $25K (and now he wants more), you might consider yourself lucky to be rid of him as your attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Law Offices of Stephanie Lee Ehrbright, Esq.
    Law Offices of Stephanie Lee Ehrbright, Esq. | Stephanie Lee Ehrbright
    They can only stop representing you if he shows you that he has already earned that much hourly or gives you back what he has not already earned. If you ask for an accounting of the work they have done on the case they have to give it to you or you can report them to the State Bar.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock
    Law Offices of Arlene D. Kock | Arlene D. Kock
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/31/2013
    Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C.
    Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C. | Richard A. Gray
    I am presuming that you have a written fee agreement with your attorney. I suggest first that you read your retainer agreement but it is a virtual certainty that it contains language that the attorney can withdraw in the event you can't or don't pay your legal fees. Your attorney can file a motion with the court to withdraw if you won't sign an order of withdrawal based on your inability to pay your legal fees. However, the Court can deny the motion to withdraw if it is too close to a hearing date such as a final hearing. Generally speaking, the Court may deny the motion to withdraw if it is made inside of 60 days prior to the final hearing.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    The Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC
    The Zwiebel Law Firm, LLC | Elizabeth Zwiebel
    Yes, he may withdraw. However, if $25,000.00 only lasts 60 days, I would ask for a complete accounting of how the money was spent. You should know that you may fire an attorney for any reason just as he may withdraw for any reason.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    Your attorney can stop representing you but if they are attorney of record in the court system they will have to get the judge's permission to withdraw. In any case, that sounds like a lot of money to be spent in a period of 60 days; I would ask for a detailed billing statement so you can verify where the money has gone.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    Yes. But the amount of the fees you went through seems high. His or her fees have to be reasonable. Did you get a detailed bill. Does it look reasonable. If not, contact the bar association.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    It depends on your written fee agreement. If you don't pay as agreed, you don't have a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Charles Regan Shaw, PLC
    Charles Regan Shaw, PLC | Charles R Shaw
    25,000 in legal fees in 60 days? You have an issue if that is correct.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/26/2013
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    Yes. But you will be entitled to a refund of any unused advance deposit you made previously.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Law Office of Margaret D. Wilson
    Law Office of Margaret D. Wilson | Margaret Wilson
    You attorney can stop representing you but he needs to file a motion to be relieved as counsel first or have you sign a substitution of attorney. Otherwise he is legally obligated to protect you in your dissolution of marriage action.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Attorney Paul Lancia
    Attorney Paul Lancia | Paul Lancia
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 5/31/2013
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    Yes, an attorney can substitute out if you cannot pay. I would be a little concerned over the fact that they have used up $25,000 in 60 days. What has taken place over that time period to use up that much money? How much per hour is the attorney charging? These are important questions to have answered.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch, P.S., Inc.
    Wolfstone, Panchot & Bloch, P.S., Inc. | Mark Brown
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/31/2013
    The Law Offices of Mandy J. McKellar
    The Law Offices of Mandy J. McKellar | Mandy J. McKellar
    The answer is unfortunately yes, but you should get an accurate accounting of the work that has been done as attorneys especially in family law are required to keep track of their assistants time and their time on your matter. In some instances an attorney can blow through this much money depending on their billable rate. I have always found it best when the client communicates with me directly regarding their issues with payment so I can keep their case and come to some sort of resolution. But I like to see my cases through to the end, not all attorney's work this way. You may want to meet with counsel that is more affordable to you, as this amount leads me to the conclusion that this attorney is expensive, and there are competent attorney's that will not overcharge you during this difficult time.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A.
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A. | Robert F. Davies, Esq.
    That seems like an awful lot of money. A really awful lot. 60 days?
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 6/26/2013
    Ruiz Law Group, P.C.
    Ruiz Law Group, P.C. | Frances Ruiz
    You attorney should have given you a retainer agreement, along with a detailed invoice with any bills. Unfortunately, most retainer agreements provide for withdrawal of representation if you do not comply with payment of services.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 11/18/2011
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC
    The McDonnell Law Firm, PLLC | Patrick J. McDonnell
    Yes.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/31/2013
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