What can I do if my divorce attorney never finished my case? 22 Answers as of May 24, 2011

I paid my attorney $1,500 last April to obtain a divorce for me. However, it is past a year now and he is refusing to return my calls or give an answer as to what he has done with my case. I went to the county records and requested a copy of my files since he has refused to provide me with any documents. From what I can see he first filed for an index number back in Sept. of last year and then filed my divorce affidavit the following month. He told me that it would not take no more than 90 days to dissolve my marriage because my husband and me are agreeing to divorce, have no, children or property. When we first began this process my husband was in the United States and signed all the documents that my lawyer requested. However, he is now abroad and I am not sure when he will be returning. I keep calling my lawyers office leaving extended messages with staff and on his voicemail that I want copies of my divorce file and that I want my money returned. However, he has not responded to any of my request. What can I do at this point?

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Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C.
Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C. | Fredric Harlan Aaron
First, under New York law, the client owns the file. The refusal of your attorney to send you the file is a violation of his professional responsibility. You should send him a certified letter demanding a bill for the services rendered justifying the use of the $1,500 retainer as well as a request for the return of the file. If she does not do this, you can file a grievance with the grievance committee for the judicial district in which your attorney is admitted. You can also submit the matter of the funds to fee dispute arbitration. Second, with respect to completing your divorce, you should speak to the court clerk for the divorce court where your case was filed. The clerk can tell you what papers still need to be completed and filed. Such clerks be very helpful, particularly in a situation like yours where you were abandoned by your attorney.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 5/24/2011
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C.
Theodore W. Robinson, P.C. | Theodore W. Robinson
Unfortunately, about the only thing left is to first threaten him that if he doesn't get you the file and part of the money (because he did earn money for whatever he did) you will go to the Grievance Committee of the Bar Association in the County in which his office is located. That will usually get some action from him. Give him a specific date within which he must reply or you're going to the Bar. Give him at least two weeks. If he still doesn't do as you asked, then go straight to the Bar Association or write to the local Bar Association and file a Complaint with them saying exactly what you said in this email. They will immediately investigate and usually that will get the action you need. It may also result in some sort of action being taken against him by the Committee, just for not responding to you. Usually this happens due to illness, addictions, becoming overwhelmed with work and responsibilities that can no longer be handled or some other problem that he can't handle. It's unfortunate that it may have to be handled this way, but I was on the Grievance Committee and investigated these type of things for awhile and you get to see how people can deteriorate just due to handling everyone else's problems and can straighten themselves out when they are forced to do so. As for the Divorce, it appears it can be completed with little or no difficulty, as long as your lawyer had your spouse served with the Divorce Summons and Complaint before he left the country. Those papers should be filed in the County Clerks office in your county and as long as the Affidavit of Service has been served and your spouse never responded, you should be able to move for a Default judgment and get your Divorce with little or no difficulty from here on out. Of course, there is no way of knowing until you see the papers in his file and/or the Clerk's office. You should also consult with a new attorney to get things rolling and they can also write the letters I've mentioned for you. Any money you've paid so far which has not yet been earned will eventually be returned to you one way or another eventually. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 5/23/2011
Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson
Law Office of Michael E. Hendrickson | Michael E. Hendrickson
Send the lawyer a demand letter to return all of your fee by a date certain and then hire another attorney. And, if it doesn't happen, then file a complaint with the Virginia State Bar which can now be done online through the VSB website at www.vsb.org.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 5/23/2011
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
You can go to your lawyer's office and address the matter to your lawyer in person. If your lawyer refuses to meet with you, or to communicate or cooperate with you, you can call the California State Bar Hotline and request their inputs and assistance.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/23/2011
The Davies Law Firm, P.A.
The Davies Law Firm, P.A. | Robert F. Davies, Esq.
Index number? What state is the divorce filed in? Your attorney should return your calls, and should move your case along. It sounds like something is seriously wrong here. Give me a call, make an appointment to come see me, and let's get moving on this for you. No charge for the first office visit. I know people worry about how expensive a lawyer is, so I am careful to be as inexpensive as I can for my clients. Before you spend a dime, you will know how much this is likely to be.
Answer Applies to: New Jersey
Replied: 5/23/2011
    Vermeulen Law office P.A.
    Vermeulen Law office P.A. | Jacob T. Erickson
    In order to obtain a divorce in Minnesota, certain papers needs to be filled out and filed. It is hard to tell from your e-mail if the correct papers were signed by you and your husband. It is possible that the paperwork was filed with the Court, and the Court just hasn't had a chance to review the materials. One thing you can do is hire a new attorney to handle your divorce. The new attorney might have an easier time getting the file from your old attorney, though they might not. The other option you have is to contact the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, if your attorney has not had contact with you for several months. http://lprb.mncourts.gov/Pages/Default.aspx.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 5/23/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    You have options. I would set an in office appointment with the lawyer to discuss and review face to face. If unsuccessful there, you can contact the local bar association's attorney fee dispute committee. They will provide mediation, free of charge most likely. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/23/2011
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law
    Diana K. Zilko, Attorney at Law | Diana K. Zilko
    I am not sure what state you live in, but you can contact the State Bar of "your state" and file a complaint. An attorney in California is required to give you a copy of your file upon request, and to communicate with you. Other than going to the attorney's office in person, I am not sure you have any other options but to file the complaint.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/23/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    Based on the facts you recite, it would appear your attorney has breached his professional duties. You can file a grievance complaint with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel by calling (303) 866-6400, or toll free 1-877-888-1370. You should have the attorney's name, attorney registration number and address & phone number and the court case number available when you call. Be prepared to provide a concise, but detailed summary of the history of your relationship with the attorney to the intake person.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 5/23/2011
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC
    Meriwether & Tharp LLC | Patrick Meriwether
    If you are having problems contacting your attorney, call the State Bar of Georgia. Their contact information is online at www.gabar.org. They have a service that should help you.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We are divorce lawyers in Augusta, Georgia. As to completing your divorce, you might consider talking with another divorce attorney about what it would require to complete it. They can verify, with your help, what was filed and what remains to be done. That would at least be a good starting point. I am sorry about your difficulties. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
    Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
    Your question seems to indicate that your divorce action is taking place outside of Connecticut. We don't use "county records" as all actions take place in a court. Please be sure to post your question for the appropriate state. BTW, if this were Connecticut, you would file a grievance against your attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Beresford Booth PLLC
    Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
    I would be happy to look further into this provided you live in Washington State. Without looking at the file, I can't appropriately answer your question on what to do next given the facts you have presented.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    Threaten to report him to the Washington State Bar Association, and then do so if necessary.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Fox Law Firm LLC
    Fox Law Firm LLC | Tina Fox
    I am sorry to hear that you have had so many problems with your divorce. If your divorce was filed in Will, Cook, or DuPage county I will be glad to assist you resolve this issue. Call the office today so that we may discuss your case in more detail.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    441 Legal Group, Inc.
    441 Legal Group, Inc. | Gareth H. Bullock
    Call the bar association for your state.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Michael Apicella
    Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
    Report your attorney to the State Bar Association. In California, you can get information on filing a complaint against your lawyer here: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/LawyerRegulation.aspx If you are not in California, then look up the state bar association of your state. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
    First of all, California law requires a minimum of six months for a divorce to be complete. Second, though you can assemble your phone records to show the calls the your attorney's office, you should put your request in writing, sent Certified or Registered Mail, with Return Receipt requested. Go the State Bar website (www.calbar.org) for more information. Ultimately, you can file a complaint with the State Bar. You can download the form from the website. Your attorney should definitely have responded to your calls. I believe that the State Bar can help you.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law | Howard W. Collins
    I assume this is in Oregon for purposes of my answer: I am sorry for your inconvenience. You may want to either hire another lawyer to see if another lawyer will at least try to call him to find out what is going on. You never know, the attorney may be having problems that impair his or her ability to assist you. Therefore, you may ultimately have to call the Oregon State Bar and seek assistance from them. I wish the best for you.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    Contact the state bar association to file a complaint against him. Hire another attorney to finish your case. If you are in my area, please contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    There are ways to pursue a complaint against counsel through the State. Perhaps your attorney performed work to the extent that the retainer has been exhausted. In any event it does appear from your facts that you should be getting some response. You may wish to write a letter that chronicles your complaints and request a date certain for a response from the attorney. If there is no response thereafter then you may wish to contact other counsel who can guide you as to the next step.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 5/20/2011
    Seattle Divorce Services
    Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
    You may need to find another attorney who can help you complete your case, and you may need to consult with your state bar association about your current attorney's conduct.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/20/2011
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