What should I do if I am unhappy with my divorce attorney? 32 Answers as of August 24, 2011

I previously retained an attorney to pursue child support but I no longer wish to do so and am asking the lawyer to withdraw from the case. Am I owed any money in return or do I lose the whole amount I gave him to handle the case?

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Beresford Booth PLLC
Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
You will unlikely be entitled to a "refund" unless you current attorney did something improper.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/24/2011
Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C.
Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C. | Fredric Harlan Aaron
The amount you are due as a refund, if any, will depend on your retainer agreement with the attorney. If the amount of retainer paid to your attorney was not used up during the child support proceeding, then you should be entitled to a refund in most circumstances.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 8/17/2011
The English Law Firm
The English Law Firm | Robert English
You have the right to ask the attorney to substitute out. You may be owed a refund or you may have a balance due depending on the fee agreement and work performed. You should ask for a final accounting.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 8/12/2011
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
You have not provided enough information to answer your question. Your attorney is entitled to payment for what he has done up to the point that you terminate his service. You should have a written fee agreement with him that provides the details of how his services are to be accounted for. If you deposited an advance amount more than to cover what he has already done, you should be entitled to a refund. You are entitled to a detailed explanation from him to explain his charges and why there would be no refund - if that is what he says.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 8/11/2011
Neville J. Bedford Attorney at Law
Neville J. Bedford Attorney at Law | Neville J. Bedford
this is a question best discussed with the attorney you retained. They should be the first to know your disappointment - If they agree, they may likely facilitate a smooth transition to whomever you select as their successor. If the situation cannot be resolved, you may ask for a final accounting and a copy of your file to give them notice that you wish to find new counsel.
Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
Replied: 8/10/2011
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    If he spent less time on an hourly basis than what you paid him/her, you are entitled to a refund unless your agreement was to pay a lump sum.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni
    Law Office of Michael W. Bugni | Jay W. Neff
    First, if the case has been filed, and you no longer wish to go forward with it, you should have it dismissed. Second, you can always fire your attorney. If you make it clear to him or her that, that is what you want then, the attorney should send out a withdrawal and stop taking action on your case. Third, whether you have money coming back from the attorney and how much depends on several items. It will depend on exactly what sort of fee arrangement you made with the attorney. In some fee arrangements, unused funds are refundable. In others they are not. It will also depend on how much work the attorney has done on the case to this point. If you gave the attorney enough money to cover 10 hours of work and he or she has already done 12 hours of work, then, chances are, you're not getting anything back. On the other hand, if you gave the attorney money to cover 10 hours of work and he or she has only done two hours of work, then, you should be getting something back, again, depending on the type of fee arrangement you made with the attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    you need to review your retainer agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
    Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
    Typically, you pay for the services rendered. If you paid him more money then the time that was invested, you should get a refund.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    You can fire your attorney any time. Whether you get back any of the money you've given him so far, depends on your fee agreement. There are limits in Washington to lawyers being able to charge a flat fee for their work. If the money you've paid is not a flat fee, but an advance fee deposit, that the attorney earns as he/she works - then the question is whether he/she has done enough work to earn it all. If not, you should get the balance of your fee deposit back.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Thomas Humphrey, Attorney at Law
    Thomas Humphrey, Attorney at Law | Thomas Humphrey
    If you are unhappy with your divorce attorney, you are able to obtain a different lawyer. Your original lawyer must refund any funds in trust that have not already been used working on your case.
    Answer Applies to: Idaho
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A.
    Joanna Mitchell & Associates, P.A. | Joanna Mitchell
    That depends on what your Retainer Agreement says, how much money the Retainer fee was, and how much work has actually been done on your case. You should review your Agreement and then talk with your Attorney about the situation. You can also retain new counsel and discuss the matter with them.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Fox Law Firm LLC
    Fox Law Firm LLC | Tina Fox
    If there is any remaining amount of your retainer left, then the attorney is obligated to return that money to you.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    We recommend you review your retainer agreement and try to work it out with your lawyer. In other words, it would depend on the terms of your agreement. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A.
    Michael D. Fluke, P.A. | Michael D. Fluke
    Typically an attorney will have a retainer agreement that provides for a non-refundable initial retainer or a flat fee for the initial retainer. If this is the case, it is unlikely you will get any money back. Look at the terms of the retainer agreement. In terms of finding a new attorney, the internet is a good starting point. There are many sites that rate and review attorneys. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    441 Legal Group, Inc.
    441 Legal Group, Inc. | Gareth H. Bullock
    It depends on the retainer you signed and how much you paid to him. Most likely you won't receive a full refund but may receive a partial.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Law Offices of Paul A. Eads, A.P.C.
    Law Offices of Paul A. Eads, A.P.C. | Paul A. Eads
    Look at the terms of your retainer. BEFORE firing him (which you may do at any time), ask him for an update on the status of your account (how much $ you have left).
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Law Office of Daniel B. Rubanowitz, APC
    Law Office of Daniel B. Rubanowitz, APC | Daniel B. Rubanowitz
    The Engagement Agreement dictates whether or not you are entitled to a refund from your attorney. Although Retainer Fees can be refundable, there are attorneys that have non-refundable retainers and the unused portion of the fee paid is kept by the attorney regardless of whether you keep or substitute them out of the case. Attorneys use non-refundable clauses in their Engagement Agreement because you are paying for him/her to commit to working on your case; meaning that the attorney is likely forgoing opportunities to work on another case. Read your Engagement Agreement and if you are not certain, then consider your other options, including, but not limited to, consulting with another attorney or asking your attorney to explain it to you. Your attorney should not bill you to discuss the terms of the Engagement Agreement. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Edward Papa, Esq.
    Edward Papa, Esq. | Edward Papa
    You are entitled to any unused retainer. NY does not allow non-refundable fees. The attorney is entitled to any fees earned and expenses incurred on your behalf. Ask him to withdraw and for a final accounting and refund. If you are not satisfied with his fee, you can submit a request to "fee dispute resolution program." You can find information online or call your local bar association and ask for information about attorney-client fee disputes.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    The Law Offices of Robert W. Bellamy
    The Law Offices of Robert W. Bellamy | Robert W. Bellamy
    Fire him. But first look at why you are unhappy with him. Is the problem it is taking too long? Are you looking for sympathy from him? Is he suggesting or insisting on a settlement you don't agree with? Have you set down with him to discuss you dissatisfaction? First it may be the court that is taking the time, Second he is not married to you and is not a relative (I hope), settlements are a success when neither party is happy. Sit down and discuss your expectations, then if you are still not satisfied, fire him. But, you may not be satisfied with the next attorney either.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq.
    Law & Mediation Office of Jeffrey L. Pollock, Esq. | Jeffrey Lawrence Pollock
    Take a look at your Engagement Letter/Retainer Agreement to see what terms you agreed to as far as non-fundable fees. In most cases, it is unethical to keep unearned fees.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 8/9/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    That depends solely on the language of the fee agreement you signed, and since you did not provide that language, there is no way to answer you.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/9/2011
    Gregory T. Buckley, Attorney at Law
    Gregory T. Buckley, Attorney at Law | Gregory T. Buckley
    Whether or not you can get any money back depends on the provisions of the agreement you entered into when you initially retained this attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/9/2011
    Donaldson Stewart, PC
    Donaldson Stewart, PC | Monica H. Donaldson Stewart
    It depends on the terms of your contract with that attorney. You have the right to discharge your attorney from further services, but generally speaking, if they have already earned the amount you paid them, you would not necessarily be entitled to a refund.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 8/9/2011
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
    Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
    To Whom It May Concern: Check your contract/Retainer Agreement. Most Family Law Attorneys work by the hour. An Attorney's fee cannot be unconscionable so, for example, if you gave an Attorney $2,500 or $3,500, and he only drafted a couple of documents and maybe appeared in Court one time, you might well expect that you had not used up the entire retainer. You might well be entitled to a partial refund. Send a Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested to the Attorney. Advise him that you are terminating his services and request your file and a refund of any unearned fees. The lawyer has no choice. You can avoid being billed further by advising the attorney that you are not authorizing the expenditure of any further charges whatsoever, and send the Attorney a Substitution of Attorney. The lawyer is supposed to advise you that you have the right to arbitrate a fee dispute. You can find a complaint for on the California State Bar website (www.calbar.org).
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/10/2011
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation | Paul Wallin
    It depends upon the terms of your written retainer agreement. Review it. IF you did not sign one then you likely will be entitled to some refund, but will depend upon how many hours the lawyer devoted to your case. Check the signed contract you have with the lawyer and you can demand an accounting of all the time he spent on the case if it is an hourly rate retainer.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/9/2011
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller
    Law Office Of Jody A. Miller | Jody A. Miller
    The answer to this depends on the fee contract that you signed, which should explain how the retainer works, how refunds work, and whether any portion of the retainer is refundable. Any honest attorney should have a written fee agreement. If you don't have a fee agreement, you need to discuss the issue with your attorney. If you believe you have a fee dispute, you can call the Georgia Bar and ask them about the procedure for fee disputes with lawyers.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/9/2011
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC
    Vincent J. Bernabei LLC | Vincent J. Bernabei
    You are entitled to a refund of your unused retainer.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 8/9/2011
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