Can I ask his lawyer what’s going on if mine won’t respond?
One of the most common types of complaints made against attorneys, including divorce lawyers, is a failure to communicate in an appropriate manner with a client. In fact, complaints regarding lack of proper lawyer communication is second only to those made about attorney fees.
If you find yourself in the middle of a divorce case, and your lawyer is not communicating with you in a manner that you think is appropriate, you certainly wonder what you can and cannot do in that regard. Your immediate reaction may be to reach out to your spouse’s lawyer and ask that attorney for information. As a general rule, if you are represented by legal counsel, your spouse’s attorney cannot communicate with you in any significant manner.
The Code of Professional Responsibility
The conduct of attorneys licensed to practice in all 50 states is governed by what oftentimes is called the Code of Professional Responsibility. The moniker assigned to this code of conduct differs from state to state. However, Code of Professional Responsibility is the common title of the guide.
Pursuant to the terms of the Code of Professional Responsibility, your spouse’s lawyer is prohibited from communicating with you when you are represented by legal counsel. Even if your lawyer has stopped communicating with you, unless you have fired him, or he has quit, and your attorney has withdrawn from your case, with the approval of the court, he is still your legal counsel.
The extent of communication that can occur between you and your spouse’s lawyer in a situation in which your own lawyer is not communicating with you is to advise your spouse’s attorney that you are not in reasonable contact with your lawyer. Opposing counsel is likely to attempt to contact your attorney on his own to determine the state of affairs.
Notify the Court
If you are sincere in maintaining that your divorce lawyer is not maintaining appropriate contact with you, you must take the step of advising the court of your situation. You should advise the court of the state of affairs in writing.
The court will be limited in the manner in which it can communicate with you while you technically are represented by legal counsel. However, to protect your own legal rights and interests, you need to advise the court of any truly problematic situation with your lawyer, including a communication issue.
Seek Alternate Legal Representation
Another step you need to take if you feel your lawyer is not properly communicating with you is to fire your attorney and seek alternate counsel. Keep in mind that the divorce court will need to approve your attorney’s withdrawal from the case. Depending on the facts surrounding your case, and assuming you are not on the eve of a divorce trial, the court is likely to permit you the ability to seek alternate counsel without much of a hassle, at least one time.
The Reasonable Communication Standard
When it comes to communication with your lawyer, you need to understand that an attorney is held to a reasonable standard. In other words, your attorney must maintain reasonable communication, and not highly extensive, communication with you. The communication between lawyer and client must be reasonable to the situation at hand, what any reasonable attorney would do under the same set of circumstances in your case.