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What if my lawyer drops my case?

October 3, 2017

Divorce cases present many challenges under normal circumstances. However, when an attorney decides to withdraw from a divorce case, the client is often left in a more difficult, perhaps precarious position as his or her case moves forward. The following is a brief article detailing why an attorney might take such action, the legal proceedings that will follow and what steps the divorcing person can take in the aftermath.

The Client Must Find Out Why
A client should not merely accept the fact his or her attorney is dropping the case without asking for and receiving a satisfactory explanation. A lawyer simply cannot decide to abandon a case without just cause. In many instances, an attorney leaves a particular client’s divorce case behind for voluntary reasons. However, under certain circumstances, the decision might be mandatory.

Among the most common reasons an attorney might voluntarily decide to part ways with a client is over financial issues. Attorney fees can be expensive, especially in potentially drawn out proceedings like divorce cases. This situation can be avoided if the client is honest with his or her attorney from the outset of the case. If the client cannot afford to pay for the attorney’s services upfront, he or she needs to explain this to the attorney. In some instances, the lawyer might be willing to work out an agreeable payment plan. Other reasons an attorney may voluntarily leave a case behind include poor client conduct or a personality conflict with the client.

Other reasons an attorney may voluntarily leave a case behind include poor client conduct or a personality conflict with the client. Though not occurring as often, a lawyer might be forced (legally mandated) to be excused from a case. Such situations arise when a conflict of interest arises, the attorney is deemed incompetent or the client no longer wishes to utilize his or her services.

What Happens Next?
If both attorney and client are unable to resolve the issue or reach some type of compromise, the attorney, in most cases, will need to file a petition with a court of law asking for permission to withdraw from the case. That said, permission might not always be granted. Such a decision is likely if the particular case has proceeded for a significant period of time or if the withdrawal will have a severely adverse impact upon the client’s ability to pursue his or her legal interests.

If the attorney is granted the withdrawal, it is recommended the client petition the court for a continuance, which is a legal mandate that temporarily postpones the divorce proceedings. In many instances, the court will be sympathetic to the client’s plight and grant the continuance. However, such legal action is not guaranteed.

What Options Does The Client Have?
If his or her attorney withdraws from the case, the client can either hire new counsel or attempt to represent themselves. Most of the time, a client will hire new counsel. Upon retaining a new lawyer, the client’s former attorney is then required to hand over all material (documents, evidence) associated with the case and bring the new counsel up to speed on the proceedings.

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