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Ellen, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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I am in the middle of a divorce. My attorney verbally assured

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I am in the middle of a divorce. My attorney verbally assured me on three separate occasions that my bill would be in the 4k range with a custody battle...I told ime I knew he could only estimate, but the last time I asked were we still in the ball park and he said yes, I found out when I receieved his bill 3 months later (he did not bill me from 6/11 to 1/12) that we had already gone 2k over the "final cost" he estimated and I still had not even gone near the divorce master or talked about property settlement. Also, this attorney failed to be aware of a point of law regarding mortgage deviations when we went to court. I asked him about it prior to court (because I had found it and wanted to be prepared to fight it) and he assured me my soon to be ex could not get a mortgage deviation even though the information on the domestics website indicated he could. The court gave it to him and informed my attorney that the "law changed several years ago". My attorney apologized and said we would appeal. That appeal cost me $2681 (after I asked him how much it would cost to appeal and he said "not much"). I make $14k a year as a substitute teacher. My bill is over 8k and we have only been before the divorce master once to discuss discovery, so I know a lot more is coming, and my ex is emotionally abusive and narcissistic...he will not settle as most normal people would. There is also custody involved for one child under the age of 18. I feel my attorney has not been straight with me, has not gotten me anything I could not have gotten alone. I am considering letting him go. Can a divorce like this be handled on my own? I am an intelligent woman with a college degree. Am I best off changing lawyers? How difficult is it to do that in the middle of a case. If I let my attorney go, would he have to give me all the documentation on the case? I am scared, but truly cannot afford to keep paying for what is not getting me anywhere. I am afraid by the time we are done, what he said would be a $4k case will be $12k (almost a year's salary for me)....we are already at $8k. I need the money from the equitable distribution to get back on my feet (I may have to re-train as I cannot seem to obtain a teaching position) and for retirement...I am 47 and was a stay at home mom most of the last 20 years...I have no retirement savings (and ex had little....entire marital estate is probably around $150k...and ex makes $140k a year)I talked my lawyer about the bill and the error that cost me $3k appeal, and all I got was another bill where he went back and found another $500 worth of emails to charge me for from many months earlier. Please help me to sort out my options. I am in York county Pennsylvania
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Ellen replied 4 years ago.
Welcome to JustAnswer,

I am the expert that will be assisting you today. Thank you for your question.

If my answer is not clear to you or does not fully answer your question, please ask me for clarification by using the reply button..

Since you are not comfortable with the legal services you are receiving, you will want to retain new counsel. Once you have retained new counsel, your new attorney can obtain a copy of the file from your prior attorney.

Due to the disparity in your incomes, your new attorney can request temporary support for you during the pendency of the proceeding. Additionally a good litigator may be able to have your husband pay his fees. You will want to retain the best attorney that your husband's money can buy.

After your divorce is back on track with the new attorney, you can consider filing a malpractice action against your prior attorney.

I think this is what you wanted to know. Please use the REPLY button if you have any questions concerning my answer. Otherwise please click ACCEPT so that I am paid by the site for answering.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My attorney filed a paper for "marital claims" saying he was asking my ex to pay my attorneys fees "interim" and at "final".....but I never heard anything from it, and now he wants ME to pay him $6k now. In fact, he had to make some adjustments and was supposed to send me an amended bill but didn't and now added "finance charges". What is up with the marital claims and getting ex to pay? I am afraid to ask him any more questions because he charges me at least $20 per email and then often doesn't even answer they although he charged me to read them.


I am currently getting APL.


How difficult is it to change attorneys? I was told in this county I have to get his name removed from my case and another added. Also, what about representing myself? Is it doable? And will I get my records from him if I go that way? At this point I have to go before the divorce master again, then it is my understanding that she will make a recommendation for settlement, but either of us can push to a judge. My lawyer said that would "get expensive" considering the $8k he has already charged me, I am afraid to know what that means. I have in writing from my ex that if I do not "get reasonable" and do things his way, he will be happy to push that far and that he can better afford it. If he pushes there, I feel I will have no choice but to represent myself.

Expert:  Ellen replied 4 years ago.

I would not suggest representing yourself. I would suggest retaining the strongest possible attorney for the meeting with the divorce master. Having top-notch counsel may assist you in settling at that time.

The key to success in your situation is likely retaining competent counsel

Currently you have a lot of issues in the divorce that are not being resolved. This is costing you time and money. You need strong representation to bring this to a speedy conclusion

It is not typically difficult to change attorneys. Your new attorney will prepare a substitution of counsel and obtain all the paperwork from your prior attorney.

Here is a link to a free legal referral site that may assist you in locating competent local counsel:

I wish you the best of luck in this difficult situation

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Please let me know if I can assist you in the future by requesting me directly - if you're a subscriber, you can do so at no additional cost beyond your monthly payment. Start your new question with "for WebLaw" so that the question is directed to me and I can give your question my immediate attention

Thank you very much,
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

You did not answer my question about representing myself. Is it doable? Will my current lawyer have to give me my file? Etc

Expert:  Ellen replied 4 years ago.
Sorry I was not clear. It may be doable for you to represent yourself. However when you go before the divorce master you will have a greater chance of settling if you have a strong lawyer. Put yourself in the shoes of the other attorney. Would you be more likely to settle if your opponent was a stronger attorney or a self represented litigant with no legal divorce experience

I think this is what you wanted to know. Please use the REPLY button if you have any questions concerning my answer. Otherwise please click ACCEPT so that I am paid by the site for answering.
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