7 Reasons Your Divorce Lawyer is Not Fighting for You (How to Recognize it and What to Do About it)

Dealing with a divorce is already a challenging and emotionally taxing experience, and having a lawyer who is not fighting for you can make things even worse. 

Your lawyer is supposed to be your advocate and represent your best interests, but it can be frustrating and disheartening if you feel they are not fighting for you.  

Reasons Why Your Divorce Lawyer is Not Fighting for You 

In my experience, there are several reasons why divorce attorneys are not fighting for their clients. Those reasons include the following: 

1. Unpaid Legal Bill

Lawyers are bound by ethical and professional standards that require them to provide competent and diligent representation to their clients, regardless of whether their bills are unpaid. 

This means a lawyer should not stop fighting for their client simply because they have not been paid.

Having said this, lawyers often stop actively working on a file if there is an unpaid balance or if they believe they will not be paid for the work the client is requesting. 

If a client fails to pay their legal fees, a lawyer may take steps to withdraw from the representation, such as filing a motion to withdraw from the case and terminate the attorney-client relationship. 

2. Too Busy to Work on the Case Properly

A lot of lawyers take on more work than they can handle. Most lawyers I know are chasing the next fee. They are afraid to say no to a new client because they fear missing out on a new attorney fee. 

Let me be clear; this is not a good excuse for an attorney to fail to fight for their client. 

A lawyer should only take on a case if they have the time and resources to provide competent and diligent representation. 

If a lawyer realizes they do not have enough time to work on a case, they should inform the client as soon as possible and take the necessary steps to withdraw from the representation.

3. Lack of Experience in Family Law

Lawyers should only take on cases in areas where they have the necessary knowledge and experience to provide competent representation. 

I see a lot of inexperienced lawyers attempting to handle divorces. Divorces are challenging cases. The emotions are high, and the law can be complicated. 

If your lawyer is not providing you with the level of representation that you need or is not adequately fighting for your interests, you should communicate your concerns with them and discuss possible solutions. 

If you cannot resolve the issue, consider finding new legal representation.

4. Afraid of Losing to the Other Attorney

Let’s be honest; some lawyers are better than others. I frequently see lawyers afraid to move a client’s case forward because they are afraid the other lawyer is better than them, and they will lose the case. 

If you are concerned your attorney is outclassed and afraid of the other attorney, you should have an honest conversation about it with your lawyer. 

If your lawyer is not providing adequate representation due to fear of the other attorney, consider finding new legal representation.

5. Fear of Trial

I have seen lots of lawyers who are afraid to try cases. When this happens, the lawyers frequently attempt to convince their clients to take a settlement that may be less than the client would get if they were to take the case to trial.

If you have hired an attorney and they are hesitant or afraid to go to trial, consider finding new legal representation. 

Going to trial can be a critical component of many legal cases, including divorce. If your attorney is not willing or able to represent you in court, it may negatively impact the outcome of your case.

Before taking any action, it’s important to discuss your concerns with your attorney and try to understand their reasoning for not wanting to go to trial. 

There may be valid reasons why your attorney is hesitant to take your case to trial, such as a lack of evidence or a weak legal position. 

If your attorney can explain their reasoning to your satisfaction and propose alternative strategies to achieve your goals, you may be able to continue working with them.

If, after discussing your concerns with your attorney, you still need to go to trial and your attorney is unwilling or unable to represent you in court, you may need to seek new legal representation. 

When looking for a new attorney, it’s crucial to find someone with experience and expertise in your specific legal issue and who is willing and able to take your case to trial if necessary.

6. Fear of Losing the case

While there may be some cases where an attorney may advise their client to settle rather than pursue a trial, this should only be done after careful consideration of all relevant factors, including the client’s goals and interests, the strength of the case, and the potential risks and benefits of different strategies. 

Ultimately, the decision to settle or continue fighting a case should be made by the client, with the guidance and advice of their attorney.

If an attorney stops fighting for their client because they are afraid they will lose the case, this would breach their ethical duties and could result in disciplinary action or other consequences. 

Clients should work with attorneys committed to providing competent and diligent representation and willing to fight for their interests, even in challenging cases.

7. Conflict of Interest 

Your attorney may have a conflict of interest that may prevent them from fighting for your best interests. For example, if your attorney has a close relationship with your ex-spouse or their attorney, they may not be able to represent you effectively.

What are Some Signs Your Lawyer Is Not Fighting For You

There are some common signs that signify your lawyer is not fighting for you. Here are some of the red flags to watch out for:

1. Failing to appear at scheduled court dates

If your attorney fails to appear in court, it could have serious consequences for your case. Your attorney is responsible for representing your interests and advocating on your behalf in court. 

If they do not show up for court, it can result in delays, missed opportunities, and even legal sanctions. If your lawyer is not showing up for court, it is a red flag that they are not fighting for you. 

2. Not returning phone calls or replying to emails

If your attorney is not responding to your calls or emails, or if you feel like they are not keeping you updated on the progress of your case, it may be a sign that they are not giving your case the attention it deserves.

3. Unprofessionalism

If your attorney is acting unprofessionally or is not treating you with the respect you deserve, it may be time to look for someone who is more ethical and has better communication skills.

4. Lack of Progress on Your Case

If your divorce proceedings have been going on for a long time and you do not see any progress, it may be a sign that your attorney is not doing their job effectively.

How to Handle an Attorney Who is Not Fighting for You

1. Communicate Your Concerns to Your Attorney

The first step is to communicate your concerns with your lawyer. Sometimes, miscommunication or lack of communication can be the root of the problem. 

Schedule a meeting with your lawyer to discuss your concerns and ask them to explain their strategy and reasoning. 

Be clear and specific about your expectations and the outcomes you hope to achieve.

2. Seek a Second Opinion From a Different Divorce Lawyer

If you have already tried communicating your concerns and are still unsatisfied with your lawyer’s approach, it may be time to seek a second opinion. 

Find another lawyer who specializes in divorce cases and ask for their opinion. They may be able to provide a fresh perspective and offer advice on how to proceed.

3. Consider Changing Lawyers

If, after seeking a second opinion, you feel like your current lawyer is not the right fit for you, consider changing lawyers. 

It is critical to have a lawyer who is aligned with your goals and has a strategy that you are comfortable with. You want to have a divorce attorney who will fight for you.

When looking for a new lawyer, do your research and find one with experience in divorce cases and a track record of success.

4. Stay Organized

Whether you continue working with your current lawyer or switch to a new one, it is crucial to stay organized. Keep track of all the documents, emails, and other communication related to your case. 

This will help you stay on top of things and ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

5. File a Bar Complaint

If your lawyer is acting unethically or neglecting your case, you have the right to file a complaint with your state’s bar association. They will investigate your claim and take appropriate action.

6. Don’t Give Up

Divorce cases can be long and complicated, and it can be easy to feel discouraged or give up hope. 

However, staying focused on your goals and pushing forward is essential. If you feel your lawyer is not fighting for you, don’t be afraid to speak up and take action to ensure your interests are represented.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I fire my lawyer if they are not fighting for me?

A: Yes, you have the right to terminate your lawyer anytime. However, it’s essential to ensure you have another lawyer lined up before you do so to avoid any delays or disruptions in your case.

Q: Will I have to pay my current lawyer if I fire them?

A: You will likely have to pay for the services your lawyer has already provided, but you may be able to negotiate a reduced fee or request a refund if your lawyer has not fulfilled their obligations.

Q: Can I sue my lawyer for malpractice if they are not fighting for me?

A: It’s possible to sue a lawyer for malpractice if they have breached their duty of care to you and caused you harm. However, malpractice cases can be challenging to prove and require expert testimony and evidence.

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Tim McDuffey is a practicing attorney in the State of Missouri. Tim is a licensed member of the Missouri Bar and Missouri Bar Association.

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