How long do I have to pay a lawyer's bill, and what can he legally do?

Asked almost 3 years ago - Ranger, GA

I recently received an uncontested divorce, that my lawyer told me would require my ex to pay all legal expenses. I was led to believe there would be no problem, before I signed on, agreeing to hire the attorney.
After being told that the lawyer would get his fees from a 401-k that he was to do a QDRO on, causing more fees, that I was not aware of, plus penalties for early withdrawal, I fired him. Now he is asking for immediate payment. I have lost my primary insurance in the deal and since I am disabled, need the money to enroll in another plan. Enrollment is time sensitive. What do I do? What can he do? I own a house and my credit is good, but loans are impossible to come by in my situation.

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Stephen M Trezza


    Contributor Level 17
    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . Read the contract you entered into with him. He can probably file a lawsuit against you and attempt to execute on any judgement received just like any other creditor.

  2. Michael J Corbin

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . Something isn't quite adding up here. Most state bars prohibit attorneys from collecting their fees through assets recovered for their clients in a divorce, so the "getting paid out of a 401-k" statement seems odd. That said, there are two sides to every story, and I'm certain your ex-attorney will have a much different version of events. Read your fee agreement. It will state quite clearly how the fees are earned. If he is owed the money, and you haven't paid him, then he certainly can come after you for the money. Frankly, any cash-out on a 401-k will result in tax liabilities and penalties, so that should have been explained to you clearly by several sources, including your attorney and your fund manager. If you believe you've been misled, you can always file a complaint with your state's bar association.

    This answer is not to be considered a response to a specific legal issue in a specific jurisdiction - it is to be... more

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