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What can you do when your own attorney lies to you and is ripping you off?

Escondido, CA |

I have a collaborative divorce attorney because my ex and I have a very simple and amicable divorce. she told me it would take a few short months, it has been dragging on and on. She said it would not cost me much more than my retainer and she has now taken HALF my settlement already before I have it! she told me collab divorce would be non confrontational and respectful and it has been anything but. tShe now is withholding my case, until I can pay her. she knows perfectly well that I have no money till the settlement is finalized. I only have interim child support. Now my husband gets a paper saying we have to show up in court in Oct. I was told I would never have to go to court since we were having an OUT OF COURT settlement done. She is lying to me and ripping me off, what CAN I Do?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

1. Complain about this to your attorney. Put it in writing.
2. If no results then talk with the law firm's managing partner (if there is someone like that).
3. If still no result, then contact the local bar asociation for their help.
Fee Arbitration Program Administrator
San Diego County Bar Association
1333 Seventh Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101-4309


Collaborative or not, a California attorney is required to have a written fee agreement with their client. What does yours say? The terms of your fee agreement will be controlling here. I suspect that there are also a lot of other terms in that agreement spelling out the lawyer's and clients' duties as well as the scope of representation.


Sharing a lawyer with your soon-to-be-ex has some pitfalls, such as no attorney-client privilege, but one of the pitfalls is not supposed to be being lied to and ripped off. You should not feel this way about your lawyer, who you're supposed to trust. But be fair -- an estimate of how long a legal proceeding will take is just that, no one can guarantee a particular result in a a particular time, there are just too many variables, and some things, like the court's schedule, are beyond any lawyers' control.

As for the costs, that too could have been an estimate. As Attorney Levy advised, you have to look at your written fee ageement to see how your retainer and costs are treated - my guess is that your retainer was just a downpayment, and perhaps the costs have increased due to things beyond the lawyer's control.

But no one can explain what's going on here without reviewing your file, and you're entitled to know what these costs are for and why there has to be a court appearance if you were told there wouldn't be and why things haven't stayed amicable if your ex and you have agreed on everything and this lawyer is just doing the paperwork. If there have been some disagreements, maybe things weren't as collaborative as you hoped they'd be. Regardless, ask for an itemized explanation of the costs. Ask for an explanation of the court appearance. It's unclear what you mean when you state "she's withhold your case," when you have this upcoming court date, which sounds like things are proceeding even if she claims you owe her money.

Get some answers from your lawyer, she owes them to you.

Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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