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Getting a Second Opinion from a Family Law Lawyer

If you are concerned that your divorce case is not going well, you can get a second legal opinion. You might feel your case is not getting the attention it deserves, or court rulings seem to all be going against you. Just like many people get a second medical opinion for serious health issues, it is your right to have another lawyer review your case and give you feedback about your divorce. You can tell your current lawyer what you're doing, but you don't have to.

What Happens in a Second Opinion

When you hire a lawyer for a second opinion, he or she reviews the files in your case to assess how well your current lawyer is handling it.

In the best case scenario, you find out your current lawyer is doing everything possible for you. This can give you peace of mind. On the other hand, the second opinion may confirm your suspicions that your lawyer is not serving your best interests. If this is the case, you may want to hire a new attorney. You could hire the lawyer who gave you the second opinion, but you’re not under any obligation to do so.

Between these extremes is the situation where your lawyer is doing a good job but the second lawyer believes certain things could be handled better. In this case you will need to decide if you want to stick with your current attorney or hire a new one. You are within your rights to bring the second attorney's recommendations to your current lawyer. Having a frank discussion with your attorney about these concerns may help you decide what to do.

Before Getting a Second Opinion

You don't have to tell your lawyer you want a second opinion, but it's generally a good idea to talk with him or her about your concerns. You may find out there's a good explanation.

If you're determined to get a second opinion, you'll need a copy of your file. This includes pleadings, transcripts, correspondence, and all other documents. The more complete the information you give the second lawyer, the better the second opinion can be. You may also want to make a list of your specific concerns so you don't forget anything and the lawyer has a clear idea of what is bothering you.

Keep in mind that a lawyer can only give a good opinion of your case if you've provided enough information. If not, he or she may refuse to give an opinion.

Also, a lawyer with a conflict of interest in your case can't legally give a second opinion.

When You Might Want a Second Opinion

You can, of course, get a second opinion anytime you want to, just for your own peace of mind. But certain situations might raise a red flag that signals that a second opinion is truly warranted:

  • Your lawyer seems to lack knowledge of relevant law: A lawyer that can't clearly explain the law and the strategies he or she is using may be inexperienced with the area of family law you need.

  • Your lawyer doesn't seem to be moving your case forward: Some delays may be unavoidable, but they shouldn't go on too long. You may be especially concerned if the lawyer is billing for time but nothing seems to be happening.

  • Your lawyer pushes hard for trial rather than settlement: When possible, a settlement can be more efficient and less stressful—not to mention less expensive—than a trial. Your lawyer should be able to explain clearly why a trial is the best option in your case.

It can be hard to know if situations like these signal a problem, but a second opinion can help resolve your questions. A second opinion can also be valuable in helping you make a decision about a specific aspect of your case. For example you may want to be sure the settlement you've negotiated is a fair one.

Remember, your lawyer works for you. If you are unhappy with the work, it's your right to get a second, or even third, opinion and to change lawyers if you feel that's the right thing to do.

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