How can I fire my lawyer? Under what conditions?

Every party has the absolute right to any attorney of his/her choice. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct state:

“A client has a right to discharge a lawyer at any time, with or without cause, subject to liability for payment of the lawyer’s services. Where future disputes about the withdrawal may be anticipated, it may be advisable to prepare a written statement reciting the circumstances.”

This means that at the beginning, middle, or any time during the pendency of the divorce action, the client has the right to change lawyers. You do not have to state a reason.

The procedure for changing lawyers is to fill out, sign, serve, and file a “Substitution of Attorney” form. The present attorney, you (the party), and the new attorney all sign this one-page document. The new attorney will take care of obtaining your file from your former attorney, filing the Substitution of Attorney, and serving your spouse’s attorney.

If you decide to “fire” your attorney, you can choose to continue the case “In Pro Per,” which means “without an attorney.” In that case, your name goes on the line for the new attorney. You will then be acting as your own attorney, which is not a good idea if your spouse is represented by counsel.

If you decide to change counsel before any papers are filed in court, no Substitution of Attorney need be filed. You should simply notify your attorney in writing (keep a copy of your letter).

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Category: General Questions

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