What should I do if I am dissatisfied with my lawyer in my custody case?

It is not uncommon, particularly in the area of family law, for a client to become frustrated and unhappy with his or her lawyer. After all, family law cases, and custody cases in particular, tend to be highly stressful, emotional, prolonged proceedings that are generally not a whole lot of fun for all parties involved. The negativity in such cases can be overwhelming, to the point that you might think that everyone is against you, including the one person who is supposed to be on your side – your lawyer.
If you become dissatisfied with your lawyer, the first thing that you should do is attempt to resolve your feelings directly with your lawyer. If you are feeling let down because the judge didn’t order what you expected, or if you are angry that a hearing didn’t go in your favor, it is important to have your lawyer explain the outcome to you. While you still might be upset with the outcome, you should at least give your lawyer a chance to explain why things happened as they did. There may be very valid reasons that things did not go in your favor, or to your satisfaction; while these reasons might be hard to stomach in some instances, they still may be weighty enough to have influenced the outcome of your case. The best way to discover the reasons behind the outcome, and the actions that you can take in order to avoid such a result in the future, is to simply ask your lawyer for an explanation.
There are some situations, however, when the lawyer -client relationship breaks down to the point that you can no longer have a civil conversation with your lawyer, or where you are still dissatisfied with the outcome of your case, despite your lawyer‘s explanations. In this case, if you believe that your lawyer has made a mistake or acted unethically with regard to your case, then you can report your lawyer’s behavior to your state agency that monitors the conduct of lawyers. You generally will need to file your complaint with that agency in writing; every state has different procedures for handling of such complaints.
Making a formal complaint against a lawyer can have very serious repercussions for the lawyer. In cases of true misconduct, the state agency governing lawyers’ conduct has various options for disciplining lawyers, including reprimands, suspensions, and even revocation of licenses to practice law in extreme circumstances. Therefore, you need to ensure that you really have a valid complaint against your lawyer before you file a formal complaint against him or her.
For instance, you need to ask yourself why you are so dissatisfied. The outcome of your custody case may or may not have had anything to do with the actions that your lawyer took, or didn’t take. Were your expectations too high? Did the lawyer act as a reasonable lawyer would in your custody case? Did you follow your lawyer’s recommendations in matters concerning your custody case? These are all questions that you might ask yourself as you consider the impact of your own actions, as opposed to the impact of your lawyer’s actions, on the outcome of your custody case, and whether your lawyer’s actions really merit a formal complaint.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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