Question: I hired my attorney over a year ago for my divorce. He filed the papers to begin the case, but has done nothing since that I am aware of. He hasn’t even served my ex with the papers. My ex could care less—he doesn’t have an attorney, is not paying child support and we rarely hear from him. I call my attorney’s office regularly and leave messages but I never hear back.
Answer: Your attorney owes you professional treatment and respect at a minimum. Under New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct, he owes you communication in the following manner: A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Your attorney seems to be violating this very basic tenant in an attorney-client relationship. You are responsible for making certain determinations in your case, and if you cannot communicate with your attorney, that makes it impossible for you to do so.
It’s curious that he has not yet served your ex. One would hope by now that you would be getting temporary child support on a monthly basis. In addition to failing to communicate with you, he seems to also be violating another rule of professional conduct, and that is, quite simply, providing you with legal representation. Fortunately, there is not statute of limitations on divorce proceedings. However, while you are not in a position to have your case tabled due to time limitations, there are some real concerns here on the part of the attorney.
For example, have you given the attorney a retainer for his services? You are entitled to an accounting of where that money is and how it has been spent. At this point, it seems wise to seek other counsel, as it seems rather clear your divorce will not move forward with this attorney at the helm.
In regard to your retainer paid to the current attorney, seeking a review of your case from a professional malpractice attorney would be wise. Your attorney seems to have violated at least a couple of professional rules, possibly more, and you may have a case against him for his actions.