Question: My attorney has been representing me for about 6 months, and frankly, he doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. I am in the middle of trying to get divorced. My husband’s attorney is sending us inquiries about my income, bonuses, assets etc.
I’ve answered the questions as well as something called “admissions.” Not only has my attorney not sent them to the other side, he hasn’t bothered to ask for the same documents from my ex-husband. What should I do?
Answer: The documentation you are referring to is called “discovery” and it is standard procedure in any civil law suit. The questions are designed to gather information so that a case can be built around them. For example, some things an attorney might request through discovery in a divorce would be bank records, pay stubs, 401k balances, etc. These can help determine what should and should not be divided as part of the marital estate.
To help expedite cases and to ensure that they do not simply run on and on with no end date in sight, there are requirements for when they are due. For basic requests for documents and interrogatories, the time limit is 35 days. If an answer is not received during that time, the opposing counsel can file a motion to compel discovery, which can create a host of problems, up to and including sanctioning your attorney.
Admissions are even more important to answer during the time frame allotted, as if they are not answered timely, they are deemed to be true. For example if an admission said, Admit that you have a separate bank account with $50,000 dollars in it, and you did not deny their assertion in a timely manner, the court could find that statement to be true, and proceed with as such.
Your attorney owes you a duty of competence and it is more than concerning that you are doing your part and he is not doing his. This could be very costly for you in the end. It would be a wise move to find another attorney and also to contact a malpractice attorney to see whether you have claim against your current attorney under the New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct.