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Help! My Lawyer Won't Let Me Settle My Case

She walked out of his office more frustrated with her attorney than she was with her soon-to-be ex-husband. They had finally found a moment away from their new interests and had come to an agreement on everything. The children, the finances (including the credit card debt), the retirement accounts; everything had gotten sorted out. All that was left was to sign the documents and get them to the Court for the Judge's signature. Then they could start to put all of this behind them.

Now, after half an hour of paying for the privilege of banging her head against a wall, her attorney was wanting to threaten a bar complaint against the other attorney because he drafted up the documents based on what her husband told him the agreement was, the agreement that she and her husband had reached. She was kicking herself for landing on this guy's doorstep from the moment she forked over the retainer. He seemed too aggressive, too interested in ripping her husband apart and making him cry. Like some sort of mis-placed aggression from being bullied as a child, he practically frothed at what he was going to do to her husband. And sure enough, when she saw the Answer that her attorney filed with the court (after he had filed it), she was frightened at the lengths he was willing to go to in trying to ruin her husband.

"All I want is to be divorced," she thought. "And he won't let me." Sure enough, that evening her husband reached out with a "what gives?" text message. Apparently her lawyer, like he did in his answer, had decided to go "back to the well" to see if he could squeeze more money out of her husband in the settlement. "Trust me," her attorney explained, "I do this all the time." But all the time wasn't her time.  She didn't think it was fair that she was having to pay for this ego trip, and she was really starting to feel sorry for her husband, her child, and herself.

There is little more frustrating than watching two people reach an amicable resolution to their family law issue than to see attorneys get in the way of that resolution. Particularly when the only reason to throw a wrench in it is to drag a case out and bill the client more. If your attorney is preventing you from settling your case, you should ask them to explain why you cannot settle your case on the terms you want to. It is, after all, your case. If there is something that will legally prohibit what you agreed to with your spouse, your attorney should be able to cite that prohibition to you chapter and verse. If not, you should probably consider a second break up, this time with your attorney.

If you're being bullied or other egregious behavior, as attorneys, we are all obligated to the professional standards and our State Bar office has resources available to you. What you should not allow to happen is for your family's finances to be bilked by someone who isn't allowing you to settle your case.

It is your property. It is your children. It is your life. It is your case. You should always be in charge of your future.

David Purvis 

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