Do I have any recourse against a divorce attorney whose advice was against my interests due to a financial conflict?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Do I have any recourse against a divorce attorney whose advice was against my interests due to a financial conflict?

Last fall I was in dire financial straits and needed the roughly $16,000 held in escrow from the sale of my house. This was tied up in negotiations over my separation agreement. After telling my lawyer I might have to file for bankruptcy, she repeatedly told me I had no choice but to accept my wife’s increasingly strident demands if I wanted the money out of escrow. I was unemployed and homeless at this point, and really needed the money. Although I did not execute the agreement foisted on me, my lawyer nonetheless released the money from escrow and took the entire amount for her fees, leaving me indigent.

Asked on February 2, 2016 under Family Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If you believe that an attorney went aganst your expressed wishes, put her interests ahead of yours, and/or released escrow money without authority, you could sue her for malpractice. You could also try contacting your state Bar to both file an ethics complaint and see if they can't help you in regards to her fee (e.g. with a fee mediation or arbitration). While lawyers do not have to be perfect (especially since there rarely is a single right or wrong answer), they do need to follow their client's instructions so long as those instructions are not themselves illegal or are not superceded by a court order.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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