How do I fire my divorce attorney?

Posted on Apr 26, 2023 by Katie Carter


Having a good attorney/client relationship is critical.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most important factors in a family law case.

Why?  Well, I’ve talked a bit about this – in my recent article about how to handle advice that isn’t what you want to hear, and even in my last article about not wanting 50/50 custody.

It’s difficult to start an attorney/client relationship.  You come to us in considerable stress.

Usually, we’re hired after one (or, at most, two) meeting(s).  And then, in many cases, we give you advice you don’t want to hear.

So, it’s normal if you’re wondering: what does she know, anyway?  And, really, do I even trust her?  We BARELY know each other!

In that position, women make a couple of different decisions.  They get angry, and accuse the lawyer of working for the other side.  They ignore the advice that they didn’t want to hire.  Sometimes, even, they lie about having followed the advice, knowing that they’ve done no such thing.

None of that is helpful, and it deteriorates the relationship even further.

What WOULD be helpful?

Well, you could fire your attorney, if you really don’t trust him.  People do fire their attorneys all the time, after all.  And, if you’re nervous about it, you really shouldn’t be.  Chances are pretty good that your attorney won’t take it personally.

Still, you’ve got a lot invested in your attorney.  It’s probably better, if at all possible, if you make it work.  Why not initiate a conversation with your attorney about the issues you’re having?  Maybe it’s the advice that you don’t like, maybe it’s the type or amount of communication?  Maybe it’s something entirely different.  No matter what, it’s going to be incredibly beneficial to have that conversation with your attorney.

Not convinced your attorney is right?  A real conversation might help, but so too might a second opinion.  Yes, like you would with a doctor!  You can schedule another appointment – while you’ve still got the other attorney retained – with an attorney to ask their advice about your situation.  Do they give you advice you like better?  Maybe then it’s time to switch!  Do they say the same thing?  Do they think they can take on your case, depending on where you are in the process?  Hmm, better not throw the baby out with the bath water, you know?

Either way, its better to let your discomfort or unhappiness lead to constructive conversation than to make an emotional decision that you might later regret.  Firing an attorney is costly, after all.

But what if it’s really not going well?

Attorneys get fired.  It happens.  And if you’re really not happy, and your attempts to fix the situation have not been successful, you are well within your rights to fire your attorney.  I would say, though, that its not a good idea to change attorneys more than twice (you start to look like the common denominator, if you know what I mean) and it’s not a good idea to change an attorney right before trial (after all, you may not get a continuance just because you’ve changed counsel).

I’d probably get a second opinion first – or even a third or fourth.  Figure out who you’re going to hire before you fire your current attorney, because the case will continue to go on, regardless of whether you currently have an attorney or not.  If your case is contested, your current attorney (your attorney of record, as far as the court is concerned) will still be responsible for meeting deadlines and otherwise working on your case.

It’s better to make it work, if at all possible, and only fire your attorney if there’s absolutely no improvement or if the violation to your relationship has been so severe that the trust cannot be repaired.

It’s probably better than that, even, to get your ducks in a row from the beginning.  Meet with as many attorneys as you need to meet with in order to have a sense of who’ll be the best fit for you. Remember that you’ll have to have difficult conversations about your marriage, your parenting, your finances, and other things – so you will want to hire someone that you can talk to and be honest with.  If you feel like you’re always on edge or you have to pretend with your prospective attorney, maybe it’s just not the best fit. Honesty is key; no attorney can represent you well without knowing the truth.

For more information, to schedule a consultation, or to learn about family law cases in Virginia, give our office a call at 757-425-5200 or visit our website at