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If things aren’t working with your lawyer

From time to time, you may hit some bumps in your working relationship with your lawyer.

The most common complaint about family law lawyers are that they don’t answer phone calls/emails quickly enough.

You can help avoid this particular frustration by clarifying with your lawyer in your first or second appointment how they handle phone calls/emails. Do they get back to clients every 24 hours or only if your call/email is urgent? Does the lawyer want you to make a list of questions and email/call once a week with all of them rather than every time you think of something?

Try to work out a system that you both can live with. And remember that every time your lawyer listens to a phone message or reads an email from you, they are charging you for their time.

You may feel that your lawyer does not understand the seriousness of your situation and the safety concerns that you have.

Give your lawyer detailed and accurate information about the history of abuse in your relationship, including abuse and threats that have happened since you and your partner separated. This way, they have concrete facts that help them understand your concerns.

If you are frustrated with your lawyer, tell them, or ask your advocate to help you tell them. If you are both committed to making the relationship work, you may be able to talk out the problem.

Changing lawyers

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If your lawyer consistently treats you disrespectfully, does not take the abuse in your relationship seriously or does not follow your instructions, you may need to change lawyers.

If you are paying for your lawyer yourself, then you can change lawyers whenever and however often you want. But you should consider very carefully before making this decision.

Is your frustration with your lawyer or with the family law or court process? In other words, you might change lawyers only to encounter the same difficulties with the next one.

It can be expensive to change lawyers. You will have to pay your first lawyer to copy your file for your new lawyer, and you will have to pay your new lawyer to read your entire file.

Changing lawyers can also slow your case down because you may need to adjourn it to give your new lawyer time to get up to speed.

And while judges and other lawyers understand when someone changes lawyers once, if you change lawyers repeatedly, the court may start to think the problem rests with you and not your lawyer.

If you have a legal aid certificate to pay for your lawyer, it is very difficult to change. You will have to convince Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) that your current lawyer is providing you with inadequate representation or that there has been a complete breakdown in the lawyer-client relationship. Otherwise, LAO will likely tell you to stay with the lawyer you already have.