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Divorce & Family Law This forum is for discussing any of the legal issues involved in your divorce.

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  #1  
Old 11-05-2012, 08:34 PM
AlienatedDad AlienatedDad is offline
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Default Settlement Conference in three weeks and lawyer doesn't return e-mails

I have a settlement conference scheduled in three weeks. Last I heard from my lawyer was about 3.5 weeks ago. I am very much in the dark about what is going on.

Aside from not hearing from her (despite a couple of requests), I have a very complex case and I am not sure my lawyer is up to it. I have had a custody evaluation completed (my lawyer has never dealt with a case like this, although she has dealt with the OCL).

My ex is a high-conflict personality who seems to enjoy the negative advocacy role that her lawyer provides (I wanted mediation, she went right to court). My lawyers says her court documents are the nastiest she has seen. Again, I don't think she understands high-conflict personalities.

My ex has violated the interim court order numerous times. My lawyer says not to worry about it, and that it will all be addressed at the settlement conference.

I am supposed to have joint custody over all of my children, but my ex doesn't tell me a thing about what is going on in their lives and makes unilateral decisions without any input from me. She has called the police on me for dropping the kids off in front of her house when I have visited (there is no restraining order), etc. I could on and on.

Anyway, I am get worried as the date approaches that I do not have appropriate representation. Wondering if I should change lawyers at this late date. If so, what are the costs of doing so? Can I be charged for my file? What will it cost to get a new lawyer up to speed on my case? I like my current lawyer, but me thinks she's not the pit bull I need to counter my ex and her lawyer.

Thanks for listening.
  #2  
Old 11-05-2012, 09:03 PM
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Tayken Tayken is offline
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Originally Posted by AlienatedDad View Post
I have a settlement conference scheduled in three weeks. Last I heard from my lawyer was about 3.5 weeks ago. I am very much in the dark about what is going on.

Aside from not hearing from her (despite a couple of requests), I have a very complex case and I am not sure my lawyer is up to it. I have had a custody evaluation completed (my lawyer has never dealt with a case like this, although she has dealt with the OCL).

My ex is a high-conflict personality who seems to enjoy the negative advocacy role that her lawyer provides (I wanted mediation, she went right to court). My lawyers says her court documents are the nastiest she has seen. Again, I don't think she understands high-conflict personalities.

My ex has violated the interim court order numerous times. My lawyer says not to worry about it, and that it will all be addressed at the settlement conference.

I am supposed to have joint custody over all of my children, but my ex doesn't tell me a thing about what is going on in their lives and makes unilateral decisions without any input from me. She has called the police on me for dropping the kids off in front of her house when I have visited (there is no restraining order), etc. I could on and on.

Anyway, I am get worried as the date approaches that I do not have appropriate representation. Wondering if I should change lawyers at this late date. If so, what are the costs of doing so? Can I be charged for my file? What will it cost to get a new lawyer up to speed on my case? I like my current lawyer, but me thinks she's not the pit bull I need to counter my ex and her lawyer.

Thanks for listening.
1. It is a Settlement Conference, no substantive issue can be dealt with at a Conference. Read the Family Law Rules and countless other postings on this message board regarding this fact.

2. The judge is powerless at a Settlement conference to make any order on a substantive issue without consent from BOTH parties. If you have an issue that cannot be resolved you instruct your lawyer to request a TECHNICAL request for the matter to be be heard on a *preemptive motion* or *schedule trial* for the next trial sitting. January would be your best bet but, you have to have SUBSTANTIAL conflict to get into that sitting in my honest opinion.

3. Don't consent to anything you don't agree with. Read up on the Rules, CLRA and other important aspects. Get educated NOW. You don't have to rely on your lawyer to seek out answers.

4. If you consent to anything FINAL and you don't like it. Tough luck you should have gone to trial or a preemptive motion. Fear is your worst enemy at a time like this. If you go in with fear they will play on your anxieties at the Settlement Conference and you will walk out unhappy and with the short end of the stick.

Good Luck!
Tayken
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Old 11-06-2012, 09:36 AM
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Thanks. I have been trying to educate myself, but life gets in the way. I will read more of the posts on this forum.

Finally heard from my lawyer today. She said that she has been too busy to respond for the last three weeks. Only a few weeks until settlement conference and there is no way that I will feel comfortable by that time. These are huge decisions, as we all know, and ones that will last a lifetime. I am going to ask her to postpone the settlement conference and she can take responsibility for not getting me ready in time. Having other deadlines is not a good excuse to leave a client hanging.
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Old 11-06-2012, 10:12 AM
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Thanks. I have been trying to educate myself, but life gets in the way. I will read more of the posts on this forum.

Finally heard from my lawyer today. She said that she has been too busy to respond for the last three weeks. Only a few weeks until settlement conference and there is no way that I will feel comfortable by that time. These are huge decisions, as we all know, and ones that will last a lifetime. I am going to ask her to postpone the settlement conference and she can take responsibility for not getting me ready in time. Having other deadlines is not a good excuse to leave a client hanging.
Again, nothing substantive can be "ordered" at a Conference and anything you are uncomfortable should not be agreed to on CONSENT without a full understanding of what you are agreeing to. Otherwise, if the facts are in dispute it should go on pre-emptive motion on both parties.

Warning: A judge will NOT accept your excuse that you didn't have time to understand what was going on. If the impact will "last a lifetime" a judge will not be friendly with you and any excuses you try to use.
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Old 11-06-2012, 11:16 AM
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I just had my settlement conference last week and there's really not a lot to "get ready" for. Honestly, it took me less than a day to complete, file and serve all the necessary documents.
The only thing the judge ordered was a pre-trial conference. Everything else the Judge said was either a suggestion or comment on how to get closer to a compromise.

Are you the Applicant or Respondent?

You know exactly what you want in your Offer to Settle, so make sure you are comfortable with how your Lawyer draws that up.

As Tayken said, asking for a postponement probably isn't wise as you will likely be liable for costs.
  #6  
Old 11-06-2012, 02:45 PM
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Thanks to you both. I am trying to educate myself. I was really on the ball about things up until this point.

I guess I am just not impressed with my lawyer at this point. I e-mailed her three weeks ago asking to tallk to her. Nothing until this week, and even then I had to prompt her. I really like her, but just don't think she is up to the task of handling a high conflict case (on the other side, not my side), nor is she famililar with custody evaluations (this is the first time she has seen one . . . although seh has used OCL before). She keeps telling me that everything will be worked out, but I am getting very fatiqued with the whole process (2.5 years now).

I am the respodent. I pulled the plug first and retained a lawyer, saying I wanted to go to mediation. She (true to form for a high-conflict person) went to court and filed.

There are a lot of issues to be worked out . . . most important for me is keeping joint custody of my kids (I am out-of-province and she has made even visiting them a very stressful situation). My lawyer right now is concerned with pension valuation.

Arrggh!!!
  #7  
Old 11-06-2012, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by AlienatedDad View Post

Anyway, I am get worried as the date approaches that I do not have appropriate representation. Wondering if I should change lawyers at this late date. If so, what are the costs of doing so? Can I be charged for my file? What will it cost to get a new lawyer up to speed on my case? I like my current lawyer, but me thinks she's not the pit bull I need to counter my ex and her lawyer.

Thanks for listening.
Since you like your present lawyer, it may be wise to set up an appointment to have a candid talk with her. Make a list of questions you want to ask, including a detailed list of questions regarding what her plans are regarding your case. Make sure the questions are to the point. Look very concerned and waste no time in issues that do not pertain to the matters at hand.
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Old 11-06-2012, 02:58 PM
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Since you like your present lawyer, it may be wise to set up an appointment to have a candid talk with her. Make a list of questions you want to ask, including a detailed list of questions regarding what her plans are regarding your case. Make sure the questions are to the point. Look very concerned and waste no time in issues that do not pertain to the matters at hand.
Thanks. I do like her, but feel like we are losing every battle. I have basically told her that I think she is out of her league. If facts and reasoned arguments prevail, I think we'll be okay. If it depends on pit bull lawyers, I think I'm sunk.
  #9  
Old 11-06-2012, 05:49 PM
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Case law is probably the most powerful tool in and out of the courtroom. My ex has had 3 aggressive, argumentative lawyers. My lawyer is calm, polite and knows and cites case law. We are successful.

A good lawyer also know how to manage clients. If you are needlessly racking up your own bill by constantly trying to contact your lawyer they will know how to deal with you. My lawyer has had to "manage" me from time to time. At first I get anxious and pissed off but in the end I am usually quite thankful. [we have joked about this from time to time].
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by arabian View Post
Case law is probably the most powerful tool in and out of the courtroom. My ex has had 3 aggressive, argumentative lawyers. My lawyer is calm, polite and knows and cites case law. We are successful.

A good lawyer also know how to manage clients. If you are needlessly racking up your own bill by constantly trying to contact your lawyer they will know how to deal with you. My lawyer has had to "manage" me from time to time. At first I get anxious and pissed off but in the end I am usually quite thankful. [we have joked about this from time to time].
I hope you're right. I am constantly surprised that we are supposed to have laws in this country and yet so much seems to depend on the quality of lawyers that one is able to retain.

I am anxious right now. My lawyer did contact me and said that there is not much that has to be prepared for a settlement conference, and there would be no evidence presented. I try to minimize my contacts with my lawyer (avoiding the 6-minute billing increments). Usually I save up questions for her and try to get everything settled in a block of time instead.

I have plenty of evidence against my ex . . . it's just frustrating knowing that this may not come out or that it won't be presented properly. For 2.5 years she has threated me that everything she has against me with come out in court. So far, nothing. I don't think she has anything and is bluffing. I really can't think about what she could have against me. Any of my shortcomings as a father and a husband have been addressed, but she's high conflict and has lied or exaggerated facts to the custody evaluator, in her affidavits, etc. This I want to come out, but don't want to go through the emotional and financial expense of a trial.

Thanks for your advice.
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