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Idiot's Guide to Surviving Divorce

legal Divorce Central Strategy Netlegal Divorce Central Strategy Net, Legal Consumer Bill of Rights
  • You have a right to discuss the proposed rates and retainer fee with your lawyer and you have the right to bargain about the fees before you sign the agreement, as in any other contract.

  • You have the right to know how many attorneys and other legal staff will be working on your case at any given time, and what you will be charged for their services.

  • You have the right to know in advance how you will be asked to pay legal fees and expenses at the end of the case. If you pay for a retainer, you may ask reasonable questions about how the money will be spent or has been spent and how much of it remains unspent.

  • You are under no legal obligation to sign a Confession of Judgment or a Promissory Note or agree to a lien or mortgage on your home to cover legal fees. You are under no legal obligation to waive your rights to dispute a bill for legal services.

  • You have a right to a reasonable estimate of future necessary costs. If your lawyer agrees to lend or advance you money for preparing your case, you have the right to know periodically how much money your lawyer has spent on your behalf. You also have the right to decide after consulting with your lawyer, how much money is to be spent to prepare a case. If you pay the expenses, you have the right to decide how much to spend.

  • You have the right to ask your lawyer at reasonable intervals how the case is progressing and to have these questions answered to the best of your lawyer's ability.

  • You have the right to make the final decision regarding the settlement of your case.

  • You have a right to original documents that are not part of your attorney's work product. For instance, if you gave your present attorney documents from another attorney, you have a right to those documents. You have a right to ask your attorney to forward documents to you in a timely manner as he/she receives them from the opposing party's attorney.

  • You have a right to be present at court conferences relating to your case that are held with judges and attorneys, and you also have the right to bring a family member or a friend to all court proceedings, unless a judge orders otherwise.

  • You have the right to know the cost of bringing a motion. The cost may vary depending on the lawyer's rates and circumstances of the case, but you have the right to a general estimate.

  • If at any time, you, the client, believe that your lawyer has charged an excessive or illegal fee, you have the right to report the matter to a disciplinary or grievance committee that oversees lawyer misconduct.

Provided to Divorce Central Courtesy of Karen Winner, author of Divorced From Justice: The Abuse of Women and Children By Divorce Lawyers and Judges, (Regan Books/Harper Collins) and creator of the Divorced From Justice Website. This statement of rights originally appeared as The Bill of Rights for Divorce Clients in the 1992 report: Women in Divorce: Lawyers, Ethics, Fees and Fairness, which was written by Karen Winner for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. In 1993, a version of this statement became new court rules issued by New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye If you would like to contact Karen Winner, you may e-mail her at or write to Divorced from Justice, 200 East 10th Street, #618, New York, NY 10003.

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