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Changing Attorneys in the Middle of Your Family Law Case

Changing Attorneys in the Middle of Your Family Law Case

Choosing the right attorney for your Wisconsin family law case is a critical decision. After all, you will be entrusting this person to provide you with advice and guidance during your case, and to be your voice before the court. After you have selected your representative, it can be a relief knowing that you have an advocate in your corner. But what can you do if you start to have second thoughts about your lawyer after the case begins? Here is what you need to know about changing attorneys in the middle of your family law case:

Understanding Why You Want to Change Attorneys

You have the right to be represented by the attorney of your choosing. To that end, if you don't like the way your attorney is conducting themselves or handling your case, you can hire a different lawyer. Before taking that step, it's essential to identify your reasons for selecting new counsel.

  • I Didn’t Get What I Wanted. Sometimes, people believe they can hire an attorney and tell them to get exactly what they want the same way they would order merchandise. However, unlike ordering a vehicle or other product, you cannot be certain of getting a specific result in a family law case. Therefore, if you are displeased with your attorney because he or she was not able to get everything you believed you deserved, that does not necessarily reflect on their abilities. It may be that your attorney explained that your expectations were not realistic or in keeping with the facts before the court. If that was the case, and you get rid of your attorney, you are probably going to be disappointed with the next attorney as well. Attorneys can only work with what is before them and typically cannot guarantee what a court will do in a given case.
  • They Don’t Do What I Tell Them to Do. You are the client, and you direct the case. Therefore, your attorney can’t make choices without consulting you. Attorneys don't usually have reasons to act against their client’s directions, unless those choices are illegal or immoral.. If you feel like your counsel is not listening to your direction, there may be a marked difference in your communication styles, or another problem. If you feel uncomfortable or that you cannot effectively communicate with your counsel, it may be best to find someone else to work with.
  • They Are Not Keeping Me Updated About My Case. Effective communication with your lawyer is crucial during your Wisconsin family law case. You need to feel that your attorney is reasonably responsive and providing you with updates. An attorney's failure to do so is not only unprofessional; it could result in formal discipline by the Wisconsin Bar under the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys. The keyword is "reasonably." If your attorney does not call you back within the hour, he or she may be in court or otherwise occupied. However, if multiple days go by without communication, there may be an issue. You need counsel who is responsive and makes sure you are up to date on important issues and developments. If your attorney is not getting back to you, you may want to leave a message that you are thinking of hiring other representation so that the two of you can discuss the problem.


If you determine that your attorney is not a good fit because of his or her litigation style or another reason, it is perfectly fine to select another representative. If you hire someone else, your new attorney will prepare a motion to substitute themselves as counsel, and your former attorney will have to withdraw and provide you with a copy of your file. The court will have to approve the change and will most likely do so provided the change of counsel is not being requested as an obvious delay tactic. There can be situations where an attorney will be removed by the court as well. This typically happens when there is a problem with the attorney’s performance.

Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a family law attorney who has experience helping clients with Wisconsin divorce and family law cases. Come in and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

Contact the Brookfield divorce attorneys at First Look Family Law today for a free 30-minute office consultation.