Separation and divorce
You have the right to change lawyers, even while court proceedings are going on. You might do this if you’re unhappy with the services of your lawyer, or if your lawyer is no longer able to represent you. Here are the steps you would have to take to officially change lawyers, as well as some questions to help you make an informed decision.
1.Find a new lawyer
Before telling your current lawyer that you no longer want them to represent you, it's probably best to take steps to find a new one. It can sometimes be difficult to find a lawyer to take over a file. If you don’t want to represent yourself, it would be wise to find a new lawyer first.
If you’re on good terms with your current lawyer, don’t hesitate to ask them for help in finding a new one. They may be able to refer you to colleagues, which could make things easier for you.
2.Notify your current lawyer
Once you’ve hired your new lawyer, you should inform your current lawyer that you no longer want them to represent you. You should do this as soon as possible so that they stop working on your file. This will prevent you from having to pay additional fees.
Make sure to pay your current lawyer the fees owed for work already done. You should pay by the deadline set out in your agreement.
3.Ask for your file to be transferred
Your former lawyer must transfer your file to your new lawyer if you request this. You should provide your former lawyer with the name and contact info of your new one.
If you haven't found a new lawyer yet, you can pick up the file yourself. You can give it to your new lawyer when you have one.
Your former lawyer cannot charge you professional fees for transferring the file, but could charge you for fees such as photocopies.
Your file will generally contain:
- all proceedings that have been filed in court
- all documents you provided to your lawyer, as well as any provided by your ex (e.g., photos, account statements, tax returns)
- any expert reports
- all written communications between your lawyer and your ex or your ex’s lawyer.
If your case is being covered by Legal Aid, you should contact the office that issued the legal aid mandate to ask them to issue a legal aid mandate for your new lawyer. The Legal Aid office may ask you to provide some information, such as recent proof of your income.
4.Make the change official
Your new lawyer must make the change official by filing a notice into the Court record or, in some cases, by obtaining the Court's authorization. You should check with your new lawyer that everything is in order in this regard.
Some questions to ask yourself before changing lawyers
If you have any doubts about changing lawyers, it’s a good idea to ask yourself some questions on your situation and your file, in order to make an informed decision.
If your case is not being covered by legal aid, changing lawyers will involve additional fees. Your new lawyer will charge you for work resulting from the change. For example, the new lawyer will have to:
- meet with you
- take time to become familiar with your file and analyze it
- take the steps necessary to make the change of lawyers official
If so, a judge will have to grant your lawyer permission to cease to represent you, even if you have already found a new lawyer. This is an additional proceeding, which will involve legal fees, and the request may be refused.
Also, the closer your hearing date, the more difficult it will be to find a lawyer to represent you. There will also be less time to prepare for the hearing. It's possible to ask a judge to postpone the hearing date, but this may be refused as well.
If not, you shouldn't hesitate to do so. They may propose solutions such as changing the frequency of communication or their method of billing. Perhaps you’ll decide not to change lawyers after all.
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The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.
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