Don’t ignore your instincts. If you feel like you need a second opinion in your divorce case or family law case, you can and should reach out to an experienced family lawyer.
In everyday life, you often get second opinions in all kinds of situations. After a medical diagnosis, you may consult with another doctor on the best treatment plan. If major home renovations are needed, you typically get estimates from a few different contractors. If your car needs major repairs or body work, you may seek a quote from more than one garage or body shop. All of this makes perfect sense. When what is at stake is important (or expensive!), you want to be well-informed and confident in your choices.
Legal second opinions are no different. When family law matters come up, you need to deal with issues that are near and dear to your heart: your children, your well-being, your property, your financial future, your freedom. This is your life. If your gut is telling you to get a second opinion, follow your gut.
What is a legal second opinion?
A second opinion is a private, confidential consultation with a family lawyer. The lawyer will assess your case and advise you on your rights and responsibilities, your legal position, and the strength of the strategy your current lawyer has in place. You can get a second opinion about some or all issues in your family dispute, including parenting time, child support, spousal support, and division of property and debt.
You can get a second opinion at any stage of your case. And second opinions are not just for family court cases. To be sure, you can get a second opinion if you are thinking about litigation or already in court. But you can also get a second opinion on a cohabitation agreement, marriage contract, separation agreement, or any other family law issue you are facing.
What’s the point of getting a second opinion from a lawyer?
The purpose of getting a legal second opinion is to get a fresh perspective and make sure you are fully informed before taking any big steps. It is also a great opportunity to air your concerns. It is important to have an open and honest discussion with another family lawyer will can give you confidence in your choices and ensure that you are on the right track to achieve the best possible outcome.
Sometimes, the second opinion will verify the advice of your original lawyer and confirm that your case is being well-handled. This will give you peace of mind and increase your comfort level going forward. The lawyer giving the second opinion may also give you valuable recommendations for ways your case could be handled in the future or point out new strategies for you to pursue with your existing lawyer.
Other times, the second opinion will confirm that your gut instincts were correct; that is, the red flags really are red flags, and your current lawyer is not serving your best interests. When you have another perspective from a different lawyer that information can be invaluable. You then have the power to decide whether you want to switch to another lawyer who may better represent you and protect your rights.
When should you get a second opinion in your family law case?
There are many reasons you may want another evaluation of your divorce case or family law case. “Because something just doesn't feel right” and “I have doubts” are good enough reasons to get a second opinion on your case. That being said, here are some of the most common reasons to get a legal second opinion:
Family law is an extremely complex area of law. If your current lawyer doesn’t seem up-to-date or familiar with family law, get a second opinion as soon as possible to make sure their strategy is correct and important issues aren’t being missed. You may also want to get a second opinion if you feel that your current lawyer is not explaining the law or their legal strategy to you. How can you make informed decisions or feel confident if you have no idea what is going on in your case or why things are happening as they are?
Trust is a crucial component of any attorney-client relationship. If you don't feel comfortable or trust your lawyer, it's essential to seek a second opinion. Your lawyer's job is to represent your best interests, and you need to have confidence that they are doing so.
Gain a fresh perspective.
Potentially uncover new legal options.
Discover strategies to resolve the case before going trial.
Circumstances change. Your ex may have recently changed lawyers and you are feeling that the case is going in a different direction than when you started the process.
You do not understand your lawyer’s advice especially when they use legal terms that are not explained to you.
Family law cases can become more complex over time. It is possible that the first lawyer you speak to might not end up being the best fit for your unique circumstances.
Expertise is needed in your case. For example, if you have a high net worth or there are complex property division issues to deal with, you may want to seek out a second opinion or case evaluation from a lawyer with specific expertise in those areas.
Depending on the issues at stake, you may also want to seek advice from a mediator, parenting coordinator, collaborative divorce lawyer or other professional (e.g. business valuator, property appraiser) to explore ways to resolve disputes and gain a better understanding of the legal issues at hand. The second opinion lawyer can help identify issues and connect you with resources/experts who can get you to the best possible outcome.
There are also some warning signs that mean you should get a second opinion in your divorce case or custody case, including:
Your case is not moving forward. If your case has stalled for no clear reason or if your lawyer is failing to take active steps, a second opinion may help address the delay. For example, is your lawyer failing to seek financial disclosure from your ex? Should your lawyer be bringing an application for interim orders? Is your lawyer neglecting to deal with urgent issues?
You are feeling ignored by your current lawyer. It may be that your existing lawyer is not communicating with you at all or on a regular basis. Your lawyer may be ignoring your needs or disregarding your opinions. You should never feel like your lawyer is not listening to you.
A big decision or major step is on the horizon. For example, a crucial court hearing is coming up or you are getting close to finalizing your separation agreement. If you have doubts or do not feel confident, you should talk to another lawyer as soon as possible.
You are butting heads with your current lawyer or do not agree with your lawyer’s advice. If your lawyer is pressuring you to accept a settlement offer you do not think is fair, talk to another lawyer before signing anything. If your lawyer is using a legal strategy that makes you uncomfortable (for example, if you want a happy divorce that keeps things friendly, and your lawyer is being aggressive and barreling towards the courtroom), check with another lawyer to find out if the strategy is unreasonable or misguided. If your current lawyer is misjudging your case or pushing your case in a direction you aren’t comfortable with, it may be time to change lawyers.
Is it expensive to get a second opinion from a family lawyer?
The fee for a second opinion will either be an hourly fee. The fee covers time that it takes for you to explain your case, ask questions and get advice. If you need additional consultations, you’ll need to pay for another hour or two of the lawyer’s time. The lawyer may need to review the pleadings in your case which may be extensive. Pleadings are the papers that are filed in court. The best course of action is to reach out to a few lawyers to ask their initial fee for a second opinion in a family case.
Getting a second opinion is an extra expense but it is not expensive compared to the total cost of your family case. What you will spend to get a second opinion is also much less expensive than getting a bad result in your case. You may be stuck with an unfavourable outcome that leaves you with less than your fair share of property or support or you may have to pay the enormous cost of appealing. If you are not successful at trial, you may also be ordered to pay costs of the entire court case. This can typically be in the thousands of dollars but will depend on the extent of the work undertaken in our case.
The bottom line is that a second opinion may save you in the long run by helping you avoid costly mistakes. There are many other invaluable benefits to be gained. You get the opportunity to air your concerns and have your case looked over by a fresh set of eyes. A legal second opinion will give you clarity and put you in the position to make informed decisions. It will also help you decide if another lawyer should take over your case. You have the right to change legal counsel at any time and hire a new lawyer who you may feel is a better fit with you and your case.
Are you looking for a second opinion on your family law case?
If you are having doubts about your family law case or your current lawyer’s legal strategy, Valerie M. Little Law Corporation is a great resource. At Valerie M. Little Law Corporation in New Westminster, we know that nothing is more valuable than family—and because your family is important to you, protecting your family is important to us.
We listen. We care. We understand.