Q. What are the refund policies if I reconcile with my spouse or switch
A. Attorneys are required by California
State Bar Rule 4-100 to refund all unused fees promptly, for whatever reason, when the relationship
ends unless you have a Flat Fee arrangement where all the monies have
been earned upon retention. These monies are supposed to be placed into
an attorney-client Trust Account. Unfortunately, may attorneys pocket
the money or put it in their general account. This creates a conflict
of interest, because if they've spent the money already they are more
likely to pad their bills.
Attorneys are required to provide your original file to you, after they
copy it at their own expense. Attorneys cannot hold a file hostage for
unpaid fees. They must sign a Substitution of Attorney withdrawing from
the case upon demand, regardless of whether or not they claim you owe
them money. They are required to give a full statement and explanation
of your fees and charges upon request. Refusal to do within 10 days or
less may be a cause for State Bar Discipline.
Here's a link to the rules and statutes governing the attorney-client
family law relationships.