Q. What are the refund policies if I reconcile with my spouse or switch divorce attorneys?
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.