Legal Malpractice in Divorce Cases
The decision to divorce is a painful and difficult one. The path to obtaining a judgment of divorce is complicated and the process exacts a significant emotional and financial toll, even under the best of circumstances. When a divorce attorney commits malpractice, the results can be especially devastating. In our experience, attorneys often commit errors in the areas of following areas:
New York State is an equitable distribution state when it comes to dividing marital property. This means any property or assets acquired over the course of a marriage must be equitably divided between the parties. The task of identifying, valuing, and dividing marital assets is one of the most important jobs for a divorce attorney. Even though financial disclosure in divorce cases is mandatory, in many cases, attorneys fail to obtain the information necessary to accurately assess the value of marital assets. As a result, they fail to uncover hidden assets that would have been subject to equitable distribution.
In addition, even lawyers who obtain the information often are unable to analyze it themselves and fail to seek assistance of forensic accountants or economists in order to intelligently assess the value of complicated marital assets. These failures often result in unfair and inadequate financial settlements. Lawyers who fail to perform these tasks adequately and who fail to protect their clients” interests may be held liable for legal malpractice.
Closely Held Business – What are they Worth?
When one spouse owns a business, he or she may not fully disclose what it is worth to the other spouse. Upon divorce, an attorney should exercise adequate due diligence in determining the business’ assets, its debts, and what it is currently worth. If your attorney did not hire a forensic accountant to evaluate your spouse’s business, you may have been short-changed in the division of marital assets. Our office works closely with forensic accountants and experienced business valuators in exposing negligence on the part of other attorneys in divorce malpractice cases.
Under New York state law, spousal maintenance, child support, or attorneys’ fees may be awarded by the court before a divorce is finalized. In cases where one spouse served as the primary or only wage earner, the other spouse may not have any other means for financial support. In order to ensure he or she isn’t left without support or a place to live, the court may order the other spouse to pay spousal support. In many cases, a party to a divorce may be entitled to temporary or pendente lite support during the pendency of the divorce before a final judgment or agreement is reached, including payment of attorneys’ fees.
However, your attorney must petition the court for temporary spousal maintenance and request that your spouse continue making payments on your home. Many attorneys neglect to apply for temporary support in a timely manner and therefore place their clients in an unfair position in negotiating a settlement. This often results in placing undue pressure on the client to accept a settlement on unfair terms.
If you’ve suffered economic hardship and loss because you had to move out of your home and find some other means for support when your attorney could have requested temporary spousal maintenance for you, he or she can be sued to recover your financial losses.
Questions? Contact the Law Office of Schwartz, Ponterio & Levenson, PLLC Today
In order to bring a divorce malpractice suit against your former attorney, you must be able to demonstrate quantifiable economic harm that resulted from his or her actions. This not only includes incompetent representation, it also includes a failure to abide by retainer rules or feeling pressured to settle because you attorney wants to “cut his losses” and settle sooner than later since he isn’t getting paid legal fees.
At the law office of Schwartz, Ponterio & Levenson, PLLC, our attorneys represent clients who have been incompetently represented by their legal counsel during a divorce.
Contact Our Legal Malpractice and Copyright Law Attorneys
If you believe your attorney acted incompetently, we can investigate the facts surrounding your case and determine if you have grounds to sue. For more information regarding our practice and how we can help you, contact the divorce malpractice lawyers at Schwartz, Ponterio & Levenson, PLLC today, 212-714-1200.