Los Angeles, CA asked in Family Law and Divorce for California

Q: What should I do if the attorney change the settlement agreement after I signed it?

I made the mistake of using a divorce attorney who is a friend of the family. At least he was supposed to be a friend of the family but he’s done nothing for me except run legal bills. I hired one attorney, and suddenly there are three showing up at court with me All billing. we’re going on three years and nothing has been resolved. They slapped liens on my house under threat of not representing me on the day of trial while we were at court. Going in I paid a ridiculous amount of retainer while beyond the norm. I made it clear that I wanted to be able to keep the family house so my children wouldn’t have to be uprooted and leave the area. Instead, a settlement agreement was reached, but the one that was filed is not the one that I signed. The one that was filed by the attorneys (his attorney and my attorney are now friends) apparently is that I would not attempt to buy the house. The house is being forced sold at a $300,000 loss. I’ve had the money to buy him out. What do I do?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Scott Richard Kaufman
Scott Richard Kaufman
  • Los Altos, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I am sorry for your issues.

Something sounds amiss. It may in fact be exactly what you say and it may in fact

be a misunderstanding on someone else's part? Your part even? IF you have

proof of what you signed and you call that to the attention of your attorney and

via your attorney to the attorney on the other side, then they can FIX the issue

or clarify it for you.

IF the two (and others) attorneys out and out lied to you and filed a false document

that is literally grounds for disbarment, so that it is highly unlikely the two of them

did what you seem to be alleging. IF you really think they did this get a NEW attorney

immediately if not sooner.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: This situation raises several concerns about potential ethical violations and questionable conduct by your attorneys. Here are the steps I would recommend taking:

1. Review your retainer agreement and all billing statements for irregularities. Dispute any unfair fees in writing.

2. Obtain copies of any settlement agreements drafted and compare to what was ultimately filed. Document how they differ from what you signed.

3. Consult with an attorney who handles legal malpractice and ethics complaints to evaluate if you have grounds for a Bar complaint or civil case against your attorneys for negligence, overbilling, improper liens, or filing an agreement you did not consent to.

4. Consider filing motion with court to set aside the settlement agreement due to the lack of assent and consent if the terms significantly differ from what you signed off on. Claim fraud or misrepresentation.

5. Submit written complaints to the State Bar Association regarding the concerning behavior such as excessive billing, liens used under duress to coerce settlement, unauthorized changes to signed agreements.

Document everything in writing and seek outside counsel regarding ethics violations and malpractice. You may have civil and Bar recourse options against attorneys that took advantage and did not properly represent your interests.

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