Malpractice Against Divorce Attorney
by Jayne from Deland, Florida, Volusia County
What are the strongest points to file a malpractice suit against a divorce attorney? I strongly suspect my attorney was influenced, financially by my ex-husband.
I went thru 10 months of intense abuse once being choked, leaving deep bruises and once calling police after he attacked me at work, yet was never advised to seek an injunction, even though near the end I begged my attorney to help me and had developed post traumatic stress syndrome.
I talked about abuse from our first meeting yet when it happened his advise to me was to return to work. Basically putting me in the front line of the war zone. The mediation notice in bold letters told him to advise if abuse was a factor, yet he said nothing.
I had been cut off financially by my ex for almost 2 months begging my attorney to get temporary support and had no financial information going into mediation regarding our business or 35 rentals due to my ex removing all paperwork and taking all income, depositing it to a personal account.
I have numerous emails leading up to mediation, desperate, to my attorney regarding the removal of papers and no income/expense reports or knowledge of where the business stood and desperate for money, afraid I would not have money for mediation. I was not able to buy groceries or gas. He brushed my concerns off as unimportant.
At mediation my ex took a 2M liability then signed a short sale, no responsibility for any deficit 2 days later before the divorce had gone to the judge, negotiation which was never disclosed. He also took a loan liability for $100,000 I found had been released months earlier after I discovered it online and found it had corp papers stating a directors meeting had approved it, with my name on it.
I don't believe it was a loan but his best friend bought a part of an investment and it was disguised as such. It was prepared by our personal attorney, his friend and former partner to his divorce attorney. In exchange for his taking these liabilities I took an equal amount.
I found an LLC and another bank account undisclosed We ask for it in discovery but nothing was received or brought up by or in mediation. My ex took all investment property in a nearby town although no value was assigned to it. I recently found it valued at over 1M.
He cleaned out all accounts, which were not brought up and nothing was said about marital assets he had sold and kept money for which I had discovered in the amount of $50,000 or the rental income he collected for 35 properties for 2 months.
He falsified the business accounting returning $700.00 of thousands taken and no bank statement given which my attorney didn't ask for. Upon taking over the business I found almost $150,000 unpaid bills and building violations.
He had taken the payroll and sales tax money, $35,000 in furniture and $8,000 in a new phone system. I found installed remote eavesdropping and computer monitoring in my office which he and his GM monitored from the house they shared and his GM had been in my email while we were in mediation and the two had been texting back and forth.
He bribed people, went with the secretary (who was paid with company funds to do all his divorce work and attended all attorney meetings and to whom he promised $10,000 to lie for him) to the bank telling the loan officer I was stealing money which was why the mortgages weren't paid.
No financial data was shown to me at the end of mediation to compare what we each got although my attorney assured me he would have to replace anything taken or needing repaired. Something that failed to make it into the agreement and he made excuses about after. These are only a few of the gross issues I feel are malpractice. Anything discovered was
found by me.
I could have done a better job representing myself and don't know what he did for $25,000. He insisted I give my ex everything in the agreement even though my ex had violated every clause in an earlier interim agreement. I did my part but received nothing my ex agreed to. My attorney seemed to be working more for my ex than me.
I have an attorney to sue him that I have faith in.
He couldn't believe the things my attorney didn't do, commenting he should be disbarred for not taking a deposition. I know how difficult it is to overturn a divorce mediation agreement but pray it can be done.
I almost lost everything, even my home as I got that and it was in foreclosure as my ex paid nothing for me during the divorce process. I was renting rooms out in my house to keep the electric on.
After a 30 year marriage in which I worked very hard and raised our children and his 2 from his first marriage, quit college to work 7, 16 hour days to create an empire while he did nothing but have numerous affairs with women I have found to be as young as 14. He has been diagnosed a narcissist boarding on pathological.
I am asking for any points which I could bring up to my attorney or case law to help him. He is excellent but doesn't specialize in family law and I am sure is open to any suggestions as this won't be easy, not to mention I want a little assurance I have a leg to stand on. Thanks so much for any contributions.
Answer to Florida Divorce Question
It took some time to work through your story. I'm glad to hear that you already have a malpractice attorney; and I fully agree with him that your former attorney should be disbarred.
That said, my suggestion is that your priority should be to recover your money first. An attorney malpractice case might take quite a while to wind itself through the court system.
An article by Zerman Mogerman, LLC, Discovery and Treatment of Hidden Assets in Divorce Case (2004) provides a thorough discussion of where an attorney may look to "find the money".
The article also mentions that the party that is hiding, or failing to disclose assets may be guilty of "fraud for failure to disclose". In your case your former attorney may well be guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud for failure to disclose.
In an article by Erika Driskell, published in the Journal of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (2006), the author states:
Dissipation in its simplest form occurs when a party conceals, conveys or wastes marital assets during the dissolution proceeding or in anticipation of divorce.
The Illinois Supreme Court, a court that has elaborated extensively on dissipation of marital assets, defines dissipation as the use of marital property for the sole benefit of one of the spouses for a purpose unrelated to the marriage at a time the marriage is undergoing an irreconcilable breakdown.
Both of these articles provide many case citations which are directly on point with your situation. Marital settlement agreements, as with any agreement in which one party defrauded the other, can be set aside by a judge.
Your former attorney may well be guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, criminal negligence, breach of his fiduciary duties, and a host of other civil and criminal charges.
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