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Divorce Attorney Not Releasing My Documents - HELP

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#1
What is the name of your state? New York
My former divorce attorney did a terrible job for me. She has boxes of my documents, (I did the forensic accounting which proved my ex had hidden millions of $$$) and when I asked for them to be returned to me at my cost she refused.This was last year. I understand the statute of limitations in NYS is 5 years. We divorced 6 years ago but I phoned and wrote her last year.
She told me to go to the county court but I checked online. They do not have all the documents that were in her office. How do I retrieve them legally? I need them asap as the proof I seek lie in the documents my former attorney has in her possession.
 


quincy

Senior Member
#2
Write a formal letter to your attorney requesting your case files. Send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested.

If you have another attorney, this attorney can request the documents for you.

Assuming you do not owe your former attorney any money, if your attorney does not provide you with the documents you requested, you can file a complaint with the state Bar Association.

Good luck.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#4
All client documents should be provided upon demand of the client, (regardless of their worth :)) with a few exceptions.

The New York Court of Appeals held (in Sage Realty Corp v. Proskauer Rose) that there is no attorney property right in client files (including attorney "work product") that is greater than the property rights of the client who hired the attorney. A client is entitled to the case documents.

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-supreme-court-appellate-division/1327754.html
 
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not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
#5
Are you a CPA with Certified Fraud Examiner or Certified Forensic Accountant credentials?
That's not relevant.

What is relevant is that the divorce was finalized 6 years ago. If there has been no reason for the lawyer to use these documents since, then they should be released.

My lawyer returned my financial documents after everything was concluded and the ink dry on the decree (1-2 years), in part because they didn't want to have to continue to store them.
 
#7
All client documents should be provided upon demand of the client, (regardless of their worth :)) with a few exceptions.

The New York Court of Appeals held (in Sage Realty Corp v. Proskauer Rose) that there is no attorney property right in client files (including attorney "work product") that is greater than the property rights of the client who hired the attorney. A client is entitled to the case documents.

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-supreme-court-appellate-division/1327754.html
Thank you for this. As there was a great dispute with this attorney who did not do an adequate job (read had screaming fits and tantrums) I did not pay her the full fee. I informed the Bar of her activities and wrote her a letter outlining all the outrageous behavior. She dropped any invoices to me.
Will that make any difference in her returning my documents?
 

quincy

Senior Member
#9
An attorney can withhold client files if the client has not paid the attorney - and the client must pay for the costs incurred by the attorney in printing copies of documents.

An attorney should offer a client's file to the client prior to any thought of destroying any documents and an attorney must keep some client documents for a minimum of seven years.

The statute of limitations for attorney malpractice claims is three years in New York so no attorney should dispose of any documents before then - and it is often recommended that documents are kept at least ten years.

In New York there is currently no statute of limitations for attorney disciplinary actions.

Here is a link to the New York State Bar Association's Ethics Opinion 1142 on delivering client files: https://www.nysba.org/CustomTemplates/SecondaryStandard.aspx?id=79392
 
Last edited:

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
#10
Thank you for this. As there was a great dispute with this attorney who did not do an adequate job (read had screaming fits and tantrums) I did not pay her the full fee. I informed the Bar of her activities and wrote her a letter outlining all the outrageous behavior. She dropped any invoices to me.
Will that make any difference in her returning my documents?
She might hold them until you've paid in full.
 
#11
An attorney can withhold client files if the client has not paid the attorney - and the client must pay for the costs incurred by the attorney in printing copies of documents.

An attorney should offer a client's file to the client prior to any thought of destroying any documents and an attorney must keep some client documents for a minimum of seven years.

The statute of limitations for attorney malpractice claims is three years in New York so no attorney should dispose of any documents before then - and it is often recommended that documents are kept at least ten years.

In New York there is currently no statute of limitations for attorney disciplinary actions.

Here is a link to the New York State Bar Association's Ethics Opinion 1142 on delivering client files: https://www.nysba.org/CustomTemplates/SecondaryStandard.aspx?id=79392
But the attorn
 
#12
The attorney did not dispute my letter claiming I am not paying because she knew I would go to the Bar and file a formal complaint. That said, there is new evidence which is why I need the old documents. How do I handle the logistics? There might be more than 4 boxes worth of documents I need. I live in Texas now but the case was in NY where I was divorced. Do I just go there and copy them myself? I ask since she is that unreliable if I fly up to NY especially for this purpose she may not show up or even allow me into her office.
 

quincy

Senior Member
#13
The attorney did not dispute my letter claiming I am not paying because she knew I would go to the Bar and file a formal complaint. That said, there is new evidence which is why I need the old documents. How do I handle the logistics? There might be more than 4 boxes worth of documents I need. I live in Texas now but the case was in NY where I was divorced. Do I just go there and copy them myself? I ask since she is that unreliable if I fly up to NY especially for this purpose she may not show up or even allow me into her office.
You will need to resolve the fee dispute first.
 
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