When you hire an attorney, you should do everything possible to try to help him. At the very least, your actions should not be an impediment to the goals you and your attorney are trying to obtain.
I had an interesting case that wrapped up unsuccessfully last month. It seems my clients went out of their way to make proceedings more difficult than they needed to be, which of course resulted in an unfavorable outcome for them.
The story began a little more than three years ago. A former client called and asked if I could help him and his ex-wife out of a scrape with their mortgage company. In talking with this gentleman, I realized that fate had conspired against him. He lost his job, and was having a hard time finding any type of work suitable for a man of his age and educational background. While he was searching for a job, his wife decided she wanted a divorce. It was an amicable split, and the divorce was finalized approximately two years ago. (Luckily, there are no children involved in this divorce or it could have gotten messy.)
The ex-wife was allowed to keep the home, and he moved into a nearby apartment. The ex-wife was working, helping to pay the mortgage and other associated expenses, but the expenses became too much for them, and they fell behind on their mortgage payments. The couple ignored numerous dunning letters from the mortgage company, asking the homeowners to call to try to work something out regarding the outstanding indebtedness. My clients, the homeowners, ultimately fell so far behind that the mortgage company was finally forced to file suit to foreclose on their home. To make matters worse, their mortgage company has consistently held the ranking of "one of the worst banks in America" in terms of customer service and responsiveness. The only bright spot occurring during this difficult period was that the gentleman was able to find a job operating a forklift at a nearby warehouse. At least some money was now coming back in the household!
This is where I came in. After I was brought up to speed on the situation, my client asked if I could deal with the foreclosure issue. He wanted either a "short sale" (to sell the house for less than the mortgage price) or a "deed in lieu" (to hand over the title of the house to the mortgage company). After I learned who held the mortgage, knowing their reputation, we decided to try the short sale route. I told my client to retain the services of a real estate agent and get the house listed for sale as quickly as possible.
An Uphill Battle
Troubles started soon thereafter. The mortgage company kept "losing" my power of attorney form and would not talk to me (and rightfully so) until I faxed over an authorization from my clients indicating that I was allowed to talk to the mortgage company on their behalf. I sent this form over at least half a dozen times until they finally "found" a copy in their file.
The mortgage company then started to pepper us with all sorts of requests, like hardship letters from both parties, listing agreements, affidavits, etc. All these documents "had to be signed by both parties" or they would not be accepted. Unfortunately, my clients sat on these documents, and would only return them to me after 3-4 weeks, and numerous phone calls to them.
My gentleman client decided halfway through the short sale that he would file bankruptcy. This threw the mortgage lender into a tizzy; they insisted we had to start the process all over again. The mortgage lender then asked the bankruptcy attorney to get an order from the bankruptcy court granting them permission to do the short sale. The bankruptcy attorney would not return phone calls regarding this request, and my lady client was getting anxious about how long this short sale was taking. Numerous calls to my gentleman client went unanswered for weeks at a time.
After 7 months of delays -- though not all on the part of my clients -- the proposed buyer got ticked off and pulled the plug on the deal. Shortly thereafter, the lender foreclosed and had the Sheriff sell the property back to them.
The moral of the story? Time waits for no man. Act with alacrity when people are trying to help you out of a jam.
As always, I am available to help you, your family, friends and colleagues with legal matters. Feel free to circulate this email as well.