My question involves malpractice by a lawyer in the state of: NJ
I would like to explore whether I have a legitimate claim against the attorney that handled my divorce proceeding.
In the context of equitable distribution of property, the original divorce agreement was supposed to establish that my ex wife would maintain residence in the marital home by way of buying out my equity (as established by appraisal). My own attorney advised me that wording should be added to the settlement, which gave my ex wife a specific timeframe by which she must complete a mortgage re-finance and pay my equity, else the property must be listed for sale. My ex wife and I had agreed to her remaining in the residence, and my interest was to receive what I could of the money I had invested in the property.
3 months after the the divorce settlement, and just prior to her deadline to pay my equity, my ex wife decided that she no longer wished to retain the residence, as property values had declined. She brought me back into court to force my cooperation on a joint sale of the residence, which would be at a financial loss to us both.
I was able to determine that my ex wife was denied a refinance without first contributing additional equity, BUT was in the process of completing a mortgage assumption (this was actually made known to my attorney and me just after the court hearing that settled our divorce), and withdrew her application prior to it being approved (approval was imminent).
I wished to argue that my ex wife was acting in contempt of the divorce agreement by never completing any attempt to take ownership of the marital home, but was denied this motion by the judge. The judge submitted a lengthy ruling, which seems to state that my attorney's wording in the divorce settlement agreement established an OPTION for my ex wife to take ownership of the property and pay out my equity rather than an OBLIGATION, as I believed we had agreed to.
As a result, I have left the marriage in significant debt, and without any of the equity that I had invested in our home(s) over the course of the 11 year marriage. The property is currently under contract to be sold at a loss of approximately $65,000 under the value appraised for the divorce settlement and a loss of approximately $120,000 under the price we paid for it.
Feeling that my attorney did not properly state and protect my financial interests in the divorce proceeding, I would like to determine if I can recover any of the fees paid to him for representing me and/or the additional financial losses I have incurred subsequent to the settlement modification.