5 On Your Side

Tarboro woman says attorney made divorce more difficult

Posted July 17, 2008

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— A wall in Andrea Alford’s home is covered with get-well cards and good wishes. She says they give her strength. Alford needs it right now. Not only is she battling breast cancer, but she’s also going through a painful divorce.

“They say God don’t give you more than you can handle. And I’m handling it,” Alford said.

Alford said Rocky Mount attorney Michael Spivey made things more difficult, however. After she paid Spivey $1,500, Alford said, he handled her separation and alimony.

In the months that followed, however, Alford said she had questions for Spivey, but couldn’t get him or his assistant to respond to her letters, visits or phone calls.

Karen Moss previously contacted 5 on Your Side about Spivey. She had hired Spivey to handle her divorce and said she also left messages for Spivey that went unreturned. Moss said Spivey never filed the paperwork to finalize her divorce. For months, she thought she was divorced when she wasn't.

“I was devastated,” Moss said.

Moss and Alford are just two of 15 people who complained to 5 On Your Side about Spivey.

“It makes me mad. It makes me very mad, because I hired him to help me at the worst time in my life” said Alford.

So, 5 on Your Side went to Spivey’s office. The woman inside wouldn't answer the door. By phone, Spivey said he couldn't discuss why so many people complained about him. He called that information "confidential."

After 5 on Your Side’s inquiries, Spivey finalized Moss's divorce and that of another complainant.

Spivey sent Alford a letter basically saying his representation of her ended with the alimony agreement. He said he offered her additional services free of charge simply because he wanted to help. Alford disputes that.

Spivey said he's done all he can for Alford, who found out her divorce was final when her ex-husband's insurance company canceled her coverage.

Alford said she just wants to move on.

“It's been a tough road. Very tough. But we're making it. And we have to go through today to get to tomorrow.”

Anyone with a complaint about an attorney should file a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar and with the Better Business Bureau.

11 Comments

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  • nativeofwake Jul 21, 2008

    I don't think her issue was with the fees. It seemed to me that she had problems/questions regarding his representation of her that he failed to respond to. With 15 complaints to Five on Your Side alone, seems like he is a repeat offender. I would guess that most reputable attys don't have that many compaints to the media. I wonder how many complaints the bar has on him...

  • jennmc Jul 21, 2008

    There are some ethical issues, but the fee seems reasonable. Rosen Law's website quotes $5k for a simple divorce without asset issues and I don't think that includes alimony.

    Lawyers have unhappy clients complaining about fees all the time, despite having valid fee agreements that clearly show the services and costs. People get upset that they are charged for phone conversations, per the terms of the fee agreement. Seriously, people call the attorney if someone yells at them or if the fridge breaks in the house they closed on 3 months ago.

    As for the retainer, the attorney still has to earn it and return the unearned portion.

  • GWALLY Jul 18, 2008

    Then I would say he is not the best value for goods and services!!

  • bluebird1075 Jul 18, 2008

    GWALLY, Trust me, there is nothing cheap about Mr. Spivey!

  • GWALLY Jul 18, 2008

    Most consumers forget that just because a person has a title before or after their name it does not necissarly make them a better business person. (or more honest and trustworthy for that matter) It is the consumers responsibility to do the homework and check out the firm or office they would like to work with. Even with carefull planning things can and do go wrong. Customer service at that point must be great. Consumers however usually look thru the wrong end of the telescope first....looking for "cheap" (the Clark Howard approach)rather than the best value for goods and services needed.

  • bluebird1075 Jul 18, 2008

    We hired Mr. Spivey and had the same problem with calls not being returned and questions not being answered. Why? He was paid his retainer fee upfront. However, I will say that once we got in court, he did his job and we got what we wanted taken care of. I guess the end result is what matters the most. But, it's disturbing, paying for something and not knowing until the last minute if it's taken care of. Mr. Spivey is a good attorney, just not very good about returning calls. He does have a secretary/paralegal for that. Maybe, she's the one not doing her job!

  • XLAW Jul 18, 2008

    Before publishing this article did anyone ask Andrea Alford to provide them with a copy of her written representation agreement? It would be unethical for the attorney to provide WRAL with a copy, but the client could certainly provide her copy to a reporter. There is obviously an unhappy client - and that happens. But exactly what services were to be provided - and the best evidence would be the representation agreement. If there is a written agreement and if the terms of service are clear, then counsel may turn the tables and put WRAL in his gunsight. And why didn't WRAL use her complaints to educate the public concerning the usual fees for these legal services? That would be useful and put her complaints in context. What are the usual fees for obtaining alimony and divorce in the area where she lives? How do those fees compare to costs in Raleigh and how varied are the costs?

  • smitty Jul 18, 2008

    $1500, you get what you pay for.

  • ThisIsMyName Jul 18, 2008

    Isn't divorce sin?

  • I guess I will just type this Jul 18, 2008

    i'll just go w/ the initials "lhb" as a guide for who not to hire...

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