Monday, February 4, 2008

General Family Law: One Attorney for Two, Not

I thought about writing on this topic, but I think Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog nails the subject with its post When One Attorney is Involved in a Divorce.

In Minnesota and most other states, one attorney cannot represent both parties in a family court proceeding. (Do not be misled by the movie Juno!) Yet it is common for divorces to happen with only one attorney involved. When one attorney is involved, that attorney represents one of the parties; the other party waives counsel.
Indiana's Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 1.7 limits one attorney from representing two clients when:
(1)the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or
(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.
I see this situation often enough even now: former spouse comes into the office and says that they had one attorney for the divorce (usually that but sometimes other matters) and now he finds out whatever was done just is not very good for this former spouse but is for the other and that former spouse finds themselves without legal counsel. Quite often the former spouse says that the attorney never told former spouse that the former spouse was not the lawyer's client. I discount this but I suppose it is possible for a variety of reasons. However, the reason for having only one lawyer never varies: they wanted to save money. Whatever savings they had get lost when a subsequent attorney comes into the case to clean up the case.

If nothing else remember these two ideas:
  1. In family law cases, one attorney per client.
  2. You get what you pay for.

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