Is it possible for me to create a conflict of interest for my spouse and their attorney? Can my spouse consult or hire the same attorney or firm that I’m using?
IS THERE A WAY TO KEEP MY SPOUSE FROM HIRING A PARTICULAR LAWYER? TRANSCRIPT
Hi, I’m Lee Rosen. Is there a way to keep my spouse from hiring a particular lawyer?
You might have heard of certain celebrities doing what they call conflicting out attorneys from their divorce cases. Heidi Klum, the supermodel got in the news recently for doing this. What people do is they go out and meet with attorneys to have a confidential conversation with them and that causes the attorney to be unable to represent the spouse of the person with whom they met.
We’ve seen scenarios where the husband, for instance, might go and meet with the top four or five or six divorce attorneys in a community, spend an hour with each one, pay for an initial consultation and then when his wife calls them trying to find an attorney for herself, none of them are able to meet with her because they’ve been conflicted out. This creates a real disadvantage for someone who is trying to find an attorney and has had this done to them. You need to be aware of it before it happens to you. This is really a dirty trick.
I don’t think that it’s generally a good approach for people to take. In fact, I think having an excellent attorney on both sides of the divorce case probably facilitates reaching a prompt and equitable settlement. When you eliminate the good lawyers from the potential of being involved in the case, I think that sometimes causes things to be harder to get worked out.
It makes it difficult because you might have a great attorney on one side but a mediocre attorney on the other side, and they have a tough time reaching agreement. So I don’t know that this dirty trick is a sensible thing to do, but you want to be very aware of the possibility because I see it happen all the time. Where it’s an especially an acute problem is in a small town. In some small areas you may not have many attorneys. So if one spouse runs around, meets with everybody, there’s no one left for the other spouse. That’s a big problem.
But even in a larger city in an urban area, we see people conflicting out the best attorneys and leaving us with not very good options in terms of who to select next. So how technically does someone get conflicted out? Well, the client has to go in, conduct a meeting, and reveal confidential information. Paying for the consultation is also an element of this in North Carolina. It’s a fairly simple process, and if somebody gets started early there’s really not a lot to keep them from doing it to you and making it very difficult for you to find council.
So the question becomes how do you prevent this from happening to you. You really don’t want to let this happen. What you need to do is at the first sign of divorce, you need to go and meet with an attorney. That will make that person unable to meet with your spouse, and you will have, in effect, reserved them for your use down the road.
Now I’m reluctant to say this to you, but I think I need to. That is, that you should go talk to an attorney if you’re worried about this issue as early in the process as possible. That might mean that you’re not sure that you’re going to get divorced. It’s really you’re worried about it, but you haven’t made much progress in that direction. It still might make sense to go now meet with a lawyer so that you don’t have to face this problem.
You may want to do it before divorce is really a solidified idea in your mind. The reason I hesitate to say that is that I think sometimes when you go and meet with a lawyer, it puts ideas in your head. It puts information in your head. It moves the process forward in a marriage that might otherwise have been saved. You might have been able to work things out.
So you’ve got to balance that against your anxiety of not being able to find the attorney that you want and decide whether you should go ahead and meet early or whether you ought to wait, but run the risk of the conflict becoming an issue. Think this through and make a decision. Don’t just let it happen to you. Do what’s right for you by taking action, not by sitting back and by default having trouble finding the attorney that you want.