What is considered conflict of interest in a child custody case? 15 Answers as of June 02, 2011

My Ex husbands attorney worked in the same law firm as my current attorney did. When we went to court for our Divorce I consulted with her and almost 1 year later my soon to be ex-husband at the time went to talk with her as well. His lawyer now is trying to say that my lawyer is working under a conflict of interest for me and needs to withdraw. He says he never had anything to do with the case on prior basis and does not need to withdraw due to that. How can I be sure he has never had anything to do with this case and how can he claim that he is not acting under the rule of conflict of interest as well since he worked with my lawyer in the same firm at time of consultations.

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John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
Your question can only be answered by the judge in your case or the Supreme Court's Attorney Regulation Counsel. You should follow your own attorney's advice as to how to raise the issue before the court in your case, if it is truly significant.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 6/2/2011
Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
I believe there is a conflict based on what you present. As an example, I worked in a firm for years that represented large corporations. I never once touched a box that had 3M's name on it. But, the law states that my firm had 3M's account and therefore I can never represent a client suing 3M because I am deemed to have a conflict. The conflict is that I had access to private information on the client, I cannot represent another client suing 3M with all my "best legal ability and knowledge" unless I use the information I had available to me and that I may have learned while my firm represented 3M. At the same time, I have a legal obligation to 3M to keep it's secrets I learned during representation. Keep in mind, I never worked on a 3M case, so I have no such information, but the conflict attaches. That is my recollection of the rules, I stand to be corrected, but if I were the Judge, I would declare a conflict for both attorneys. You stated you met and consulted with female attorney a year before your husband did. She is conflicted from representing him because you consulted her first. She cannot represent him to the best of her ability without using her notes, and information she gained when she consulted with you. As to your lawyer, did he work at the firm when your case was open? Conflicts are generally best resolved when the parties just figure it out. They can be resolved by showing there was a division - a firewall if you will - that prevented your lawyer from seeing information from your husband given to his lawyer. But again, based on what you have said in your question and my understanding of the roles of the attorneys and parties, I think both lawyers are conflicted.
Answer Applies to: Texas
Replied: 6/1/2011
Vermeulen Law office P.A.
Vermeulen Law office P.A. | Cynthia J.Vermeulen
The issue of conflict of interest for an attorney can be somewhat complex. Under Minnesota ethical rules governing attorneys, a conflict of interest for one lawyer in a firm is a conflict for other lawyers in the firm, except in limited circumstances. It may be best for you to contact the ethics board governing attorneys in your state to consult about this issue.
Answer Applies to: Minnesota
Replied: 6/1/2011
Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law | Howard W. Collins
Your own question seems to answer it, doesn't it? Sounds like a conflict to me. It happens sometimes and he simply needs to resign or you can simply replace him. Be sure to get as much of your unearned fees back as you can.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 5/31/2011
Cody and Gonillo, LLP
Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
You will have to let the court decide.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 5/31/2011
    Glenn E. Tanner
    Glenn E. Tanner | Glenn E. Tanner
    You have an attorney and they have assessed the situation correctly.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/31/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    There must be an actual conflict of interest where there are two different interests at play in the same case. If your attorney never spoke to the other attorney about the issues discussed in consultation, there is no conflict of interest.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 5/31/2011
    Edwin Fahlen Attorney at Law
    Edwin Fahlen Attorney at Law | Edwin Fahlen
    Chances are that with competent legal representation the attorney can be "booted" from the case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/31/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    Since it would appear that you currently have legal representation, I would defer answering this question and suggest you consult with him or her. If you do not currently have a divorce attorney, then I would recommend that you obtain one ASAP to advise you as to all your rights and options. This may not sound like a direct response, but in my opinion, it is sound advice: i.e. the best advice anyone can or should give is for you to consult with your lawyer about this.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    It is possible that both attorneys may be conflicted out of this case. It depends upon which firm and which attorneys you and your ex visited when you were looking for an attorney. If you and your soon to be ex husband met with attorneys who at the time were members of the firm you retained, then yes, your attorney is conflicted out. But it sounds like his attorney also has a conflict and should withdraw. If you are in my area and are looking for an attorney, please contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Komanapalli Massey LLP
    Komanapalli Massey LLP | Mark A. Massey, Esq.
    There is no question about it,that attorney working for your ex is ethically required to withdraw. However, be advised that the entire firm may be disqualified, including your attorney, since they now have had access to confidential information from both you and your ex. They have the burden of proving that the attorney working for your ex has never had any access whatsoever nor any opportunity to have accessed any information regarding your consultation, and vice versa with regard to your case and your confidential information. That would be nearly impossible for them to prove. I think the entire firm is ethically bound to withdraw. Tell the court and let it hash out the problem. If I were you, I would ditch my attorney as well because she is part of the firm which took on your ex's case too.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    Did the attorney have access to any information that may now be used against you because he or she worked in the other firm? That is the question that decides the conflict in my mind. If yes, there is a conflict. If no, then there is no conflict. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    This is one of those topics best left to the attorneys, the local bar association and the judge. Make sure the judge and the bar are aware of the situation.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Beresford Booth PLLC
    Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
    I am a little confused by your fact pattern, but if both you and your husband consulted with the same lawyer (and possibly the same law firm) in a divorce/custody case, there is definitely a conflict.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Kaczmarek Law Firm, LLC
    Kaczmarek Law Firm, LLC | Bridgette D. Kaczmarek
    So as I understand, your ex's current attorney (let's call her Jane) worked in the same office as your current attorney (let's call her Jill) and you previously met with Jane, whom you did not hire, but he hired Jane later? If that is correct, Jane would have the conflict, not Jill. If you met with Jane, even if you did not retain her, she should not have met with your ex and certainly should not have permitted your ex to hire her. If you met with Jill, did not hire her, then Jill met with your ex, then you later hire Jill, Jill should not have met with your ex to begin with and then should have refused to allow you to retain her. If the alleged conflict was Jill working with Jane at some time in the past, it comes down to who hired whom first, and whether either of you had retained Jane or Jill before Jill left the firm. This also applies to consultation. The best option is to bring this to the Court's attention and have the court decide whether there is a conflict and if so, who needs to withdraw.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 5/27/2011
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