The Florida Bar

August 22, 1960

In a divorce proceeding it is not advisable for an attorney to represent the wife after the husband has been a client, or to represent both parties despite good intentions and full disclosure.

Canons: 6, 37

Vice-Chairman Smith stated the opinion of the committee:

The Committee members responding to a member's inquiry believe that he cannot, with propriety, represent more than one party in a divorce proceeding and that having represented one party and possibly obtained confidences from him, he should not transfer his allegiance to the wife, despite his obvious good intentions in the matter.

The question of conflicting interests is governed by Canon 6 of the Canons of Professional Ethics which Canon is analyzed in detail in Drinker's Legal Ethics, pages 104 et seq. Canon 6 covers two distinct obligations. First, that an attorney should not represent conflicting interests except with the deliberate consent of all concerned. Second, that an attorney should not disclose or abuse personal confidences. This Canon does not prohibit representation of conflicting interests so long as a full disclosure of the position is made and the necessary consent is obtained. Apart from Canon 6, the lawyer is faced with the fact that a divorce proceeding is in rem and the parties cannot obtain a decree by consent. Representation of both parties by one attorney makes circumstances suspicious although no actual impropriety is involved.

Because representation of conflicting interests in any case requires strictest propriety and because divorces by their very nature tend to preclude representation of both parties by a single attorney, it is the feeling of the members responding that he should not undertake the joint representation.

[Revised: 08-24-2011]