FLORIDA BAR ETHICS OPINION
August 22, 1960
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
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.
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
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