Can one attorney represent both spouses in a divorce? This issue presents itself in a multitude of scenarios: the proverbial “simple divorce” or merely reviewing a settlement agreement prepared by both spouses. As my colleague noted, if prospective clients request that you represent them both, even if it’s “simple” or merely reviewing their agreement,
A difficult question often faced by litigants is whether a trial judge is deciding his or her case with a fair and unbiased eye. Should a litigant feel that they are not getting a fair shake, the party can file a motion for recusal of the trial judge. R. 1:12-2 of the New Jersey Rules of Court, however, requires that the motion be made to the actual trial judge whose recusal is sought.
This issue was recently addressed by the Appellate Division in the published opinion of Vic Chandok v. Rekha Chandok. Rekha appealed from the judgment of divorce on various issues, but the Appellate Division only addressed her challenge of the trial court’s Order denying her motion to recuse the trial judge. The original motion was based on Rekha’s assertion that she could not receive a fair and unbiased hearing because of a prior relationship between the trial judge and her attorney where they were partners in a law firm that went under, subsequently followed by contentious litigation between the judge and attorney. Ultimately, the trial judge ruled that Vic’s business and investment interests were exempt from distribution; Rekha was not entitled to alimony; no child support was granted over and above Vic’s maximum obligation pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines; the parties were granted joint legal custody; and Rekha was to pay in excess of $40,000 to a discovery master.