Lawrenceville Divorce Attorneys

A common misconception in New Jersey is that both spouses can use the same attorney for their divorce.  My local paper recently had an article about divorces in the current economy.  One attorney was quoted as intimating that this was true; the attorney was speaking of uncontested divorces in which the parties agree on issues and the seek the dissolution of their marriage. While I am certain that the attorney’s comments were taken out of context, as one of the points in the article was a concern about legal fees, this is a question that comes to me often.  A client will ask me if I can represent both spouses, even if they have an agreement.  The answer is a resounding, no.

 

The ethics rules in our state are very clear that one attorney cannot represent both spouses in a divorce.   Simply, it is a conflict of interest.  The New Jersey Supreme Court has said on many occasions, that “one of the most basic responsibilities incumbent on a lawyer is the duty of loyalty to his or her clients. From that duty issues the prohibition against representing clients with conflicting interests."( In re Opinion No. 653 of the Advisory Comm. on Prof’l Ethics, 132 N.J. 124, 129 (1993)).  Our state has a very strong policy in which there should not be even an “appearance” of a possible conflict of interest.  This is to protect the clients.

 

Imagine a scenario in which one spouse has been home raising children, and the other has been working throughout a twenty year marriage.  This is a situation in which alimony will be an issue.  Certainly, the non working spouse and the working spouse may have differing positions about the amount and term of alimony. Most people agree that in these circumstances, the parties will want to have their own attorneys.  But what about the situations where both parties are working, and they have a house and a couple of retirement accounts.  Many people believe that in this situation, they do not need two attorneys and both use the same lawyer.  Well, they can’t. 

Continue Reading One Client, One Lawyer

The issue of relationships between parents and children when determining allocation of college expenses is often a complicated one. I have had many post divorce clients, usually non-custodial clients, discuss their frustration with the lack of involvement that they have had in the selection of college for their sons or daughters but are expected to pay a significant portion thereof. They feel as if the are simply “a wallet.” The recent unreported Appellate Division decision of Miller v. Tafaro brought this to mind.

In Miller, the father had been estranged from his children for many years following the parties’ divorce. When the mother asked the court to enforce the Property Settlement Agreement as to the payment of college expenses, the father said that he should not have an obligation to pay as he did not have a relationship with the children. The Court noted that as this was but one factor for consideration by the court, and, given that the lack of relationship over the years with the children was a result of the father’s actions, the trial court’s decision that the father was obligated to pay a portion of college expenses was affirmed.

Continue Reading Poor Relationship with Parent not enough to Deny College obligation