Divorce often brings out the worst in people. It can be one of the most emotionally traumatic experiences in a person’s life, and the pain it causes can turn to bitterness towards a soon-to-be ex-spouse. That bitterness, in turn sometimes leads people to engage in underhanded tricks. One such trick employs the ethical rules to which attorneys are bound, called “conflicting.”
The basic theory behind conflicting, is built around the ethical guideline governing conflicts of interest that attorneys must follow. Every state has a very similar version of the rule. Florida’s rule is laid out under Rule 4-1.7(a) of the Florida Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 4-1.7(a) says:
“A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to the interests of another client . . . .”
The trick involved in conflicting involves one spouse running around to all of the best divorce attorneys and having consultations with them. During the consultations, if the spouse provides enough information to the attorney to create an attorney-client relationship, that spouse will become a client. The spouse then goes to the next attorney and does the same thing. Soon, all the best attorneys have an attorney-client relationship with that spouse, and the other spouse has a difficult time recruiting an attorney that would not be subject to the conflict of interest rule.
Heidi Klum recently generated publicity when she went to a number of different attorneys. Many believed that she was attempting to prevent her husband from getting a good attorney. She claimed to simply be shopping around.
Whether Klum’s motives were genuine or not, the incident demonstrates that it can be difficult to prove that conflicting is going on. The spouse engaging in this behavior will likely claim to be shopping for an adequate attorney.
The best defense to such behavior is to recruit a good attorney as quickly as you can once you know that a divorce is imminent. Getting the attorney lined up will prevent conflicting and the attorney will help you to fight for your interests.