Ask A Divorce Lawyer: How do I remove my spouse’s attorney due to a conflict of interest?

Question: 

I met with an attorney 7 months ago and paid that attorney $50 to begin bankruptcy proceedings. I provided the attorney with all my personal financial information. I later decided not to file. Now my spouse is using this attorney in our divorce. I am very uncomfortable with that lawyer having all my information. Is this a conflict of interest?

I will not be using an attorney and want to know how I would go about having my spouse’s attorney removed because of the conflict of interest.

 

Answer:

Although I am licensed to practice law in Michigan, Cordell & Cordell does have offices in Belleville, Chicago and Edwardsville, Illinois, and I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state because I can only give you general information. You should not rely upon this information as creating an attorney-client relationship, and you should seek counsel in your area for further instructions and suggestions within the parameters of the laws of your state.

I sincerely discourage you from not using an attorney – divorces are complicated, even if you think you know the extent of your marital property, your rights and what is a “good” outcome in the case. An attorney can properly advise you about your rights in Illinois, which you are not expected to know but the judge will expect you to know if you represent yourself in court. For example, the judge will expect you to know whether there is a conflict of interest in your case and, if so, how to go about removing the conflicted attorney. With the limited information you have provided, I cannot tell you whether there is a true conflict of interest with your spouse’s attorney. In general, attorneys cannot use information obtained from a former client to that client’s disadvantage in a subsequent case. However, the financial information you provided is probably discoverable – that is, you would have had to provide it to your spouse as part of your divorce.

The attorney does know your weak points, however, and that could deprive you of any advantages in negotiating a settlement. For example, the attorney knows you probably do not want to file for bankruptcy and could use the threat of bankruptcy to push you into a settlement that an attorney representing you would not recommend. If there is a conflict, you need to raise it in court as a motion. Please contact an attorney in your state (preferred) or a local law library’s rule books to learn how to do so, as there are time and pleading constraints to follow.

 

 

Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.

 

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