Parent and child can be opposing counsel in divorce case

A parent and child working as attorneys can represent opposing parties in a divorce proceeding provided that their clients consent in writing to that arrangement, the Rhode Island Supreme Court Ethics Advisory Panel has ruled.

“Ordinarily, this situation creates a conflict of interest because the extant family relationship may undermine the lawyers’ professional judgment and independence vis-à-vis their respective clients. However, the inquiring attorney has indicated that both Husband and Wife are aware of the lawyers’ family relationship and have verbally given their informed consent to the representations,” the panel wrote.

Based on the facts presented, the panel decided that whatever conflict of interest “exists as to the representations may be cured by the clients’ written informed consent thereof.”

“Therefore, the inquiring attorney and his/her parent may continue in their respective representations of Husband and Wife so long as they obtain their clients’ informed consent to do so in writing,” the panel concluded.

The two-page decision is Rhode Island Supreme Court Ethics Advisory Panel Op. 2023-9.

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