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If you know you're headed towards divorce, it's time to get up and hire a divorce attorney. This is true even if you haven't yet filed divorce papers or separated from your spouse. Why?
It's called "conflicting out." If your soon-to-be ex is sneaky or vindictive, he can make it very difficult for you to find a divorce attorney that fits your needs.
And even if your ex is as nice as can be, he can still inadvertently prevent you from retaining the best counsel in your area.
To explain "conflicting out," we need to look at the rules of professional conduct. This ethics code requires attorneys to decline a representation if "there is a significant risk that the representation ... will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person..."
The code also requires attorneys to keep all information confidential -- even that information which is obtained during an initial consultation.
Now, consider a factual scenario in which your spouse makes appointments with the area's best divorce attorneys. When in those meetings, he shares information about your marriage, what he wants from the divorce and any secrets that he may not want you to know.
Even if your spouse doesn't end up hiring any of these attorneys, they are all ethically bound to keep that information confidential. As such, they may also be ethically bound to decline your representation if they feel this duty would prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities to you.
In other words, your spouse has just successfully prevented you from hiring any of the best divorce attorneys in town.
This is why you shouldn't delay hiring a divorce attorney. If you don't start shopping early, your spouse may get there first. And then you'll be left with your last choice.