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Ethics and Conflicts - Can a Lawyer Son Represent His Father Against His Mother in a Divorce Case?

Posted by attorney Don Springmeyer

The Nevada Supreme Court has just held that the son of a divorcing couple is not disqualified from representing his father in the litigation:

This original petition for a writ of mandamus raises two novel issues regarding attorney disqualification: should an attorney who represents one of his parents in a divorce action between both parents be disqualified either (1) because the attorney’s representation will constitute an appearance of impropriety or (2) because representing the parent will violate the concurrent-conflict-of-interest rule in Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 1.7? Because appearance of impropriety is no longer recognized by the American Bar Association, and we have not recognized the appearance of impropriety as a basis for disqualifying counsel except in the limited circumstance of a public lawyer, we reject that conclusion when the alleged impropriety is based solely on a familial relationship with the attorney. We also conclude that absent an ethical breach by the attorney that affects the fairness of the entire litigation or a proven confidential relationship between the nonclient parent and the attorney, the nonclient parent lacks standing to seek disqualification under RPC 1.7.

The Supreme Court reversed the trial court, which had disqualified the son.

This may well fall in the category of "technically ok but still a really bad idea"!

Here is the link to the opinion issued Thursday, August 9, 2012: opinion (PDF) .

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