If an attorney has represented one’s spouse in the past, is it appropriate for them to assist the other spouse 14 years later regarding a divorce matter?

Does the conflict of interest expire after a certain amount of time? I’m recently divorced but believe my husband lied about his finances.

Asked on April 30, 2017 under Family Law, Maryland

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A conflict of interest (to oversimplify) is when information gained from representing person A can be used to the detriment of person A later. So say that attorney Doe represented A against B in a divorce. Years later, A is married to C, and C wants to hire attorney Doe to represent him/her against A in a divorce. That could represent a conflict, since the information that the attorney learned about A during the first divorce (e.g. about his assets or income) could be used against him/her in the second. 
But say instead that attorney Doe represented A against B in a divorce, and then later, B, who is then married to C, wants to hire the attorney to represent B against C in a divorce. Whatever information that the attorney had from the first divorce will not hurt his/her client, B, since the attorney is B's lawyer and is representing B.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The conflict of interest does not expire after a certain period of time has elapsed.
The attorney should advise you in writing of the potential conflict of interest and that you have the right to consult with another attorney regarding this matter.


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