A devious trick sometimes promoted in family court cases involves the idea of conflicting out potential attorneys before your spouse can use them. The theory goes like this:

Attorneys are required to maintain a conflict database. The conflict database is a list of people that the attorney has created attorney-client relationships with and parties opposed to them. If someone from the other side of a case approaches the attorney, then the attorney searches the database and finds that person, thus preventing him or her from having privileged conversations with both parties and getting information in confidence that could be used against either side.

Knowing this general rule, some spouses attempt to run to attorneys and have initial consultations thereby creating conflicts. Once the conflict exists, the other spouse can no longer go to that attorney because they are conflicted out.

This tactic creates more of a problem in scenarios where both spouses want to use a particular attorney or in circumstances when there aren’t a lot of attorneys in the area (such as in a small town). In bigger cities or in situations when the spouses don’t already have someone they are hoping to use, this approach may not matter as it’s difficult to conflict out enough attorneys to prevent your spouse from finding a decent one.

You should not conspire to engage in unethical behavior. Do not do this yourself. However, be aware that it can happen. And even if someone is not intentionally engaging in this conduct, know that you can be conflicted out of using an attorney if you wait too long.

The most important take-away is that you need to be proactive in seeking legal counsel. Don’t wait to just find some basic information about your rights and obligations. Talk to an attorney sooner than later.