LEO: Divorce Mediation/Domestic  LE Op. 519


Divorce Mediation/Domestic Relations/Family Law.


April 28, 1983


Concerning the relationship between an attorney and a mediation service,

in many cases it would be improper for an attorney to render legal advice

to both parties since often it would be virtually impossible to give such

advice in a completely non-partisan way.


However, where an attorney has undertaken to provide "legal information"

only, as opposed to "legal advice," the parties understand the distinction

between "legal information" and "legal advice," and have given their

informed consent for an attorney so to act, it may be appropriate in

certain circumstances for the attorney to provide legal information to

both parties, particularly, in uncomplicated and straightforward

situations where the parties are contemplating getting a non-contested

divorce and the marriage has been of short duration with little assets and

no children involved. Regardless of the situation, however, attorneys

should be advised to use great caution before agreeing to provide legal

information or advice to both parties, and should attorneys agree to do so,

they should be extremely careful to be as non-partisan as possible.


If the attorneys are paid by the mediation service for their advice to

the parties, it would not be a per se ethical violation, but the attorneys

by entering into such an employment agreement might in many situations be

violating the provisions of Canon 5, which require an attorney to exercise

independent professional judgment on behalf of his client, and the

provisions of DR:5-107 which require an attorney to avoid the influence

by others than the client. Also, the provisions of Canon 9 state that a

lawyer should avoid even the appearance of professional impropriety, and

if the attorneys are paid by the mediation service for their advice to the

parties, such an arrangement might be deemed to violate Canon 9 even if

the provisions of Canon 5 are not violated. [ DR:5-105, DR:5-107, EC:5-

1, EC:5-21, EC:5-22 and EC:5-23, DR:9-101, Virginia Code of

Professional Responsibility]


Committee Opinion April 28, 1983




See also LE Op. 1368.