LEO: Divorce Mediation - Domestic  LE Op. 516


Divorce Mediation/Domestic Relations/Family Law.


April 28, 1983


An attorney accepting compensation from a professional counselor service

which refers clients to an attorney for legal advice would not be a per se

ethical violation of the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility.

However, an attorney, by entering into such an employment agreement, might

be violating in many situations the provisions of Canon 5 which require an

attorney to exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of a

client and the provisions of DR:5-107 requiring that an attorney avoid

the influence by others than the client.


Also, the provisions of Canon 9 state that an attorney should avoid even

the appearance of professional impropriety, and as such an attorney's

acceptance of compensation from a professional counselor service which

refers clients to an attorney for legal advice might be deemed to violate

Canon 9, even if the provisions of Canon 5 are not violated.


A disclosure by an attorney to a professional counselor service of the

purpose and length of time spent with a client on a particular problem

without the express informed consent of the client would violate the

provisions of DR:4-101.


In many cases, it would be improper for an attorney to attempt to provide

legal advice simultaneously to two potentially adverse parties in divorce

mediation, 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 an 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. [ DR:5-

105, EC:5-1, EC:5-21, EC:5-22 and EC:5-23, DR:4-101, DR:9-101

Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility]


Committee Opinion April 28, 1983




See also LE Op. 1368, and LE Op. 1374.