Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Family Law Procedure
What are the grounds for disqualifying a lawyer in a Florida family law case? The recent appellate case Goff v. Goff, 2D18-3163 (Fla. 2d DCA June 26, 2019) goes over what is required to establish that disqualification of an attorney is appropriate.
The parties were previously divorced. Both filed post-judgment motions to enforce provisions of their final judgment. The former husband’s lawyer was a long-time friend who also knew the former wife. The former wife filed a motion to disqualify the former husband’s lawyer, alleging the lawyer previously represented her in a debt collection issue with her sister and brother-in-law; that the lawyer had information about the parties’ confidential finances; and that the lawyer was listed as a witness in the former husband’s pretrial catalog previously.
After a hearing, the trial court determined the former wife established there was a conflict of interest in having the lawyer represent the former husband. The former husband appealed, filing a petition for a writ of certiorari, alleging the trial court departed from the essential requirements of the law when it granted the former wife’s motion to disqualify. The appellate court reviewed the case under the standard of whether or not the trial court abused it discretion.
The appellate court found it was error for the trial court to disqualify the former husband’s counsel. First, although the lawyer did previously represent the former wife, the matter on which he represented her was unrelated to the issues in the post-judgment matter between the former spouses. Second, the court found that although the former wife alleged the lawyer had information regarding the parties’ confidential finances, the former wife admitted on cross-examination at the hearing on her motion that she had made a complete disclosure of her finances in the divorce case. Thus none of her finances were confidential. Last, the court held that although the lawyer was listed as a witness in the former husband’s pretrial catalog, this was of no consequence since he was not even called as a witness, ultimately, and even if he was, this would not preclude him from now representing the former husband in the post-judgment case.
Choosing one’s own lawyer in a Florida family law case is an important first step to moving forward with your life. Speak with a Miami family law attorney by scheduling a consultation to go over your case.