In law, there is something called “the appearance of impropriety.” This means that nothing should occur that could be seen by a third party as looking improper. Having a relationship on anything more than a professional level certainly fits within this category. Some states — including New Jersey and New York — have specifically prohibited matrimonial attorneys and their clients from dating.
However, there is an even more basic concern that each party must have: objectivity. Anyone who has ever dated is a painfully aware of the emotional roller-coaster ride that is part and parcel of any relationship. Even assuming that both of you are willing to brave the reprisals that accompany such improper and unprofessional behavior, the risk of making an error in judgment based upon personal feelings will be ever-present.
Every court system that I have encountered puts forth the position that it’s improper for an attorney to represent an individual with whom he or she has a personal relationship — and this even includes a spousal relationship. However, if the relationship develops during the heart of the representation, the attorney must disqualify him or herself. If the case is in a crucial stage and the attorney and client do not wish to stop the relationship, then complete disclosure should be made.
Robert E. Burg has been practicing since 1990. He is an accredited divorce mediator and his firm concentrates on divorce and family law.