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Son Can Represent Dad in Divorce from His Mom

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Can a lawyer son represent his dad in a divorce case against his mom? It may sound like a conflict of interest, but Nevada's highest court says it's OK under the law.

The Nevada Supreme Court's 3-0 ruling reverses a lower court's decision that barred lawyer Mark Liapis of Reno from representing his dad Theodore, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Mark Liapis' mom Marie objected to her son's involvement in the case, and offered several legal arguments -- all of which Nevada's Supreme Court rejected.

In arguing against her son's representation of his dad, Marie Liapis called it a conflict of interest: Mark Liapis could not "zealously represent" one parent while claiming to "still love both his parents," Marie asserted, according to the Review-Journal.

Marie Liapis also argued her son's role in the divorce case would create "an appearance of impropriety."

But the Nevada justices countered that "appearance of impropriety is no longer recognized by the American Bar Association" as a reason to disqualify a lawyer, the Legal Profession Blog points out. Further, such an argument doesn't work "when the alleged impropriety is based solely on a familial relationship with the attorney," the court held.

As for the alleged conflict of interest, a party must prove the lawyer committed an ethical violation or would breach some sort of confidential privilege, the court explained. In general, no such privilege exists between mother and son.

There are other potential reasons to disqualify a son from representing his dad in a divorce against his mom. For example, a lawyer generally cannot also be called as a witness, nor can a lawyer go up against a current or former client because he must still maintain the client's confidentiality. Neither of these conflicts of interest applied to Mark Liapis' case, the court held.

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