Ethics Committee Advisory Opinion #1992‑93/3
Conflicts of Interest: Office of Child Support Attorneys Providing Services to ADFC Recipients and Non‑AFDC Recipients
January 14, 1993
Assuming that an Office of Child Support Enforcement Services (OCSES) lawyer represents only the State when securing or enforcing support obligations for a custodial parent, the lawyer does not represent the parent, and has no duty of loyalty or confidentiality with that parent.
An OCSES lawyer who assists a custodial parent in securing or enforcing support obligations should notify that parent in writing that the lawyer represents only the State and that communications between the lawyer and the parent are not confidential. (Rule 4.3)
Since we have assumed that an OCSES lawyer represents only the State, the lawyer may seek a support award for a custodial parent at the same time as the lawyer is seeking reimbursement from the non‑custodial parent for AFDC payments.
Since we have assumed that an OCSES lawyer represents only the State, the lawyer may maintain actions for more than one custodial parent against the same non‑custodial parent.
Since we have assumed that an OCSES lawyer represents only the State, the lawyer may switch sides if custody changes.
Since we have assumed that an OCSES lawyer represents only the State, the lawyer must investigate any claim that the custodial parent unlawfully received AFDC even when that lawyer is trying to secure or enforce support obligations in favor of that custodial parent.
The Committee has been requested to review several ethical concerns of attorneys at OCSES in their work providing services for parents as required under Title IV‑D of the Social Security Act.
OCSES has presented the Committee with several scenarios in which it has identified potential conflicts of interest due to its federal mandate to provide services for AFDC recipients while also seeking reimbursement of the monies expended in the AFDC program, and services for both the custodial and non‑custodial non‑AFDC parents in enforcing and modifying child support orders.