Courts, Legal Basics

questions & answers

Question: Can I use legal aid even if my ex-wife used it for our divore 7 years ago?

Answer: It depends on the reason for your ex-wife's past involvement with the legal aid office, and whether she would be the opponent in the current case. Generally, Ethical Rule 1.9 forbids an attorney (and by extension, her entire law firm) to assist Person A "against" Person B when she (or the firm) previously assisted Person B in the same or substantially related matter. So, for example, if the legal aid office previously helped your ex-wife in the divorce case that involved you, I seriously doubt that it can simply switch sides and help you litigate a family law matter (e.g. post-decree custody dispute) against her. There are two exceptions to this rule. First, if your ex-wife gives written, uncoerced and *informed* consent to the legal aid office, then you might be able to seek that office's assistance. I will warn you now that - even in the presence of written consent - many attorneys simply will not risk their law licenses on such an unusual arrangement. Second, if the original legal matter had nothing whatsoever to do with the current problem, and there is no risk that old information could be used by the legal aid office against its former client, then you might be able to apply for help. So, as an example, if your ex-wife received assistance from the legal aid office to fight a landlord or creditor, and now you want to ask the same office to litigate a family law matter against that ex-wife, then *maybe* it can help you. The primary considerations are whether: (a) the legal aid office would have to use confidential information that it received from your ex-wife in Case #1 against her in Case #2; and (2) helping you would create the plain impression that the legal aid office is simply "switching sides."


  • Can I use legal aid even if my ex-wife used it for our divore 7 years ago?




  • Please select your county of residence below.



  • State Bar of Arizona
  • Maricopa County Bar
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program


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