From Representing 'Clients' to Serving 'Recipients': Transforming the Role of the IV-D Child Support Enforcement Attorney
Barbara Glesner Fines
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law
Fordham Law Review, Vol. 67
Attorneys for the poor are being asked to serve more clients for less money and with more restrictions than ever. These restrictions on amounts and uses of funds influence the attorney's independent professional judgment. Determining when that influence is inappropriate becomes a difficult practical and ethical issue. Is this issue resolved if one simply re-conceptualizes the role of the entities and individuals involved? What if the government becomes the client and the individual receiving legal services becomes something other than a client? Such a change in characterization has in fact occurred. Even in the face of massive cutbacks on other federal support, the governmental role in child support enforcement has swelled. Accompanying this growth has been an increasing focus on the ethical issues presented by this representation. When the attorneys enforcing private child support orders are employed by the state, identifying the client becomes a critical ethical task. From the client's perspective, the role of the attorney appears little different than the role of other legal services attorneys. The government is simply a third-party funder similar to insurance companies whose attorneys represent both insurer and insured. Under either of these views, the attorney would owe a duty to the parent as client.
Nearly all states have statutes that specifically exclude the custodial parent as a client. These statutes seemingly resolve the issue of dual representation or third-party interference with the lawyer-client relationship. New issues arise regarding the attorney's duty to be forthright with the recipients of legal services about the nature of the relationship - but there is little question about the scope of representation or limitations on that scope.
Could this same re-characterization occur in other areas of government funding of legal services? Would such a re-characterization truly solve the ethical dilemmas presented by government restrictions on attorney representation? This article provides some background on the role of child support enforcement attorneys; explores the reasons for characterizing the parent as client and the issues such a characterization raises; and examines statutes that deem the state to be the sole client in these actions and will consider their philosophy, legality, and effectiveness.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: Child support, Child support enforcement, CSE, IV-D Program, Legal services, Client identity, Attorney-client, Custodial parent, Non-custodial parent, Legal ethics, Professional responsibility
JEL Classification: H53, I30, K31, K32, K38, J12, J13, K10, K30, K42Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: May 15, 2008
© 2013 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo5 in 0.344 seconds