Experienced lawyers from Jupiter to West Palm Beach were surprised to read on page 25 of the main section of the Sunday, May 1, 2011 edition of the New York Times a full-page ad for an organization called: Woman's Divorce Finance. The ad stated "[W]e don't just fund your divorce – we manage it." Woman's Divorce Finance has a web site. The web site states in part: "There are no up-front fees and no asset minimum required….. [and] payment is based upon a percentage of the assets and support payments you receive in any settlement or legal resolution of your divorce." However, the only access to the web site to obtain more information requires an interested person to fill out a form giving biographical information, the identity of your lawyer, income, and provide a narrative about the marriage and lifestyle. The site promises a quick follow up once it receives your information. Experienced divorce attorneys throughout Palm Beach County quickly note three troubling aspects of the ad:
1. Lack of Details. The ad and web site make no representation about or provide the identification of the people or professionals who purportedly will "manage" and "fund" a woman's divorce. In addition, the percentage pr amount of the contingency fee paid to "Woman's Divorce Finance" is not specified in the ad or on the web site.
2. Unauthorized Practice of Law. The web site clearly implies that this organization will manage or control the legal strategy and lawyer providing legal representation. Florida and many other states have ethical restrictions which prevent non-lawyers and lawyers outside the State of Florida from practicing law within Florida. How the organization will deal with this restriction is unknown.
3. Contingency Agreement. Woman's Divorce Finance obtains a percentage of the assets and support payments a participant will receive from the divorce. This is a form of a contingency fee. Consequently, Woman’s Divorce Finance has a financial stake in the outcome of the divorce litigation or settlement. In Florida, and many other states, it is unethical for a lawyer to have a contingency fee in a divorcing client's case. Having such a contingency fee or stake in the outcome of the case (where a lawyer has a financial interest in the outcome) is considered a conflict of interest. In other words, because the lawyer has a financial interest in the outcome he or she may not act in the client's or the children's best interests – but act in their own interest.
Experienced divorce attorneys from Boca Raton to Wellington know that parties in the divorce case are not on an equal economical footing. At first glance, Woman’s Divorce Finance would appear to provide aid to very deserving women in certain cases. However, in Florida, there are many substantial hurdles over which this organization will have to overcome in order for it to operate legally. In addition, the public does not know several important facts and details regarding how and to whom this organization will provide services. As the old expression goes: "The devil is in the details."
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