DSS attorney problem


#1

My ex-wife had a sexual relationship with our County DSS attorney who handles our child support case. I got him removed from the case but he avoided diciplinary action because I was told he represents the County on behalf of the minor children not my ex-wife.

I recieved a letter supporting this stance from Daisy Blue, Chief of the NC DSS child support section which clearly states, “The child support attorney represents the agency on behalf of the children. He does not represent your ex-wife.”

Recently I have filed a child custody modification because my oldest son graduated from high school which ended my child support obligation for him. I have a hearing his coming Monday, July 30th. I just received a Notice of Appearance from the Conflict Attorney and he erroneously signed it Attorney for (our) County O/B/O (my ex-wife’s name). This contradicts the letter from NC DSS. This is very concerning to me especially if the Conflict Attorney believes he is representing my ex-wife.

I would like this to be completely clarified at the hearing on Monday. So should I fax a letter expressing my concern to the Conflict Attorney or will I be able to bring this issue up myself at the hearing on Monday?


#2

I don’t really understand your goal. Why don’t you do whatever you did before to have him removed as opposing party in your case?


#3

My goal is to know if the DSS child support enforcement attorney represents my ex-wife or my children.

After our county DSS child support attorney filed a continuance on behalf of my ex-wife and a month later handle a dismissal of a motion for my ex-wife. Shortly after, my -ex-wife and the this same county DSS child support attorney started having a sexual relationship which is in violation of our county DSS policy, state DSS policy, the North Carolina Canons of Ethics for Arbitrators, and the NC State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.

The relationship abruptly ended after I filed grievances with the NC State DSS and the NC State Bar. This attorney was removed from my child support case but avoided disciplinary action because he stated he represents my children and not my ex-wife even though the NC State DSS define this attorney’s client as “the custodian or caretaker for the minor child(ren), who is recieving CSE services” which is my ex-wife.

My oldest son is turning 18 so I filed a child support modification. The conflict attorney who is now handling my child support case filed a Notice of Appearance and as plain as day claims he is representing my ex-wife which is contrary to the DSS Attorney’s statement.

I need to find out if the DSS Attorney lied the NC State Bar. Who does the DSS child support attorney represent? The Child(ren) or the spouse?


#4

Correction. The child support enforcement attorney represents the agency. The purpose of the agency is to obtain support for dependent children, so the agency’s role is to assist getting that support. That money is then transferred to the caretaker of the child, but that caretaker can change throughout the child’s life, so the agency doesn’t represent the payee.


#5

Where did you get this information? Your statement contradicts NC DSS policy. Every person I ask has a different answer. The conflict attorney for DSS stated that the DSS attorney’s representation is on behalf of my ex-wife and he even filed a Notice of Appearance clearly stating this.

You stated, “that caretaker can change throughout the child’s life, so the agency doesn’t represent the payee.” This comes from an opinion from the NC State Bar. If I remember correctly, it is Opinion 5. The concept of this opinion is so that the DSS attorney remains unbiased in case the child custody and support changes parents. This is basically the same as the North Carolina Conans of Ethic for Arbitrators which ALL DSS attorney are required to follow. It is beyond the scope of the NC State Bar to make statements or opinions regarding the definitions of clients for a public service agency. When in fact the DSS attorney works for the county DSS not the NC State Bar so the attorney must follow established written county and state DSS policies.

This DSS Attorney handled my child support case then started having a sexual relationship with my ex-wife. He violated County DSS policy, NC State DSS policy and the NC State Bar. All of these policy clearly state that the DSS attorney must avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest and any sexual contact with “clients” but he clearly created a conflict of interest in my case and was removed from my case by the NC State DSS for this very reason. He avoided disciplinary action because he claimed he represents the children and not my ex-wife but there are no policies or facts to substantiate this claim.

This attorney filed a motion to intervene in my child support case on behalf of my ex-wife not DSS.

Now the taxpayers of my county have to foot the bill for another attorney to come from a different town 45 minutes away every time my child support case heard. We will be back in court for the second time next month. So maybe I need to rephrase my questions. Is it ethical for a County DSS attorney to create conflict of interest by having a sexual relationship with a person in a current child support case which he has handled and is supposed to handle even though it violates county DSS policy, NC state DSS policy, and the NC State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct? Or is it perfectly fine because he claims he represents the DSS or the children in the case?

This is definitely a professional and ethic manner that this DSS attorney “represents” the county DSS.


#6

I do not know if my statement contradicts DSS policy, but there was an ethics opinion issued about a year ago that stated that the CSE attorney represents the agency, not the parent.

The code of professional conduct is available at www.ncbar.gov. Even though I review the rules of ethics whenever I have a question in my own practice, I do not feel comfortable stating an opinion of whether the attorney in your situation acted ethically, especially since I’m not an expert on all the policies you mentioned in your post.

Rule 1.19(a) states “a lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a current client of the lawyer.” Note that Comment 7 of Rule 1.19 of the RPC states “The other lawyers in a firm are not disqualified from representing a client with whom the lawyer has become intimate. The potential impairment of the lawyer’s ability to exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of the client with whom he or she is having a sexual relationship is specific to that lawyer’s representation of the client and is unlikely to affect the ability of other members of the firm to competently and dispassionately represent the client.”