For some parties, paying the cost of a divorce or family law matter can be financially impossible. It might be that their other expenses are too high. It could be that they have lost their job. Maybe the person is a still a student and needs help. And for many these, are other reasons, many get help from a third-party to foot the bill.
It might be a parent of the client. It might be a significant other or new spouse. It could be a friend. It could be somebody else.
Certainly, if a party gets the financial assistance from a third-party, this is a good thing. This is especially true where credit is not available for one reason or another.
But many clients than wonder what this means and how this works. Does this third-party bill payor have a right to be in client meetings? Does the third-party bill payor have a right to confidential information about the case? And if the third-party bill payor calls the lawyer or the office, are they entitled to information about the case?
The answer to these questions is “no.” The client’s information still has to be protected. The client still has a right to have their information kept confidential. Any lawyer or law firm cannot give up any of this information without the client’s consent.
So, it a party is going through a divorce or family law matter and is getting the help of a third-party bill payor, it’s important these dynamics be understood. It can be important, for example, for the client and the third-party bill payor to discuss these dynamics. Otherwise, a third-party bill payor can often feel frustrated that they are footing the bill and may not know how their money is being put to use.
Maybe the client and the third-party bill payor can agree on some items, like maybe the client will provide the bills to the third-party bill payor when they receive them? Maybe the client wants to sign some kind of a release for the third-party bill payor to get some limited information from the law firm? Obviously, every case is different and it’s vital that a client discuss items like this with their attorney as well in terms of what is appropriate and what would not be appropriate for the sake of the case outcome.
At the end of the day, it’s a good thing when friends, families and others are willing to help. But client confidences still have to be protected. And the client and the third-party bill payor both have to be on the same page about how the relationship is going to work. Otherwise, it’s easy for a third-party bill payor to become frustrated with the client or the lawyer on the case.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.