Citation. A. v. B., 158 N.J. 51, 726 A.2d 924, 1999)
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Brief Fact Summary.
Hill Wallack, a new mid-size New Jersey law firm represented a respondent, B, a husband and his wife, W for estate planning services. The respondent had a child by another woman who was also represented by the same firm. The respondent sued Hill Wallack to prevent them from disclosure
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A firm that represents a husband and wife may only disclose to the wife the fact that the husband had fathered another child but may not disclose the identity of the other woman or the child.
The estate planning section of Hill Wallack, a New mid-size New Jersey law firm, represented both husband, B, respondent, and wife, W. Both executed mutual wills transfer all the property to the survivor with the reasonable expectation that each would provide for their children. Meanwhile, the family law section of Hill Wallack mistakenly took on another client plaintiff, A, a woman who sued B for paternity. The existence of the additional child was vital to the defendant’s and W’s estate plan. The firm withdrew from representation in the paternity suit and ordered the defendant to tell his wife W of his other child or the firm would notify plaintiff. The defendant sued Hill Wallack to prevent disclosure.
Whether a firm that represents a husband and wife may disclose to the wife their knowledge that the husband fathered another child by another one of their clients.
Yes. Where a firm represents a husband and wife and another woman who has a child by the husband, the firm may disclose to the wife that another child exists, however the firm may not disclose the identity of the other woman or the child.
The Court will allow the firm to tell the wife that her husband has a child by another woman because it is crucial to her needs in her won estate planning. However it must protect the confidentiality of its client, the other woman, because it also owes her a duty because they had formerly represented her.