When joint filers in a bankruptcy case get divorced while the case is pending bankruptcy attorneys sometimes become powerless in their ability to work on the bankruptcy case. The bankruptcy attorney owes a duty to each of the filers and parties to a divorce often give contradictory instructions to their bankruptcy attorney.
For example, consider a husband and a wife in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case who file for divorce. The plan payments are being taken out of the husband’s wages and he wants half the payment to be withheld from his wife’s wages and the other half to be withheld from his wages. He instructs his attorney to file a new wage directive with the Trustee to make this change. The bankruptcy attorney has a duty to get permission from the debtor’s wife before making this change. If she instructs him not to make the change then the attorney is essentially powerless. He cannot choose sides because he represents both the husband and the wife in the bankruptcy case.
In this type of situation it may be necessary for both parties to find new attorneys to represent them in the bankruptcy case. The new attorneys may be able to sever the case into two separate bankruptcy cases. Even if the case is severed it is unlikely that the original attorney will be able to be a part of the new cases, because any bankruptcy case discharging debt on behalf of one party will be detrimental to the other party if they share liability for the debt.