The American Bar Association’s Section of Family Law has adopted Civility Standards. The Standards address the responsibility of the family lawyer to be civil to clients, opposing counsel, and the court.
I. To Client
1. Treat the client with respect.
2. Try to keep the client on an even emotional keel and
avoid characterizing the actions of the other party,
opposing lawyers, and judicial officials in emotional
3. Be aware of counseling resources and be prepared
to refer the client to counseling where appropriate.
4. Where a client has an exaggerated or unrealistic
view of his or her options in any given situation,
explain matters as carefully as possible in order to
assist the client to realistically assess the situation.
5. Respond promptly to client requests for advice or
6. Consider the availability and appropriateness of
forms of alternate dispute resolution.
7. Where a client wishes to pursue a claim or motion for
purely hostile or vindictive purposes, explain to the
client the reasons why the client should not do so.
8. Do not assist a client in pursuing a claim for primary
custody or visitation where the purpose of the claim
is to obtain bargaining leverage in order to achieve a
purely economic objective.
9. Avoid any communication to client about the judge,
the other lawyer, or the other party that will contribute
to disrespect for the legal process.
10. Encourage clients to comply with all court orders.
II. To Opposing Counsel
1. Be honest in all communications with opposing
counsel. Do not intentionally misrepresent any factual
or legal argument.
2. Be respectful and courteous in all oral and written
communications with the opposing side.
3. Do not engage in conduct, oral or written, that
promotes animosity and rancor between the parties
or their counsel.
4. Use a demeanor and conduct during a deposition or
other out-of-court meeting that would be no less
appropriate than it would be in the courtroom.
5. Do not engage in harassing or obstructive behavior.
6. Honor reasonable requests for routine extensions of
time, unless a client’s position will be adversely and
7. Confer in good faith with opposing counsel on
8. Do not utilize the manner of service of pleadings or
discovery requests to disadvantage the opposing
III. To the Court
1. Act with complete honesty; show respect for the court
by proper demeanor; and act and speak civilly to the
judge, court staff and adversaries.
2. Avoid frivolous litigation and non-essential pleading
3. Explore settlement possibilities at the earliest
reasonable date, and seek agreement on procedural
and discovery matters.
4. Avoid delays not dictated by a competent and
justified presentation of a client’s claims or defenses.
5. Strive to protect the dignity and independence of the
judiciary, particularly from unjust criticism and attack.