What type of irreconcilable differences might exist between an attorney and client to cause the attorney to withdraw from a divorce case? Is this code language for not paying attorney fees or is it used for a wide range of possible attorney-client difficulties?

  • 1
    "irreconcilable differences" is a phrase typically used to describe the marital relationship between the divorcing spouses. It is not typically used to describe the relationship between an attorney and a client.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 22:39
  • 3
    @phoog. A quick web search turned up these sites, among many, that talk about irreconcilable differences between attorney and client: dcbar.org/bar-resources/legal-ethics/amended-rules/rule1-16.cfm. and. mass.gov/obcbbo/withdraw.htm
    – user3270
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 22:51
  • It's clear from the context there that the contemplated situation is one in which the client has asked the lawyer to act unethically, but the lawyer cannot explain the unethical request without divulging confidential information. But beyond that, irreconcilable differences means little more than its plain English meaning: a conflict that cannot be resolved.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 22:55
  • @phoog. Is this term also used for non-payment for the attorney's time spent on the case?
    – user3270
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 23:01
  • 1
    Nonpayment and any number of other reasons are used for irreconcilable differences. It is a word used to deliberately obscure the nature of the problem so as to not violate any confidences.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 0:13

2 Answers 2


Comments here and here suggest that "irreconcilable differences" can be used to explain "withdrawal when the client fails to compensate the attorney", but it can mean many other things. The point of the phrase is to not divulge the reason.

Amidst the various scenarios discussed under Rule 1.16(b), subsections (3) and (4) permit withdrawal when the client fails to compensate the attorney [...]

When it comes time for an attorney to prepare the motion for withdrawal for such reasons, however, [...] an attorney may consider citing the ubiquitous “irreconcilable differences” in the motion to withdraw, rather than divulging pernicious information about the client.

However, it can mean many other things as well. The point of the phrase is to not divulge the reason for withdrawal.

  • 1
    One of the possible reasons is "the client told me he is guilty, and I cannot properly continue this defence". It is obviously wrong to divulge this reason, so having a wide category like 'irreconcilable differences' is not only useful but necessary Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 11:15

Don't assume that it is "code" for anything in particular: it just means that they can't work together for any number of reasons.

Perhaps it is a dispute about money, perhaps it is a professional disagreement (i.e. The client won't agree with the professional advice) or perhaps it is personal (i.e. They hate each other).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .