Credit: London Ent./Splash News Photo: Teresa and Joe Giudice Leave a New Jersey Courthouse on July 30, 2013

Teresa and Joe Giudice were in a Newark, N.J. courtroom last week to face their 39-count indictment for federal fraud charges, and many were surprised to learn that The Real Housewives of New Jersey couple had separate lawyers.

A day before last week's hearing Teresa praised her husband in a statement saying, “I support Joe and, as a wonderful husband and father, I know he wants only the best for our lovely daughters and me,” but apparently the decision to have different attorneys is purely a strategic move.

Stuart Slotnick a defense attorney at national law firm Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney who isn’t affiliated with the Giudice case tells Wetpaint Entertainment exclusively, “They don’t have to have different attorneys. But it’s advisable when two people are together accused of the same crime. There’s something called a conflict. So a lot of times if a husband and wife have the same attorney the judge will set a hearing to determine if there’s a conflict.”

Several sources close to the Giudices, including Teresa’s BFF Kim D, have said that the mom of four isn’t capable of fraud, and likely knew nothing about any illegal behavior regarding the couple’s finances. If this is the case, then Slotnick says hiring separate lawyers was actually a very smart move.

“It’s foolish to have the same attorney if one person has more liability than the other. The person with less liability should have their own attorney to protect their interests,” he notes. “If one party is totally innocent of the crime or crimes and they don’t have their own attorney, there’s always the chance they could get bullied by their spouse and end up on the wrong side of the law.”

After the hearing, Teresa and Joe were released on $500k bond each, and are due back in court on August 14 for an arraignment, at which point they are each expected to enter a plea and a trial date will be set.

Teresa’s lawyer, Henry Klingeman, stated yesterday that the Real Housewives star intends to plead not guilty to the charges, but we don’t yet know what her husband plans to do. According to Slotnick, there is nothing unusual about Tre’s plea. “It’s standard to plead not guilty at first. It’s standard to have your own attorney,” he concludes.

Are you surprised that Teresa and Joe have enlisted different attorneys to defend them, or do you think they made the right decision?