The distributed Lagrange multiplier/fictitious domain method proposed for the direct numerical simulation of particle-laden flows is considered in this work. First, it is demonstrated that improved accuracy is obtained with a coupled numerical scheme, whereby the pressure and the Lagrange multiplier fields enforcing incompressibility and rigid body motion, respectively, are calculated and applied together. However, the convergence characteristics of the iterative solution of the coupled scheme are poor because symmetric but indefinite and poorly conditioned matrices are produced. An analysis is then presented, which suggests that the cause for the matrix pathologies lies in the interaction of the respective matrix operators enforcing incompressibility and rigid body motion. On the basis of this analysis, an alternative formulation is developed for the Lagrange multipliers, being now composed of a set of forces distributed only on the particle boundary together with a set of couples distributed within the particle core. The new formulation is tested with several types of flows with stationary or moving particles under creeping or finite Reynolds number conditions and it is demonstrated that it produces correct results and better conditioned matrices, thus enabling faster and more reliable convergence of the conjugate gradient method. The analysis and tests, therefore, support the expectation that the proposed formulation is promising and worthy of further study and improvement. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.