Can A Divorce Lawyer Represent Both Parties?
Getting a divorce comes with a lot of choices, costs, and stress. While the choices and stress are often unavoidable, many spouses look for ways to reduce the cost of getting divorced. If you and your spouse have agreed on an uncontested divorce, you may be wondering if you can use just one divorce lawyer to represent both parties. The answer is no, you cannot.
Why A Divorce Lawyer Can’t Represent Both Parties
Even if you and your spouse agree on every single issue of your divorce, remain friendly, and just want to get the process over as quickly as possible, one lawyer cannot represent you both.
The reason is because, from a legal standpoint, you and your spouse are technically opposing parties in a lawsuit. The code of professional legal conduct prohibits attorneys from taking on clients with conflicting interests, which includes spouses getting a divorce.
While using a single attorney to represent you and your spouse for your divorce is prohibited, there is an alternative that may be helpful to you both.
What a single attorney can do is act as a mediator to help you both finalize your divorce through a process known as divorce mediation. Divorce mediation, in a nutshell, is a process in which a mutually agreed upon third party (a divorce attorney, in this case) helps both parties agree to the terms of their divorce.
This process is often used to save couples the time and cost of going through a divorce trial. The chosen attorney can mediate your divorce as long as they do not give either party any legal advice. In some cases (like an uncontested divorce), divorce mediation may also be used by couples in place of hiring separate attorneys.
It’s important to understand that a divorce mediator’s role is limited to certain things. During the mediation process, they are only allowed to do the following:
- Help you better understand the law
- Fill out required paperwork
- Communicate with financial officers and court representatives
- Identify sources of potential conflict, such as child custody, alimony, and property division
- Facilitate resolutions and/or agreements on those conflicts
- Draft a settlement agreement
While true that using a divorce attorney as a mediator may be the most affordable way to get a divorce, it really only works well for couples with no children and few assets.
Going through a divorce without a lawyer, not matter how friendly you and your spouse remain, is almost always a very bad idea. Especially if your spouse has a lawyer and you do not.
Regardless of how simple things may seem, your spouse’s attorney has an ethical obligation to look out for his or her best interests at all times. This means even if everything looks fair on the surface, there may be terms or conditions that skew the settlement more favorably towards your spouse in the future.
If your spouse has an attorney draft a settlement agreement, you should always have another attorney, who will be looking out for your best interests, review it before you sign the paperwork.
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