Not all divorcing couples are “at each other’s throats”. In fact, many are able to work peaceably together to work out an agreement without litigating in court. They want to save money by using just one attorney to answer their legal questions, draw up the legal documents, and file them with the courts. So the question is: Can both parties use the same lawyer in a divorce?
The answer depends on where you live. In some states it is allowed, in others it is not. Even in states where this is allowed, the rules of ethics of most bar associations prohibits it, due to conflicts of interest. This is because when you file for divorce, you and your spouse are considered to be opposing parties in a lawsuit. It would be unethical for one lawyer to represent both of you, no matter how much you may agree on everything, because the attorney cannot advocate for both sides at the same time.
In my opinion, even when it is allowed it would not be a good idea. During the divorce process there are usually some points of contention or disagreement. There are sure to be times when the best interests of each spouse are in conflict. In these cases, it is virtually impossible for one attorney to represent the best interests of both parties.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. You don’t need to hire one attorney to save money, or two attorneys for each of you to get your needs met. If you and your spouse are in agreement on most issues, you can represent yourselves in court, or you can use an independent paralegal to help you negotiate an agreement, fill out the legal forms, and file them for you in the courts.
But what if you are not in agreement on several issues? Do you need to battle it out in divorce court? Not at all. You can go to a divorce mediator, many of whom are attorneys. However, I advise you to make sure that the mediator/attorney you choose specializes in family law and only does mediation, never litigation. In my opinion, my clients have always achieved the best results from attorneys who only mediate. If an attorney does both mediation and litigation, it might be difficult for her/him to be entirely neutral.
In divorce mediation, attorney/mediators can ethically work with both parties because of their neutrality. They are there to give legal information, not legal advice, and they do not take sides. Their role is to help both parties identify issues, come up with options, and negotiate resolutions. Once an agreement has been developed, they will usually recommend that each spouse have an attorney review the agreement before they sign the legally-binding settlement document.
A word about mediation/negotiation: It is extremely important, even (or especially) in such difficult times as a divorce, to be very clear about what you want. This is the time to speak up, as the decisions made in this process will affect you and your family for a long time to come.
In conclusion, I think it’s wonderful that you are reading this blog and thinking about using one attorney for you both, because it indicates that you are seeking a peaceful divorce. I don’t promote divorce, but if one is inevitable, I believe the best way to do it is amicably and fairly. This is why I started Divorce With Dignity, to help people achieve this type of divorce, without the hostility and expense of a litigated divorce. Our divorce facilitators include independent paralegals, attorneys, and mediators. We can assist you by explaining the divorce process, working with you to develop a negotiated agreement, helping you with the legal paperwork, and filing the legal documents in court.
To find a Divorce With Dignity office near you, please visit our dwdignity.com.
The author of this blog is not an attorney and the information contained in these blogs should not be considered legal advice. The information provided here is based on the experience of the author and some of her clients whose actual names are not mentioned. Do not hesitate to seek the advice of an attorney if you have any legal questions.
photo credit: toridawnrector