Divorcing spouses should never, ever be represented by the same divorce lawyer under any circumstances. There are a number of options available for couples that have decided to end their marriages, and it is indeed possible to save time and money, but having one lawyer for both parties is not one of them. The one thing I tell everyone loudly and clearly is that having one divorce attorney represent both you and your spouse is a recipe for disaster.
The most prevalent option is litigation, in which the spouses and their divorce lawyers go to court where a judge will ultimately determine the issues like custody, support and property. It can exact a very costly and painful toll.
My favorite option, without question, is divorce mediation, which allows a third party (like a family-law attorney, or a therapist — if custody is involved) to privately work on a binding resolution to resolve the issues and arrive at a final agreement that will be endorsed by a judge. Divorce mediation is a terrific way to avoid serious financial burdens and many months of depositions and court appearances. But, as always, there are pros and cons to using mediation.
Another option that has the potential to be inexpensive and fast is collaborative divorce, which only works for couples that are completely in tune. Collaborative divorce only works in very narrow circumstances. Total mutual agreement on the issues is a prerequisite. The couple must resolve all the issues between themselves with the assistance of their representative attorneys who have agreed that no litigation will be involved. Once there is a resolution, the judge “blesses” it.
The bottom line is never to allow a spouse to persuade you that a divorce can be equitably handled by sharing one divorce attorney. Both of you will come out losers.
Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Blank Rome LLP, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is a Certified Family Law Specialist by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization.