You cannot each be represented by the same lawyer, because an attorney owes a duty of loyalty to his/her client and a duty of care in representing his/her client’s interests. There may be certain situations in which there is a conflict between your best interests and those of your husband. In those situations, the attorney could not represent both of you without breaching his duties under California law.
However, you have other options if you and your husband wish to save time and money during the divorce process. For example, you can hire a mediator who can work with both of you to help you find solutions which address each of your needs. A good divorce mediator is specially trained to help you communicate effectively, consider alternatives which can work for you and for your family and keep your children’s interests as a priority. The mediator can also help you understand and complete the many forms, such as disclosure forms, which California requires. If you wish, you can each hire a “consulting attorney” to meet with on a limited basis during the mediation process – because his or her role is limited, the cost will also be limited. Finally, the more effort the two of you put into educating yourself about your finances and other challenges during this time of transition and thinking about realistic solutions to these challenges, the more prepared you will be for the mediation process and the less costly it will be.
There are also other, cost effective alternatives: Many courthouses have self help centers, with employees trained to guide you through the maze of forms necessary to obtain a divorce. However, they cannot give you any legal advice. There are self help books and websites which explain the process of divorce and may include workbooks to help you review your assets and address issues to be resolved. Finally, many communities have agencies which provide services on a sliding scale or may even offer “no fee” services for certain clients who meet stated criteria.
Judith C. Nesburn is a Family Law attorney, Mediator and Collaborative Law practitioner, practicing in Los Angeles. Her focus is on alternative means of dispute resolution in all divorce and family law matters. She can be reached at (310) 207 4400. Visit her website