A divorce can be an overwhelming time in your life. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and several important choices must be considered. It may seem smart to try and cut down on expenses as a way to limit your stress by having a divorce lawyer represent both parties.
If you and your spouse have already agreed to the terms, it may feel like a good idea to share a divorce lawyer. However smart this may sound, it is prohibited. The code of professional legal conduct bans attorneys from taking on clients with conflicting interests, including spouses who are divorcing.
Can a Divorce Lawyer Represent Both Parties?
Technically, you and the spouse you are divorcing are opposing parties in a lawsuit. This remains true regardless of whether you’ve agreed amicably to the terms of your divorce. Representing both of you at the same time would be considered a conflict of interest for an attorney.
Using a Lawyer as a Mediator
While there is no situation where one divorce lawyer could represent both you and your spouse, a single attorney can help you finalize your divorce. Mediation is a process in which a mutually chosen third party helps divorcing spouses agree to terms. It is often chosen to save couples the time and trouble of going through a trial. A lawyer may act as your mediator, provided they do not give legal advice.
The things a mediator can do are limited to:
- Helping you better understand the law
- Filling out the necessary paperwork
- Maintaining proper communication with financial officers and court representatives
- Helping to identify sources of possible conflicts, such as child custody, assets, and property division
- Facilitating agreements on those conflicts
- Drafting a settlement agreement
The drawback of mediation is that if you use an attorney as your mediator, they cannot give you any legal advice. For legal representation, you would have to hire an independent lawyer. Being aware of your rights is essential during divorce proceedings. While mediation is cheaper than a trial, unfavorable terms can cost you in the future.
Self-Representation in a Divorce: Can I Ask an Attorney for Help?
You may want to go through your divorce without legal assistance. If you and your partner have mutually agreed on terms, you may feel like there’s no need to hire a divorce lawyer. If your spouse has hired an attorney, they can fill out your settlement paperwork. You can sign this paperwork without legal representation. However, your spouse’s attorney cannot give you any legal advice. This means if you have any questions about what you are agreeing to, you’ll have to find an independent lawyer to advise you.
Regardless of how friendly you remain with your spouse, attorneys have an ethical obligation to look out for the best interests of their own clients. A good divorce lawyer will know what your rights throughout a divorce are, and will make sure they’re protected.