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Can an Attorney Represent Both Parties in a Divorce?

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can an attorney represent both parties in a divorce

Divorce is not only a painstaking experience but also an expensive process that can hurt your finances. Generally at this point spouses won’t be “sharing income” with one another. Therefore, spouses that are facing a divorce are always looking for a way to cut costs.

One of the highest costs in a divorce process is divorce attorney fees. As a result, some spouses prefer using one divorce lawyer to save a few (thousand) bucks. Although a lawyer can’t fully represent both partners, there are some instances where partners can use a single lawyer.

Using one attorney to represent both of you could result in a conflict of interest. Attorneys are expected to abide by ethical obligations when dealing with legal matters. One of these rules is that a lawyer can’t represent two conflicting parties in a court of law.

Therefore, a lawyer can only represent one party in a dispute. When a divorce attorney represents both parties, it is difficult to focus on the client’s best interest, resulting in an ethical dilemma. Even when partners cooperate in a divorce, they are still deemed as conflicting parties.

Can a Lawyer Act as a Mediator?

Now you know that a lawyer can’t represent you and your spouse in a divorce lawsuit. So, how can a single attorney help in the divorce process?

Mediation is when conflicting parties choose a third party to give them advice that will help them solve their issues. A family law attorney can offer advice to help set terms amicably. Using them as a mediator to solve divorce issues could save you and your ex from the trauma of going to trial, and letting a judge decide these issues for you.

A single lawyer can offer general advice in a mediated divorce. That said, a lawyer is limited from giving legal advice directly to either spouse in a mediation process. The lawyer can only do the following:

  • Help in filing paperwork
  • Help spouses to understand the law governing the divorce process
  • Help spouses to communicate consistently with court representatives and financial officers
  • Draft a legally accepted divorce settlement
  • Help identify potential causes of conflicts in the divorce process

The most difficult thing with using an attorney as a mediator is that they aren’t allowed by law to give you legal advice. For legal advice and representation, you would be required to hire an independent lawyer.

The role of an attorney-mediator is to help spouses identify issues, gather information about marital wealth and debt, and develop robust divorce options.  A spouse with an urgent question is, however, at liberty of consulting an outside lawyer. It’s important to note, however, that when this happens, the individual’s attorney may try to force themself into the mediation which will then almost always ‘wreck’ what you’ve accomplished so far.

Mediation is mostly preferred because its costs are much lower compared to divorce litigation.

With mediation, an attorney can draft a divorce settlement detailing all terms of a divorce.  In addition, an attorney-mediator can guide divorcing spouses on how to write their own decree, especially if the spouses don’t want to incur extra charges of hiring a lawyer to do divorce paperwork.

Advantages of Using a Divorce Mediator

A third-party mediator with vast experience could help to divorce spouses take a less stressful approach towards a divorce agreement. The advantages of using an attorney-mediator include:

  • It’s a respectful and amicable way of solving issues
  • Less expensive
  • Solution-oriented
  • Saves time by eliminating the need for litigation

Disadvantages of Using a Divorce Mediator

Mediation is prone to several drawbacks.

Although the opportunity is created for parties to work together harmoniously, parties may be resentful, making it difficult to solve the issues at hand. When parties fail to agree, they should resolve their divorce issues in a court of law.

Do Both Spouses Need a Lawyer?

You and your spouse don’t have to hire two lawyers. One spouse can hire a family law attorney while the other one represents themselves. It is not a requirement by law for parties to hire a lawyer. However, a reputable attorney ensures that the process moves swiftly. An attorney has the technical know-how of turning a mediation agreement into a legal document. Additionally, an attorney makes the process move faster as compared to representing oneself.

An attorney is geared towards protecting your best interests. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean they are there to make things difficult for your former spouse. The primary goal of a reputable lawyer is to help you and your spouse draft a win-win divorce settlement.

Will a Couple Save Money By Hiring a Single Attorney?

It is stressful to navigate the divorce process with a shoestring budget.

Couples tend to hire one attorney due to the cost involved. However, it is not prudent to share a lawyer with your former spouse. If you want to save money in the divorce process, focus on collaborative divorce to reach an agreement out of court.

When To Hire a Divorce Lawyer?

when to hire a divorce lawyer

It is important to hire a seasoned family law attorney, especially if complex finances are in play. An experienced lawyer will analyze your former spouse’s financial position to ensure a fair split of marital assets.

If you and your spouse can’t face each other to agree on a child custody agreement, then it is essential that you hire a qualified divorce lawyer to help you solve your issues. A lawyer that is well versed in family law will help you solve issues such as child custody, property division, and co-parenting. 

Don’t Let Divorce Get Out of Hand

Partners tend to showcase their frustration towards their former spouses during the divorce process. It is common to get angry and disappointed towards your partner during the divorce process. However, it would help if you strived to maintain calmness to avoid complicating things.

The lawyer you hire plays a crucial goal in identifying each spouse’s property rights and a child’s best interest. When hiring a lawyer, choose one who will focus on the main goals while still keeping the divorce process civil and respectful.

When interviewing prospective divorce lawyers, ask them their primary goal in settlement negotiations. The right lawyer should be focused on one goal: to protect the client’s interests. Avoid lawyers who have a history of being aggressive and disrespectful to clients. 

If you aren’t ready to take risks associated with self-representation, hiring your own lawyer during a divorce is imperative. Sharing a single attorney with your former spouse will lead to a conflict of interests.

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