Should two parties in a divorce be represented by the same lawyer? In short, the answer is no. Sometimes, couples who are looking to obtain a divorce believe they agree on how things should be resolved. They may wish to save money and want one lawyer to represent both of them.
The Supreme Court makes rules regarding legal ethics. These standards prevent one attorney from representing a client if representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client. Thus, the dilemma for the couple and for the lawyer.
It’s better if parties maintain a relationship that allows them to discuss issues and reach agreements on things, especially if there are children involved. A good example is regarding visitation schedules with children. It is best for the children and the parents if the parents are able to work out these issues as they arise. Division of the marital estate, however, is not always easy.
A good relationship – or at least a working relationship – between divorcing parties does not mean the parties may obtain the same attorney. But neither does it mean that the parties have to hire separate lawyers and fight about every issue. If one party hires a lawyer to start the divorce proceedings, the other party is not required to get a lawyer. Any party can choose to proceed without an attorney. It is not unusual for one party to have their lawyer draft the petitions, motions, orders and settlement agreement.
There are, of course, advantages to having an attorney represent you in a divorce action. Your spouse’s lawyer has an obligation to act in their clients best interest, not yours. It is helpful to involve a professional who can help guide you through the legal process. There is an advantage to knowing that all of the paperwork which needs to be drafted and filed with the court will be done correctly. Also, it’s an advantage to have an attorney involved who knows what to expect at the initial hearing and has the appropriate financial disclosure statements prepared.
The attorney can prepare you for what to expect, both procedurally and as related to issues which will be addressed in the divorce. Many people feel more comfortable going into court with a lawyer. It takes the pressure off of them to know what is an appropriate argument to make and strong positions to take.
If the relationship between the parties turns sour and negotiations are at an impasse, it is beneficial to already have an attorney involved to move things forward. Sometimes, it is helpful to have attorneys involved to simply buffer the emotional nature of a divorce action.
Anyone seeking a divorce or anyone recently served with a Summons and Petition for Divorce should seek legal counsel. If you intend to obtain a divorce, it is better to hire an attorney and get legal advice early in the proceedings.