Can A Divorce Lawyer Represent Both Parties?
It’s no secret that divorces are stressful for all areas of your life. The financial burden often leaves many separated couples wanting to share the same lawyer, in hopes of lessening the blow of supporting two households. With so many tough decisions to make, it’s understandable you’d hope to take some stress off. Although, is this actually possible and what could it mean for your legal situation?
Read on to find the answer and discover how a lawyer or mediator could help in more ways than one – reach out to us at Truce Law for more personalized legal guidance.
Can a Divorce Lawyer Represent Both Parties?
The short answer is no – a divorce lawyer cannot represent both parties. While it may sound like a good idea, lawyers have a duty of care which means this isn’t actually allowed. This problem is that there is a conflict of interest for the attorney. Even if you are working together, spouses going through divorce have competing interests. These divergent interests have resulted in ethical rules that legally prohibit an attorney and the other lawyers in that attorney’s firm from taking on both spouses as clients. Regardless of if you’re leaving your marriage on good terms, this law will still apply to separating and divorcing couples.
Often the easiest way to work within these rules is for each spouse to hire their own attorney. Just because you’re working with different attorneys doesn’t mean the case will go to court. Often it simplifies the case, since it’s easy for both people to get a clear understanding of their rights from the beginning. In addition, two attorneys does not mean double the legal fees. Generally one attorney will draft the paperwork for their client and once the documents are ready the other spouse can review and discuss the agreement with their lawyer to ensure they understand the terms and to double check the paperwork portrays what they bargained for.
A Lawyer Acting as a Mediator
While a divorce attorney isn’t able to represent both parties, a single attorney can instead help in the finalization of a divorce. This is made possible through a process known as mediation; where a neutral third party supports ex-couples to come to agreeable divorce terms. This can be a cost-effective way of navigating a divorce with the help of a legally trained professional.
The key exception here is that the mediating lawyer cannot, and will not, give legal advice. Therefore, a mediating lawyer can’t simultaneously represent you or your spouse and will no longer be able to act as a mediator if one party discusses legal issues with them say in an initial consultation. Ultimately these rules are in place to protect each of you.
What Can a Mediator Do?
You may be asking now, what can a mediator do if they can’t give legal advice? A mediator can essentially do the following:
• Help you better understand the primary issues that need to be resolved
• Facilitate a discussion between parties, so conversations are productive
• Assist with the administrative portion of the case, such as submitting documents to the court
• Provide examples and general guidelines as to what can be done in order to reach an agreement
Again the mediator is restricted from providing legal advice, so consider what topics you need the most help with. If you’re going back and forth on what the best parenting schedule could be for your family a mediator is a good option, because a conversation is going to center around family dynamics and your unique needs. If you’re stuck on how to determine the cost and duration of spousal support, you may be best finding an attorney as you’ll likely reach a point where legal advice is required in order to understand the issue.
That said, sometimes people work with both a lawyer and a mediator, so they can ask questions of their lawyer and then come prepared to mediation with a strong understanding of the law and clear expectations of what to ask for. Being aware of your rights is crucial in divorce proceedings, as unfavorable terms may end up costing you more in the future.
Representing Yourself in Divorce: Can You Ask Another Attorney for Help?
Some people prefer to go through a divorce without legal assistance because they do not want to pay legal fees. This is known as being self represented or pro se. If you’ve reached an agreement and your spouse has hired an attorney to draft the settlement paperwork you can sign without speaking to an attorney, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need legal advice.
Keep in mind that no matter how well you and your soon to be divorced partner are getting along, it’s always best to speak to someone about the terms. That’s because there may be items you haven’t considered or it may be that their lawyer didn’t ask certain questions because they weren’t important to your spouse, but could be very important to you. Essentially, if your spouse has hired an attorney or you have questions about what exactly you are agreeing to, it’s in your best interest to find an independent lawyer of your own. This will allow you to better review any documents from your spouse’s attorney, and will also encourage a favorable outcome on your behalf. Not only that, but you’ll have a stronger agreement if it’s been looked over by two attorneys.
Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer?
While it may be easier to skip the fine print and just get the paperwork over and done with, you could be putting yourself at risk in the long-run. If you’re still unsure or think that you could benefit from some legal advice, find out what a mediator or attorney could do for you by getting in touch with a professional. Reach out to us at Truce Law to speak to our staff on pro se divorce, mediation, legal separation and collaborative divorce.