When you add the financial costs to the emotional toll of a marriage ending, divorce can feel overwhelming.
The daunting prospect of a drawn-out legal battle prompts some couples to question if they can use the same lawyer to limit expenses and speed up the process, while other couples who believe they have a straight-forward divorce see no need for an adversarial court battle since they agree on the terms of their settlement.
Finally, divorcing spouses that were not married for long, have no children or share few assets to divide may also consider separate lawyers unnecessary.
If you and your wife fall into any of these three scenarios and you find yourself wondering if a single-lawyer divorce may be an option, there are a few things to consider.
Legal and ethical issues
There are two answers that speak to the legality of using a single lawyer to advise, draw up papers and file for divorce on behalf of you and your wife.
Divorce laws vary by state, with some flat out banning attorneys from representing both spouses in a divorce while others may permit it. However, even if a state does not ban attorneys from representing both sides by law, the answer is clear across the board that the practice violates an attorney’s ethics.
Bar Associations restrict lawyers from representing both spouses because of the conflict of interests inherent in advocating for two opposing clients. Both clients may agree on most, or even all, terms of the divorce, but what is best for one spouse may not be in alignment with what is best for the other spouse.
This precludes a lawyer from being able to ethically advocate for both parties, even when it may not necessarily be forbidden under state law.
So, sharing the same lawyer is out, but there is another option that may be appropriate for a no-conflict divorce.
Mediation can produce a speedier, less adversarial and more economical settlement. With divorce mediation, an attorney-mediator can ethically represent both you and your wife since the mediator remains “neutral” in the process.
An attorney-mediator’s role is that of an educator, providing both parties with legal information and analysis to come to a fair and informed settlement.
Since the mediator offers information on the law and its workings (but not legal advice ), the attorney-mediator can facilitate your divorce without taking sides.
An attorney-mediator can guide both parties to a mutually agreeable resolution less expensively than litigation.
Once it comes time to sign the papers, a mediator is likely to recommend that both parties have an attorney look over the document first since the settlement will be final, so it is wise to have a legal counselor advocating for your side review the terms first.
Additionally, depending on your state, the attorney-mediator may not be permitted to handle both the meditation and the drafting / filing of the documents with the court.
In either case, mediation can not only save you aggravation and time, but a significant amount of money since the mediator brings you and your wife to a satisfactory agreement. Then, lawyers are only hired and brought on for review, drafting and submitting of the signed settlement for a judge’s signature.
Mediation can result in less conflict and less expense, leading to more peace of mind.