You have many decisions to make when ending your marriage. One of the biggest is hiring a divorce lawyer. Finding the right attorney to represent you has a huge impact on your case and, subsequently, your future. One question that comes up more than you might think is whether or not you and your soon-to-be-ex can use the same divorce lawyer?
The short answer to this question is: no, you can’t both use the same divorce lawyer. There are reasons and rationales behind this, but that’s the basic fact of the matter. You’re not legally required to have counsel to divorce, but if you do, you and your spouse each need your own.
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Why you can’t use the same divorce lawyer
Ethical rules—and in most cases, state laws—prohibit attorneys from representing clients with competing interests. And few situations so clearly present a conflict of interest as working for both sides in a divorce.
It’s possible for divorcing spouses to agree on almost everything. This happens most often in shorter marriages with no children and little-shared property—the more there is to disagree about, the more common disagreement becomes.
That said, each party has its own goals, agendas, and interests. When you hire a divorce lawyer, that person represents you and your interests.
They’re bound to keep what’s best for you at the forefront of their strategy at all times. It’s not possible for that same individual to equally represent both points of view.
Even seemingly innocuous questions can have different answers for each party. If you ask a question, the response may be different than if your spouse asks the same one, and it’s an attorney’s job to make the language in any documents benefits their client.
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Some couples don’t want to go through the expense of hiring two divorce lawyers when they don’t feel they need to. Others believe each side having an attorney leads to friction, causes conflict, and creates problems where they don’t exist.
There are alternatives, however. Especially in cases of low-conflict, low-asset divorce, many couples opt for a do-it-yourself approach. This can reduce costs too little more than filing fees and related expenses.
Even then, you should probably have an attorney look over anything before you sign.
Mediation is another alternative to traditional divorce. This is when spouses sit down with a third-party moderator in order to hash out parenting plans, the division of property, and other issues. It’s usually much faster and less expensive.
Though a divorce lawyer isn’t required for mediation, it’s often a good idea to have representation. An experienced professional can lead you through the ups and downs and make sure you don’t agree to an unfair settlement. Even in these cases, it usually costs much less to go through mediation.
What sometimes happens in these cases is that one party hires an attorney to draft all the relevant documents, walk them through the process, and have it finalized.
The other spouse doesn’t necessarily have to hire an attorney for the whole time but can have a lawyer review the paperwork to make sure everything is in order. This ensures everything is drafted correctly and that it addresses the appropriate details. It also minimizes the need for two attorneys.
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Just because both you and your spouse have separate divorce lawyers, doesn’t mean conflict is inevitable. In the grand scheme of things, they’re there to look out for you and your best interests.
It may not seem necessary, but it’s often helpful. You may think an agreement says one thing, but it’s not actually as specific as you believe. An attorney can clarify the language, steer you past pitfalls, and ensure you don’t run into problems down the road.
It may sound like a good idea to use the same divorce attorney. Your split may be so amicable you don’t think you need representation. But divorce has such a massive impact on your life moving forward and can get so twisted, so fast, it’s in your best interest to take the steps to make sure you get everything right the first time. Trying to adjust or modify a divorce agreement after the fact is time-consuming, expensive, and a huge pain.
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