Why I Don’t Represent Both Spouses in a Divorce

March 10, 2023

Even in the most amicable situations, it’s important to understand why lawyers cannot ethically represent both people in a divorce. Here is how the ethical rules prevent divorcing spouses from sharing a lawyer

The Ethics Rules Prevent Both People from Sharing a Lawyer

  • Confidentiality Rules: Attorneys have a duty to keep client information strictly confidential. In a divorce, each spouse needs the freedom to discuss private matters and strategies with their lawyer without fear of the other side knowing. If spouses are sharing a lawyer, then there is nothing that is confidential.

  • Conflicts of Interest: A lawyer’s primary loyalty must be to their client. In a divorce, interests naturally clash (property division, child-related decisions, etc.). One attorney cannot fully advocate for both sides without creating a conflict.

  • Fiduciary Duty: Lawyers must put their client’s interests first. This is impossible when trying to balance the needs and goals of two opposing parties in a divorce.

  • Even if you think that sharing a lawyer is going to work out, the ethics rules make it so an attorney should not do it. It prevents lawyers from having frank discussions, from explaining why decisions are good or bad, and puts us in a bind as professionals.

What Happens If You Try to Share a Lawyer?

  • Invalid Divorce: Courts may reject an agreement if there’s evidence of unfairness or a conflict of interest, meaning you’ll have to start over. And when you start over, you will have to find a new attorney.
  • Ethical Issues: The attorney might be forced to withdraw from representing either party, causing delays and additional costs. It could also cost them their career.

How I Ethically Work WITH Both Parties

While I cannot represent both of you in a divorce, I can still work towards a fair and amicable outcome by working with both people and not for both. Here’s how:

  • Drafting Agreements: If you and your spouse have reached a clear agreement on all issues, I draft the necessary legal documents to ensure they are valid and reflect your wishes.
  • Promoting Cooperation: I can encourage open communication and a focus on finding solutions that work for both of you, minimizing conflict and potential delays.

 

No matter how amicable your relationship may be with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it isn’t wise (or permissible) for divorcing spouses to share a lawyer. All of that said, however, I do work WITH the other person. If I am helping one party who tells me that they want the paperwork to reflect the agreements they have made with their spouse, to not engage in behaviors that could provoke disagreements and to settle the case, then I am bound by the rules of ethics to do exactly that.

 

If you’re considering getting divorced and need legal assistance, make sure you hire someone who will look out only for your best interests, like me. I only work on cases where the spouses have agreed or can agree on everything. If you want some ideas of what you need to agree on, look here. When you are ready to see if I can help you with professional paperwork at a fair rate, reach out either through my website or by giving my office a call.