The Basics of Attorney Ethics
All lawyers are bound by certain ethical considerations when representing clients in all matters, particularly those related to divorce. This includes the duty of client confidentiality, which is the concept that an attorney cannot reveal any information they learn from their clients without permission or authorization. Additionally, lawyers are required to provide each party with representation that is free from conflicts of interest. It’s important that all parties understand that the attorney is working in their best interests and is not biased or influenced by another person’s agenda.
Conflict of Interest
The most obvious reason for an attorney being unable to represent both parties is conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is when someone has competing interests or loyalties that could prevent them from providing unbiased advice or representation. A lawyer representing both sides in a divorce would have conflicting loyalties and may not be able to provide impartial advice. This could have unwanted results, including a finding the divorce is invalid and the lawyer having to stop working becuase the parties have engaged in conflicting points of view.
Ethics & Confidentiality
There are also ethical considerations in play when it comes to representing both spouses in a divorce. A lawyer has a duty to act with integrity and maintain client confidentiality—both of which would be impossible if they were representing two clients with opposing interests, which divorcing people naturally have. If their interests were aligned, they would not be getting divorced.
Ethical Dilemmas for Lawyers Representing Both Parties
Given these ethical considerations, it stands to reason that representing both parties in a divorce can be challenging for an attorney. There is obvious potential for conflict due to the fact that one party may benefit more than another. Additionally, there could be issues regarding confidentiality since the attorney would need to ensure both parties had access to all relevant information while also protecting each party’s privacy rights. On top of this, it may not be possible for the lawyer to fully devote themselves to both clients simultaneously as they need to dedicate time and energy into researching each case separately and ensuring each party is represented fairly and adequately.
Finally, attorneys have a fiduciary duty to their client—which means they must always put their client’s interests above their own. If an attorney is representing both spouses, it would be difficult for them to do this since each spouse will have different goals and objectives for the outcome of the divorce. By having separate attorneys, each spouse can rest assured that their lawyer is looking out for their best interests and will fight for them throughout the process.
No matter how amicable your relationship may be with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it isn't wise (or permissible) for one lawyer to represent both parties when divorcing. 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 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.