No. It is a conflict of interest. A lawyer’s ethical rules prevent him from representing two parties in the same action who have adverse interests. Few parties have more clear adverse interests than a divorcing couple. Therefore, the same lawyer cannot advise both clients without violating his duty to one of them. Even if the spouses agree on all issues, the lawyer cannot simply draw up their agreement. This is because the lawyer has a duty solely to his client to advise her of rights, obligations, and possibilities. That advice may come at the expense of the other spouse. For example, the lawyer should discuss the option of maintenance (alimony) with his client. In doing so, he is necessarily in conflict with the other spouse, who will be making those payments.
I often take calls from potential clients who say they “agree on everything and just want it written up.” They ask if I would represent both spouses. After a little discussion, it usually turns out that the couple really doesn’t agree on “everything,” they simply were unaware of the possibilities and their rights, or were too nervous to ask about them. Entering into a marriage is an important step, and it is wise to leave a marriage with the same care. That includes consulting with an attorney to make sure that you understand your rights.
There is also a simple means of helping the couple who truly does agree on everything. Rather than represent both parties, I can just represent one, and advise that client accordingly. Agreements can be drafted according to my client’s wishes, and presented to the other, unrepresented party. If all goes well, the agreement will be signed and entered. However, in this way, I, as the lawyer, maintained my ethical obligations and my client received adequate and unbiased representation.
Every divorce need not result in a mud-slinging trial. There are adequate means of handling amicable divorces that do not result in conflicts of interest and unsatisfied spouses. I am happy to consult with any spouse who is searching for divorce representation tailored to fit his/her needs.
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