Both spouses do not have to have their own lawyer to seek a divorce in Alabama. However, a lawyer can only represent one spouse. Otherwise, the same lawyer would be representing both the Plaintiff and the Defendant, which is unethical and not allowed. This would lead to a conflict of interests for the attorney to represent what are technically opposing sides in a civil case (the divorce). If only one party has an attorney in an uncontested divorce, it is usually the Plaintiff since they are the one that files the Complaint and other paperwork for divorce. In an uncontested divorce, many Defendants choose to go unrepresented by an attorney since they have already reached an agreement themselves.
Many Defendants go through an uncontested divorce without an attorney because all the major issues related to how the parties will divide their assets, custody, and other such matters are already settled before they ever file anything. In contested divorces, it would be advisable for both parties to obtain their own attorney since they will be arguing against one another on how to divide their assets and a judge will ultimately hear their arguments and make a decision for them. Contested divorces usually end up in a divorce hearing before a judge, so in that case it would be better for both spouses to have an attorney representing their interests since they can usually present a better argument under the law than non-attorneys. However, this is much more costly and time-consuming.
The Defendant in an uncontested divorce may want to retain an attorney before they sign the settlement agreement and have the lawyer look it over and explain it to them. This can be especially helpful if the parties have complex assets or custody issues. If the Defendant decides against hiring an attorney to represent them, they must sign a statement called an Acknowledgment of Representation.
An Acknowledgment of Representation is a document signed by the Defendant which states that they waive their right to an attorney and fully understand that the attorney in the case (preparing the documents and filing them with the court) represents the Plaintiff and only the Plaintiff. It is important the Defendant understand that this is to acknowledge they have the right to an attorney representing them, but that they waive that right. For an uncontested divorce, this is mostly a formality as the big issues have already been resolved before filing the divorce. But, again, sometimes the Defendant might need a local divorce attorney in an uncontested divorce in order to completely understand all of the implications of what they are signing and agreeing to.
While neither spouse may not technically need to hire a lawyer to file an uncontested divorce, having an experienced attorney working with you can make the process easier, quicker, and in many cases cheaper overall. They will bring their knowledge of the law and local court procedures to advise and serve you better.
Having a local divorce lawyer to represent you as the Plaintiff in your divorce can help ensure that you submit the correct paperwork to the court and that it is submitted in a timely manner. But more than that, an experienced lawyer will know the correct legal language to use in your filings. Even if you and your spouse are in total agreement about the terms of the divorce, and even if you turn in the correct paperwork on time to the judge, he or she could still reject it because the content was not legally sufficient to grant a divorce.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!