Attorneys can only ethically represent one client in a case. This is because a divorce attorney has a fiduciary responsibility to their client to be their advocate and work for their best interests. It is not an uncommon request, but it would present a conflict of interest for the attorney. While a local family law attorney cannot represent you both, there is a potential way to only hire one attorney between the two spouses, especially for an uncontested divorce.
There are two types of divorces – contested and uncontested. Contested divorces are situations where the spouses either do not agree on the need to get divorced or they disagree on the division of things like property, assets, alimony, and child custody. These divorces are more costly and can result in multiple hearings in court. Many divorce proceedings begin as contested, but before going to court the parties may be able to reach a settlement on their own. This could save money in attorney’s fees and court costs.
Uncontested divorces are filed when the spouses agree on the need to divorce, the division of their property, and, if applicable, child custody matters. In Alabama, uncontested divorces are sometimes called no fault divorces. Generally, uncontested divorces are less expensive and are processed through the courts quicker than contested divorces. These factors make filing an uncontested divorce a smoother and cheaper method.
Even when spouses are amicable in their divorce, they are technically on opposing sides of the divorce table. With that understanding, it becomes clear an attorney can truly only represent one side given their fiduciary responsibility to their client. If you are pursuing an uncontested divorce, it could be possible for the plaintiff (i.e., the spouse that files for divorce) to retain an attorney and then the defendant could represent themselves. If we represent the plaintiff, we can draft settlement documents for both parties to review and sign off on. However, we cannot give the Defendant legal advice or be their representative before the court.
As a best practice, both parties should consult their own divorce lawyer when it comes to their case. However, sometimes both parties have already worked out what they want, they agree on the details of their divorce, and want to get it done quickly and cheaply. As long as the Defendant understands the attorney cannot represent them or give them legal advice, they can represent themselves. The attorney should encourage them to seek their own local family law attorney, and will require them to sign a waiver acknowledging the attorney recommended they seek their own attorney and the Defendant waives their right to an attorney in favor of representing themselves.
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!