Many people believe that one-third of marriages end in divorce, but statistics indicate the divorce rate is even higher. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reports that while the marriage rate in the United States from 2000-2021 was 6.0 per 1,000 total population, the corresponding divorce rate was 2.5 per 1,000. These numbers represent thousands of individuals who wish for their best interest to be protected in their final divorce agreement.
With so many married couples opting to divorce every year, many separating spouses find themselves in the difficult situation of navigating the division of property, assets, and child custody. These negotiations can be lengthy, stressful, and legally complex, particularly if the divorce agreement is contested. However, in many cases, both parties in the divorce are in agreement regarding the division of property, assets, and custody and may feel that legal representation is unnecessary. Even if there is some contention over aspects of the divorce agreement, some individuals fear that hiring an attorney may create unnecessary conflict in the proceedings.
While the choice of hiring a divorce attorney is a personal one, there are many general benefits to hiring legal representation for divorce before proceedings begin. Most individuals recognize the benefit of having a qualified attorney review their agreement. However, as the following examples will demonstrate, there are still a few common questions asked by those undergoing divorce proceedings regarding legal representation.
Can Couples Hire One Divorce Lawyer for Both of Them?
In hopes of facilitating the divorce process and saving on legal fees, divorcing couples may initially wonder if they can hire one attorney to represent them both during divorce proceedings, especially if they have previously worked with the attorney or firm. However, the law states that the same representative cannot represent two opposing parties in a divorce. Therefore, if you or your current spouse wishes to have legal representation, one or both of you must hire your own representative.
While you cannot by law hire one attorney to represent both of you in divorce proceedings, you may opt to hire an attorney-mediator. An attorney-mediator differs from a divorce attorney in that, while both are licensed legal practitioners, a mediator seeks to assist the divorcing spouses by clarifying the details of their proposed agreement and answering their questions regarding their state’s divorce law. The most important distinction between the two is that the mediator is a neutral party and, therefore, does not “represent” the interests of either side.
Do You Need an Attorney for an Uncontested Divorce?
An “uncontested divorce” is one in which the two separating spouses are in agreement about the division of property, assets, and custody. Generally, these divorces are less contentious and complicated overall. Because uncontested divorces are not expected to result in prolonged negotiations, many divorcing spouses may choose to forgo legal representation. While relying solely on a mediator can be a good option for an uncontested divorce, in most cases, hiring a divorce attorney is in your best interests. For example, while your divorce may seem amicable at the beginning, the reality is that divorce proceedings are lengthy and emotional.
Conflict of Interest in Divorce Proceedings
Why does the law prohibit two individuals involved in divorce proceedings from hiring the same legal representative? According to rules regarding ethical conduct set forth by the American Bar Association (the nation’s largest legal association), an attorney representing two divorcing spouses is considered a major conflict of interest. In short, two individuals who are undergoing divorce proceedings are legally considered opposing parties in a lawsuit. Both sides of a lawsuit have competing interests, and a single representative may not be able to act impartially to benefit each other equally. Due to the conflict of interest, divorcing couples must either forego legal representation or hire their own attorneys.
The courts take potential conflicts of interest very seriously. Under no circumstances, not even in amicable divorces with no anticipated conflicts, can two divorcing spouses seek legal advice from the same attorney. In fact, it is even considered a major conflict of interest if two separating spouses are represented by different attorneys at the same firm. Additionally, any attorneys who have reviewed your case cannot represent your partner, even if you do not hire the attorney in question. To avoid potential complications of this kind, those seeking divorce attorneys should conduct their search for representation independently of their current spouse.
How To Find a Divorce Lawyer
While you can choose to forgo legal representation, hiring an experienced divorce attorney to protect your best interests throughout divorce proceedings can help expedite the process with satisfactory results for all involved. If you are at the beginning of your search, there are many resources that can help you narrow your search and find the right divorce attorney for you.
Along with various helpful resources and articles regarding the divorce process, Expertise.com offers a directory of qualified divorce attorneys to help connect you with experienced legal professionals in your area. With extensive options to choose from in all major metros nationwide, you can find the best divorce attorney to represent you throughout the proceedings.
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