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Can One Lawyer Represent Both Parties in a Divorce?

If you and your partner are getting a divorce and you're concerned about the cost, you may be considering hiring one attorney to handle the divorce for both you and your spouse. Or, if it's an amicable divorce and you don't plan on litigation, having one attorney to represent both parties will be easier, right?

We are commonly asked if one lawyer can represent both parties in a divorce, and the short answer is "no." Our divorce lawyers in Raleigh explain why this is not possible and alternatives to help you get a better outcome.

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A Divorce Lawyer Can Not Legally Represent Both Clients

Legally, a divorce lawyer can not represent two parties who are divorcing because this creates a conflict of interest, as outlined in the North Carolina Bar Association's Code of Ethics. Specifically, "loyalty to a current client prohibits undertaking representation directly adverse to that client."

When two people are getting a divorce, regardless of how amicable, they are still seen as being in conflict. A situation may arise that would put both parties at odds with one another, such as both wanting the car when dividing property or one party seeking spousal support from the other. An attorney can not act in the best interests of one party without actively working against the wants and needs of the other. Thus, it is not ethical to represent both parties in their divorce.

Considering Mediation for Your Divorce

During your separation period, you and your spouse may consider mediation to reduce the cost and stress of a divorce. In mediation, both parties will meet with a neutral third party to come to an agreement on issues of property division and other aspects of the divorce. This helps the couple work through the details without the excess costs of litigation. Both spouses sit down and discuss their goals and what they want and a mediator notes where the couple agrees or disagrees and keeps the peace.

At the end of the discussion, when many of the issues have been "ironed out," so to speak, the mediator will go over everything and can draw up a document that can be used as a property division and divorce agreement. This is ideal for two parties who don't have shared children and can communicate in a civil manner.

It's important to note that this is not the divorce, itself. It just minimizes the time necessary to reach a final divorce settlement or lets the couple move on to a simple or absolute divorce without the need for property division.

Choosing Simple Divorce

In an uncontested divorce, one party can consult with a divorce lawyer for a simple divorce. This solely seeks to dissolve the marriage and does not involve the aspects of child custody or property division and is ideal for couples agreeing to divorce who don't have complex finances, property, or children.

One party hires a divorce attorney who will draw up the Complaint for Absolute Divorce and a Civil Summons and file the paperwork on their clients' behalf. The other spouse, who may or may not hire their own attorney, is then served with divorce papers, and a hearing is scheduled. If the defendant signs the paperwork without issue, your divorce attorney can file a Motion for Summary Judgement so neither party has to attend the hearing.

However, it's important to note that the attorney is only working for the party who hired them, and thus, they will be working in their best interest. If issues of property distribution occur or the other party refuses to sign the paperwork, the attorney will work on the plaintiff's behalf to help them get the best outcome.

Why Both Parties Need Their Own Divorce Lawyer

We highly recommend both parties hire their own divorce lawyer regardless of how amicable the separation is. Having a lawyer doesn't mean litigation or that the separation will automatically turn hateful or difficult, instead, it can often keep the proceedings remarkably civil. It does ensure that both parties have experienced professionals acting in their best interest. This way, if there are concerns about custody arrangements, property distribution, and other issues, that come up, both parties are in the best position to come to mutually beneficial arrangements.

Schedule a Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer in Raleigh Today

If you are separating from your spouse and need legal representation and advocacy to secure a more confident future, we can help. Schedule a consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer today by calling (919) 301-8843 or filling out the form below to get started.

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