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Can I Share a Divorce Lawyer with My Spouse?
Divorce proceedings can get expensive very quickly. To reduce your legal fees in divorce, you might be considering sharing an attorney with your spouse. Depending on the circumstances, this may be a possibility. Other times, it’s best not to share a lawyer.
Sharing a Divorce Mediator
If you and your divorcing spouse have a simple, conflict-free case, it’s likely you can resolve your issues with the assistance of a divorce lawyer acting as your joint mediator.
Mediation is different from litigation. It entails working with a third-party lawyer-mediator to craft an agreement for ending your marriage. You, your spouse, and your neutral mediator make the decisions about your divorce, not judges. Once everyone agrees on how property and debts will be divided and how support, child custody, and visitation will be addressed, your mediator submits a signed agreement to the court for approval.
The mediation process is faster, less expensive, and less emotionally draining than taking your divorce to court, but it’s only possible if you and your spouse can get along well enough to come to an agreement. There must be no history of domestic violence, drug abuse, or hidden assets for mediation to be an option.
When Sharing a Divorce Lawyer Isn’t Appropriate
A professional, ethical divorce lawyer won’t agree to represent both parties if you take your case to court. This is because most states, including Virginia, have rules prohibiting attorneys from representing clients with conflicting interests.
Even if you and your spouse agree to all the terms of your divorce, you are still considered opposing parties in a trial. The simple fact is that you have competing interests, and a single divorce lawyer can’t ethically represent you both.
In short, if you decide to file a lawsuit and take your divorce in front of a judge, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse must have individual legal representation.
When to Hire Your Own Lawyer
Remember, just because your spouse hires a divorce attorney doesn’t necessarily mean you must hire your own. You are not required to have legal representation to get a divorce, so if you and your spouse can resolve the issues in your separation without conflict, it may be enough to have your spouse’s attorney draft a settlement agreement.
You likely won’t need to hire your own attorney if:
- Your divorce is simple.
- You comprehend your legal rights.
- You feel comfortable with the settlement agreement.
However, there are two primary instances when it’s best to hire your own divorce lawyer:
- You need legal advice: Mediators can’t take sides or provide legal advice and neither can your spouse’s lawyer. Therefore, if you have questions about the proposed divorce agreement, it’s worth hiring a lawyer to review it and spot any red flags.
- Your divorce is complicated: If you’re faced with figuring out child custody and visitation rights, imbalances of power, or complex financial issues, be sure to consult with a lawyer, whether you choose the mediation or litigation route.
Hire a Divorce Lawyer or Mediator in Northern Virginia
Sharing an attorney-mediator can save you and your divorcing spouse money as you navigate this difficult change in your life. However, this might not be the best decision if your divorce is hostile or complicated. The best course of action is to make sure you understand your rights before agreeing to share an attorney-mediator.
For personalized advice based on your situation, please call Graham Law Firm, PLLC or contact us online to schedule a consultation for your divorce in Northern Virginia.