Can One Lawyer Represent Both Parties in a Divorce?
Divorce is never pleasant, and there is much to consider, spanning financial concerns, stress, and many other factors. It can be tempting to seek ways to reduce financial pressure, such as considering whether both parties can use the same attorney.
Not only is that often a bad idea ethically, but it is also prohibited under Texas law.
In almost all cases, it is preferable for each spouse to appoint their own legal representative to assist with divorce proceedings so they can ensure they have access to an expert that works in their best interests.
At Skillern Firm, we work diligently to ensure that our clients can rely on first-class legal expertise at every stage of the divorce process and we’re standing by now to take your call. Reach our offices at 936-213-8479 to discover how we can make one of life’s most stressful situations into something far more manageable.
Why You Legally Cannot Use the Same Divorce Lawyer
Two spouses could conceivably agree, at least in principle, to use the same divorce lawyer. There are numerous reasons why they might consider doing so. For example, using only one attorney for family law matters could conceivably save legal fees. Alternatively, and if two spouses agree, they could seek legal representation from the same attorney if both have a pre-existing attorney-client relationship.
However, while many families use just one lawyer for their legal matters during the marriage, it is legally impossible for divorce lawyers to represent both sides.
This primarily comes down to a conflict of interest. A single attorney could conceivably intentionally or subconsciously provide inadequate advice to one spouse, or confer an unfair advantage to the other party.
It is vital to remember that in matters of child support, finances, and property, what might be in the best interests of one party might not be ideal for the other. Even in family law cases where couples decide they can still trust each other, there remain potential conflicting interests through legal advice.
Beyond this, Texas law requires each spouse to either appoint their own attorney or to represent themselves. Even in cases where a settlement agreement has been reached, the potential for a conflict of interest remains in the eyes of the law. As such, it is the responsibility of both parties to appoint a divorce lawyer. Failure to do so and attending a hearing with one attorney representing two parties would not be viewed favorably.
It is not against the law to have a divorce lawyer represent only one spouse, while the other goes without legal representation. This is inadvisable, as it means that one party will not have access to specialist legal advice. Meanwhile, the party that has appointed a law firm to oversee their divorce will be able to draw on knowledge and guidance from a range of practice areas, using legal advice to gain a potential advantage.
Protecting Your Best Interest
It may be tempting to use a spouse’s attorney for legal advice in an unofficial capacity. An individual could conceivably circumvent the law by taking advice from their spouse’s lawyer without officially becoming a client.
This, once again, is highly inadvisable and could potentially result in a lawsuit. A case may not see a divorce lawyer represent both parties in an official capacity, but the potential for a conflict of interest remains.
This doesn’t only affect lawyers, either. Clients can also suffer, as attorneys have more of a responsibility to the spouse they represent. Specifically, attorneys have an ethical duty when representing clients, and that duty extends only to the spouse that hired the divorce attorney in the first place and signed the representation agreement.
In short, the failure to appoint an attorney from a respected law firm when the other spouse has done so is a mistake, even when each spouse is seemingly close to an agreement.
Why Each Party Needs Their Own Family Law Attorneys
Beyond the requirements outlined above, it is always best to hire your own divorce lawyer rather than relying on your spouse’s attorney.
The process of divorce is stressful, and some people worry that having a lawyer represent them may turn even amicable splits into more complex, difficult cases. However, this is rarely the case. Instead, it can potentially make for a more amicable divorce overall.
When each party has independent representation, it becomes easier to eliminate possible conflicts of interest. Each party will also have access to a divorce attorney with specialist divorce law experience that works in their best interests and who protects their legal rights.
Conflict will potentially arise between a previously married couple during the process, even when everything is generally amicable. Both you and the other spouse will be able to rely on lawyers that can work to reach an acceptable divorce agreement, taking some of the pressure off the opposing parties in the process.
Mediation Through a Neutral Third Party
One potential alternative for spouses that would prefer to share an attorney is mediation.
The mediation process sees both spouses meeting with a mediator, who in many cases will also be a divorce attorney, but with neither spouse considered a client. Instead, they represent neither side and are specifically forbidden from providing specialist divorce advice.
It is permissible to bring a lawyer to mediation sessions, but, once again, it is not possible for a single attorney to represent both clients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Couple Have the Same Lawyer?
Many families share a lawyer for all their needs while married. This works extremely well in most cases, as the attorney-client relationship builds over many years. However, when divorce becomes a concern, both parties are legally obliged to either appoint independent lawyers or to represent themselves.
Can One Attorney Represent Both Parties in a Divorce in Texas?
A single lawyer cannot be appointed to represent both parties in Texas. It is considered unethical, even during amicable splits. While both parties can speak to the same professional, it is against the law for an attorney to represent both sides in an official capacity.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer from Skillern Firm Today
A divorce is a period in life where people need all the support they can get. Even otherwise amicable proceedings can turn complicated without access to the right expertise, and Skillern Firm is here to help.
No matter what stage of a divorce you’re in, it’s never too early or too late to seek out specialist advice. You’ll benefit from our many years of experience in successful divorce cases, together with the support and sensitivity required at times like these.
Call our law office today at 936-213-8479 for an initial consultation.