Can my spouse and I use the same lawyer for our divorce to save money?

Many people have asked me if they can use the same lawyer as their spouse in a divorce in order to save money.  The answer is no but let me explain why.

Lawyers have a duty to their clients, which we take very seriously. The duty entails loyalty, confidentiality, and the responsibility involved goes far beyond what could essentially be viewed as "getting the job done". It is a divorce lawyer's ethical obligation to make sure that their client is put in the best possible situation. This involves discussing strategy, giving advice, paying careful attention to detail in everything that is done and using the best negotiation tactics required for the circumstances. If a trial is necessary, the lawyer will carefully plan how everything is presented in order to obtain a favorable outcome for their client. Divorcing couples are essentially trying to divide the assets, debts, time with the children, etc. It is impossible to look out for the interests of both parties to a divorce and do either one of them justice. Also remember that attorneys are bound by the attorney- client privilege whereby anything a client tells their lawyer is done with the utmost confidentiality. 

Not only is it ethically wrong to represent both sides to a divorce, but it is also prohibited and a lawyer caught doing so is likely to face serious reprecussions. 

All of the above is true even in those rare instances where a divorce is truly and absolutely uncontested. Even in those instances, the attorney's role goes beyond proecessing paperwork. There is an obligation to evaluate the sitaution and give advice. Now, all of that being said, it does not mean that there have to be two lawyers in every divorce. Sometimes an individual will decide to represent themselves pro se in a case.  That is something that I never recommend, but people have the right to do it in, I suppose, the same way that people have the right to act as their own dentist and pull out a tooth - at their own risk.

When I represent a client, I have no control over who their spouse decides to hire to represent them or if they decide to give it a go themselves. When that happens, I communicate with the other party as I would their lawyer if they had one (correspondence, negotations, etc) but never, ever do I answer legal questions or give advice to the other side. That would be unethical and prohibited by the rules. The line has to be a clear one where it can in no way be misunderstood that I only act as the attorney for my client. 

It is natural to want to keep costs down in a divorce but this is not the way to do it. The single best way to keep costs down is to pick your battles- know what is most important to you and don't fight over the stupid stuff. Work with your lawyer as a team to obtain the most favorable outcome at a reasonable cost.