- On September 30, 2015
We don’t want to argue about alimony, child support or equitable distribution. Both of us want to be fair. Can we use one attorney, to save money and expedite the divorce?
The Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit an attorney from entering into the representation of one client that will be directly adverse to another client. Divorce is inherently an adversarial matter. While the law provides guidelines and criteria to assist attorneys and clients in resolving issues relating to alimony, child support and equitable distribution, a great deal is left to the advice and advocacy of your attorney to assure that you receive the rights to which you are entitled. If this cannot be accomplished by negotiations leading to a spousal agreement, then you and your spouse must resort to the courtroom to determine what, in the court’s discretion, is deemed fair and just. Your attorneys are your advocates.
It is not prudent to accept the advice of an attorney who is also representing someone who may turn out to your adversary. If you believe that you and your spouse do not need individual attorneys as you have basically reached your own agreement, wait until you learn how the law perceives your marital rights and obligations before you sign the agreement. You may be entitled to more benefits than you imagined. On the other hand, you may be liable for more obligations than you thought.
When you and your spouse hire one attorney to guide you through these mine fields, the attorney may be persuaded to avoid issues of fact and law that could give rise to an adversarial conflict. While this may help you reach your initial, uninformed goal, the attorney is violating his oath and jeopardizing his clients.
An attorney is obligated to represent your interests, and only your interests. It is not ethical for the attorney to deliver wisdom, in the nature of Solomon, as advice. Each party is entitled to the full and exclusive devotion of the attorney’s knowledge and advice, with no compromise whatsoever. Your attorney must be obedient to your wishes, but it is also the attorney’s professional responsibility to competently and diligently advance and protect your best interests.
Do not try to convince an attorney to violate his ethical obligations. If you succeed, both you and the attorney will be exercising very poor judgment. Your attorney is in conflict with his professional code of conduct and his clients will be receiving inadequate legal advice.
If you and your spouse want to facilitate a resolution of your marital differences by a spousal agreement, you should hire separate attorneys and after you receive their legal advice, instruct them to prepare a spousal agreement that embraces the terms that you and your spouse have agreed upon. If you have not yet agreed upon the terms of settlement, then hire an attorney to provide mediation services to you and your spouse to facilitate the closure of your marital interests in a Memorandum of Understanding that can be converted into a spousal agreement.