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Can One Lawyer Handle a Divorce for Both Spouses?

Posted on in Divorce

St. Charles IL divorce attorneyIf you have recently made the decision to pursue a divorce, you will probably have many questions. You might wonder how much the process will cost you, how long the proceedings will take, and what you should expect along the way. There is also the issue of hiring an attorney to help you through your divorce. In today’s digitally-connected world, countless online resources offer guidance on handling a divorce without a lawyer, but doing so is not usually a good idea. It is especially dangerous if you and your spouse have children together or have even moderate wealth. Hiring an attorney is the best course of action, but do each of you need a separate lawyer, or can a single lawyer handle the proceedings on behalf of both of you?

Conflicting Interests

At its most basic, marriage is a type of contract between you and your spouse, which makes your divorce a legal proceeding to dissolve the marriage contract. Technically, this means that you and your spouse are opposing parties in the case, regardless of how well you get along and whether or not you have reached an agreement regarding the details of your divorce.

According to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, the guidelines that govern how attorneys practice law in Illinois, a lawyer may not represent a given client “if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest.” An attorney is presumed to have a conflict of interest if representing the client in question “will be directly adverse to another client.” As far as the law is concerned, this is exactly what would happen in your divorce. While you and your spouse might be committed to cooperation during your divorce, the law and the rules of ethics view your interests as conflicting with your spouse’s by virtue of being opposing parties in the same legal proceeding.

What If We Have Already Done All of the Work?

It is not uncommon for a divorcing couple to attempt an uncontested divorce and do most of the negotiating regarding the terms of their divorce before they file or even speak to an attorney. If this describes your situation, you might not feel like your interests conflict with those of your spouse. However, a single lawyer can still only ethically represent one party in a divorce. One possible way around this ethical restriction is to have one spouse hire an attorney to review the settlement agreement and to handle all of the paperwork while the other goes into the proceedings officially “pro se,” which means on his or her own, with no attorney. This option may be possible in your situation, but, if something unexpected were to happen, the party with no attorney could end up at a substantial disadvantage.

Even if you and your spouse are on excellent terms and you agree to all aspects of your divorce, you each should consider retaining the services of a qualified divorce lawyer. The dangers of making a serious mistake along the way far outweigh the financial investment of hiring a second attorney, especially if you and your spouse have children together.

Contact a Kane County Divorce Lawyer

For more information about the divorce process in Illinois, or to get started with your case, contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney. Call 630-584-4800 to schedule a free consultation with a member of the team at Goostree Law Group today. We are equipped to provide the quality representation that you deserve.

 

Source:

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/supremecourt/rules/art_viii/ArtVIII_NEW.htm#1.7

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