When divorce becomes the only option for your troubled marriage, the first question you and your spouse likely have is whether you both need to hire your own lawyer. The answer depends on your particular situation, especially with regard to how cooperative the two of you are prepared to be with each other. If there’s little or no chance that you can agree on anything and need a judge to resolve your issues, then yes, each of you needs to hire your own attorney to protect your respective interests throughout what could be protracted litigation.
Under some circumstances, however, it may not be necessary for two lawyers to be involved. These include an uncontested divorce and a mediated divorce.
An uncontested divorce is one in which neither you nor your spouse is fighting about either the divorce itself or any of its involved issues, including such things as the following:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Marital property division
If you and your spouse can resolve these issues yourself, some jurisdictions allow you to draft your own petition, parenting agreement, property settlement agreement, etc. and present these to the court for approval and the granting of a divorce decree.
Even here, however, it’s a good idea for each of you to have a divorce attorney look over your proposed agreements to make sure they meet all of your state’s requirements. While theoretically one attorney could do this rather than two, one attorney cannot actually represent both of you. Consequently, he or she cannot give both of you legal advice regarding the fairness of any of these agreements.
Mediation is another divorce option in which neither of you needs a lawyer. Instead, you hire an agreed-upon mediator who meets with you jointly and acts as your guide through the divorce process. He or she likewise serves as a facilitator as you and your spouse negotiate your issues and arrive at mutually agreeable compromises.
Many attorneys offer mediation services, but keep in mind that if you and your spouse choose an attorney as your mediator, he or she functions only as a mediator, not as an attorney who represents you both. Again, lawyers are precluded from representing two people with competing interests.
Rephrasing the Question
Bottom line, you would do well to rephrase the question from “Do we both need an attorney?” to “Should we each hire our own divorce lawyer?” Why? Because while the answer to the former question is not necessarily, the answer to the latter question is that it serves your respective best interests to do so. Only an experienced divorce lawyer can give you the legal advice, counsel and representation you may well need, whether you realize it or not. Contact a divorce lawyer, like the lawyers at May Law, LLP to have your questions answered.