Can one lawyer represent both spouses in our divorce?
No. It is neither practical nor ethical for a lawyer to represent both the husband and the wife in their divorce (or, for that matter, opposing parties in any other kind of domestic relations action). This is because any action by one person against another automatically pits two people’s rights against each other – even if those two people agree on everything. Because both parties are entitled to independent advice about their rights, duties, and obligations, a lawyer must inform a client about the pros and cons of any proposed resolution of the matter. Because advising two people on their respective rights may involve telling the client that he or she may be able to obtain more than agreed (or would not have to do as much as proposed), the possibility exists that the lawyer would give conflicting advice or would not give proper advice to both parties. Because a lawyer is duty-bound to tell any client both the good and bad about how an issue might be resolved, the rule that an attorney can only represent one party is based in common sense as well as professional ethics. Remember the saying: ‘A man cannot serve two masters.’ The same principle applies here.
Although one lawyer cannot represent both parties to a domestic relations action, one lawyer can represent one of the parties to draft agreements and finalize the acceptance of those agreements by the court. However, we will not be able to advise your spouse of the legal meaning of those documents. If your spouse has any questions, he or she should consult another lawyer.