Divorce isn’t always a heated battle between spouses who can’t exchange three polite words and fight over every single detail. Some couples part ways amicably – knowing that their marriage didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean they have to be enemies. So while some divorces are hotly contested at every turn, some are quite amiable. And in those cases we often have couples asking us if they can share a divorce attorney.
It makes sense. After all, they’re not at each other’s throats, so they don’t need a go-between. They want legal counsel, but don’t need attorneys to handle every decision for them. And if they both agree to the terms of the divorce, (and they want to save money) it sounds like a smart choice. Except it isn’t!
Hearing this, many people assume that this is just what attorneys tell you so that they can make an extra buck or two at your expense. However, that simply isn’t the case. There are actually very important reason for why you and your spouse can’t hire the same attorney to represent you both during a divorce in Michigan.
Technically, it isn’t against the law, but no ethical attorney would consider it, and here’s why. Attorneys in Michigan are bound by our state’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which includes the following rule:
A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse to another client, unless:
1) the lawyer reasonably believes the representation will not adversely affect the relationship with the other client; and
2) each client consents after consultation.
Representing both parties in a divorce is a conflict of interest!
In other words, an attorney cannot represent two clients where one client’s best interest are in direct conflict with another client’s. In a divorce, no matter how well the divorcing couple gets along, there are conflicts between what is the in the best interest of each individual. For example, issues like how personal items should be separated, who gets to pay off what debt, and who keeps the house are sometimes subjects that seem simple on the surface. But if not handled properly, they can can have lasting ramifications.
Even if a couple really does seem to agree on every aspect of their divorce, it’s almost inevitable that at some point during the process, they will disagree on some issue. And when that happens, it would be impossible for the shared attorney to effectively represent the interests of both parties. They would be forced to favor one client over the other, and that would immediately result in a conflict of interest.
Some couples try to get around this issue of conflict by having only one spouse hire an attorney, which the other represents themselves (which is called pro se.) In these cases the attorney representing the one spouse draws up the divorce agreement and files all of the paperwork. This can sometimes work, however many unrepresented people have ended up frustrated when they discovered that the attorney created a divorce agreement that favored their spouse, and not themselves. Obviously, because the attorney in question is only representing one spouse, they are legally bound to provide their client with the best possible representation, which means getting them the best deal possible in their divorce.
As family law attorneys who have spent decades helping the people of MIchigan work through their divorces, we understand how frustrating the process can be. We also understand a couple’s desire to save money where possible, as divorce can be a costly process. However there are many ways to save money during your divorce that won’t create problems, or require unethical legal practices.
So if you or a loved one have decided to end your marriage, and are seeking legal help from experienced and ethical attorneys, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. We have many years of experience helping mid-Michigan residents with their family law concerns, and we can help you too.