Divorce can be an expensive undertaking. We’ve talked before about how much a divorce may cost, and that’s before you figure out your post-divorce budget.
Some clients have asked if they can save time (and money) by hiring the same attorney. If you and your partner are on reasonably good terms and only need to settle the legal aspects, this may seem a natural idea. After all, a real estate agent can represent both parties if they agree. Why not a lawyer?
The short answer is no; you can’t hire the same lawyer. The reason is the conflict of interest. Even if you both claim to have no issues and an easy settlement, things may change.
For example, let’s say you want to keep the house, but you can’t refinance right now due to your credit history. Your spouse is stuck waiting for a long time. An attorney would tell your spouse not to agree to the deal because it will impact his/her credit going forward and force him/her to remain co-owner of the house for an undetermined amount of time. If you have the same attorney, what does he or she do? S/he can’t be a full advocate the way s/he should.
Aside from that ethical quandary, most state’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers prohibit representing two clients with conflicting interests, such as divorcing spouses. So even if you felt sure you’d have no conflict, no North Carolina attorney would agree to represent both of you.
Mediation is an option for couples who have few issues. Instead of hiring two attorneys, you can hire one attorney-mediator and split the cost. A mediator who is also an attorney will act as a neutral third party. He or she can:
- Explain the law
- Help you fill out forms
- Guide you toward agreement
- Draft divorce settlement documents
However, he or she will not be able to advise either of you about your legal rights. He or she also cannot testify later in court. If you have any concerns about your divorce, it’s best to hire an attorney to advocate on your behalf. Learn more about how mediation and arbitration play a role in divorce. You might also hire a mediator and an attorney, which our attorneys recommended.
If you’re concerned about the cost of divorce, you might be able to file for divorce without an attorney. However, this will only work if you have an uncomplicated divorce: no children, no arguments over assets or alimony, and you haven’t been married long.
If you have questions, contact our Raleigh divorce team or attend our divorce workshop on the second Saturday of each month.