Not all divorces are high conflict. Not every marriage ends in a protracted battle involving the court. Some couples part ways amicably, if not happily, with a minimum of fuss and tears. So in these situations, wouldn’t it make sense for those couples to share a divorce attorney and save themselves a little money? After all, if they agree on terms and don’t want to be “pitted against each other” what’s the point of getting two different attorneys?
This is a question we get asked regularly by our clients all over Oakland County! Couples will come in, explain that they want a divorce, they’ve already agreed on the terms of the divorce, and they’d like to hire us to represent them both. Yes, that’s right – both of them! They tell us that they want legal counsel, but don’t need attorneys to handle every decision for them, so hiring two lawyers seems like a waste of money. And in every case we have to turn them down! Not because we don’t want to help, but because we simply can’t! Why, you wonder? Because legal ethics prevent us from doing so.
There are real reasons why a couple can’t share a divorce attorney!
A lot of people, when we tell them we can’t represent them both, assume that we’re simply trying to make a little extra cash at their expense. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Believe it or not, there are actually very important reasons for why a couple here in Metro Detroit, whether in Oakland County or Macomb County, or anywhere else in the country for that matter, should never hire the same attorney to represent them both during a divorce in Michigan.
Let’s start at the beginning. First, we need to point out that, technically, it isn’t against the law for one attorney to represent a couple. Yet no ethical attorney would consider it, and this is why: Attorneys in Michigan are bound by our state’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which includes the following regulation:
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.
It would be unethical for one attorney to represent a divorcing couple!
This means that, even if a couple does agree on every aspect of their divorce, it’s almost inevitable that somewhere along the line they’ll disagree on something. And when that happens, it would be impossible for the shared attorney to represent the interests of both parties effectively! The attorney would be forced to favor one client over the other, which would immediately result in a conflict of interest.
We lawyers are loyal to our clients and we stay prepared to help them if disagreements happen. And believe us, they do happen. Often. Even after the divorce is over. We won’t split our loyalty. And by the way, seldom to couples agree on all the issues because they don’t know what all the issues are. And once they do know what those issues are, they don’t understand how one issue likely has an effect on another issue. It can be really complicated!
Are you and your spouse considering an amicable divorce?
As family law attorneys who have spent decades helping the people in 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. It isn’t smart to be penny wise and dollar foolish with your finances.
Join us next time, as we look at the ways some couples try to get around this issue, and what some alternative options might be. Until then, if you or a loved one have decided to end your marriage, and are seeking legal help from experienced and ethical family law attorneys, call The Kronzek Firm at (248) 479-6200. We have many years of experience helping the people of Oakland County with their family law concerns, and we can help you too.