Q: I will like to get divorce. I'm thinking to get one lawyer for both of us. Is this a good idea?
A: This is not allowed under NY attorney ethic rules. Unless you retain an attorney to act as a mediator and then have that attorney draw up divorce papers and a separation agreement incorporating the terms of your agreement. In that way, the attorney is not representing you or your spouse and that is ethically allowed although there are pitfalls. It’s much easier and cheaper, depending on the circumstances of the divorce, to retain separate counsel. I’m happy to speak to you more about this you if you want to contact me and give me more details.
A: As long as both parties are aware of their obligations and rsponsibilities under the law, it is acceptable, but a good idea? Likely not. There are many issues that can be complicated from custody and visitation, to support, to distribution of assets, to retirement accounts, etc. And it is unethical for a lawyer to give advice to both parties. While he or she can explain the law, they can not tell both parties what is in their best interest. If the issues are very simple it can be easily accomplished by one lawyer. I have often prepared uncontested divorces where all of the issues are agreed upon and where one party does not want to obtain their own lawyer, but I always explain that they have tyhat right to do so and I put a clause in the agreement that specificall explains their waiver of that right.
A: It is not a good idea as many a divorce agreement has been set aside by the courts for having one attorney for both of you. Also keep in mind that it is impossible for one attorney to tell you that a particular agreed upon is good for you and bad for your wife or vice versa. You can discuss the issues with your wife and then have the attorney draw up an agreement. She should then have the opportunity to speak to an attorney of her own choosing. It would be best if she didn't speak to your attorney except to have changes made to the agreement.
A: While one lawyer cannot represent both parties (conflict of interest concerns abound!), an attorney acting as a mediator would be considered a neutral party in the divorce process; the parties would, in that situation, technically be representing themselves. You'd have difficulty finding a lawyer who would suggest that idea; we generally encourage parties to have their own representation. However, if your divorce is of a strictly uncontested nature, then you *may* be able to get away with it. Even in those situations, however, I prefer to act not as a mediator, but as counsel for one of the parties; then, if there is complete trust and agreement between the couple, the other party may be able to continue pro se (representing his or her own self). So, short answer to the question of whether this is a good idea: no. But you're not necessarily precluded from a successful divorce process if you use only one lawyer. You just have to be careful... and so does the lawyer!
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