Is it better to have two separate lawyers if my wife and I are filing for dissolution of the marriage? We can’t afford much as it is, so maybe one lawyer is best?
My friends tell me it isn’t possible to divorce by using the services of a single attorney. We don’t want to dispute how things are divided. We just want to move on.
There are numerous possible problems with one lawyer attempting to represent both parties to any transaction, no matter how amicable. Negotiating a dissolution of marriage is no different than any other transaction and having your own legal advisor is essential to ending up with the agreement you intended.
Depending upon the rules of professional conduct for attorneys in your state, it may or may not be possible for an attorney to represent both parties to a divorce. More often, one party has an attorney and the other proceeds without an attorney, in which case the attorney is only looking out for the party they represent and the other party is on their own.
While you may not see any major risks in the terms of a proposed divorce judgment, an experienced family law attorney can advise you of potential problems with any proposed agreement. Failure to account for all debts and assets (including retirement accounts), proper custody and visitation provisions, and a clear resolution of child and spousal support are aspects that require specific terms to avoid unintended consequences.
While an attorney may be able to review a proposal and advise you as to issues with the language at a minimum cost, absent a full discussion with your attorney of the specifics of your marriage, family, and finances, the attorney can not properly advise you as to your options as to the terms of the divorce.
If the divorce is truly amicable and the issues uncomplicated, the cost of retaining your own attorney to advise you will be relatively minor in relation to assuring the divorce is accomplished so as to avoid complications from failure to properly address all issues. However, be prepared to be advised of issues or consequences that you had not contemplated, or that your spouse’s attorney did not raise, that may turn the divorce “less amicable.”
Richard Coffee is a Litigation Manager in the Belleville Illinois office of Cordell & Cordell. He is an experienced divorce attorney whose practice is devoted to domestic litigation. He is licensed in the State of Illinois and is admitted to practice law in the U.S. District Courts for Northern, Central and Southern Illinois.
Mr. Coffee has extensive domestic litigation trial experience representing clients in courts throughout Illinois on all aspects of domestic litigation, including the representation of clients who are current or retired military personnel with issues under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act and the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, clients involved in state court jurisdictional disputes due to the relocation of one or both parties from or to Illinois, and clients with government or private pension benefit valuation and division issues.