Can One Lawyer Do A Divorce For A Couple?
Divorce attorneys that represent a client in a divorce are not functioning as neutral, (looking out for the best interest of both parties in those cases) and do not represent the best interest of both parties due to the professional mandate and ethical standards of the legal profession, (California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3-310 (C)(1) and (C)(2)). GDC clients are self-represented or "In Pro Per", when they conduct a neutral divorce proceeding through GDC. GDC is by design, an attorney-free divorce process, since we contract with both parties as a true neutral facilitator in the divorce or legal separation proceeding. A Go Divorce Clinic facilitator is not bound (like representing attorneys are) to favor one parties best interest over another.
Nowadays, 95% of divorcing couples are pursuing uncontested divorces. Litigated divorces have never really been a desired option for most families experiencing a broken marriage. A representing attorney's role as an adversarial advocate that is ethically bound to a win/lose legal protocol, is arguably not the best approach to a sensitive marital dissolution. Many divorces are typically devoid of criminal acts or tort-level injury. The context of a marriage dissolution begs the question, "why do divorce lawyers need to be involved at all in what is fundamentally a procedural legal activity that harbors no litigious level injury, or criminal activity"?
There are now, beginning to be much more appropriate venues to meet the actual needs of individuals moving through the divorce process, such as the utilization of professional and competent Legal Document Assistant's or LDA's (sometimes called independent paralegals). The massive economic hemorrhaging to the family law profession due to the self-help movement has stimulated some interesting responses within family law.
In the case of the relatively new joint (dual) representation phenomenon, there are serious concerns regarding a lawyer's ethically based client obligations around loyalty and communication and confidentiality, and lack of attorney-client privilege, just to name a few. One attorney simply cannot be "loyal" to the best interests of two parties. The legal profession has been predicated on representing one party against another; indeed it is the fundamental basis of the legal profession.
In the case of a family law attorney representing one party and "corralling" the other party who is not represented into signing court forms and settlement agreements represents a lack of equal representation and can be disempowering to the unrepresented spouse. A divorce attorney’s duty of loyalty prohibits him or her from placing another parties interests above that of their client.
This being said, some courts around the country have allowed the practice of joint representation for certain parties, in certain cases, when there are releases signed by both parties and further waivers stipulated to by the couple, specifically where there are clear lines of potential adversity and conflict on the horizon. Yet the question remains, "Can either party in a joint representation scenario, succeed in having their aligned legal needs met effectively and efficiently by a single attorney"?
*GDC and its agents are not attorneys. No information provided on this website is intended as legal advice or counsel for a divorce or any matter, and should not be construed as such. Accordingly, the information on this site is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, financial, tax, or other professional advice and services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal, financial or other competent advisers. In no event will Go Divorce Clinic, its related partnerships or corporations, or the partners, agents or employees thereof be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information presented in this site, or for any consequential, special or similar damages.
For attorney-produced articles on dual representation you may visit: