Thursday, January 30, 2014

Can one lawyer handle an uncontested divorce?

Can one lawyer handle your uncontested divorce?

Those looking for an uncontested divorce are generally price conscious people, so they often ask if their spouse will be needing to hire an attorney or, alternatively, whether the uncontested divorce lawyer that they hire will be representing both parties.  The answer to both of those question is no.

As to the first question, no, the Respondent (spouse of the client) does not need to hire an attorney in order to get your uncontested divorce done.  I can't ever tell a Respondent not to hire an attorney, of course, as that is their right.  However, I do not consider a divorce uncontested - at least not uncontested to the degree that allows a low, flat fee - if another attorney is involved.  

As to the second question, no, your attorney does not represent both parties in the divorce, as that would be unethical and against the lawyer's code of professional conduct.  

In my opinion, a good uncontested divorce lawyer, while not representing the Respondent, can put all of the parties' minds at ease by explaining the scope of representation involved in an uncontested divorce case.  In my practice, uncontested divorces involve a limited scope of representation.  That scope involves preparing the paperwork pursuant to the agreement reached between the client and their spouse, and pointing out where the parties need to address an issue or clarify something.  Never am I going beyond that scope and providing legal insight or guidance as to how my client can "win" or get one over on the non-represented party.  That would not be ethical nor fair nor good for the reputation of my business, honestly.  If a client is looking to slip a line in the settlement or parenting plan that I know is not agreed upon but may go unnoticed by the non-represented party, I simply decline representation.  

Uncontested divorces require a certain degree of trust by both parties, and certainly more from the Respondent than the client.  I understand this and do my best to make sure the unrepresented party - while not receiving any advice, legal or otherwise, from me - knows that I am representing Petitioner (but, on a limited scope basis, as explained above) and that they understand his or her right to get an attorney if they wish.

So yes, one lawyer can handle your uncontested divorce and, as my previous entry indicates, often without the need to ever step foot in court.  Feel free to call or email me to get your uncontested divorce started.

Thanks for reading

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