Costs are always a concern in the decision to divorce. For this reason, many divorcing couples want to share one lawyer to handle their divorce. They may have already decided many of their issues, or they may have limited assets to divide. But in Michigan, one lawyer cannot ethically represent both parties in a divorce, because the divorce is still considered an adversarial proceeding and a lawyer has a duty of loyalty to their client. They cannot be on both sides of the table! Yet, it is possible to use only one lawyer in a divorce, and thereby save a lot of money and stress usually incurred in a divorce.
What are the Benefits of a One Lawyer Divorce?
The benefits of using one lawyer in a divorce in appropriate cases, are many. First, because there is only one lawyer, you will not spend nearly as much money as you would with two lawyers engaging the litigation typical of a divorce. Second, because you are working together to reach the solution that works for you both, there is less fighting and hostility. This is a big benefit, both for you and your children! Even if you try to hide your conflict, children can sense it. The result of using one lawyer is that you complete the divorce process with more money to move forward, and your children are not traumatized by the event.
Can We Both Meet With the Lawyer?
Absolutely! Although the lawyer's duty of loyalty remains with her client, when the parties are committed to reaching a mutually agreeable resolution, the lawyer is there primarily to answer general questions regarding the law as you make your decisions, to prepare your agreement in a legally admissible way, and to represent their client in court in a brief proceeding required by Michigan law to make your divorce official.
How Do We Get Started?
The first step in a One Lawyer Divorce is for the lawyer to meet with one or both parties to obtain information about their financial picture, as well as custody and support issues. The lawyer can then help the parties create the framework for their resolution discussion. All custody, support, and financial issues must be addressed in the documents filed with the court, so it is essential to start with a clear understanding.
Once this is completed, the lawyer prepares a Complaint for Divorce for her client to sign. The Complaint will be filed, along with a few other necessary documents, in court to get the process started. After the case is initiated, we work with you in additional meetings as needed to help you reach resolution on all of your issues. But the power is in your hands! In a One Lawyer Divorce, our role is to make suggestions and advise you on the law as needed. However, we are primarily there to help implement the resolution you decide on.
Sometimes, this may require hiring other experts, such as property appraisers, to gain additional information. We offer suggestions of experts we know and trust in each county. But the decision remains in your hands, and by using one expert instead of each party hiring their own, you also enjoy a great cost savings.
When settlement is reached on all issues, the lawyer prepares a Judgment of Divorce for both parties to sign. Once it is signed, only the lawyer and her client need to go to court for the short proceeding which lawyers call "putting it on the record." The other party has the peace of mind of knowing that what they agreed to, and only what they agreed to, will become the binding settlement, or Judgment in their case.
Unfortunately, it will not. A One Lawyer Divorce only works where the parties have reached agreement on most of the major issues in the case, or have very few assets to divide. Where parties have major disagreements about custody of their children, support, or division of property, then each party needs to hire their own lawyer. Further, a One Lawyer Divorce is not appropriate in cases where there has been domestic violence. There must be equal bargaining power, and the parties must not be too far apart in their views of what constitutes a fair resolution.
For more information, or to see if a One Lawyer Divorce will work for you, call us today for a complimentary consultation.