Can a Divorcing Couple Use the Same Lawyer? Pros and Cons
Divorce is never an easy journey. Dealing with the heavy costs that come with divorce procedures and hiring a lawyer may raise even more concerns and stress. With this in mind, you may have wondered about sharing a divorce lawyer with your spouse.
In theory, it may seem like an ideal situation and it certainly allows you to save on the costs of hiring separate lawyers. However, there are other issues you should take note of before going ahead with this option.
In this article, we will be discussing:
When Can You and Your Spouse Use the Same Divorce Lawyer?
For the most part, sharing the same lawyer is typically only recommended in the context of a simplified uncontested divorce, as compared to a contested divorce.
Simplified uncontested divorce
A divorce is regarded as uncontested when both you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on all divorce-related matters on your own. Such matters include the custody of your children (if any) and the division of matrimonial assets.
After filing certain documents and initiating divorce proceedings, a document called the Draft Consent Order should be drafted and submitted to the court. Signing off and filing a Draft Consent Order essentially indicates your agreement to all the stated terms of your divorce.
Since only one lawyer is needed to draft and file the necessary documents for a simplified uncontested divorce, neither you nor your spouse will need to look for a second lawyer to represent either of you.
On the other hand, the very moment you and your spouse are unable to see eye to eye on any of your divorce matters, the case becomes what is known as a contested divorce.
A contested divorce leads to your case being heard and ultimately decided on by a judge. In this case, sharing a lawyer will prove to be of no use to either party as the lawyer will not be at liberty to provide legal advice for both you and your spouse at the same time. This comes from the need to uphold ethical practices as will be further explained below. The lawyer will therefore be able to only represent one of you and not both.
If you would like to learn more about simplified uncontested divorce and contested divorce, we discuss more about the distinction between both types of divorce in our other article.
What are the Pros and Cons of Sharing the Same Divorce Lawyer?
Now that we have established when you may be able to share a divorce lawyer with your spouse, you should examine the full picture before deciding if you want to follow through.
To give you some context, the fees for a lawyer’s services in a simple uncontested divorce typically range from $1,200 to $3,500.
Naturally, sharing a lawyer would mean that both you and your spouse will be able to split the costs of a lawyer between yourselves, saving on what could otherwise be hefty legal costs and an additional burden on your shoulders.
For a more comprehensive breakdown on divorce fees in Singapore, you may want to refer to our guide on this topic.
While a simplified uncontested divorce seems easy and straightforward enough, you must bear in mind that you are walking a fine line between simplified uncontested divorce and contested divorce.
The moment you and your spouse are unable to agree on any of the terms of your divorce, the case becomes a contested divorce.
As mentioned earlier, in the case of simplified uncontested divorces, while only one lawyer is needed to draft and file the necessary documents, the same lawyer can represent and act for only one party in a contested divorce.
Under the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules 2015, this is a rule that applies to all lawyers in order to avoid a conflict of interest. For example, you and your spouse may both be trying to claim a larger share of the matrimonial assets. If one spouse receives a larger share, this necessarily means that the other spouse will receive a smaller share. A single lawyer cannot possibly try to advance both of your interests at the same time.
Therefore if your divorce is contested, sharing a divorce lawyer will not be an option even if you and your spouse agree to do so.
In extreme cases, it is not unheard of for a party to agree to potentially unfavourable terms such as forgoing custody over their children or accepting less maintenance, for the sole purpose of obtaining a simplified uncontested divorce and sticking to just one lawyer for a more affordable divorce.
Who Pays the Legal Bill When Sharing a Divorce Lawyer?
There is no expectation or fixed rule as to who should foot the legal bill.
Given that both you and your spouse are utilising the lawyer’s services, the both of you have the freedom to decide on how to split the bill. One party may also choose to pay for the entire bill.
Why Should You Engage a Divorce Lawyer?
It is crucial that you choose a divorce lawyer who will best handle your case. In our article on choosing a good divorce lawyer, we further expand on the various aspects to take note of.
You should remember that while sharing a lawyer means that there will be no legal representation or advice for you nor your spouse, an experienced divorce lawyer will be able to provide for a smooth divorce.
For example, a divorce lawyer will be able to help you better understand the law and ensure that all the necessary documents are properly drafted. They also serve as an effective communicator between you and any court representatives and will facilitate any discussions and agreements held between you and your spouse.
Most importantly, they will take over all the legal procedures and filings that need to be complied with, and aid you in drafting your Draft Consent Order.
What If You are Unable to Afford a Divorce Lawyer?
If you are worried about affording a divorce lawyer, there are several legal aid schemes that have been set in place to help you through this tough time.
For instance, subject to certain criteria, the Legal Aid Bureau of the Ministry of Law offers legal advice and representation for divorces at heavily subsidised rates.
Sharing a divorce lawyer is not as straightforward and advantageous as it may initially seem. It may really benefit you only if both you and your spouse genuinely agree and fully understand the terms of your divorce.
Hence, it is important to consider if sharing a divorce lawyer with your spouse is suitable for your situation. You should be certain that it is the right course of action that will be beneficial to you as well.
If you require further assistance or legal advice, do not hesitate to reach out to any of our experienced divorce lawyers.
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