It is not uncommon to think that because you and your spouse are amicable, that it would be much easier, and less expensive, if you can have one attorney for both of you. However, one attorney cannot represent both parties. An attorney is ethically prohibited from representing two people with conflicting interests who are in a dispute. The parties can attempt mediation without the use of attorneys, but the mediator cannot give legal advice to either party. The mediator can only assist the two parties to come to an agreement.
Sometimes couples have reached agreements without understanding all of their rights under the law. Even if everything can be resolved between the parties, you may still benefit from receiving at least some legal advice on matters such as tax considerations, retirement, and health insurance issues.
If your spouse has filed for divorce and said that you do not need an attorney, you should nevertheless meet with a lawyer for advice on how proceeding without a lawyer could affect your legal rights. This is an important decision that will result in a legal binding contract. Signing a contract without at least having a consultation with a lawyer or having a lawyer review the agreement, may cause you to waive and give up important legal rights. This does not mean the lawyer needs to represent you in the divorce. It may be that, after the initial consultation, you will decide that the agreements that you have reached with your spouse are indeed similar to the rights and responsibilities that would exist if you went to court and had a judge decide the issues. However, taking the step to at least have a consultation will give you some peace of mind that nothing has been missed, or at least give you the opportunity to consider what issues might exist that you wish to further explore.
About the Authors:
Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including as a co-author of the Divorce in Arizona book. She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country. Ms. Pontrelli is also an adjunct professor at The Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, where she teaches the family law class. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081.
Bob Schwartz is a Member in our Phoenix office. Bob has been practicing law for over 40 years, specializing in family law. He is a member of the American, Arizona and Maricopa County Bar Associations. He is admitted to practice in the federal courts of New York, Arizona, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Schwartz is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and past president of the Arizona chapter. He serves as a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family court matters. He is a certified family law specialist by the State Bar of Arizona; is a frequent lecturer on family law and related matters; and, former member of the State Bar Family Law Advisory Commission. Mr. Schwartz has tried numerous complex business valuation cases as well as complex custody cases. He has testified as an expert in family law matters. Bob co-authored the Divorce in Arizona book. He may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5020.