When two spouses decide to get divorced in California, but want to avoid fighting in the divorce while still obtaining the benefit of legal counsel in understanding their rights and how to go about getting the divorce, they often wonder if they can have one lawyer represent both of them. For several reasons, this is not a workable solution in California, but there may be other solutions which will help you get the legal advice you need without incurring excessive delay or causing drama, including mediation and uncontested divorce.
Attorneys Are Prohibited From Representing Opposing Parties in California
In a divorce, the two spouses are opposing parties in a legal action, and this is true even if you remain the best friends in the world who only want the best for one another. When you retain an attorney, that attorney’s duty will be to serve your interests and your interests alone. That doesn’t mean that your attorney has to ruthlessly go after the other spouse, and doing so would indeed be contrary to your interests if you are seeking a peaceful, collaborative divorce.
That said, an attorney can therefore not represent both you and the other spouse in a California divorce, because that attorney cannot serve both of your interests at the same time in working towards outcomes on property distribution, spousal support (including the amount and duration), child support, and child custody/visitation.
Alternative #1: Mediation
A common solution for divorcing spouses who want to gain the benefit of legal insight and the presence of a third party, but which does not necessarily involve being represented by a lawyer, is to seek mediation with a California mediator. In mediation, a mediator will work with both parties to help them reach a settlement agreement on all of the issues in a divorce, but will not represent either party as an attorney (even if the mediator is a family law attorney).
A mediator is not a judge, meaning that the mediator will only suggest and facilitate agreement, leaving the parties to make their own decisions, but the mediator can explain the applicable law, help you work toward a solution, and provide guidance to both of you as seek a final divorce order from the court.
Alternative #2: Pro Per Flat Fee Divorce
If you are already in agreement on all financial and custody issues in your divorce, but still want the assistance of an attorney in drawing up the legal documents you will need and guidance in the procedure of obtaining a divorce, you might also consider a pro per flat fee divorce (Kearney Baker offers this service for $2500 plus court fees).
In a pro per divorce, you will represent yourself before the court, but an attorney will draft the legal documents (including a settlement agreement) that ensures that your wishes for the divorce are carried out, so that you and your spouse can obtain your California divorce with minimal fuss and delay.
Get Answers to Your California Family Law Questions
At Kearney | Baker in Pasadena, we represent spouses through all aspects of the dissolution/divorce process. Our partners, Brian A. Baker and Gary W. Kearney, are both Family Law Specialists, as certified by the California State Bar. To schedule a consultation regarding any questions about family law in California, contact one of the family law attorneys at Kearney | Baker today at 626-768-2945.