Can my Spouse and I Share a Divorce Lawyer?

Unfortunately, not all marriages last forever, and a married individual may seek to divorce their spouse. Under Michigan law, divorce is the process by which a married couple ceases to be legally married. Michigan is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning an individual can seek to divorce their spouse without having to provide a specific reason, such as infidelity. Michigan Courts will grant a divorce if the Court finds that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood they can be repaired.  

Sometimes, a divorce proceeding can be completed quickly and efficiently, while other times it may become complex and costly. Due to the expenses associated with divorce, a common question that arises when a married couple is contemplating a divorce is whether they may share one attorney. 

Michigan law prohibits an attorney from representing both parties in a divorce proceeding. Attorneys in Michigan are bound by the ethical rules provided in the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct. Those rules mandate that attorneys provide representation in accordance with their client’s objectives and maintain their client’s confidential information. The rules also prohibit an attorney from representing a client if that representation is directly in conflict with another client. 

In a divorce proceeding, an attorney cannot effectively advocate for one spouse if they simultaneously represent the opposing spouse in the same proceeding. That type of representation is prohibited because it is presumed that each spouses’ positions are directly adverse. Attorneys also have an ethical obligation to remain loyal to their client and must maintain the client’s confidential information. Compliance with that obligation and other ethical rules will be rendered impossible if an attorney represents both spouses in a divorce proceeding.

An action for divorce looks at issues such as spousal support (commonly referred to as “alimony”), child support, child custody, and property division. When presiding over a divorce, the goal of Michigan Court’s is to divide the marital estate equitably and ensure that all decisions affecting any minor children are made in the children’s best interests.

Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

John and Mary have been married for 10 years. John and Mary decide to divorce because they no longer get along. John is making $45,000 a year as a mechanic and Mary is making $145,000 a year as a Doctor. John was the sole income earner while Mary was in medical school. John believes he should receive spousal support from Mary because he makes $100,000 less and helped her pay bills during medical school. Mary does not want to give John spousal support because she believes her hard-earned money exclusively belongs to her. 

If John and Mary hired one attorney to represent them both, that attorney would not be able to effectively advocate for each individual spouse due to their opposite positions. According to Michigan’s Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney can only represent one spouse in a divorce proceeding. That principle remains true even in an amicable and uncontested divorce proceeding, where the spouses agree on the terms of the divorce. 

If you are contemplating a divorce, or have questions about the divorce process, contact The Head Law Firm, PLC. Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of family law, including the nuanced intricacies of divorce proceedings. We offer free consultations and will provide guidance according to your individual needs. 

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