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. 

Technically, 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. 

However, as a cost saving measure when couples have agreed on property distribution and/or custody issues, it is possible to have only one attorney involved. That attorney would only represent one party while the other party remains unrepresented. That attorney would prepare a Consent Judgment of Divorce that would reflect the parties' agreement as made clear to the attorney by his or her client.

To be clear, the unrepresented spouse should trust that the other spouse will do the right thing and try to effectuate the terms that they agreed upon. If he or she does not, then that spouse should contact their own attorney.

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.  The parties do not want to spend a lot of money on attorney fees, so they agree on how the marital assets should be split.  They just need help getting through the legal process.  The couple could decide that John will hire an attorney and the attorney will file a divorce action on behalf of John.  The attorney then drafts a Consent Judgment of Divorce, and sends it to John.   John signs it and sends it to Mary.  Mary reviews it to ensure that the language is fair and what she expected.  Then Mary signs it, and sends it back to John.  John forwards it to his attorney.  The attorney files it with the Court.  The Court sets a hearing.  One or both spouses appear at the hearing where the Court will ask some questions to ensure that the terms of the Judgment are understood and agreed to, and the Court enters the Order.  Then, John and Mary are officially divorced without spending excessive fees on two attorneys. 

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 are happy to help spouses navigate their uncontested divorce proceedings.  We offer free consultations and will provide guidance according to your individual needs. 

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