Can My Spouse & I Share a Divorce Lawyer?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

July 13, 2022

If you and your spouse agree on most end-of-marriage issues, you might think that you can share a divorce lawyer. Your ex may even recommend it to keep costs down.

But even if you’re on the best of terms with your soon-to-be-ex, you should have separate legal counsel. Keep reading to learn why.

Why You Can’t Share a Divorce Lawyer

While it’s great that you and your spouse are working together toward an uncontested divorce, you still cannot share a divorce lawyer.

Conflict of Interest

The American Bar Association prohibits attorneys from representing opposing parties.

Attorneys have a fiduciary duty to act in their client’s best interests. No matter how friendly or cooperative things are between you and your spouse, you are still opposing parties. It is a conflict of interest for a lawyer to represent both parties.

Divorce Can Get Confrontational

Divorcing spouses might initially agree on a parenting plan but argue about something else. Divorce involves three highly emotional subjects: property, money, and children (if applicable). These hot-button issues can transform calm discussions into aggressive confrontations.

Two Against One

When you and your spouse disagree, you want your attorney to advocate for you, not against you. One attorney representing two people with opposing interests could push you to accept an unsatisfactory arrangement.

For example, if you’re the higher-earning spouse, you probably want to pay less in spousal support or for a shorter time. A stay-at-home parent with limited financial resources will pursue more spousal support or for a longer time.

Using the Same Lawyer as A Mediator

Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) outside the courtroom. During mediation, an objective and impartial third party listens to both sides and helps find a solution.

Mediators play an essential role in North Carolina’s judicial system. Judges often ask quarreling couples to enter mediation before scheduling a hearing.

What a Mediator Can Do

  • Facilitates communication between disagreeing spouses
  • Identifies areas of potential compromise
  • Clarifies legal issues
  • Provides a trusted communication channel with the court
  • Drafts a settlement agreement

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation is less expensive than going to court. The administrative fees are lower, and you generally aren’t required to hire an attorney.

Other benefits:

  • Mediation saves divorcing couples time and money.
  • Mediation is private and confidential; court documents can be public.
  • Mediation is easier to schedule.
  • Mediation is less frightening for your children if there are custody issues.

When an Attorney Acts as Mediator

Attorneys certainly know the ins and outs of North Carolina family law. They’re also skilled negotiators and can help lower the temperature in a heated debate.

However, using the same attorney as a mediator in your divorce puts you at a disadvantage.

They Cannot Give Legal Advice

Without legal counsel, you could risk an unfavorable divorce settlement. This lack of legal advice upsets your post-divorce goals and costs you additional time and money by trying to reverse or modify an agreement.

They Cannot Remain Impartial

An attorney hired by you or your spouse who acts as a mediator is inherently biased. It is a conflict of interest that could result in an unfair distribution of property or child custody decisions.

Know When to Hire a Divorce Attorney

At some point, each spouse should have a divorce attorney representing their interests. A dedicated lawyer provides certain benefits that a mediator cannot.

File for Court Orders

A divorce attorney can file and seek enforcement for court orders, including:

  • Emergency restraining orders (for domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking)
  • Child custody orders and modification
  • Increase or enforce child support payments
  • Seek or enforce spousal support payments

Division of Marital Property

Some spouses attempt to hide or downplay assets when it’s time to divide marital property. A divorce attorney protects your financial interests by advocating for the objective valuation of assets and debts.

Child Custody Issues

An attorney works for the best interests of your children, especially if one parent is abusive, violent, addicted to drugs, or suffers from untreated mental illness.

Work with The Breeden Law Office

For more than 20 years, the Breeden Law Office has provided North Carolina Families in Wake, Johnston, and Harnett Counties with compassionate legal service for divorce, separation, child custody, and other family law matters. Our experience and in-depth local knowledge help ensure a smoother, less stressful divorce.

Reach out online or call (919) 661-4970 to schedule a consultation.


Divorce In North Carolina: What You Need To Know

A book by Jonathan Breeden