If you and your spouse need legal assistance with your divorce, you may wonder: "Can a divorce attorney represent both sides in New York?"
The short answer is no. In New York, lawyers are ethically prevented from representing both sides. This is the case even if it’s an uncontested and amicable divorce. If you want legal advice for your divorce, you and your spouse will need to retain your own attorneys who can represent your individual interests.
Why Can't an Attorney Represent Both Sides in a Divorce?
When you seek legal representation in a divorce, you need someone who can represent your interests and help you reach a favorable agreement with your spouse. It would be impossible for one attorney to provide each of you with the legal advice you need.
You want your attorney to give you advice and counsel that prioritizes your interests. Your spouse should seek the same level of guidance tailored to what is important to them.
When you and your spouse retain your own attorneys, you can expect your legal counsel to give you personalized advice and advocate for your best interests. Additionally, if you each retain collaboratively trained attorneys, you can also expect that they will help you reach an agreement that works for everyone involved: you, your spouse, your children, and any other family members or interested parties.
The Vacca Family Law Group attorneys once worked with a client who finalized his divorce 30 years before. At the time of the divorce, our client’s wife had her own lawyer, and this client decided to work with a lawyer who had represented his wife from time to time in business dealings.
Unfortunately, because of the attorney’s conflicting priorities between the two parties, our client's settlement agreement didn't truly protect his interests because of how unclear and vague many of the terms were. Thirty years later, his wife had failed to follow the majority of her obligations and the parties were in disagreement about what still needed to be done.
If our client had retained his own attorney, who had no relationship with his spouse, his attorney would have made sure that the agreement was clear, protected his interests, and would hold up in court if necessary
Divorce Lawyers Can Help Both Spouses Through Mediation
While a single divorce attorney cannot represent both sides in New York, they can help both sides as a mediator. The mediating attorney helps divorcing spouses arrive at an agreement by facilitating discussions and resolving conflicts over issues like child support, child custody, division of property, and alimony. Your attorney mediator can also do the following:
- Help you gather financial information
- Provide you with legal information and Inform you about the relevant laws
- Provide ideas based on what has worked for other families in similar situations
- Draft your settlement agreement
- Provide each party with referrals to individual attorneys who can offer independent advice
Since the attorney mediator must remain unbiased, they can’t tell you what to do or suggest ways for one party to get a more favorable outcome over the other. But they can help you find solutions that meet your respective interests, needs, and goals. If you want legal advice, you can consult with an independent divorce lawyer who isn’t your mediator or representing your spouse.
When you have your own divorce attorney backing you up, they will provide independent legal advice and will review all agreements before you sign them, catching anything hiding in fine print that could jeopardize your interests.
Our skilled attorneys at Vacca Family Law Group are ready to help you through your divorce, whether you need an attorney to protect your interests or a mediator to help you and your spouse reach an amicable agreement. Contact Vacca Family Law Group today at 646-798-4740 to schedule a free initial call to find out how our divorce attorneys and mediators can assist you.