If you and your spouse have decided to get divorced, you probably have lots of questions. You probably have questions about what you can expect during the divorce process, and you probably have questions about what is (and isn’t) necessary to make sure the process doesn’t leave you facing problems in the future. If you are like many people, your list of questions includes whether you and your spouse each need your own divorce lawyer, or whether you can hire a single lawyer to help you navigate the process.

So, do you both need a divorce lawyer?

Yes, You Both Need a Divorce Lawyer

We’ll start by saying that you and your spouse are not legally required to hire your own divorce lawyers. In fact, you aren’t required to hire a divorce lawyer at all. If you choose to do so, you can handle your divorce on your own, and the Illinois Courts even provide self-help forms for free online.

But, the fact that you can doesn’t mean you should. When going through a divorce in Illinois, there are lots of issues you need to address, and you need to address them both carefully and thoroughly to achieve a resolution that protects your best interests (and your children’s best interests) long-term. When you hire a divorce lawyer to represent you, one of your lawyer’s key roles is to help make sure you address all relevant considerations and make informed decisions with the future in mind.

Now, let’s say that you and your spouse are generally on the same page. You have both decided that it is time to get divorced, and you are both willing to work together to make the divorce process as easy and inexpensive as possible. Why can’t you both work with the same lawyer to complete the necessary paperwork and bring your marriage to an end?

While joint representation is technically a possibility, it is not the best option in most cases. For a short-term divorce with no children and only limited assets involved, joint representation could potentially make sense. However, the more issues and complications a divorce involves, the more important it becomes for each spouse to have their own legal representation.

To be clear, this is not due to the risk of a dispute. While this is certainly a relevant consideration in some cases, hiring your own respective lawyers is more about ensuring that you are both making sound decisions. As we discuss below, when a divorce lawyer provides joint representation, his or her ability to provide advice is limited—and this is not what you want when you are making long-term decisions for the future.

Understanding the Limitations (and Risks) of Joint Representation

To understand why it is important for each spouse to have their own divorce lawyer in most cases, we can look at the limitations (and risks) of joint representation. When both spouses work with the same lawyer during the divorce process:

  • The lawyer cannot provide advice that specifically benefits either spouse. Since a divorce lawyer who is providing joint representation owes the same duties to both spouses, the lawyer cannot provide advice that would specifically benefit one spouse over the other. Even if you and your spouse ultimately want what is best for both of you, you still need to make sure you are weighing all of your options. When each spouse has their own lawyer, their respective lawyers can provide more personalized advice—and this can often lead to discussions and resolutions that otherwise wouldn’t have been brought to the table.
  • The lawyer cannot maintain the same level of confidentiality. A divorce lawyer who is representing both spouses will necessarily be limited as to the amount of confidentiality he or she is able to maintain. When you need to make decisions for the future, it is important to be able to have open and honest discussions with your lawyer without your spouse involved. However, a lawyer who is providing joint representation may be obligated to share information equally with both spouses—which means that you may need to either avoid having certain sensitive discussions with your joint lawyer or have information shared that you would prefer to keep private.
  • The lawyer will have to withdraw in the event of a dispute. A lawyer who provides joint representation during a divorce will typically be unable to represent either spouse in the event of a dispute. If you and your spouse unexpectedly encounter issues during the divorce process, you may both be forced to hire a new lawyer to help you move forward.

Understanding the Limitations (and Risks) of a DIY Divorce

Now, what about handling your divorce on your own? With the Illinois Courts’ self-help forms available for free online, can you and your spouse pursue a DIY divorce without any lawyers involved?

While this is an option that you have available, and while using the Illinois Courts’ self-help forms can make sense in limited circumstances, this approach has various limitations (and risks) as well. For example:

  • You won’t know if you are addressing all relevant considerations. Spouses who try to handle their divorce on their own may overlook a variety of issues that require careful consideration during the divorce process.
  • You won’t know if you are overlooking viable options. Along with overlooking important considerations, spouses who try to handle their divorce on their own will also invariably end up overlooking viable options for protecting both of their best interests.
  • You are much more likely to leave issues unresolved. Spouses who pursue DIY divorces are also much more likely to leave issues unresolved. If this doesn’t lead to problems when they seek to finalize their divorce, it will almost certainly lead to problems in the future.

Schedule a Free, No-Obligation Consultation with Gurnee, IL Divorce Lawyer Deanna Bowen

Do you have questions about hiring a divorce lawyer in Illinois? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with Gurnee, IL divorce lawyer Deanna Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 today.