When divorcing spouses are at odds, they will each need to hire a lawyer to guide them through the divorce process. Each spouse will need legal advice that is tailored to his or her individual circumstances, and each spouse will need to rely on the advice of a lawyer who has his or her best interests in mind.

But, what about when divorcing spouses aren’t at odds? If you and your spouse are on the same page, can you both work with the same lawyer to formalize the terms of your divorce?

Technically speaking, this is an option—and in certain circumstances, it can even make sense. But, these circumstances are relatively rare (and are usually reserved for cases involving short marriages with no children and minimal assets). If you and your spouse have been married for a long time, if you have children, if you have accumulated significant assets, or if you and your spouse have a significant disparity in earning power, these are all factors that will make it important to hire your own lawyer to guide you forward.

Why Do We Each Need Our Own Lawyer if We Are on the Same Page About Our Divorce?

Why do you and your spouse each need your own divorce lawyer if you are on the same page? Here are five reasons why it is important to have your own lawyer during your divorce:

1. A Lawyer Who is Providing Joint Representation Will Be Limited in the Advice He or She Can Provide

First, and most importantly, a lawyer who is providing joint representation will be limited in the advice he or she can provide. A lawyer who represents you (and you alone) can provide advice based on your best interests, but a lawyer who represents you and your spouse must represent you equally. This means that your lawyer won’t be able to provide recommendations that are in your best interests if they aren’t also in the best interests of your spouse. While arriving at a mutually beneficial outcome is the ultimate goal, getting there should be an iterative process that involves fully exploring both parties’ best interests while putting all options on the table.

2. You Need an Advisor and an Advocate

When going through a divorce, your lawyer isn’t just your advisor. Your lawyer is also your advocate—or, at least that’s how it should be. During a divorce, one of the key roles a divorce lawyer plays is representing his or her client’s interests in discussions and negotiations. Divorces involve complex legal issues, and you need someone on your side who can help you effectively articulate your goals, wishes, and concerns. If you and your spouse have the same lawyer, your lawyer won’t be able to fulfill this role due to the ethical responsibilities that he or she owes to your spouse.

3. It Is Important to Have the Opportunity to Discuss Divorce-Related Concerns in Confidence

Even if you and your spouse are on the same page, it is important to have the opportunity to discuss your divorce-related concerns in confidence. You need to be able to explore ideas and opportunities openly with someone who can help you understand the relevant legal considerations and make informed decisions. If you and your spouse have the same lawyer, this won’t necessarily be the case. Your joint lawyer may have an obligation to share the subject matter of your discussions with your spouse; or, your joint lawyer may recommend not having these conversations so that confidentiality doesn’t become a concern.

4. Working With the Same Lawyer Can Limit the Options that Are on the Table

Due to the fact that lawyers who are providing joint representation are limited in the advice they can provide, working with the same lawyer can actually limit the options that are on the table. For example, let’s say you and your spouse are generally on the same page regarding parenting time, but you have different opinions about how to handle birthdays and holidays. If you and your spouse have the same lawyer, your lawyer will only be able to offer suggestions that he or she thinks represent a reasonable middle ground.

But, if you and your spouse each have your own divorce lawyer, your respective lawyers will each offer suggestions that reflect your respective goals and wishes. With these additional insights, you can come together and work with your lawyers to find a mutually agreeable resolution. Rather than starting from a middle ground, you can expand your discussion, and this will help ensure that you and your spouse choose the option that is truly the best for your individual and family circumstances.

5. You and Your Spouse Might Not Fully Be on the Same Page

Finally, while you and your spouse might think you are completely on the same page, this might not actually be the case. If you have overlooked issues during your initial divorce discussions (which is not uncommon), you won’t know whether you are fully on the same page or not. If it turns out that you and your spouse have differences that you had not previously acknowledged, you will want to be able to rely on the advice and advocacy of a lawyer who is representing you (and you alone). With joint representation, this isn’t an option.

Many divorcing couples are interested in hiring the same lawyer because they assume that this will reduce the costs of going through the divorce process. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Along with the concerns we discussed above, if it turns out that you and your spouse cannot reach a complete agreement on the terms of your divorce, you will each need to hire a new lawyer for your next steps.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation with Divorce Lawyer Deanna J. Bowen

If you have more questions about the divorce process in Illinois, we invite you to get in touch. To schedule an appointment with Gurnee divorce lawyer Deanna J. Bowen, please call 847-623-4002 or request a free consultation online today.