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Can my spouse and I share the same divorce lawyer in NH?

Couples getting a divorce often want to avoid a lengthy, expensive, and contentious process. One idea people often have is to share an attorney. If it is uncontested, why would you need your own attorney anyway? Don’t you only need one person to draft the documents?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Not only is sharing an attorney prohibited by ethical rules, but having your own attorney is important to protecting your interests throughout the divorce process.

The Legal Answer: Conflict of Interest

The Rules of Professional Conduct, which all attorneys must follow, prohibit an attorney from representing two clients who have adverse interests. Even when the couple agrees on how to move forward, they are still opposing parties in the divorce. An attorney’s job is to advise a client of their rights and advocate for their interests. One attorney representing opposing parties can’t advocate for both at the same time. Even when both parties agree on something, an attorney may have a duty to advise one or both that the agreement is inconsistent with applicable law or not in that person’s interest.

Why It’s Important to Have an Advocate for Your Interests

Having your own attorney protects your interests throughout a divorce. Even if you and your spouse have shared goals, you could run into conflict along the way as you discuss sensitive subjects, such as money and children. Having your own attorney is important so they can advise you of your rights, advocate for you, and ensure that you are set up for success in your life after the divorce.

Your attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and assist you on issues such as:

Alternative Options for an Amicable Divorce

Even with separate attorneys advocating for individual interests, divorce does not have to be a contentious process. There are many options for spouses to come to resolutions together. These can include the Collaborative Divorce Process, or Mediation.

New Hampshire has a Collaborative Divorce Process that encourages spouses to come to out-of-court agreements. The process may include a Coach who is a mental health professional, a Financial Neutral who is a certified financial advisor, the couple, and an attorney for each spouse. The group commits to a series of meetings where they collaborate to discuss creative solutions that allow both parties to achieve their goals. Everyone signs an agreement committing to the process, and agreeing that if they do not settle, the attorneys cannot then represent their clients in court. The Coach facilitates respectful conversations, while the Financial Neutral provides expert analysis on each spouse’s financial future to ensure the end agreement is sustainable.

Spouses can also choose to attend Mediation. Private mediators can be hired by a couple to facilitate conversations and assist them coming to agreements to avoid the court process. Even if a spouse files a Petition for Divorce, starting the process in the court, a court-appointed mediator may be assigned to mediate with the couple before any court intervention.

Hiring an Attorney Doesn’t Mean a Contentious Divorce

Hearing your spouse hired an attorney can feel like an attack. You may also feel guilty talking to one yourself. However, having attorneys involved can often limit conflict. Attorneys know the divorce process, and they know the laws that will apply to the couple. An attorney can often limit unrealistic expectations and use their experience to propose solutions they have seen work for past clients. When there are two attorneys involved, they are able to negotiate outside of formal mediation to speed up the process and come to agreements between the parties.

It is important to have a knowledgeable divorce attorney on your side, who will work to understand your goals and guide you through the divorce process in a manner that fits those goals. If you’ve been considering a divorce and would like to discuss your options, we welcome you to contact Shaheen & Gordon’s highly experienced family law team.

Julianne Plourde is an attorney with Shaheen & Gordon. She has a passion for supporting families through times of conflict and is trained in Collaborative Divorce, an out-of-court divorce process that relies on negotiation.