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It is an ethical issue and places the firm in a bad position. When you talk to an attorney and have a question, you have an absolute right to know what is in your best interest and it is our obligation to give you an honest answer. What you do with the information is up to you but, again, we must give it to you. If your spouse has a question, he or she has the same right and his or her attorney has the same obligation. To do anything less would be a violation of an attorney's ethical responsibility. I have no problem when a client wants to take less or is getting more than they are entitled to for whatever reason. And if a spouse decides not to see an attorney, I cannot require it. But we cannot represent both parties and can only really talk to the person who consults with us.
I understand how people are confused. There are a couple methods that I know about to take the court battles out of the mix. But that does not necessarily remove the attorneys. There is the collaborative law process. That is where the parties sign an agreement to openly and honestly negotiate a settlement and agree to keep the case out of court. The parties and their attorneys meet to discuss the issues and develop solutions together.
Another method of proceeding through a divorce is mediation. The parties meet with a mediator to negotiate a resolution. Again, they agree to be open and work together. Once the parties come up with an agreement, the mediator reduces it to writing and gives them copies to discuss with their attorneys.
At least this is what I know about these two method. I feel it important to say I'm not trained or certified in either of these methods and I've explained the extent of my knowledge. The bottom-line is, as I understand it, parties still have separate legal counsel if they want representation even in the most cooperative processes.
We welcome people who want to work things out without the need of a court battle. For ethical reasons, we cannot represent or even appear to represent both parties to a divorce. It is a good thing if you are looking for an attorney to work with you, your spouse, and spouse's attorney in an open and respectful way.