Why One Lawyer Can’t Represent Both People?

By Sara Ross

Though divorce means the end of a marriage, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a relationship. Many people transitioning out of marriage will be co-parents (and maybe co-grandparents) for the rest of their lives. Other couples who don’t have children may still have a lot of respect for each other and plan to remain friends. When you find yourself in this spot – your marriage is coming to an end but you still care about and work well with your soon-to-be former spouse – you may find yourself wondering: can we just get one lawyer to help us both?

That’s a reasonable and thoughtful question. Maybe you’re asking it because you’re hoping to keep costs down and one source of legal advice seems like enough. Maybe you’re concerned that bringing two lawyers on board will result in more arguing. Whatever prompts you to wonder about the possibility of hiring one lawyer for two people, you’re not alone in raising the question. It comes up all the time.

Each Lawyer Has a Strict Duty of Loyalty to Their Client

The answer, for better or worse, is: no, a single lawyer cannot represent both of you. Each lawyer has a strict duty of loyalty solely their client. It’s not possible to maintain that loyalty to each spouse at the same time, as that would create a conflict of interest.

Though you and your spouse may be amicable and in agreement on many things, the fact that you’re working through a divorce means you necessarily have competing legal interests.    This may not result in much actual conflict or significant dispute, but it’s enough to disqualify any one lawyer from representing both of you at the same time.

That said, hiring two separate lawyers doesn’t have to mean a descent into battle. In fact, cases often resolve more quickly when two problem-solving oriented lawyers are involved. Each of you can get the legal advice and support you need to make informed and wise decisions, and the lawyers can work together to help you build creative solutions.