The Code of Ethics for Kentucky attorneys prohibits an attorney from representing two people with conflicting interests in a dispute. A divorce is most definitely a dispute in that it is by its very nature an adversarial proceeding.
There are times when a couple reaches an agreement directly with each other prior to contacting an attorney. One party will usually then take the step of actually hiring the attorney, however, the other party should not be under any dilution that the attorney represents both parties. When one party hires an attorney and the other spouse declines to do so, which is very common, the attorney that is hired cannot tell the other spouse whether the agreement is in his/her best interests. The other spouse should hire separate counsel to at least review the documents before they are signed to make sure that the spouse understands the agreement. This independent counsel can provide answers to possible legal effects of the divorce agreement, whether the agreement is even conscionable or legal, and make referrals for the spouse to financial advisers to discuss tax, retirement and health insurance ramifications.
If your spouse has filed for divorce or hired an attorney and told you that you do not need a lawyer, you would be wise to at least meet with a lawyer to ensure that you understand your legal rights. I often get asked whether an attorney is even needed for a divorce. Technically, the answer is "no," but then again you do not need a surgeon to amputate an injured leg. It just usually works out better if you do.
Photo courtesy of Brian Hawkins
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