When entering a divorce where you and your spouse are amicable or wishing to keep costs low, you may desire to use a single attorney to conclude your divorce case. However, in the State of Florida one attorney is not allowed to represent both spouses in a single divorce proceeding. Discuss the desire of using one attorney with your Orlando Divorce Attorney and they can explain the resulting conflict of interest that arises when one attorney represents both parties in a divorce action.
Under Florida Rules of Professional Responsibility 4-1.7, a conflict of interest arises for an attorney when they are representing clients with adverse interest. “A lawyer must not represent a client if the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or there is a substantial risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.” Although, you may believe that you and your spouse are on the same page and desire the same equitable result, there are times when your interest may conflict. For instance, if you wish to receive an alimony award of $3000 per month, your attorney will argue for this $3000 award. However, it may not be in your spouse’s best interest to agree to such an award because of statutory factors, and their attorney would need to advise them of this. Therefore, adverse interest would arise, resulting in conflicting desires and arguments held by a single attorney. This double representation would inevitably hinder your attorney’s ability to provide full and adequate representation of you or your spouse and therefore is prohibited under Florida rules.
Further, under the rules, client conflicts may be waived by each client, if done so with informed written consent, under certain circumstances. However, a divorce proceeding where the attorney is representing both spouses will not fall within these confines. Waiver of conflicts may only be done if “the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client; the representation is not prohibited by law; [and] the representation does not involve the assertion of a position adverse to another client when the lawyer represents both clients in the same proceeding before a tribunal.” No reasonable lawyer would be able to claim their competency and diligence in this matter would not be hindered by representing two spouses in a divorce proceeding. Once again, it is inevitable that issues will arise and one party will need specific advice that may be adverse to the desires of another party. Further, divorce almost always requires an assertion of a position adverse to the other party. Therefore, this conflict is not waivable by the parties, even if so desired.
Representing both you and your spouse in a dissolution of marriage action is considered a conflict of interest that may not be waived. It is in your best interest to employ the assistance of your own Orlando Divorce Attorney to ensure you are properly informed and protected during this process. Do not let a spouse or the desire to save money keep you from getting adequate and necessary representation during these difficult times.
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