By Rob Evans
Do you know why divorces are so expensive? Because they’re worth it.
All joking aside, getting divorced can be expensive, especially if both parties hire attorneys. The high cost of divorce has led spouses to look for ways to reduce legal fees. When a divorce is amicable and the parties have worked out most of the details of their case, they often ask if they can use the same divorce attorney to save money. Unfortunately, my answer is always the same: “for legal and ethical reasons, I cannot represent both spouses in a divorce.”
The Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit an attorney from representing both parties in a divorce. Iowa attorneys are required to zealously represent the best interests of their client, and when parties are divorcing, they always have competing interests. It is simply impossible for an attorney to represent the best interest of both parties in the same action – what benefits one party disadvantages the other party.
Don’t fret, there are cost-saving options. For example, we offer flat fee arrangements for spouses who agree on all issues and just need to make sure the documents filed with the court capture the terms of the agreement and will be approved by the judge.
Or, one spouse can hire an attorney to represent his or her interests, while the other spouse proceeds pro se. “Pro se” simply means that party is representing himself or herself. If the pro se party wants an attorney to look over any documents, they can hire that attorney specifically for that purpose, rather than to represent them in the entire action. This is called an unbundled package. Ultimately, this option saves money when the parties have already agreed on all or most terms.
Another cost-saving option is for both parties to proceed pro se. For those of you who choose this route, I strongly caution you to consider having your final agreement reviewed by an attorney. Divorce is a complicated process with lasting implications. Hopefully you will only do it once, and you want to make sure you do it right.
A final cost-saving option is mediation. In Iowa, most mediators are licensed attorneys who work unbiasedly with the parties to help them reach a resolution. Mediators cannot provide legal advice, but they can help the parties work through the legal issues so they can come to a final agreement. Since neither party is represented by an attorney, it would be wise to hire an attorney to review the final agreement to make sure your interests are protected. All family law attorneys are trained mediators.
Simply put, there are options available that will save the parties money throughout their divorce. We are happy to discuss whether any of these options can be customized for your situation. Call us at 245-4300.