Often, we have potential clients inquire or assume that families can share the same attorney in certain cases. However, it’s important to note that Petrelli Previerta does not provide this service for divorce or pre-nuptial agreements, even if allowed by your state. Furthermore, we do not recommend it for most family law cases. This arrangement is known as joint representation or dual representation.
Representing Our Client’s Best Interests
In Maryland, as in most states, an attorney is ethically bound to represent the best interests of their client. In a divorce case, spouses often have conflicting interests, which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a single attorney to effectively represent both parties. The Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from representing a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if “the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client.” Thus, even if the divorcing couple initially agrees on all matters, if a disagreement arises, the attorney could be placed in a conflict of interest, potentially compromising the ethical integrity of their practice. For this reason, sharing an attorney in divorce cases in Maryland is typically not feasible, and separate legal representation is often the most beneficial and ethical approach.
Prenuptial agreements are another area where separate legal representation is typically necessary. A prenuptial agreement, or ‘prenup’, is a contract entered into by a couple before they get married or enter into a civil partnership, stipulating how their assets, debts, and other financial matters would be divided if their relationship ended. In Maryland, for a prenup to be valid, each party must have had the opportunity to obtain independent legal advice before signing. If both parties share the same attorney, it could raise questions about the fairness and validity of the agreement, and potentially lead to the agreement being contested or invalidated if the marriage ends. Therefore, each party having their own attorney in the drafting and signing a prenuptial agreement can ensure that their individual interests are protected and that the agreement stands up in court if needed.
Individual Legal Representation
While it may seem like a cost-effective option, there are several potential issues and conflicts of interest that can arise if a couple is sharing an attorney with their soon-to-be ex-spouse. These include:
- Conflicting interests: In a divorce case, each party may have different goals and desired outcomes. The attorney must advocate for the client’s best interests. Still, when representing both parties, it can become difficult without one party feeling like they are not being fully represented.
- Communication breakdown: When sharing an attorney, it can be challenging for both parties to communicate effectively with their lawyer. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications that can negatively impact the case.
- Lack of confidentiality: When sharing an attorney, there is no guarantee of complete confidentiality. Information shared between one party and their attorney may need to be disclosed to the other party if it becomes relevant to the case.
- Limited legal advice: With joint representation, the attorney’s role is limited in providing legal advice to both parties. This can be especially problematic if one party has a more complex case or needs specific legal guidance.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended to have separate legal representation in a family law case. This allows each party to have an advocate who can fully and confidentially represent their best interests. It also helps to minimize conflicts and communication breakdowns, leading to a smoother and more efficient resolution of the case.
While Petrelli Previerta does not offer joint representation services, we are here to guide you in finding the best legal representation. At our firm, we strictly work with one side of the equation to align with our ethical standards and provide our clients with the best possible representation. An attorney can only represent one side of the case to ensure zealous advocacy.