Separation and Divorce: Can My Spouse and I Use One Lawyer?

June 21, 2013
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

Most of the time, marriages break down under very acrimonious circumstances:  the couple has difficulty even being in the same room together, let alone hammering out a deal and agreeing on how to move the matter towards a divorce.   If you and your spouse are in this typical scenario, it is obvious that you will each need your own lawyer, so that you get separate legal advice and representation.

But what if your split is amicable?  Can you and your spouse use a single lawyer to represent both of you?

Unfortunately – and even in the most amicable of divorces — this is not wise.

It may be tempting to ask a single lawyer to act for both of you, for example to draft a straightforward separation agreement, the terms of which you and your spouse have discussed and agreed to on your own.    But reaching an agreement merely means you have compromised on specific issues – your respective rights, positions and legal interests remain diametrically opposed.  And there is still ample potential for conflict on any matters you may have overlooked.   The potential for conflict exists in connection with how the negotiated agreement is to be implemented; it is virtually guaranteed to arise if one of you later refuses to abide by the terms of the agreement you have reached.

(Note that while the Rules of Professional Conduct which governs Ontario lawyers expressly prevents any lawyer from advising or representing more than one side of a dispute, they technically do not prevent a lawyer from acting on both sides where there is no actual dispute, e.g. where the parties have agreed to the terms of a separation agreement.  Still, a good and experienced lawyer will turn down this kind of retainer, because the potential for conflict is high, and because he or she would likely be unable to adequately protect the interests of both clients in this kind of scenario).

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide tailored,  practical advice and effective representation in connection with separation and divorce, child custody and support, cohabitation and separation agreements, family mediation, and all other areas of Ontario Family Law.  Contact us to set up a consultation.