by Dorothy Ripka of Cordell & Cordell, P.C.
This case is uncontested. We are using one attorney. My wife hired him.
First things first, an attorney can ethically only represent one person in a divorce. One person retains the attorney, and is therefore entitled to the benefit of legal advice on divorce. If your wife hires the attorney, then the attorney only owes an ethical obligation to her. This attorney's obligation is to advise her of the positives and negatives and even the unknowns of the agreement that the two of you may or may not have. She will receive the benefit of this advice, not you.
Then her attorney will draft all of the documentation, including the Petition, the waiver of service and the Final Decree of Divorce. Her attorney will explain the legal implications of all of these documents to her. Her attorney will make drafting choices that protect her and not you. Again, she is receiving the benefit of the legal representation.
This is not to say every case should be complex and parties should not make agreements. Quite the contrary, if parties can amicably divorce, then most likely they will be better co-parents and have a happier and healthier post-divorce relationship. However, you need to understand what you are giving up by not getting your own attorney. You will not be on equal footing with your wife in this circumstance.
Just because you hire an attorney, does not mean that the case is now contested. You have the right to understand the rights and duties that you are becoming obligated to under the Court’s Order. Once you understand, and an attorney has explained too you all of the risks and benefits of the agreement, then you can sign off an agreement with your spouse. An attorney will make suggestions to you of ways to improve the agreement or to protect yourself from things that you have not considered. That is his or her job, to protect your best interests.
Remember if there is only one attorney, then only one person’s best interests are being protected.
Dorothy Walsh Ripka is the Team Leader of the Cordell & Cordell, P.C. offices in Dallas, Fort Worth and Memphis. Ms. Ripka is a seasoned attorney who has devoted her practice exclusively to domestic relations. She is licensed to practice law in Texas, Missouri and Illinois.
Read more about Dorothy Ripka.