The Requirement of Separate Legal Counsel in New Jersey Divorce Proceedings

The Requirement of Separate Legal Counsel in New Jersey Divorce ProceedingsThough many divorce proceedings can be contentious, it’s not uncommon for married parties to terminate their relationship amicably. Because a divorce proceeding can be costly, there may be a desire minimize expenses by hiring a single attorney to handle all the details. In New Jersey, that is not permissible.

Under the ethical rules in New Jersey, it is considered an inherent conflict of interest for an attorney to represent both sides in a divorce proceeding. Even where parties appear to be in agreement, there’s a concern that one party might unduly influence the other or engage in misrepresentation. Furthermore, it’s often the case that what is in the best interests of one party is not in the best interests of the other party. For example, when establishing child support, the custodial parent has a vested interest in receiving more support, whereas the non-custodial parent may seek to minimize payments. An attorney representing both sides simultaneously cannot properly advocate for both parties.

In some cases, though, an attorney may draft a divorce settlement that affects both parties. If the parties go to a mediator or work out an agreement on their own, then one of them may take the terms of that agreement to a single attorney to draft the document. Typically, the attorney will send the draft agreement to the other spouse, advising that they have it reviewed by separate legal counsel. If the other party fails to respond or indicates no objection to the terms of the agreement, the attorney typically notes that fact in the agreement. The agreement is then submitted to the court and becomes the basis for a divorce decree.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help. For a private meeting, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M