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    A new model to resolve conflicts resulting from divorce or separation

    The “one lawyer, one couple” model is a recent solution aimed at helping couples peacefully resolve conflicts resulting from divorce or separation. Couples often dread the division and entrenchment that can result when each hires their own lawyer.

    Having two lawyers also means that the couple must bear the cost of two sets of legal fees. Beyond the cost advantage, there is a growing trend towards utilizing less confrontational methods to reach an agreement without going to court.

    Many couples who are willing to sit down and discuss issues with a mediator or their collaborative lawyers, have difficulty comprehending why one lawyer can’t advise both of them. Fortunately, this is now possible in some situations.

    When is “one lawyer, one couple” appropriate?

    The “one lawyer, one couple” approach may be appropriate for couples seeking to amicably resolve differences during a divorce or separation. However, the suitability of this model depends on various factors such as the common interest and agreement of both parties to use one lawyer, transparency and willingness to share information, and the absence of trust issues, domestic violence, or mental health and addiction concerns.

    Before advising a couple jointly, the lawyer must conduct separate interviews to assess their suitability and ensure there is no conflict of interest. The lawyer should be impartial and not have previously represented either party or their businesses and close family members.

    In cases of domestic violence, coercive control, or mental health or addiction concerns, the couple should seek separate legal advice to ensure their safety and well-being. If the couple is deemed suitable for the “one lawyer, one couple” approach, they will provide information to their shared lawyer and must maintain transparency and openness throughout the process.

    The “one lawyer, one couple” process differs in several ways:

    • The lawyer acts as a mediator, helping both parties to share and scrutinize their information, instead of representing just one party.
    • They may need to consult impartial experts, such as accountants or actuaries, to gather information that will inform their advice.
    • The lawyer formulates advice based on all available information and presents the couple with a range of settlement options.
    • Unlike a judge, the lawyer cannot impose a decision, but offers joint advice to help the couple make a mutual agreement. In case of disagreement, the lawyer can provide additional neutral advice or refer them to a private judge for evaluation.
    • If either party desires a second opinion, they may seek the advice of their own separate lawyer. If they choose to continue with the joint process, they may do so, otherwise, the joint instruction will end.

    The answer to high divorce costs?

    This model gives the couple control over decision-making. They will save on legal fees by only paying for one lawyer instead of two, as the jointly instructed lawyer will perform the tasks typically shared between two lawyers in the traditional model. The fees for the single lawyer may be higher than for one-party representation, but will still be lower than the combined fees charged by two separate lawyers. In today’s uncertain financial climate, the opportunity to save on legal fees while participating in a more self-directed process is likely to appeal to the right couple.

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