What Zealous Advocacy Means In Divorce Law

Law Blog

Every attorney has an obligation to serve the interests and protect the rights of their client. This includes an obligation to be what is called a zealous advocate. Particularly when dealing with divorce cases, it can leave clients with some questions about the implications of zealous advocacy.

Who an Attorney Represents

This is the biggest implication in a divorce case. People often wonder, especially in uncontested cases, whether a single divorce lawyer can advise both parties. By law, this is not allowed because an attorney must singularly represent the interest of their clients. You can't be a zealous advocate for one person and then provide any advice to the individual on the opposite side of the case.

Yes, hiring a divorce lawyer can be expensive. That doesn't change the fact that both sides should seriously consider retaining counsel before negotiating anything. In fact, anyone who comes to a conference or hearing without a lawyer is going to be asked multiple times on the record to affirm that they've chosen to show up without representation.

So a Lawyer Must Go on the Warpath, Right?

Nope. While the idea of being zealous might sound appealing to someone who wants to turn a divorce into an all-out war, it doesn't work that way.

First, it's a divorce lawyer's job to tell you what's in your best interests. If they feel that moving quickly toward signing an agreement is in your best interests, it's their responsibility to tell you as much. Also, it's rarely realistic to think that ending up in front of a judge is going to accomplish more than just accruing lawyer's fees.

Second, for the last few decades, the American divorce system hasn't really allowed taking the other party to the cleaners, so to speak. The vast majority of cases are going to be no-fault divorces, and that means almost everything, including alimony, child support, the division of property and child custody issues, will be handled using a formula. While there's some room to present an argument that certain property was obtained prior to the marriage, most property from your marriage is going to be divided up based on your state's formulas.

Finally, there are potential mitigating factors due to family law. In particular, if there is a child involved, the family legal system prioritizes the kid's best interests. This means almost no one benefits from making a fight out of things, and playing nice is a good way to keep the court happy.


30 December 2019