Aug 21

Can an attorney represent more than one person in a family law case?

Whether the case involves a divorce or another type of family law matter, an attorney can represent only one person. You may believe that you have agreed or will agree on how all of the issues will be resolved including, for instance, property division, custody, and support in a divorce action. Given the issues involved, however, there is always the potential for conflict. As long as there is the potential for conflict, an attorney can represent only one of the people involved.
An attorney owes undivided loyalty to his or her client, which is why an attorney can represent only one person in a family law case. What does this mean for you? The attorney you retain would provide legal advice only to you. Your attorney would work with you to develop and draft proposals to settle the case, prepare for mediation if appropriate, or prepare for trial if settlement is not possible.
If you retain an attorney and the other person does not, he or she is referred to in Wisconsin as a pro se litigant. A pro se litigant is someone who acts as his or her own attorney. Cases have and do proceed when only one party is represented by an attorney and the other represents him or herself. While the attorney you retain would not provide legal advice to the pro se litigant, he or she would interact with that person by sending and responding to correspondence regarding issues in the case, proposing and responding to settlement proposals, and discussing general process issues.
Legal issues can be complex. Even if you ultimately decide to proceed without an attorney, it is always advisable to talk about your particular situation with an attorney who practices in the area of family law and is familiar with family law issues so that you can learn how the law applies to your unique situation.