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Louden Law, PLLC Blog

September 2021

Can Both Parties in a Divorce Use the Same Attorney?

I have been a divorce and family law attorney for nearly a quarter of a century. As a result, I get calls from people with all sorts of Oklahoma divorce and family law questions. One scenario I hear often involves both parties in a divorce matter visiting an attorney (or even worse, a paralegal) who promises to help them do a quick and cheap divorce. I will explain why you should avoid such schemes.

Although I have framed this in the context of a divorce case, everything I write here will equally apply to any other proceedings such as paternity, custody, visitation, and child support cases. So, before you and your opposing party decide to meet with an attorney together, you must first understand how this works.

CAN BOTH PARTIES IN A DIVORCE USE THE SAME ATTORNEY?
Pete D. Louden

If there an attorney is involved, that attorney represents one person or the other. There is simply no way around this fact. The attorney is either his attorney or her attorney. There is no such thing as "our" attorney in an adversarial proceeding.

If you and your spouse meet with an attorney and you are unsure which one of you the attorney is representing, that means you are not the client. So, why is this an issue if you agree on everything? Because that attorney is not trying to protect your legal interest or ensure you get a fair deal. That attorney cannot answer your legal questions or give you legal advice. Instead, that attorney is ethically obligated to represent their client's best interest. So, if you are not the client, this means the attorney is looking out for the other party, not you.

Here is the bottom line: There is no legitimate way for one attorney to give legal advice to or represent both the Petitioner and the Respondent in a divorce case. You each need your own attorney, even in straightforward uncontested matters. Don't give in to the temptation to cut corners.



Oklahoma Fathers' Rights in Paternity Cases 

In Oklahoma, when a child is born to parents that are not married, the law recognizes the Mother as the custodial parent, at least until a district court orders otherwise. Even when the Father is listed on the child's birth certificate. 10 O.S. § 7800.

I see two common scenarios involving paternity cases. The first example is the Father, who has relatively consistent contact with the child or even lived together as a family but never married. Things may be fine for a while, but they are denied contact when there is a disagreement with the other parent. The second example is the Father who has been denied all contact with the child. Although the cases are factually different, they both land in the same place, not having access to the child.

Father and Son Image

The good news is that a Father can establish his rights and obtain an enforceable court order. However, it is up to him to initiate legal proceedings to make this happen. The first step in this process is to establish paternity.  Establishing paternity can be accomplished by signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (most people refer to this as signing the birth certificate,) or genetic testing can establish paternity.

After paternity is established, the next step to solidify an Oklahoma Father's rights is to request an Initial Child Custody Determination. Then, the court will establish custody and visitation based on what the court believes to be in the child's best interest. Once there is a court order in place, that order can be enforced. The Father is no longer at the mercy of the other parent begging to spend time with the child.

Every case is different and dependent upon the specific circumstances. For example, in a case where the parents have lived together, and both actively raised a child, the starting point for a visitation order will be much different from a case where the Father has had only limited contact with the child.

It is even possible for a Father to be awarded custody or joint custody in the right circumstances. Whatever the starting point, the court is tasked with acting in the child's best interest. A child is entitled to having two involved parents, and the courts will support this. The key is that the Father must take the proper legal steps to make this happen.

Talk to us to learn more about fathers rights in Oklahoma.


RECENT POSTS

Can Both Parties in a Divorce Use the Same Attorney?

Oklahoma Fathers' Rights in Paternity Cases

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