It would be a conflict of interest and contrary to Rules of Professional Conduct for one lawyer to represent both spouses in a separation or divorce case.
There is no requirement under Ontario law for either you or your spouse to be represented by a lawyer in a separation or divorce case. Each person is entitled to represent himself or herself. However, negotiating a separation agreement and/or going to court when you are not an expert in family law can prove to be extremely costly. There’s an old saying that only a fool has himself or herself as a client when going to court, and there is considerable truth in that saying. At the very least, you and your spouse should each have independent legal advice before finalizing any agreement between the two of you. Again, although this is not necessarily a legal requirement under Ontario law, each party getting independent legal advice is the smart thing to do, and it can help avoid mistakes that could cost you upwards of tens of thousands of dollars in the future.
If you are successful in court, the judge may award you costs against your spouse. The extent of the cost award will depend on many things, the most important of which usually is whether you made your spouse an offer to settle early on in the process and whether your success in court exceeds what you would have received had your spouse accepted that offer. The extent of the recover can also depend on whether you took any steps in the proceeding that lengthened or complicated matters.
Under certain circumstances, you are allowed to deduct all or a portion of your legal fees and disbursements from your income taxes. For example, fees associated with pursuing a spousal support award can be tax deductible. Contact one of our lawyers if you have specific questions, or speak to your accountant.
Zeidman Law Office provides its clients with guidelines you can use to keep your legal costs to a minimum. Some useful tips from our guidelines include the following:
- prepare for telephone calls and meetings with your lawyer by reviewing your file and having all documents and information handy
- when providing documents to your lawyer, make sure you have organized them first instead of paying for the law clerk to do it
- focus on the legal issues when you are speaking with your lawyer; although other issues can be discussed, that’s not what you’re really paying for
- provide your lawyer with the information he or she requests promptly
- don’t make unnecessary calls to your lawyer or send numerous emails
- don’t repeat information to your lawyer unless asked to do so