Divorce is costly and heartbreaking. Most clients get stressed out, especially when having the dilemma of what to tell and not to tell their divorce lawyers. Finding a divorce attorney that best suits your needs can be a tiring task, especially when you are a meticulous client. You do not only hire a legal specialist but also a friend, a confidant, and a reliable advisor.
When hiring a divorce lawyer, you are protected by the attorney-client privilege. This means that whatever the client tells his/her attorney, the latter is not allowed to reveal it to the prosecutor or to anyone else. It would always be a one-on-one subject matter. And even if you are guilty, your lawyer is paid to defend you at trial.
“You see nothing, hear nothing, and forget everything.” That is how legal practitioners ride and survive in the legal business. Still, some divorce clients find it difficult to disclose very personal issues because it might be embarrassing on their part. They are quite sensitive about their privacy. However, you should know that setting boundaries and too much confidentiality with your divorce attorney might actually ruin your case.
Identify Issues to Discuss
Your lawyer will help you out with this. During the first meeting, your attorney will discuss important issues about child custody and child support, division of the marital estate and spousal support, any separate property claims and community debts, and your expectations about the likely outcome of the case. Major matters will also be reviewed including eligibility of your spouse for spousal maintenance and the division of your community estate.
In your discussions, you have to make sure that everything would be in your favor. Do not miss out on significant details such as the possibility of having a larger community share, health issues, disability, separation of property, and spousal abuse (if it ever occurred). Take suggestions also on the standard visitation of your children, who is likely to be responsible for paying child support, and how much that might be.
As you go along a series of appointments, your divorce lawyer will be asking you deeper and more personal questions that are necessary for the case. It is essential for you to not fret. All you have to do is to answer them honestly and trust that this is all for your welfare and protection.
Disclose All Relevant Information
Revealing important details to your divorce attorney will serve as the heart of the case. It will help him get a better understanding of the nature of your divorce and come prepared to trial. If you are having second thoughts on what is relevant or not, do not hesitate to get guidance from your lawyer.
To give you an initial hint on what to disclose with your attorney, you may think about whether there were personal affairs or threats in your relationship. You may also recall if one of you has been financially dishonest or has been totally rude towards the other by posting over-fragmented stories about your divorce on social media. Serious matters may also involve domestic violence, child neglect, and physical or verbal abuse between you and your spouse.
It may be uncomfortable to share all this information with your divorce lawyer. However, you must remember that it would be for your benefit and your divorce attorney will be able to defend you well if you put your trust in him. Legal specialists are already experienced in similar situations and are well-equipped to protect your information.
Share Sensitive Facts
The only way to get rid of thoughts that have long been haunting you is to let them go. Talk to your lawyer, confide in them, and unmask everything. It is utterly terrible to be hiding in the dark, so shed light not only on yourself but also to your attorney.
If you are the one who has been constantly cheating in your relationship or if you have ever abused your child, spill it all out. Moreover, if you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease or have hidden assets, tell your divorce lawyer. No matter how you try to hide it, a well-resourced legal practitioner will always look for damaging facts and suspicions to get through with each case. If you keep on hiding secrets with your divorce attorney, your spouse might use them against you and it will undermine the legal argument. By then, your lawyer will not be able to handle the complications during the series of mediation and negotiation with your would-be-ex-partner.
Really, it does not matter who is on the good side or on the bad. In your case, you are always the star – the one who needs to be saved. And your attorney is your top ally, the one who got your back on and off the court. Remember, you are both working towards the same goal – securing the best possible outcome for your divorce.
Create a Written Marriage Timeline
It is vital to trace the history of your relationship – starting to the day when you first met your spouse until the time you got married and had kids. Include also both of your education and your work. Let your divorce lawyer know how you and your partner formerly treated each other, what were your common misunderstandings, and how do you discipline your kids. You may also share family roles and how you usually solve relationship and family issues.
More so, you can dash back to the time when one of you has first cheated (if it ever happened in your relationship). Tell your divorce attorney how did you overcome that problem and how often did it happen again since that very first time. You can also disclose when did your marriage started to become abusive and when did the two of you start to be distant from each other.
Presenting your marriage timeline to your lawyer might be heartbreakingly nostalgic and mind-blowing, but it would be a great source for him to fully analyze the relationship and its breakdown. To your advantage, it would also give your attorney an idea of the major assets you and your spouse own and any property that one of you claims to be separate.
Never Say These Things
As much as you would want to openly chat with your attorney, there are some things you should not say to him. Do not tell a divorce lawyer that you do not care about costs or will never pay child support to your ex-spouse. This sentiment arises from an archaic viewpoint. Marriage is now generally viewed as a co-equal partnership between spouses with each spouse having an interest in the income and assets acquired by both partners during the marriage.
Also, it is not good to babble about how your partner has been irresponsible in your marriage and that you want to punish him for that. All divorce cases must have a “no-fault” approach. The court will not hear or consider complaints about who is at fault for the demise of the marriage or one party’s bad character or behavior. The divorce judge will brand the party raising such claims as an emotionally scarred spouse with a vendetta against their soon-to-be-ex.
Lastly, never bring a friend with you during your appointments with your divorce attorney. Bringing a friend to the meetings may destroy the attorney-client privilege. Be patient and be objective. Being in a hurry will put you at a disadvantage and may increase the cost of your divorce.
The Bottom Line
Full disclosure is not always in your best interest, but when it comes to discussing your divorce case with your lawyer, you should always tell the complete truth. Sure, you might not be an open book and is a person who highly values privacy. But in divorce cases, being secretive and limiting the sharing of information might be destructive. It will only make situations worse. It would also be difficult for your attorney to protect you if he is ignorant of relevant and sensitive facts about you.
Before you decide to withhold information from your divorce lawyer, make sure you know how failing to disclose key information could harm your case and your future in the long run. Hence, when you hire a divorce attorney, it is imperative that you see him as an ally – a friend, a confidant, and a reliable advisor.
Telling your lawyer everything is just like confessing to a priest or asking for guidance from a counselor – you might think that it is embarrassing and are afraid that they will gossip about you after the conversation. But the truth is NO. Legal specialists live up to this principle: “What you see, leave it here. What you hear, leave it here.” Nothing is personal, everything is just pure business.