During divorce, people worry about the invasion into their private lives over the course of their divorce case. People worry that arguments will get rehashed, that past or current relationships might be revealed, or that mistakes they’ve made will come back to haunt them. We as family law lawyers have heard no shortage of sordid tales that led our clients to our offices. Our job is not to judge you but to determine how to minimize the effects of your past mistakes.
If you’re going through a divorce, it’s critical that you let your lawyer know everything about your situation that might be brought up by the other side in the attempt to paint an unflattering picture of you. The dirty deeds will surface; it is much easier to control the effects as long as I know about them.
With full disclosure from the client, I can prepare an argument or strategy to get past those and get to what really matters in your case. When those “bad facts” exist, and they come up as surprises in litigation, it is more challenging to overcome or counteract the effect they have on your case.
Most commonly, this happens because people are embarrassed about some past or ongoing actions, and don’t want to bring them up. Sometimes, a client will bring a relative or friend for support when meeting with me and won’t want to say anything in front of that person. Other times, the client does not want me to think badly of him or her for having an affair, looking through a spouse’s phone, or taking other action that might be perceived as embarrassing.
In divorce, though, you want your lawyer to be in the best possible position to get you the best outcome possible. To do that, your lawyer must be prepared and armed with as much information about your case as possible, and without being completely candid with your lawyer, that can’t happen. I am unable to confront “bad facts” of which I am not aware.
When a client first meets with me, I do an interview that helps me to understand the specifics of that case. I specifically seek to bring out what he or she has done and what he or she thinks his or her spouse might try to bring up in a case. Often times, something that a client fears is a big deal isn’t likely to affect the case as adversely as the client anticipates (or even at all). But I can’t give a client that reassurance if I don’t know about the prior misdeeds worrying that client.
So, as judges say when they swear someone in on the witness stand, tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when you’re talking to your lawyer. Avail yourself of the protection of attorney-client privilege. Being candid at the outset will help you in the long run by avoiding expensive damage control.