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In both divorce and custody cases, a lot of dirty laundry can be aired, and a lot of closets can be open to reveal the skeletons within. When you’re married to someone, you learn a lot about them, and it’s very possible that your bad traits, failings, and worst moments make it into a court case where the future of your children is being decided.

In a lot of cases, the parties are civil and don’t bring these sorts of things up in the proceedings – but some cases are more contentious than others, and if you have a contested case that is going to court, you should expect the worst to come up in court. And your lawyer should know to expect it too.

The absolute worst thing to do in a contested case is to lie about or withhold information that could affect your case. For example, if you struggle with drugs, and you don’t tell your attorney, or you say you’re not using them, when in fact you are using them, that could come up in a case. If you don’t prepare your lawyer for those allegations, your lawyer will be caught off guard and may not be prepared to defend you against a possible request for you to take a drug test the other party knows you’ll fail.

By contrast, if you let your lawyer know that you’re struggling with a drug addiction, you can become proactive and start treatment, so when the issue comes up, your lawyer has a ready defense. If your lawyer’s able to say something like, “My client wouldn’t be able to pass a drug test today, but is on his way to getting and staying clean,” that’s better than suddenly being faced with new information that will derail a case.

The thing about telling the truth when it comes to your lawyer is that is has to be the whole truth. Your lawyer will be able to know if something you’re embarrassed to bring up, or something you’ve done that concerns you, will make a substantial difference in your case.

Some items, like infidelity, don’t make as big a difference as you might think, provided substantial community property isn’t being diverted to a lover. But other items, like diverting community assets into an individual account, substance abuse, or spousal abuse, will be taken seriously and have the potential to greatly affect your case. There’s a huge difference between difficult matters your lawyer can prepare for and ones that leave your lawyer unprepared.