Should I Bring a Friend or Relative to My Meeting With My Divorce Attorney?
Some people wonder whether they should ask their divorce attorney whether they can bring a family member or friend to their meetings with their lawyer. You can understand why — divorce can be overwhelming, especially in the beginning stages. But is it a good idea to have a third person present?
Read on to learn more about the pros and cons.
Benefits of Bringing Someone With You to Your Meeting With Your Divorce Lawyer
Benefits to having a friend or relative at their meeting with their divorce attorney tend to fall into two categories:
- Emotional Support
Divorce is stressful, especially at the beginning. It’s no surprise that having a trusted friend or family member with you would initially seem like a good idea. At first blush, it appears innocent — appealing for the emotional support alone.
- To Help You Remember
Some people also want help remembering what happened during the meeting (or what they want to remember to tell their lawyer). I love clients who are serious about their cases and their lives, and self-identify that their stress level may well play some tricks on their memory. That’s one of the reasons that at Freed Marcroft, we encourage people to jot down questions for us as they arise – and why we provide our clients with written summaries of our conferences. We want them to be able to recall and reflect on what we discussed – and clarify anything they want.
Downsides of Having A Friend or Relative Present When You Speak With Your Attorney
There can be some negative consequences of inviting friends and family members to attorney/client meetings that people don’t often consider. Some they don’t think of because it’s their first time going through a divorce or family law matter. Others wouldn’t occur to them because they aren’t attorneys.
So, let’s talk about those potential cons. We want you to understand this whether you are the person considering divorce yourself or you’re the supportive friend.
Supportive friends and family members are fantastic. But we’ve learned over the years that their good intentions can sometimes create issues for the person going through the divorce. For example, our former clients have shared that a friend’s frustration with and anger towards the client’s ex actually distracts them from the task at hand – what they want for their future and the decisions they need to make for themselves. (Plus, someone else’s frustration can sometimes get you more riled up when you’re trying to focus and stay in a calm, logical headspace.)
- Different priorities
Our clients have also explained that their friends and family members have their own opinions about what is most important or relevant – and those goals don’t always align with the client’s goals. Everyone needs to focus on what the client wants, not what their support structure thinks they should want. These mismatched opinions can be particularly problematic when the friend or family member is helping to support the client financially or funding their retainer. It can be tough to be candid with your attorney about what you want if the person paying your invoices is next to you, weighing in with their opinions.
My best advice is that everyone is transparent with each other – right upfront – about their expectations.
Don’t expect to call the shots if you are the generous friend or relative helping financially. You must be comfortable letting your friend make independent decisions about their own life and future.
If you are the person accepting help, be clear about how much you appreciate the support – but also that you will be responsible for making your own decisions.
Along those same lines, another reason to think twice before bringing someone to attorney meetings with you is that there may be some personal details you don’t want to share in front of your friend or relative. This can be pretty intimate stuff, and your lawyers can’t do what they need to do for you without full, no holds barred, transparent communication. So let your friends and family be your outside support structure, and keep your relationship with your attorney fully candid.
- Confidentiality issues
The need for open and complete communication between lawyer and client leads us to the legal reason people should think twice about including a friend or family member in meetings with their attorney. You’ve probably heard of “attorney-client privilege.” Essentially, the way it works is that your lawyer will hold the vast, vast majority of private things you share in strict confidence. In other words, your lawyer can’t go off and tell other people or the internet or the newspaper about them. That’s important. The other really important part of the attorney-client privilege is that the other side and the court have no right to demand you share the advice and strategy from your lawyer. This is what permits that open and free communication that allows your lawyer to be the best possible advocate for you that she can be.
But, you need to know that you can waive the attorney-client privilege if you share information or advice with a third party. That means that what you told your lawyer in confidence and the advice she gave you may no longer be confidential and may wind up being disclosed in court. Not good. And in the attorney-client privilege world, friends and family are just third parties like anyone else when it comes to waiving your attorney-client privilege.
Attorney-Client Privilege in Connecticut Divorce
In other words, you probably don’t want your friends and family in the room when you and your attorney are discussing anything you don’t want your ex to know – including your attorney’s legal strategy or advice. Oh, and also, don’t relay it to them after or forward them emails between you and your lawyer – you can waive the privilege that way, too.
To start making a plan for your divorce, reach out. Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals. We analyze those goals, plus the facts of your case, and present you with recommendations and options to move forward.