Should I Tell My Divorce Lawyer Everything?
Divorce and family law matters are inherently personal. Sometimes there are details that you would rather not discuss with anyone, including your lawyer. And in some cases, you might think that you are actually helping your case by trying to keep things secret – even from your attorney.
Not telling your divorce lawyer all important, relevant information is bad idea. It can create problems and avoidable expenses down the road.
Read on to learn more.
What Types of Things Should You Share With Your Lawyer?
Tell your lawyer everything important about your divorce – the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you wonder whether some particular background is pertinent, ask. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to “lawyer” your lawyer. Don’t focus on convincing your attorney that you are the better parent or spouse. Your attorney isn’t your spouse’s lawyer, the GAL, or the judge.
For example, share:
- Relevant information about your financials and children
- Sensitive items, whether they relate to you or your ex – such as affairs, emotional and physical abuse, and drug or alcohol dependence or addiction)
- Your goals (and compromises you are willing to make)
- Any legal trouble
- Hidden assets
Ask your attorney for guidance if you aren’t sure what’s relevant and what she needs to know.
Why It’s So Important to Tell Your Divorce Attorney Everything
Your lawyer’s job is to be both your counselor and your advocate.
As your counselor, she gives you the best advice she can, based upon what she knows both about your case and her experience practicing family law, so that you can make decisions in your case. If you don’t provide her with all the relevant information she needs to do that, her advice will be incomplete – possibly incorrect.
Your lawyer’s other role is to advocate for you with the other side and in court. If you haven’t shared everything relevant with her, she won’t be able to craft a legal strategy to get in front of problematic information. In other words, by choosing not to provide complete information, you are sending her in with one hand tied behind her back.
Attorneys are trained to handle and contextualize potentially damaging information about their clients, but, to do that, they must know the information. Skilled lawyers have multiple tools to discover information, and the other side will often learn and reveal your secret. Therefore, you want your lawyer prepared to address it, not forced to handle it on the spot. That will weaken your position and often necessitate more lawyer time (and the associated legal fees) than it would have had you been candid with your attorney upfront.
If I Tell My Lawyer Something Private, Will She Tell Other People?
Confidential information you share with your lawyer as you seek legal advice – and the associated communications – is protected by the attorney-client privilege. That means that your legal team will share it internally to help you, but they will not share it with the court or anyone else. That means you can be open and honest with your lawyer so that she can do her best work for you.
It’s important to note that not all information in a divorce is confidential – such as how much money you earn or your tax returns. Your lawyer will help you understand what’s relevant information in your divorce that both sides will exchange versus what’s confidential information.
There aren’t many exceptions to the attorney-client privilege, which extends to non-attorneys on your legal team, including paralegals. If you and your attorney involve specific experts in your case, the attorney-client privilege can also extend to them. Plus, the attorney-client privilege doesn’t end with your case. Your lawyer will keep that information private indefinitely. The only other times your lawyer is allowed to share privileged information is if you sue your lawyer, reveal that you intend to commit certain crimes, or to avoid bodily harm or death. If you share privileged information with a third party, you can invalidate the attorney-client privilege, and previously confidential information can come into your case.
What You Shouldn’t Do If You Want Private Information to Stay Private
It doesn’t matter who the third party is – your dad or your closest friend – you shouldn’t share privileged information with them during your divorce. If you do, you risk “waiving” the attorney-client privilege, which may mean that the other side is entitled to learn that information if they ask for it. Therefore, it is paramount that you not share the content or discussions you have with your lawyer with anyone else unless you check with your attorney first.
- Should always be in a private location out of anyone’s earshot when you meet with your attorney – including on the phone or via Zoom.
- Shouldn’t bring anyone to your meetings with your divorce attorney without discussing it with her prior so that she can advise on the impacts on attorney-client privilege and your case.
- Should not cc, bcc, or forward any communication between you and your law firm to anyone else without discussing it with your lawyer, including your invoices which often contain privileged information.
- Don’t put anything about your case on social media, including in private messages