If you are dating someone, if you have had an affair, if you have had a drug or alcohol problem, or anything else that find be embarrassing, or potentially undermining of your case, tell your lawyer about it. All the discussions with your lawyer are confidential. If you ask your lawyer not to reveal these items to anyone else, your lawyer will not disclose. Even if you feel some facts are unfavorable to you, it is better to put them on the table with your lawyer and deal with them. It would not be possible for your lawyer to address a situation adequately at the time of a trial if he or she the lawyer has not been able to prepare for it.
Consider the following situation: A young woman was trying to get custody of her son who she claimed had been kidnapped by her ex-husband. She seemed very straightforward and earnest, and her lawyer prepared the necessary papers to attempt to get the child back. At the hearing which was held several weeks later, her lawyer learned for the first time under direct examination by the opposing attorney that she was a pornographic movie star–and she’d voluntarily given the child to her ex-husband to care for while she got her life in order. Unfortunately, she had not shared this information in advance. Her lawyer was unable to describe the events in a favorable light. The client took a huge chance that her job and lapse in judgment by giving up the child would not come up in questioning and that if they did, that the judge would not care. As it turned out, the judge was very conservative. He questioned her moral character, and was upset that she had lied to the court about what she did for a living and the circumstances under which the child had ended up with the ex-husband. The judge not only took custody away from her, but he suspended her visitation completely pending further investigation by the court.
Not all hearings are quite so dramatic, but it’s better that your lawyer knows about a situation which you may find potentially embarrassing in advance.
For a good article on communicating with your lawyer, see http://www.aaml.org/go/library/publications/divorce-manual-a-client-handbook/divorce-manual-7-lawyerclient-communication/. Also, be as prepared as possible with the information you will need to share. See the articles, plans and checklist available at http://www.peace-talks.com/resources.php.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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