Tune in Friday, April 7 at 11 am on our Facebook page for a LIVE webinar on key information to share with your divorce attorney!
Spouses going through a divorce experience a vast array of emotions: anger, resentment, sadness and even embarrassment, especially over very sensitive or personal details about their marriage or separation. Difficult emotions can lead people to withhold certain information from their attorneys — as can a desire to keep quiet information that they may not want to share with their spouse. In either instance, it is never a wise idea to keep secrets from your divorce attorney, whose very role is to be your advocate as well as your confidant during this time.
Be comforted that any statements you make (unless you are planning on committing a crime or planning to lie under oath) are protected by the attorney-client privilege, so take a deep breath, and share! Here are 5 sensitive items you should absolutely tell your attorney:
You are having an affair
You certainly may not want your spouse to know if you have been involved with another person, but marital cheating is important to disclose this to your attorney. And, even if you do not want your spouse to discover the relationship, it may come out anyway during the process of the divorce. Most cases have a period of discovery where information must be shared and provided to the other side and some attorneys will use private investigators or other means to get information, especially if there is a suspicion of an affair. Having your attorney learn about this as a surprise places him or her at a distinct disadvantage. And, if you have been using marital money to support your affair, your spouse may decide to counterclaim against you based upon adultery and you may be on the hook to return that money to the martial pot.
There is domestic abuse in the relationship
Living in an abusive or violent relationship is terrifying, saddening and demeaning. Many abused partners never tell even their closest loved ones due to shame or even due to fear of retribution from their abuser. But, you should absolutely tell your divorce attorney if you are in an abusive relationship, so that they can guide you appropriately and ensure that you are safe every step of the way including, if needed, how to obtain a restraining order. Your attorney may recommend a different way to serve your spouse with the divorce papers, especially if you are still living together. Your attorney can recommend local resources such as counselors, shelters or other organizations that can provide you with different types of support. And, if you have been abused, you may be able to sue your spouse within the divorce for pain, suffering and medical expenses.
You have contracted a sexually transmitted disease
There may be no more embarrassing conversation to have with your divorce lawyer, but as difficult as it may be, if you suspect that your spouse gave you an STD, you should disclose this to your divorce attorney. Like with domestic abuse, if you can prove that your spouse gave you the disease, you may be entitled to recoup money as part of the divorce for pain, medical bills, emotional distress or other expenses incurred as a result of your getting the STD from your partner. Conversely, if you believe that you may have given your spouse an STD as a result of an affair, it is imperative that your attorney know so that he or she can advise your spouse to get tested. Not revealing this information so that your spouse can go to the doctor for testing is an extremely bad way to handle this type of situation.
There is, or was, DYFS involvement with your family
Even if it was years ago, if DYFS (now DCP&P) has been involved with your family investigating or assisting your family due to possible abuse or neglect of a child, tell your attorney. Many times DCP&P becomes involved, they provide services that the family needs and eventually, the case is closed. Sometimes, there is an investigation that leads to nothing being discovered and the file is closed. Regardless of the status, tell your attorney about any type of DCP&P connection to your family. This is not an issue that you want popping up as a surprise to either your lawyer or the judge and you certainly do not want to be seen by the court as attempting to hide this. Be honest about the investigation and the result, even if the complaint was long ago and was unfounded. If the involvement was more long lasting or there was a more serious finding by DCP&P, the court may want a recommendation from them if custody or parenting time is an issue in your divorce.
You have hidden assets or debts
One cardinal rule any divorce attorney will tell you: never hide money, property or debts. It will, without question, come out in the process of discovery. There are many tools that attorneys and the courts can use to get to hidden information including depositions, financial investigations with experts and subpoenas. Again, do not put your attorney in the position of being blindsided when investigation reveals offshore bank accounts or $300,000 worth of gambling debts unknown to your spouse. Lying about or concealing property or debt will only lead to your credibility being completely damaged in the eyes of the court, possibly beyond repair. If you are willfully hiding assets or debts and your spouse must expend money on legal fees or other experts to uncover your deceit, you may be subject to sanctions, be responsible for your spouse’s fees and costs and, if you lie under oath, subject to perjury penalties. In the end, hiding money or bills from your spouse may cost you even more than you thought you were protecting.
Make it your goal to be as forthcoming with your divorce attorney as possible. If you are having issues emotionally dealing with the divorce, tell your attorney. He or she can recommend a therapist where you can share all of your negative emotions in a safe and secure space.
If you are ready to file for divorce, or if you are in the midst of a divorce and are unsure how to navigate the system, please contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced and dedicated divorce and family law attorneys.