Five Secrets You Shouldn’t Keep From Your Divorce Lawyer
It is human nature to want others to think well of us, especially those who are in a position to help us. That’s why even honest people might fudge a little bit when the doctor asks “How many drinks do you have per week?” or “How much exercise do you get?” And it’s also why people tend to withhold certain uncomfortable information when they are sitting in a divorce lawyer’s office.
If you are sitting in front of a divorce attorney, something has gone seriously wrong with your marriage. And just as a doctor can’t accurately diagnose and treat your medical condition if you are not honest about it, your divorce attorney cannot give you the help you need if you don’t tell her the whole truth about your situation.
The difference is that a medical situation is between you and your doctor. A divorce involves you, your attorney, your spouse, and their attorney. If there is a secret that needs to come out, it’s better that your lawyer hear it from you in her office than from your spouse’s attorney in the courtroom.
“I Had an Affair.”
If you were unfaithful to your spouse, you may be ashamed and regretful. Or you may have realized that you want to be with your affair partner, rather than your spouse, and are hoping to get out of the marriage without your spouse discovering the real reason. Whatever the circumstances, and whether or not your spouse is aware of the affair, you need to tell your attorney.
The divorce process includes a process called “discovery,” in which the parties, through their attorneys, exchange information under oath in writing (interrogatories), in person (depositions), or through production of documents. It is routine to be asked about an affair. If you deny an affair, and it comes out later that you lied, your dishonesty could cast doubt on your credibility regarding other issues, and make you look bad to the court.
Another problem with keeping an affair secret involves money. If you spent money on your affair partner, especially significant amounts, that money probably came from marital funds. You could be required to repay those funds. Your attorney should know about this up front so you can work on a plan. In Utah, adultery by one party may affect the alimony award in a divorce, so it is relevant information for your attorney.
“I Have a Sexually Transmitted Infection.”
This one, unfortunately, sometimes goes hand-in-hand with the first secret. As hard as it is to have to admit an affair in the context of your divorce proceedings, it is even more difficult to have to say, “...and you may want to go to the doctor to get tested.” But it is the right thing to do. Your lawyer can help you figure out how best to make this disclosure, and minimize fallout from it.
If the shoe, so to speak, is on the other foot, and you have a sexually transmitted infection your spouse passed to you, you should still tell your divorce lawyer. You may be entitled to some compensation from your spouse for your medical bills and emotional distress.
“I’m Hiding Money Issues.”
In a divorce, the financial details of a marriage must be laid bare so that issues of alimony, child support, and property division can be dealt with. During the marriage, you may be able to conceal secret debt or assets from your spouse. During the divorce, however, that becomes much more difficult. If you have financial secrets, your attorney is your first line of defense.
If you are found to have concealed assets during your divorce, and it is discovered during the process, the court may award your spouse a greater portion of marital assets than they would otherwise have received. If you are not honest with your lawyer, and those hidden assets are discovered after your divorce is final, your ex could move to have your divorce reopened. If they are successful, the financial outcome could be worse for you than if you had just come clean in the first place. Tell your lawyer your financial secrets up front. You may have to sacrifice some assets you had hoped to keep, but probably not as much as if you are later found to have lied or committed fraud.
“DCFS Has Been Involved With My Family.”
If the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) has been involved with your family, you may not feel like telling your divorce lawyer about it. Whether the involvement was lengthy or brief, long ago or recent, the result of a legitimate concern or false information, your divorce lawyer needs to know. She can present the facts to the court in a light that will reflect as well as possible on you and your parenting. If you hide DCFS involvement from the court and it later comes to light, it will look as if you are not only deceptive, but as if you knew you had something to hide. Honesty is the best policy.
“There Has Been Violence in My Home.”
If your spouse has been abusive to you, or you have lost your temper and been abusive to your spouse or your kids, it’s obviously not a secret to your spouse. Don’t let it be a secret to your divorce attorney. If you or your children have been abused, your divorce attorney can work to help protect you during and after the divorce. This information may affect custody proceedings as well. And if you have a history of abusive behavior, your attorney can help the court see that you take responsibility for your past behavior, have worked to make changes, and will not be a danger to your spouse or children in the future.
Remember: you are not the first or worst person to walk into your divorce attorney’s office with secrets. Trust her not to judge you and to help you defuse the ticking time bomb of secrets in your divorce. You’ll feel better having unburdened yourself, and she’ll be better able to represent you effectively.
If you have questions about divorce, or have been holding back on consulting an attorney because of painful secrets, we encourage you to contact Barton Wood today.