Every marriage – and divorce – has a story. By the time you find yourself sitting in a divorce attorney’s office, you may not feel much like talking about how you got there, but this is no time to develop a selective memory.
In other words, you really do not want to keep secrets from your attorney. Here’s why it’s important to level with your lawyer about everything (even the stuff that makes you look bad).
What you say to your attorney is confidential, but what you’ve said to your spouse is not
With a few exceptions (largely related to potential future criminal activity and a need to prevent someone’s substantial harm or death), everything you say to your attorney when you’re alone is privileged information. You do not have to worry that your attorney will tell anybody your secrets.
You cannot say the same for whatever has been said or done between you and your spouse. Your divorce can quickly fly off the rails if your attorney is unprepared when your spouse brings up something like:
- A past history of drug addiction or alcohol abuse
- Incidents involving physical or sexual violence
- Incidents of emotional or financial abuse
- Other addictions, including those to pornography or shopping
- Mental health diagnoses and ongoing treatments
- Disabilities that may not be obvious
- A past criminal history (of any kind)
- Any infidelity on your part
- Any financial steps you’ve taken that may not be entirely above-board
For example, drug and alcohol abuse, your criminal history or any mental or physical disabilities could be brought up to suggest that you’re unfit to have unsupervised visitation with your child. Infidelity could be leveraged to say that you deserve less of the marital assets (especially if you spent money on that partner).
By the same token, even if it’s painful or makes you feel guilty, you need to tell your attorney about any issues above on your spouse’s end. Divorce negotiations are a two-way street and your attorney needs to know what kind of leverage you have.
Going through a divorce can be rough, emotionally, but you’ll get through it – especially if you’re fully prepared.