The shame conundrum: what information should I divulge to my divorce attorney, and what should I keep private?
When you’re meeting with your Michigan divorce attorney, you may be tempted to be selective about how much information you divulge when discussing the details of your case. However, not being completely honest with your lawyer can come back to haunt you.
Even if it makes you look bad, here’s why you should never keep secrets from your divorce lawyer:
Divorce Means Putting All Your Cards on The Table
Divorce and child custody cases can get ugly, especially because your spouse knows you better than anyone — including the worst parts of your past. In some cases, it’s common for your former confidante to expose your most private matters in an attempt to establish grounds for divorce or win a child custody battle.
Those skeletons that you kept tucked away in your closet may become part of your Michigan divorce case if your ex uses this information as evidence of your past misconduct. This could include information about the following:
- Current or past sexual infidelity.
- Physical abuse, emotional abuse, or any instances of cruelty which led to your spouse having to abandon the home.
- Drug or alcohol abuse or any other addictions that may support a claim for alimony or property division or impact your child custody claim.
- Any mental health diagnosis, behavioral issue, or criminal record which may deem you unfit to care for your children.
Attorney-Client Privilege Gives you the Freedom to be Honest
Every licensed attorney in Michigan is required to follow the state’s rules of professional conduct. What this means is that when you are a client of a firm, your Michigan divorce lawyer will keep your secrets with only a few exceptions:
- To prevent death or substantial bodily harm.
- When seeking assistance from other attorneys to ensure compliance with the rules or court orders.
- To prevent or mitigate any consequences that may result from the client committing a crime in the future.
- In cases where the client has brought a lawsuit against the attorney.
Even with the promise of confidentiality, many people still feel uncomfortable sharing certain information with their divorce attorney. Failing to be honest can cause major problems later in your case and leave your attorney unprepared to defend you in court.
Information You Should Always Share with Your Divorce Attorney
You Cheated on Your Spouse
Marital cheating is important information to share with your attorney. You may be worried about your spouse discovering the affair, but this information may come out anyway during the discovery process. If your spouse files a counterclaim against you based on adultery, you could be forced to return any marital money you used to support the affair.
There Is Domestic Abuse
You should let your divorce attorney know if you are in an abusive relationship. Your attorney can recommend resources that provide you with different types of support. Your attorney will also suggest different ways to serve your spouse with divorce papers so you and your children aren’t put in a dangerous situation.
You Contracted a Sexually Transmitted Disease
Though you may be embarrassed to share this information, you should tell your divorce attorney if you believe you contracted an STD from your spouse. If you can prove your spouse gave you the disease, you may be compensated for medical expenses, emotional distress, and pain and suffering.
MDHHS Has Had Involvement with Your Children
If the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has investigated or assisted your family because of claims related to child abuse or neglect, you need to tell your attorney. This information will impact custody or parenting time in your case.
Hidden Assets or Debts
Never EVER hide money, property, or debts. Your attorney needs to know about this information before it comes out in the discovery process. You don’t want your lawyer to be caught off-guard when an investigation reveals you have a huge sum of money in an off-shore account.
Lying about your debts or assets will severely damage your credibility, and you could also be subject to perjury penalties.
Too much information?
We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.