Embarrassing Information: What to Tell Your Attorney
Everything. Excuse me. What I actually meant was ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when they are going through a legal matter. They think “this is irrelevant” or that “if it is important, they will ask.” Also, the devil’s in the details. Leaving out details, misleading your attorney, or worse, lying to your attorney will do nothing but hurt you down the road.
Domestic Relations law is frequently seen as a messy business. Unfortunately, many parties in these cases (and sometimes even their lawyers) prove that representation true. It can be messy because we are not in the business of drafting patents or protecting corporations, but rather mending and moving lives and families. Keeping secrets from your attorney does not make the process less messy, it just makes you vulnerable. Even if no one in the world knows something except for you, if it could conceivably hurt you, undermine you, or make you look bad, your attorney needs to know it. We are duty bound to keep your secrets except in extraordinary circumstances (like if you were going to hurt someone or were about to defraud the court). Your attorney is on your side. Better put, our side is your side, so be as candid as you can.
Big Things to Tell Your Attorney
Make an inventory of all assets you and your spouse hold together and separately. Note when they were acquired and under what circumstances (purchase, inheritance, lease, etc.) and the date of acquisition. You absolutely must disclose all of your assets and liabilities to your spouse when you are going through a divorce or dissolution. You will eventually testify under oath to the court that you made a full disclosure of these things.
2. Prior Legal Proceedings, Civil and Criminal
If you have been involved in any other legal proceeding, civil or criminal, your attorney really needs to know. Tell when it happened, what happened, and what the outcome of the proceeding was (settlement, damages, convictions, acquittals, etc.). Give the case number if you have it so we can look it up, and if it happened as a juvenile, look up the case as best you can. Your attorney may need your help to get access.
3. Violence, Threats of Violence, or Harassment by You or your Spouse
Interpret this broadly. Hardly any domestic relations matter occurs without at least some form of “violent” or intense contact. This includes shouting matches or particularly heated arguments. It probably means nothing, but we need to know. If you or your spouse has ever hurt one another, even accidentally, tell us. If you have ever threatened or been threatened with violence, even if no one in the world, if there, would have interpreted it as an actual threat (i.e. “to the Moon, Alice!”), tell us. We want you to be ready for anything. Lastly, outline all the contact you have had with your spouse since you began to consider divorce. Cooler heads prevail in domestic relations, but any ugly contact from you or your spouse needs to be known by your attorney.
In conclusion, tell us everything. We are your advocate, and while I can only speak for myself, your attorney will not judge you. Your attorney only wants the most accurate picture possible so they can get you through this in the best position possible.