The average person going through a divorce is not a lawyer. He or she does not have years of experience practicing law or sophisticated knowledge of the legal system. Instead, most parties to a divorce are largely detached from the world of law. This typically means that they will need assistance with their divorce. After all, it is difficult to negotiate a good settlement if you do not know what your rights and responsibilities are under the law. By working with an experienced attorney, it is possible to navigate the legal system effectively. The question sometimes arises, however, when faced with turning over the reins to one’s life in the midst of a divorce, “should I be honest with my lawyer?”
The answer to that question is always a responding “yes.” That person is hired to help you, to advocate for you, and most importantly to advise you of the risks and benefits of a particular course of action. In any litigation, especially a divorce, for the lawyer to effectively carry out those goals there must be a free, complete, and truthful exchange of information between the lawyer and the client. People going through a divorce must view their attorney as a partner in the process, whether settlement-oriented or full-blown litigation. They must be fully candid with the lawyer, sharing all information that is relevant to the issues at hand. Efforts to conceal anything from the lawyer, from a small plot of land to a massive retirement pension, will only frustrate the situation. Lawyers cannot act in their client’s best interest if they are unaware of items in play. An item that a party to a divorce regards as “insignificant” may turn out to be highly useful to the attorney. Further, once a party lies to their attorney, the moment they get caught, whether by the lawyer or by the other side, their lawyer may very well ask to be relieved from the representation, which places the client in the unenviable position of having to change horses’ mid-stream, which, if you’ve never tried that, almost always ends poorly.
Hiding information from a lawyer is also detrimental because it will likely result in higher legal fees. Attorneys who do not have complete information will need to spend more time researching issues. Or, in an even worse scenario, attorneys may need to revise work already done based on the discovery of the new (or correct) information that was previously withheld by a client. In both cases, more time spent by a lawyer on the case means higher legal fees. Thus, it is in your best interests – equitably, monetarily and for the sake of settlement – to be honest with your attorney.