The entire divorce process is replete with the exposure of so much personal information that often a litigant feels vulnerable and exposed. To have to reveal to a lawyer, or to any stranger, personal details of a relationship is no easy task.
Many lawyers feel that revealing details of a relationship is of no interest to them, particularly in no-fault states. However, my experience is that understanding the history and dynamics of a relationship is important for two reasons:
- It helps me get to know the client and evaluate our potential working relationship;
- In exploring and understanding the history of a relationship, facts relevant to the divorce litigation are often revealed.
However, you don’t need to share embarrassing, intimate stories in detail; you can simply make references or share information in a dignified fashion.
Of course, telling the “whole truth” sometimes involves sharing facts which go to the heart of a divorce proceeding: the finances. For example, is there cash in a safe-deposit box that your spouse is unaware of? This type of question presents a more difficult situation for the client and the lawyer. Although information shared with your lawyer is protected by the attorney-client privilege, should you share with your lawyer information and then attempt to certify to the contrary (for example, telling your lawyer about the cash in the safe-deposit box, and omitting it from a sworn statement of assets submitted to the court), a problem arises. Your lawyer cannot continue to represent you knowing that you are providing false information. It may become necessary for your attorney to remove himself or herself as your counsel, should you choose to misrepresent the facts under oath.
Patricia M. Barbarito is a partner in the law firm of Einhorn Barbarito, located in Morris County, NJ. She is a former chair of the Family Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and a frequent lecturer on divorce. She can be reached at (973) 627-7300. View the firm’s Divorce Magazine profile.