Most divorces and other family law issues don't wrap up in one or two or three months. Unfortunately, the issues involve complicated and changing facts that take time to uncover and understand. Attorneys and clients must work together closely and communicate well, and that usually happens. In a surprising number of cases, however, some highly relevant information is not conveyed to the attorney.
Some Matters That Should Be Disclosed to Your Attorney
- You are buying or selling a house, or if you are moving.
- You are having surgery.
- You lost or will lose your job, or you are starting a new job, or your pay has changed.
- You are getting counseling, or you stopped or never started counseling that was ordered by the court or expected by your attorney.
- Your arrest or criminal history.
- You are dating or have a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- You have a roommate.
- There has been a significant financial change.
- You have been served with legal papers.
- You are being threatened with litigation.
- You have had an argument, or made an agreement, with your spouse.
- You plan to dispose of some of your assets or your spouse's assets.
That is not a complete list. When in doubt, tell your attorney.
Problems The lack of communication can result in problems when the news comes out, which it inevitably does. Some of the results can include:
- Violations of court orders that could have been avoided. Timely notice to the attorney might have enabled the attorney prevent the action or minimize the impact.
- The client's attorney being caught unprepared in a hearing when the issue is brought out in front of the judge. It is usually better to volunteer the unflattering information instead of leaving the impression that you are trying to hide something.
- The other party or other attorney becoming upset because of the unilateral action. That often can be prevented or minimized. When the other party is upset, you can count on less willingness to be reasonable or settle on other issues.
Why don't clients inform their attorneys?
Attorneys sometimes have a hard time understanding why their clients don't tell all. In reality, there are many different reasons why it can occur. A few of them are:
- Embarrassment. Clients are human, too. They don't want their attorney to think badly of them. They may hope that no one else discover the silly or stupid or malicious thing they did. Unfortunately, word almost always gets out.
- Avoidance. A client may fear the response or rebuke that is expected when a course of action is proposed. They want to avoid the unpleasant experience, so they just don't talk about it.
- Not thinking. Some clients just don't think it matters if they do certain things or they forget about some things. It's no big deal to them.
- Desire to save money. Clients know that it costs them to talk to their attorneys, so they decide to save the up front attorney's fee costs, not thinking that the situation can turn into a bigger problem.
- Secrecy. They may fear that the attorney will tell. Sometimes, clients know something is wrong, but they want to do it anyway. To protect themselves, at least in the short term, they try to hide the action from their attorney. But, the facts will usually come out anyway.
What's the Solution? Talk to your attorney and let him/her figure out how to best handle difficult or embarrassing facts. Let your attorney advise you on what actions to take or to avoid. It's really pretty simple.