Most of us agree with the simple, yet powerful life principle, “honesty is the best policy.” Yet, when it comes to working with your attorney, whether it be with regard to your divorce, your estate plan, your will, or any other legal case, it is especially vital that you are honest and candid with him or her from the beginning.
Your attorney will be an advocate in your case. Consequently, in order to perform his duties well, he and his staff will require accurate, detailed information from you. You will be an active member of your team in this regard — not a silent partner, or a nonparticipating bystander. So, pulling together the necessary documents and facts of your case will be largely your job, unless some kind of legal action is required in order to obtain necessary documents.
The information and documents pertaining to your case will be used to protect your interests and help you and your attorney develop a strategy. They will also be foundational to helping you effectively navigate the process toward a desired set of goals.
Know that you will be delving into often very personal, intimate areas of your life that may expose marital problems, income, debt, spending habits, bank accounts, tax forms and more.
For example, if your spouse or other relative has tried to control you through intimidation, threats, violence or restricting access to your personal information, you should immediately let your attorney know about these concerns. This type of behavior may mean you cannot engage in fair and open negotiations. In cases where abuse exists, attorneys are likely to approach the process very differently than cases where no abuse exists.
(For more information about how actual or threatened abuse can affect a legal proceeding such as divorce, contact your local domestic violence shelter, or the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence at http://www.ncdsv.org.)
In your search for the best attorney for you, you will want to choose one who is seasoned and skillful in the area where you need help. A secondary qualification involves whether the attorney has a personality you feel comfortable with. Remember, you will likely be sharing very personal and intimate details with him or her, so this is important.
It is common for those seeking legal counsel to schedule several consultation meetings with attorneys before they choose one. So, it is best if you prepare for these meetings in advance, and are somewhat organized when you meet. Think about the details of your case ahead of time. Gather as many financial and other pertinent documents as possible, and review them before the consultation meeting.
There may be individuals in your life who have valuable information relevant to your case. Be sure to explain this to the attorney. Get a feel for where you stand financially and otherwise, and reflect on what your goals are for the future.
Share with your attorney the settlement terms that are the most important to you. If you aren’t sure, ask him or her to help you make this determination in alignment with your legal rights. Sharing this with the attorney helps him or her get a better point of reference for your case.
If you think there is something in your past that may be potentially damaging to your case — such as conduct that could affect your child custody arrangement — disclose it to your attorney as early as possible. And the same is true of your social media activity. Discuss your social media accounts and what you know about your spouse’s activity, and then get his or her advice on how to use the accounts during your legal process. If a situation changes or you remember something that could be of interest to your attorney, let him or her know as soon as possible.
If depositions are conducted, you will be asked questions under oath. Be sure to work with your attorney in preparing for this stage. Your answers can be used later, so be sure you completely understand the question and you answer it honestly. If you know of questions that might be asked of you, inform your attorney who can help you prepare.
If you are uncommunicative or dishonest with your attorney, you may not get an accurate assessment of your case. Your attorney also may withdraw from your case. Changing attorneys midstream can be expensive and time consuming for all.
By simply committing to being candid and honest, you will gain peace of mind, while also maintaining your dignity, as you move forward in your life.