Yes, you should disclose all information regarding your marriage to your divorce lawyer. While some information may be unpleasant or embarrassing to discuss, your divorce lawyer cannot properly represent you during your divorce, custody or other proceeding if they are unaware of key facts regarding your case. The Philadelphia divorce attorneys at Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman routinely advise clients to disclose too much relevant information instead of too little.
Divorce Lawyers Need As Much Information As Possible
Obtaining a divorce from your spouse requires utilizing the judicial process. This means you and your spouse can obtain evidence and information from each other and third parties, during the discovery process. While it may be tempting to withhold information from your attorney, your failure to disclose vital information may ultimately harm the outcome of your case.
Your Attorney-Client Privilege
Under §5928 of the Rules of Procedure, your attorney is not permitted to disclose confidential communications. Additionally, under Rule 502(a)(5) of the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence, confidential communications are those made to obtain legal services or those which constitute legal advice. In short, the attorney client relationship allows clients to be completely honest with their attorneys without fear of the information being disclosed.
Ramifications of Keeping Secrets from Your Attorney
Failing to disclose information to your attorney can harm your case. At best, your attorney cannot properly evaluate and prepare your divorce or other case. In extreme circumstances, failing to disclose information may result in attorney-client privilege being waived if a court determines you withheld information to commit fraud.
Hiding Assets May Cost More
Under Pennsylvania law, marital property is equitably, i.e., fairly, divided during a divorce. According to §3505(b) of the Divorce Code, you and your spouse must disclose all assets by providing a written inventory so marital property can be equitably divided. Failing to inform your attorney of hidden assets may give your spouse grounds to argue for a larger share of marital assets under §3505(d) if a court determines you attempted to hide assets. Further, failing to disclose assets to the Court undermines your integrity and honesty, in the eyes of the Court.
Hiding Psychological Conditions Can Harm Custody
A mental health diagnosis, or a drug or alcohol addiction, is not sufficient to necessarily deny child custody, if you are or have been treated for it. Instead, it is one-factor courts considered under §5328 of the Divorce Code when determining custody based on the best interest of the child standard. While you may consider mental health issues embarrassing, failing to inform your attorney of these issues prevents your attorney from being able to prepare an effective defense.
Anything Exposed During Your Trial Won’t Have a Defense
There is a high chance your spouse’s lawyer will likely discover the information you fail to disclose to your attorney, e.g., a sexually transmitted disease, drug use, or domestic violence, or an offshore account, for example. This means your attorney cannot prepare an effective defense for your divorce proceedings. For example, informing your attorney of your mental health condition allows them to collect evidence of your treatment and that your condition does not affect your child’s welfare. We often tell clients that we can work with any fact, and we can. Not disclosing everything to your lawyer can make or break your case.
Talk with an Experienced Philadelphia Divorce Lawyer
The divorce attorneys at Schwartz, Fox, & Saltzman have spent over 40 years representing clients in difficult divorce matters. A large portion of our success is due to the confidence and trust we have built with our clients. To learn more, contact us today.