Tonight’s post on being honest with your attorney was written by our Atlanta Family Law attorney, Dina Khismatulina.
In this blog post I really want to discuss the importance of being honest with your attorney. Getting a divorce or fighting for custody of your children entails revealing and discussing a lot of information that is considered deeply private: from details of your marital relations to the ways you discipline your kids, from your tax returns, information about your financial assets, retirement plans, to drug usage, sex habits, and alcohol consumption. These are definitely not details normal people normally like to discuss. But in a divorce action, and especially if minor children are involved, both parties’ behavior will be closely scrutinized and put under the spotlight.
Do not think that you can hide your DUIs, DFCS investigations, or any other flaws, real or imaginary, in order to portray yourself as a better parent/person, avoid an unpleasant discussion, or increase your chances for success. By hiding information from your family law attorney, you are doing exactly the opposite. In the age of totally and easily accessible information, it is only a matter of time before the truth will come out. Nowadays, the majority of decent law firms run background checks on their own clients and opposing parties immediately after being retained. Even a routine screening of your social network (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) can yield lots of information. Just imagine what an experienced private investigator can do.
And if an opposing counsel did his or her homework and is not deficient at strategizing, the truth will out at the most crucial moment – during trial and in front of the judge. Remember that your attorney is always on your side, and the last thing he or she is going to do is to judge you. Keep in mind that almost all the information received by an attorney from a client, with narrow exceptions, is subject to attorney-client privilege or attorney’s duty of confidentiality, so your counsel is under legal obligation not to reveal received information.
Under Georgia Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6, “a lawyer shall maintain in confidence all information gained in the professional relationship with a client, including information which the client has requested to be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would likely be detrimental to the client, unless the client gives informed consent, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or are required by these Rules or other law, or by order of the Court”. Full disclosure, no matter how embarrassing or awful, gives your attorney a chance to figure out a way to minimize potential damage in advance, or, if possible, even to use such information to your advantage, and be ready when the time comes. Forewarned is forearmed, as an old saying goes.
Or, using the famous words of Jerry Maguire – “Help me, help you”. Help your attorney help you. You are paying your attorney, so it is in your best interest to have him or her well equipped to face the challenge. Further, under Georgia law, if you lie to your attorney or withhold information and, as a result, a frivolous action or defense was asserted, you could be forced to pay the opposing party’s attorney’s fees and litigation costs (O.C.G.A. § 9-15-14).
So, next time your attorney asks you whether there is anything else he or she should know, please tell him or her the truth. Do not waste time and money: disclose all the relevant information
Help them help you.