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Romantic surprises can make a relationship magical. Holiday surprises can enrich a family and create memories that make us smile, even decades later. Surprises in a courtroom, though, are usually less joyful… and may be very, very bad news.
We have all done things we are not proud of, or wish we could undo. When you sit in the office of your divorce lawyer, it is easy to give in to the temptation to ignore those regrets and sweep aside the shades of gray in favor of a clear-cut tale of black and white, with yourself firmly cast in the role of the “good guy.” Think twice.
As your divorce lawyer, I’m on your side. It’s my job to be on your side, so you don’t have to convince me that you are the hero in the situation or give into the instinct to cover up your own contribution to a problem. Most often in family law, I find that situations are less about right and wrong, then they are about getting the facts straight and making sure that you are able to make the most of opportunities while getting the best protection available. The more I know, the more I can take into account when advising you about when to stand firm, and what risks to choose. Unless you tell me that you are going to commit a crime, hide assets or lie to the court, I must treat anything you tell me as confidential.
When a client doesn’t tell me everything, we are both left at a disadvantage. I tell people all the time: no one, no one, has a perfect case; not you, not your spouse. I can learn about the painful stuff from you in my office, or from my opposing counsel in the courtroom. You can guess which one gives me the most time to prepare!
Early in my career, I represented a husband whose wife was suing him for spousal support. On the day of the hearing, his wife told the court about her part-time job as a waitress, showing pay stubs that demonstrated her economic dependence on her husband. It looked open-and-shut, except for one small matter. Having been primed by my client, I asked her on cross examination, “Isn’t it true that in addition to working as a waitress, you also work some evenings as an exotic dancer?” Her answer: “Yes, I do.” The look of surprise on her lawyer’s face was priceless! Once we had established that she made more money in some evenings than my client did in a week, that was the end of her support claim.
How much money in counsel fees might the wife have saved, had she only let her lawyer in on her true situation so that he could advise her? My philosophy is that the very best way to get out of trouble is not to get into it, in the first place.
Bottom line: as your lawyer, my attitude is, “Talk to me… I’m here to help you.”
On the related subject of things that cause problems between lawyers and clients, this article from The Huffington Post offers some interesting insights.
If you need legal assistance with your divorce or family law matter in Southwestern Pennsylvania, call me to set up a personal consultation. Please do not comment anonymously, and do not post anything that you consider confidential. We try to be responsive to commentary and questions, but know that posting here will not create an attorney/client relationship and that we will not offer legal advice via the Internet.