I have specialized in family law for over 40 years. I have seen almost every possible scenario, and I would like to share some things clients have said to me that often are better left unsaid. Here are some things you should never say to your divorce lawyer. In no particular order, they are as follows:
1. I don't care what it costs, I would rather give you everything than give anything to my wife/husband. The reality is that no matter what you pay, you are going to give something to your spouse. Things said in anger or in the heat of passion will be taken back later. This is especially true when a client receives my final bill. You may want revenge, but that rarely happens in a divorce. It is better to spend your hard-earned money on your family, for your children's college education, or a vacation. Divorces are expensive enough, both economically and emotionally, without adding revenge to the equation.
2. I would like to bring my "friend" with me to the interview. We have attorney/client privilege, and once you bring a third party in, whether it's a relative, a lover or whoever, the attorney/client privilege is gone. Unless a third party is officially associated with your case, there is no attorney/client privilege. If a friend or lover is in a meeting, and the case gets nasty, in the event a deposition or trial ever occurs, there is no privilege and all these secrets can spill out in a deposition or in court.
3. My friend or neighbor has told me to do this ... There is nothing worse than having all your friends and relatives -- who mean well -- give you advice. Every divorce is different. Every divorce is unique. What makes sense for your friend and relative may make no sense for you. In addition, people often tell you only part of the story. You often get a lot of misinformation from well-meaning friends and relatives. Think about this: There are at least five variables in every divorce. The first is you -- your personality, your reasons for wanting to save or end the marriage. The second variable is your spouse -- his/her personality and motivations. The third is your attorney -- the attorney's personality, motivations and experience. Fourth is your spouse's attorney. And last but not least, the fifth variable is the judge. Change any of these people and variables, and you may get a different result. For these reasons, sideline quarter backing is often very detrimental to your divorce.
4. I'm in a hurry to get this over with. Saying this immediately puts you at a disadvantage. Compromise is critical in any divorce. It is also necessary to come to a resolution. If you let your spouse know how desperate you are, and the other attorney knows that as well, then the divorce is going to cost you a lot more and you will regret it in the future. I was in court this past week on a case where my client had been in a hurry to end the marriage because of a new relationship. I have seen these scenarios time and again. In this case, the relationship is lasting, but my client has a lot of regrets and remorse over the fact that she sold herself out for far less than she might have been entitled to if she had not been so desperate to end the marriage. Don't rush. A divorce is one of the most critical events in your life, and while it is important get it over with, hurrying can be very costly. You do not want to have regrets once the divorce is final.
5. I've been promised that I will see the children more and pay less. I just have to sign the papers. Be careful. There is often a hidden motive behind a promise, and if someone told you this -- especially if this is a hotly litigated case -- there is often a hidden agenda. Remember, there is no Easter Bunny, and someone who is pushing you to sign the papers too quickly has something up his or her sleeve. This is where it is important to make sure that your attorney fully understands all the aspects of the case and is there to protect you and advocate for you where necessary.
6. Showing your biases and prejudices. I've had clients who will come to me and start using racial, religious or ethnic slurs. I think it's wrong. I think it also shows something about the person that is highly unattractive.
7. Never say never. Never say that you will not pay any spousal support. Never say that your spouse can have everything. Never say that your spouse is going to get nothing. Never say that you are going to leave your children. Every case has an upside and downside, but saying "never" is the worst thing that you can do. There are exceptions to every rule, especially in a divorce situation. Keep an open mind. Remember that your attorney is there to counsel and advise you and help you go forward as you try to rebuild your life.