Stacy is sitting on the witness stand. She’s been married to her husband five years and has dated him six years. She’s accused him of an affair with her mom, because she’s got it going on. She has told her lawyers that she’s been a stay at home mother for the past 2 years. He didn’t want her working. She barely was allowed to spend money and he’s had this long standing affair with her mother while she’s been taking care of the children. During the hearing Stacy is on the stand when the opposing attorney questions her about her indiscretions:
“Ma’am, you’ve stated that you spend all of your time taking care of your children and providing a healthy home environment for your husband, is that correct?”
“You neglected to mention the affair you’re having with your brother in law, your mailman, and the coffeeshop owner down the street?”
“Uhm.. uh… well those are over.”
“You also neglected to mention that you’ve been buying gift cards every time you go to Target to pay for these hotel rooms and the condoms, didn’t you?”
At this point Stacy’s attorney is looking for any objection of any kind to buy time. Stacy’s attorney had no warning about these instances and if he had, he’d probably have advised her to take multiple other deals before now. Their case is wrecked and there’s not much they can do to save it. Stacy’s credibility with her attorney and with the judge is gone.
This is just an example of why lying to your lawyer is a bad idea. Of course, this is a dramatic example, but it’s not far from what has happened to many of us family law attorneys. It really is our worst nightmare because most, if not all, lawyers are huge planners. The unexpected is not welcome nor appreciated. Below are a few reasons why you should truth serum it up while talking to your attorney:
- Lawyers typically, on average, are pretty smart. I’m not saying all lawyers are rocket scientists, but on average, we’re pretty nerdy. We love research and we love being right. If your lawyer isn’t smart, they probably won’t be around very long. That being said, due to the high level of intellect involved, most lawyers will either figure out that you’re lying to them and then you’ll be dealing with number three down there, OR they’ll trust you, and the other side will point out your lies to them (because, they’re lawyers too, and they don’t trust you so they won’t just take your word for it).
- It’s easier to defend against a surprise, if you have time to build a defense. If your lawyer knows the nitty gritty, the big secret that you’re hiding, and have had time to research the repercussions, then when the big shock comes up, it’s no big deal. Your lawyer can jump on the issue, explain it, and move on. If your lawyer is bumbling and stumbling asking for a continuance to discuss the matter over why you’ve had an affair for 15 years, and had 6 other kids, there’s a good chance your case just lost a lot of leverage.
- Trust is hard to rebuild. If you’ve lied to your lawyer for six months about your income and we find out it’s substantially more, we’re not going to trust much else that you say. We’ve been using that information to litigate and negotiate on your behalf. We can’t, in good conscience, go back to the previous information we had when we know that you’re lying to the court. Further, if you lie about one thing, what’s to say you aren’t sleeping with your cousin or running an underground circus? We don’t even know you anymore!!!
- It is not your lawyer’s job to judge you. If it were our job, we’d be called judges, but we’re not that cool. We are here to work with the information you give us and fight for you. If we don’t have all the information, how can we provide the best legal services for you? Don’t fear us being Judgmental Judy and let us do our job by giving us the entire picture, not your photo shopped version.
- It makes the entire case more expensive. How could it make your case more expensive? We have to rework your entire case once we figure out that you’ve lied to us. We have to check all our previous offers, communications, and defenses and then alter them to fit the full truth. In order to CYA, you need to let us in!