Making the decision to end your marriage, or accepting that your spouse has made the decision, is not easy. Heightened emotions, including anger, despair, confusion, and depression, are common throughout the ensuing divorce process. Divorce is also a highly personal matter that is played out in a very public forum. If you are contemplating divorce, or have already been served with a Petition for Divorce, the next step you need to take is to hire an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney to represent you throughout the proceedings. Although it may be difficult to do, it will be very important to confide in your divorce attorney. Understanding why this is so important may help.
The Divorce Process
The divorce process begins when one spouse, known as the “Petitioner,” files a Petition for Divorce and serves the other spouse with a copy and a summons. The other spouse, known as the “Respondent,” then has a set number of days within which to file an official written Answer to the Petition. Ideally, the Petitioner and Respondent are then able to reach an amicable agreement that resolves all of the issues in the divorce. That agreement, known as a “Marital Settlement Agreement,” is then filed with the court for approval. Once approved, the Marital Settlement Agreement becomes part of the final Divorce Decree and serves as the roadmap for the terms of the divorce.
Unfortunately, not all divorcing couples are able to reach an amicable agreement that settles all of the issues in the divorce. When an agreement is not forthcoming, the discovery process is the next step in a divorce. Discovery is when both sides share relevant information with each other, such as tax returns, income verification, and debt figures. The couple might be encouraged to try mediation in an effort to avoid a trial; however if medication does not work the case will eventually go to trial wherein a judge or jury will decide disputed issues in the divorce.
The Need to Confide
Once you retain an attorney the attorney is ethically obligated to keep your best interests in mind at all times and do everything legally possible to secure a favorable outcome for you as the client. To accomplish those goals, however, your attorney must know the facts – the good and the bad. In a divorce, for example, your behavior during the marriage may not be relevant with regard to grounds for the divorce; however, it could be relevant to the division of assets or even custody of the minor children. If you squandered marital assets on someone during an extra-marital affair, for instance, the affair itself isn’t important but the fact that you spend marital assets on the other person could mean you will receive less than your fair share of the assets in the divorce. Likewise, if you want custody of your minor child the fact that you had a drug or alcohol problem in the recent past could impact your chances of getting custody. While your attorney may be able to prevent these negative facts from adversely impacting you in the divorce, your attorney has to know about them in order to counteract their impact.
Why It Is O.K. to Confide in Your Attorney
Your natural inclination may be to keep certain facts and information from your attorney because divulging that information may make you feel vulnerable, could amount to admitting a crime, or may simply shed you in a bad light. Your attorney, however, cannot tell anyone what you have divulged except in extreme situations, such as if you admit you plan to kill someone. Attorney-client privilege protects your relationship with your attorney. Moreover, your attorney is not going to judge you for anything you have done or failed to do. Your attorney has likely heard worse over the course of his/her career. Failing to be candid, however, can put your attorney at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to negotiating or trying your case. There are few things worse for an attorney than getting blind-sided during negotiations, much less at trial, with something negative about his/her client that the client failed to reveal – or worse yet denied outright. For your attorney to help you, you must help your attorney by being honest and forthcoming.
If you are planning to file for divorce, or have been served with divorce paperwork, you should consult with the experienced Tennessee divorce attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.