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5 Personal Matters You Should Discuss With Your Divorce Lawyer

by Theresa Hoffman

After you hire a divorce attorney, understand that you will need to discuss some highly personal matters if your split is a contentious one. You may prefer to keep important information under wraps. However, doing so can work against you as you try to negotiate issues such as division of assets, spousal support and child custody.

Your spouse may talk about these matters with their own lawyer even if the two of you had agreed not to do this. Also, even if you're sure your spouse doesn't know certain information, somebody else may talk or find out. 

Examples of Personal Issues You May Need to Discuss

Illegal Activity

If you have done something illegal that could affect your divorce case, tell your lawyer. For example, if you have indulged in smoking marijuana in a state where it's not legal, or if you've driven a vehicle after drinking too much alcohol, your lawyer needs to know. If you were arrested for shoplifting as a teenager, say so.

That doesn't mean your lawyer will ever reveal this information. It means if the allegation comes up during mediation or in court, your attorney won't be blindsided. Your contract with your lawyer ensures attorney-client privilege, so your lawyer cannot divulge what you say unless you allow it. An exception to this privilege would be if you tell your attorney about your plans to commit a crime in the future.


If you've been cheating on your spouse, tell your lawyer. Even if you feel certain your spouse doesn't know, you may be wrong about that. You also can never be sure they won't find out. 

In contrast, you may know that your spouse has been cheating on you. You might not want anybody else to know, as you find it humiliating. Tell your attorney anyway, even if you request that the information not be used. You have the option of changing your mind later if your spouse demands unreasonable spousal support, tries to interfere with your right to shared child custody, or otherwise makes the proceedings difficult. 


Perhaps you haven't always been the most attentive parent, but now you want to arrange joint custody or at least have weekly visitation. Explain what your relationship with your kids is like and why you might have been unavailable much of the time. Maybe you've had to work two jobs or have worked unusual hours, such as nights and weekends. Explain how you can change or have already changed your schedule so you can devote more time to your children. 

Other Problematic Behavior

Tell your lawyer about anything else your spouse, or someone else you know, could mention and hurt your case. Examples might include:

  • having a current or previous addiction to prescription painkillers or anxiety medication
  • being a member of a questionable organization, such as a motorcycle gang
  • spending a great deal of time drinking in bars
  • having an erratic work history

Hidden Assets

You may think you've been successful in keeping some of your assets secret from your spouse or in secretly funneling away some money. However, your spouse's legal team may uncover those assets. That information would then come up in court, leaving your own attorney having to represent you without essential knowledge. 

Preparing for the Future

Divorce can be emotionally exhausting and even feel traumatic. Nevertheless, this is a chance for a new start and a happier life. Focus on that as you take the difficult step of talking about personal matters with your lawyer. 

There's no need to feel embarrassed. Divorce attorneys have heard all sorts of personal information from previous clients and they aren't about to make judgments about your behavior. Your lawyer can best help you if there are no surprises during the divorce proceedings.