In yesterday’s blog post we discussed some basic information related to discovery requests in Texas divorce cases. When your spouse is asking you for information: responses to questions, documents, electronic mail, text messages, etc. it is understandable if you would have concerns regarding your privacy. After all- this is one of the most sensitive stages in your life and when you are asked to provide even more sensitive information on top of that it can be a concern. How then can you expect to maintain a certain degree of privacy while also complying with the rules and requirements that are established for a Texas divorce case?
When you hire an attorney, almost everyone knows that there is a privilege that exists between you as the client and your attorney when it comes to communications made between the two of you. This confidentiality is a hallmark of the attorney-client relationship in both criminal and civil law. An attorney knows not to violate this relationship and is subject to penalties if he or she does.
Information that your attorney learns from you in completing paperwork and in conversations is privileged and may only be disclosed with the permission of the client and when the situation absolutely warrants it.
One of the things that an attorney and their staff must do while representing you is to keep from disclosing confidential information unintentionally. The discovery process offers ample opportunity for the unknowing disclosure of private information that could either severely hurt your case or could at the very least cause embarrassment to you.
Facebook and its relationship to discovery
Gone are the days where the only way to respond to requests for information and documentation with discovery requests was to submit boxes full of paperwork for a lawyer and their staff to search through. The proverbial “needle in a haystack” is spending a full day in search of a few lines on a few pieces of paper that may be relevant to the case.
In its place steps electronic discovery that involves online information that can be searched with more efficiency and ease. Most any family law attorney will tell you that social media websites have become ground zero for searching for relevant information that can be used to assist and bolster their client’s case.
If you have a Facebook profile, for example, you need to understand that your opposing attorney and their staff have likely spent a great deal of time looking at your profile and trying to learn as much about you as possible. While it would probably be overstepping ethical lines to have someone from their office attempt to “Friend” you to gain access to information, photographs and the like it is probable that your Facebook can and will be weaponized against you if there is anything contained therein that could harm you and your case. For this reason, it is wise to put whatever safety and security mechanisms that Facebook has available onto your profile.
While an opposing attorney and their staff likely cannot friend you to obtain information and have that action determined to be legal, your spouse can certainly friend any witness that you may be interested in using in a trial. Since there is nothing illegal about friending another person, your spouse can do so and then be granted access to their profile. If that profile contains damaging information to your case all your spouse would have to do is report this to their attorney.
All in all, the best advice that I can provide in this regard is to consult with your attorney on what you can and cannot do as far as your online presence during a divorce case. You should at the very least turn on whatever protections are available to you online and then significantly reduce your online activity. You do not stand to gain much from being an active online participant during your divorce and certainly stand to lose quite a bit.
Also, you and your attorney should speak with any witness that you intend to use in a trial or hearing and whose information has been provided to your spouse and their attorney. These witnesses should be aware of any potential contact made by your spouse to be hostile to your interests. If you can protect your online activities and inform friends and family of attempts that could be made by your opposing attorney then you will have done a great deal to protect your online privacy.
How an attorney will handle a client who is not truthful with him or her
I would like to switch gears to discuss how an attorney will respond if you are either unable or willing to communicate with him or her, hides information or who outright lies. Hopefully, you are not the sort of person who would engage in this type of behavior. In my years as an attorney, the vast majority of clients that I have encountered have been honest and decent people. However, even I have come across clients and opposing clients who I found to be less than honest.
It goes without saying that you need to be honest with your attorney. Divorce is personal. Divorce can be embarrassing. You are making known issues within your family that you would like very much to have never made known to the general public. Unfortunately, that is not possible with your divorce. When your attorney requests information from you it is not a time for you to pick and choose what you share and what you will keep private.
The bottom line is that your attorney cannot do their job when you are not honest or fail to disclose the whole truth to him or her in any given situation. Most attorneys will ask that you tell him or her very early in the divorce process about any “skeletons” in your closet that may come out during your divorce. When your life is being scrutinized heavily it is understandable to not want to talk about unpleasant subjects or actions that you may have taken. However, they may be relevant to your case and should be told to your attorney. At the very least you should ask your attorney if something is relevant and allow him or her to make that determination.
Ask your attorney about how to best communicate with him or her. Once you are provided instruction on this you will know how to proceed and how to best convey information to your lawyer. At that point, there will be no question as to the best means to do so. If it becomes apparent that you are not willing to communicate effectively with your attorney that will need to be directly addressed between you and your attorney. If it continues to be a problem it would be surprising to find yourself needing to locate and hire another attorney.
Balancing privacy and the goals of your divorce
Few legal cases involve a combination of money, relationships, personal information and hostility like a divorce.
While it is far from certain that your case will see the inside of a courtroom, it is almost certain that there will be relevant issues to discuss in your case that are not pleasing to you. When it comes to situations like this you should be aware that your attorney is on your side even if he or she is asking you to do something that you are not excited about. Your privacy should not ever be comprised- least of all in your divorce.
Questions about your privacy and divorce?
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