Do you have to tell your lawyer everything – even details you consider private?

Divorce is a deeply personal affair as well as a legal one, so it’s perfectly understandable that you might be reluctant to share certain information about your marriage with your lawyer. However, the better informed your lawyer is about your case, the better able he or she is to represent you. Remember that your lawyer is ethically obliged to keep all correspondence with you confidential. You should feel free to reveal personal, private facts that may have a bearing on your case. This doesn’t mean you have to disclose “everything”, but certain items of information that may seem unimportant or irrelevant may turn out to be otherwise as the case unfolds.

If your lawyer doesn’t have the whole story with regards to your case, there’s the danger that the other party could leak out information that could be damaging to your side. If it looks as if you have hidden the information from your lawyer, or as if both of you have hidden it from the court, this could severely damage your credibility. There’s also the danger of your lawyer inadvertently making untrue statements that get contradicted by the other party’s evidence in court. If your lawyer is armed with the full truth from the start, these pitfalls can be avoided.

It is never a good idea to deliberately misrepresent the facts to your lawyer or the court. If caught lying under oath, you could be charged with perjury – particularly if you were attempting to conceal assets or other information vital to the case. At best, you will diminish your credibility with the judge, make a fool of your lawyer, and provide the other party with an obvious advantage. It’s better to reveal all relevant information right from the start and allow your lawyer to work from that.

Again, the more knowledge your lawyer has, the more prepared he or she is to represent you – and to overcome unexpected pitfalls or surprises that may turn up.

Brahm Siegel is a partner in the law firm of Nathens, Siegel LLP, a Toronto law firm restricted to family law matters. Brahm has experience in all aspects of divorce and family law and devotes much of his time to assisting clients with custody and access dispute. He can be reached at (416) 222-6980. View his firm’s Divorce Magazine profile and website.


  1. Nicola says:

    Definitely Yes! How could a lawyer defend his/her client’s side if you are hiding something in relation with the case. If ever your spouse would plat dirty tactics and it happen that you haven’t telling everything to your lawyer, this will make you lose…Simple Divorce Advice

  2. Martha says:

    I know some people think it is better to withhold some info from their lawyers,, especially if they feel are not in their favour. Not a good idea. The truth always comes out any way, and when it does, your lawyer may have to rework the case. That will cost you more for sure.

  3. Martha Chan says:

    Sometimes people withhold information because they are afraid it may harm them (e.g. if they got a sum of money that they think should not be split with their spouse) or they are embarassed by something (e.g. if they had an affair). Whatever the reason is, the truth will eventually come out any way.