Divorce is complicated and one of the challenges is pushing and pulling between transparency and self-protection. Divorced people often want to hide information that they fear may affect their future ex-spouse or put them at a disadvantage in any way in court or in a settlement process. The decision on whether to make a decision transparent, including the decision to hire an attorney, must be weighed against the pros and cons of that decision.
As a mediator, I prefer to err on the transparency side. If you hide something relevant during a negotiation that both spouses are supposed to make informed decisions about, you risk the negotiation to fail and all future negotiations to be conducted without trust. In other words, if you want your spouse to be transparent, you need to demonstrate that willingness as well. This seems more obvious when you are considering keeping pertinent information secret, like the infamous “hidden bank account”. Obviously, you shouldn’t commit fraud and hide any information that you need to disclose. But what about litigation decisions like hiring a lawyer to advise you? Does it make sense to disclose this too?
Should you indicate if you are working with a lawyer?
I understand that some people do not trust lawyers, and when negotiating with their spouse, they fear that hiring a lawyer will make it harder or worse to force their case into a contentious legal battle. When one person needs a lawyer to help them decide what they think is fair, they may be nervous that the other person will be angry or scared when they say they are working with a lawyer.
However, that is afraid of one type of attorney: the trial attorney. There are lawyers who approach cases with a more settlement-oriented mindset. When I meditate, I recommend people hire mediation-friendly attorneys to make sure they have advice, but in a way that confirms that the final decisions still lie with the client. By hiring an attorney like this and both of you to commit to this approach, you can avoid fears that an attorney will automatically make things more difficult. My hope when a customer hires me is that when the spouse visits my website they have peace of mind that I will help bring peace to their family rather than fuel the fight.
On the other hand, their fear is justified, but also disempowering, when someone doesn’t want their spouse to get a lawyer because they don’t want them to be informed. If you qualify yourself in mediation, I would encourage you not to hide it. It won’t be a secret if you are standing up for yourself more effectively anyway.
I acknowledge that there are some situations that people need to protect themselves in such as when a spouse is controlling or abusing, but if you find yourself in any of these situations you are more likely to get into a controversial legal action and this Your lawyer will have to disclose it anyway.
Ultimately, I believe that hiding information is more likely to backfire and hurt a relationship than to be open about something first, even if that thing is likely to upset the other party. It’s so much worse when they find out later and trust can never be restored. If you find yourself in a neutral process like a mediator, you can use their support to get the news out effectively and assist the mediator in asserting the benefits of working with mediation-friendly attorneys in the mediation process.