Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Honesty is the Best Policy

In family law cases, many clients think that some information they have available to them is not relevant, are ashamed to admit something, or are actively trying to disguise their true intentions from a lawyer.

You may be aware that your lawyer has a duty to not mislead the Court and so you may withhold information from them as a result.

However your lawyer is the person best positioned to advise you as to whether something is relevant or irrelevant.

For example, in parenting cases, sometimes a response to your Court documents is received that suddenly raises allegations of drug use, alcohol use or a prior criminal history. When asked about why the client did not mention this to you previously, the response might be that ‘it was irrelevant’ or a client felt ashamed about their situation. This leaves you and your lawyer having to perform a great deal of work to catch up and explain why there was not disclosure initially.

It also feeds into a perception that you are not being upfront or able to deal with problems, or that you will not openly admit to any difficulties that may arise in the future.

If you tell your lawyer early on, they are able to provide you with guidance to help you address any drug or alcohol issues, or direct you towards appropriate resources such as counsellors to support you to avoid delays.

Similarly, a business deal or written agreement might not be mentioned to a lawyer in a property proceeding because you did not want to bring a third party into your personal life. Again, your lawyer is best positioned to assess whether this is necessary; they can then give you all the options and you can make a conscious choice, instead of regretting a failure to even discuss the issue latter.

Having to disclose such a document later in proceedings ignites accusations from other parties that the document may have been prepared after the fact or that there has been an attempt to ambush. A failure to disclose may also result in another party to your case seeking costs against you for your conduct of the case.

As a rule of thumb, it is better that you are transparent and honest with your motivations, history and difficulties you are currently facing to your lawyer, so that you and your lawyer aren’t caught off-guard.

To find out more or for specific advice about your circumstances, call us on 03 9614 7111 or email Melbourne@nevettford.com.au.

1 comment:

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