When you hire a divorce attorney, you will undoubtedly need to reveal some personal and potentially embarrassing information to them. You must trust the divorce attorney not to use that information against you or share that personal information with another party.

This level of trust is necessary for a successful attorney-client relationship. The law recognizes that clients need to be candid with their lawyers and helps facilitate these trusted relationships by prohibiting attorneys from sharing confidential client information with third parties. That is the basis for attorney-client privilege.

What is Attorney-Client Privilege?

Attorney-client privilege is a legal right of each client and attorney in any field of law, including divorce law. A person becomes a divorce attorney’s client when they retain that attorney and sign an agreement with them. From that point forward, the attorney-client privilege applies. 

Attorney-client privilege empowers a client to refuse to disclose communications between them and their divorce attorney. It also prevents the lawyer from disclosing such information. Because the privilege belongs to the client, you have the right to waive attorney-client privilege. Be sure to consult your divorce attorney before deciding to waive that right.

Why Does Attorney-Client Privilege Matter?

A client must speak freely and make full and frank disclosures to their attorney in a divorce case. When you can be completely open and honest with your lawyer, they can provide you with proper advice and more effective representation, particularly in a divorce. 

That’s because divorces typically involve many sensitive issues, including:

  • cases involving children and child custody
  • allegations of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse
  • claims of drug or alcohol abuse
  • mental health concerns
  • issues involving property division 
  • other matters of personal privacy

Clients must recognize that they can be open and honest with their divorce lawyer because it is a divorce attorney’s job to represent clients based on all available information. When a client withholds information, it can weaken representation.

How Far Does Attorney-Client Privilege Go?

Technology can sometimes blur the lines of maintaining confidentiality. A recent opinion by the American Bar Association notes that any disclosure of client information on blogs or social media, even if it’s considered public information, must only be done with prior client consent. This opinion further supports the general rule that no one can compel a divorce attorney to testify against a client in a trial or even reveal illegal activity to police, except under very specific circumstances.

The attorney-client protection is so strong that opposing attorneys cannot request attorney-client communications in any legal case. However, there are practical considerations to be aware of to ensure that attorney-client privilege remains protected.

Here are steps that a client can take to ensure that their information remains private throughout a divorce proceeding:

Think Before Sharing

Going through a divorce is stressful. It can be tempting to want to share the trials and tribulations of your experience with others, including telling others about conversations you’ve had with your divorce lawyer.  

It is important to note that sharing the specifics of these discussions can potentially destroy attorney-client privilege and allow questions from the opposing counsel during the divorce proceedings. You must take extreme caution when you consider sharing this kind of information because the consequences can be significant. In some cases, it may force an attorney to withdraw from representation.

Consider Your Online Footprint

These days, nearly everyone has an online presence, and most communication happens via email,  including communication between a divorce attorney and a client.

While shared email accounts or passwords are common in many marriages, this can be detrimental during a divorce. The more people who have access to your email, the more likely the opposing party will obtain access to confidential communications and damage the strength of your case. Be sure that all of your email accounts are secure so that all communication is kept private and confidential.

Consider Account Ownership and How You Communicate

It’s not uncommon for a person to use a single email account for all of their online correspondence. Suppose your email account is set up through school or work. In that case, you are not the account owner. The organization likely has a right to access its content, thereby destroying any confidentiality and making it discoverable by the opposing party.

To ensure that confidentiality and attorney-client privilege are maintained, set up a new email account with a new password before entering into a relationship with a divorce lawyer.

This will offer you the most protection moving forward.

Why Should I Care About Attorney-Client Privilege?

The attorney-client privilege protects you in the course of your divorce proceedings and allows you to get the most out of your relationship with your divorce lawyer. However, attorney-client privilege is a two-way street. It is up to the attorney and the client to ensure that sensitive information is protected. 

Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help

Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule an appointment. to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Bergen County Law Office
1 University Plaza Dr #400,
Hackensack, NJ 07601, United States