Client-Solicitor Relationships: Honesty Is A Two-Way Street

It should go without saying that in order for a lawyer to provide competent and effective advocacy, they will have to have accurate information from those that have hired them for representation.  Yet, we find that many clients sometimes tell some significant untruths.  Here are the top lies that Family Law lawyers sometimes hear from their clients:

  1. Under-Reporting Income

Separating and divorcing spouses often slip into “adversarial” mode, where they feel the need to hide or under-report their income to the other party – and by extension to their lawyer as well.  Although the goal may be to minimize the amount of income-based child and/or spousal support that must be paid, it is never a wise idea to withhold the full truth about your means.  Courts are legislatively entitled to impute income to a Family Law litigant who has been proven to have under-reported his or her income, and to even impose sanctions where appropriate.

  1. Valuations

Like their income, and especially in the early stages of the process, clients frequently omit to giving full and accurate information in regards to the existence or value of their investments, business interests, ancillary income sources and assets.  Their lawyer should remind them that they are under legal obligation to give fair and full disclosure about their financial situation throughout the process; it is better to come forward early on than to have a court conclude that the disclosure has not taken place correctly and accurately.

  1. Over-Estimating Their Contribution to the Relationship

It could be human nature for one to want to think the best of oneself.  However, separating spouses often over-estimate their respective responsibilities and day-to-day contributions of the relationship while simultaneously minimizing the role of the other partner.  This could range from household chores, childcare duties, home and car upkeep and other non-tangible items, such as social scheduling and vacation planning.

  1. Who Is “At Fault”?

Although spouses can get a divorce even though there has been no adultery or emotional abuse in Ontario, many clients often feel the need to tell their counsel the details of their partner’s poor behaviour and short-comings – while purposefully minimizing their own.

  1. Lies About Adultery and Other Affairs

One of the unfortunate truths is that by the time a spouse comes in to consult with a lawyer about their separation, the marriage has long past the point of possible reconciliation. Often this is because one or both parties have mentally “moved on” to other connections, either by having a sexual or emotional affair or by engaging in other behaviour that is not healthy for the existing marriage – and these details are ones that clients are rarely (if ever) candid about.

The separation and divorce process is never easy and already involves a complex array of emotions.  Adding dishonesty to the equation should never be done as it complicates the already difficult legal process.