The importance of being honest with your lawyer

When facing legal problems, your lawyer is your ally. They are your defender and protector who fights for your rights when required.

So, being truthful with your lawyer is essential because otherwise we cannot do our job properly and the outcomes can sometimes be dire.

Here are a couple of examples.

Recently, I was acting for a mother in a parenting case in the Federal Circuit Court.

Both mother and father had previously had drug issues during their relationship and had made disclosures about that.

The father’s lawyer and I had been negotiating for hours before we had to appear before the Judge to try and come to an agreement on parenting orders.

The parties were on the verge of signing the orders, which would have finalized the matter, when the lawyer for the father asked me to obtain instructions from my client about any recent involvement by her in using or dealing drugs. I asked my client about this and she provided me details of how she had been charged with a drug offence in August 2018 but that it had been dealt with in the Court. She had been given a fine and no conviction had been recorded.

I relayed those instructions to the lawyer for the father. He turned to me and said, “we are going to give your client one more opportunity to be honest about this issue”.
 
I asked my client again who repeated the same instructions. I went back to the lawyer for the father.
 
He dramatically pulled out some paperwork received from the Police, pointed to an entry which stated the mother had been charged with drug driving in December 2018 (a charge which had not yet been dealt with in the Court) and exclaimed, “well how does she explained THIS!!”.
 
As you can imagine, it was quite a shock. When I asked my client why she had lied to me about the issue, she told me that she was too embarrassed to tell me.
 
I explained to her the seriousness of the lie and that it may affect her case in a very dramatic way.
 
In the end however, the father’s lawyer and I were able to fine tune to the agreement to provide for safeguards in relation to the child and the mother’s drug issues but, the mother now faces more stringent orders including drug testing prior to every visit with the child for the foreseeable future which may have been avoided had she told the truth in the first place.
 
In another case, I was acting for a husband in a property settlement matter. The matter went to trial and the husband was ordered to pay an amount of money to the wife from his superannuation fund.
 
At the end of the trial, my client was not happy with the outcome. Outside of the Courthouse, he told me that he was going to take all of the money out of superannuation fund so the wife would not get any of it. I advised him in very strong terms not to do that as there would be serious consequences for breaching an order of the Court. He appeared to understand that advice.
 
Not much later, I received notice from the husband’s superannuation fund that the wife had tried to obtain her entitlement. There was no money left in the fund. When the client was asked about it, he tried to cover his tracks and lie about the whereabouts of the money.
 
After that, because of his actions, I could no longer act for him and he was ultimately hauled back before the Judge to provide an explanation of his actions. The Judge ordered that the money be paid to the wife immediately and he was also ordered to pay all of the other parties’ costs. A very costly lie indeed.