There are all sorts of things which could get you sideways with your relationship with your co-parent: you have joint legal custody and switched your child’s school; you were in a domestic violence situation with a significant other on your parenting time weekend and the police were called; you had your child baptized in your church without telling your co-parent; your significant other was in a huge fight with your co-parent in front of the children during a parenting time exchange; you were arrested for a DWI while the children were in the car; and the list goes on and on. Maybe you have even spoken with your co-parent about the situation and thought it was worked out and the situation was resolved. Two weeks later, your co-parent has gone to their attorney and filed a petition to modify custody or for contempt as a result of the incident. Meanwhile, your attorney is learning about the incident for the first time upon receiving it from opposing counsel and may have to file a response.
“But I thought we had worked it out!?” you say. “I didn’t want to spend any money on attorney fees.” Unfortunately, not telling your attorney what happened may end up costing you way more money than if you had snitched on yourself in the first place. Your attorney is there to hear, and should hear, ALL the dirty laundry about you. Your attorney cannot help put you in the best position without knowing everything that the other side might say about you.
While it’s natural in “the real world” to think that fessing up to a problem and handling it with your co-parent would indeed solve the problem. However, when parents are in litigation with custody and parenting time at risk, everything comes under the microscope and is subject to tremendous scrutiny. Anything that can put one parent in a better light – especially if the other parent may have some blemishes on their own record – may be fodder for Court. Knowing that, it is always best to immediately tell your attorney when something happens, even if it’s something you think may cast you in a negative light. Your attorney may advise you not to file anything with the Court or may suggest not sending anything to the other attorney, but at least when and if that petition to modify comes, your attorney will know YOUR side of the story and can respond promptly, even perhaps anticipating that something will be filed. Better yet, your attorney may be able to reach out to the other side and perhaps pour water on the fire rather than the gasoline that a Court filing will cause.
Along the same lines, if something is happening in your case where YOU are being wronged, your attorney needs to know that too. If you aren’t getting your parenting time, if you haven’t been receiving your support, or if you find out that your ex has moved two hours away and taken the child, these are all things that – without you notifying your attorney – your attorney will never know. Your attorney cannot help you if you won’t share what’s going on.
As Jerry McGuire says, “Help me, help you.” The only way your attorney can help you is if you let him or her, and that may mean spilling the dirt on yourself before your co-parent does.