I had to fire a client recently. This is not a recurring event for me. It’s not even a sporadic event. I would say that firing a client for me is a rare event.
But, over the years, I have had to fire clients for a variety of reasons such as that they were overly difficult, that they were not listening to my advice or —the bane of any lawyer’s existence— that they were not paying.
But the most recent time I had to “divorce” my own client was because I found out she lied. Not a white lie such as about whether she actually did call her husband a jerk in public when they were vacationing in Hawaii 10 years ago, or whether she actually did lock the master bedroom door so she could rifle through his personal items. These types of lies are a divorce lawyers every day dish. Not that that makes it right. If you really want to put your divorce lawyer in the best position to be able do a good job for you, you should disclose everything to him or her.
No -but in this case, my client perpetuated a King Size lie. Changing the facts a bit to protect the guilty, this was a very short term marriage – less than five years in duration. She married her much older and very wealthy husband after signing a very specific and very iron clad prenuptial agreement. After he experienced health problems (and she found a new boyfriend – that’s not the lie – I knew about that part), she decided it was time to move on to the next gravy train.
While the terms of the prenuptial agreement were quite detailed and unambiguous, we mediated the case, and I was able to secure nearly double what the terms for which the prenuptial agreement provided. Why? Because the husband, while frail and hurt, still had feelings for her and was concerned about how she was going to live the rest of her life. That day, we executed a Marital Settlement Agreement, and she filed a Financial Affidavit. A Financial Affidavit is a SWORN document, that tells the court what your income and expenses are, as well as what assets and liabilities you have. And oh by the way, if you lie on this document, the court can penalize you for PERJURY.
So a month after the settlement, I find out from opposing counsel (HIS lawyer) that, during this case and before mediation, she signed a contract to purchase a home in another state for $10 million dollars with new boyfriend. And he gave her an engagement ring worth $500,000. So guess what the husband did when he found out? He filed a motion to set aside the agreement because it was based on fraud.
My client’s response? Yes, that is all true. But she said blithely: “He shouldn’t have read my email” (“that was on the iPad I gave back to him and that wasn’t password protected” – she didn’t say this part but this is what happened). So she said she wanted to fight the claim. And I said, okay sure. But find another lawyer to do it. You’re fired.
Bottom Line: You can’t lie to your lawyer. But more important for you, it will put YOU in a precarious situation. Because if you don’t tell the truth, the truth will come out. And most likely from the other side, at a very inopportune time. In divorce, the truth shall set you free (pun intended).