Family Law is Personal
It is natural for a parent to want to be involved in their child’s divorce. It’s a time of crisis. If my kid was going through a divorce, you better believe I’d want to be in the frontlines! That’s MY child.
However, proceed cautiously.
Let’s break down the definition of attorney-client privilege:
- Between attorney and client
- Made in confidence
- For the purpose of legal assistance
The purpose of attorney-client privilege is the encouragement of clients to fully disclose their problems without fearing “punishment”. The only way to do this is to ensure their communications to their attorney is protected.
The Client Waives Privilege When They Bring Parents/Friends to the Conversation
Attorney-client privilege only exists between your child’s attorney and your child. It does not extend to family members or friends.
Once they have disclosed the contents of the communications with their attorney to you, they have waived the privilege.
What does that mean? Well, technically, it means the communications are no longer privileged and can be discoverable. Which mean, if the other side found out your child has waived the privilege, they can depose you under oath about your child’s case. YOU can’t assert privilege, because you are not the client. And YOUR CHILD can’t assert privilege, because it’s waived!
Never Communicate with Your Child’s Attorney
First and foremost, do not communicate with your child’s attorney without your child being present. EVER! Your child is the client; NOT you. Ethically, the attorney should not be speaking with your directly without your child being present.
What if your child is on the call? It depends. I tend to veer on the safe side. I prefer never to copy anyone on a client email unless the ground rules are explained in detail.
Remember It’s Your Child’s Family
I always tell clients, once you have children with someone, it’s for life. As a parent whose child is going through divorce, you will fiercely fight for your child. But remember, at the heart of this is also the well-being of your grandchildren.
As much as you detest your daughter’s ex-husband (or your son’s ex-wife), they are your grandchildren’s parent. You cannot surgically remove them without consequences.
Your adult child needs to be responsible for his/her choices. There comes a time where you need to cut the strings and let them go. Incidentally, leave and cleave is a principle I generally adhere to for the success of a marriage.
Emotionally Supporting Your Child Doesn’t Mean You Always Take Their Side
Your child needs to know that you will always love them. But that doesn’t mean you need to “take their side” in the divorce. In fact, as a divorce attorney, I often see parents meddling with divorces tend to drag it out, and exacerbate dynamics between the parties. (i.e., “Her DADDY is paying for the divorce, so she can just fight me on everything.” “There he goes, running to “MOMMY” again….)
Divorce is difficult, but your child needs to go through it alone. You can sit on the sidelines, not the frontlines.
Never Force Your Child to Get a Prenup!
Believe it or not, parents call our offices requesting that we reach out and contact their CHILD to get a prenup.
Entering a marriage is a personal choice, as well as getting a prenup. It is not YOUR choice for your child to get a prenup. You have many options, but getting a prenup for your child is not one. After all, the prenup binds your child (not you), so your child must sign it.
Spend Time With Your Children; Teach Them Right
Basically, you should probably teach your child and raise them right. Sure, even so, they may make many mistakes. That’s life.
But part of life is also being responsible for those mistakes such that they learn.
Divorce is certainly a learning experience – one that I never wish on any child, especially mine. But you can support them and actually help them learn and move on, or make things worse. Choose the former.