What Celebrity Divorces Can Teach Us about Attorney-Client PrivilegeCelebrity news is a Catch 22 in a lot of ways. On the one hand, we’re divorce lawyers, and that makes stories about divorce, child support and custody interesting to us. On the other hand, we’re not representing Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, or Tarek or Christina El Moussa, so we don’t want to comment too much since we don’t have all the details.

But seeing so many celebrity marriages fall apart (on a national publicity level, nonetheless) has had an interesting impact on our divorce clients in Maryville: we’ve been getting a lot more questions about things like confidentiality and attorney-client privilege. And that makes sense; after all, it seems like an awful lot of private information gets out into the world when famous couples split up, so you might assume that the same information could get out about you, too.

Attorney-client privilege, or duty of confidentiality?

Let’s start here: in order for attorney-client privilege to exist, there must first be an established attorney-client relationship. If you walk into a lawyer’s office and say, “I beat my wife,” but you haven’t hired that lawyer or firm to represent you, that is not subject to attorney-client privilege. However, if you hire a divorce attorney and tell him or her that you and your wife have gotten into a physical altercation, and now you don’t know what to do because you think it might affect your right to parental access, that communication is protected by attorney-client privilege.

In short, any written or oral communication you have with your hired attorney that could constitute legal advice would fall under this privilege. Your attorney could not divulge any part of your communications while you are his or her client (or after the case is closed) without your express permission.

However, we also owe our clients a Duty of Confidentiality. This prohibits us from speaking about your case even informally. If you have a private conversation in an office with one of our lawyers, then he or she cannot divulge that conversation to anyone else.

The exception to the rule

If you’re about to commit a crime involving risk of death or serious bodily injury, your lawyer is required to report it. For example: if you hire someone from our firm to represent you, and you call your attorney and say, “I’m going to my ex-wife’s house to shoot her new boyfriend,” we have a duty to report that to the police.

Basically, attorney-client privilege works like this: if you have established a relationship with one of us, we can’t testify against you, and we can’t spill your secrets. But if you call us up and say you’re going to commit a crime where someone could be seriously physically injured, or where someone could die as a result, then we have to report it. We’re telling you this upfront because we do everything in our power under the law to make our meetings safe and comfortable for you. We need you to tell us the truth when it comes to your case. You can trust us to protect you.

If you need a skilled Maryville divorce attorney to help you, Shepherd & Associates, P.C. is here to help. You can reach us through our contact form, or call 865.225.9655 to reserve a consultation at our office.

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