Can I call my spouse’s lawyer if mine is out of town?

“I need to discuss certain aspects of my case. Can I call my spouse’s lawyer if mine is out of town?”

Absolutely not! First of all, if you already have a lawyer, your spouse’s lawyer cannot ethically speak with you.

Secondly, this is your spouse’s lawyer. He or she represents and only cares about your spouse, not you. Remember that in the caption or title to your divorce action, there are two words that always appear between your name and your spouse’s. One is the innocuous “plaintiff”; the other is “against.” Simply stated, you are not on the same side.

More important, however, is that even when the attorney properly responds to your call by stating “I’m not ethically permitted to speak to you,” your tone of voice as well as what you actually say may give the lawyer clues to your state of mind, concerns, and priorities. Why tip off the other side? Why allow them the opportunity to size you up? Why let them know what’s on your mind? Why give them any added advantage?

A good lawyer may “depose” you (ask you questions under oath before trial, usually relative to finances only) even if you are not the monied spouse, just to get an idea of how you are likely to react on the witness stand at trial; or (s)he may indirectly observe you at a conference (when your lawyer should be doing most, if not all of the talking). There is no need to give the other side any additional information.

The answer, then, is to leave a message for your own attorney. Many lawyers check in with the office on a daily basis and return calls. Your attorney may also have a partner or associate who can assist you in his/her absence. Sole practitioners always have other lawyers to cover in emergencies.

Or simply write down your concern and share it with your attorney when he or she returns. Often, the question will answer itself or appear relatively unimportant on further reflection. If your question is vital, get it answered by your own lawyer — not the other side.