Scales Law Office
Located and practicing in Martinsburg and throughout Eastern West Virginia
304-267-9090

Should you tell your divorcing spouse of a criminal charge?

You are in the middle of the divorce process and get charged with a crime. It could be DUI, assault or something else, but it is your first criminal charge.

One of your concerns may be whether you need to tell your soon-to-be ex-spouse. After all, you should be innocent until proven guilty, right? There is no right answer to the question of whether to tell your spouse, so always follow the advice of your attorney. You may have the same person representing you for your divorce and criminal charge, or your counsel may be separate people. The recommendations may differ depending on the situation.

Criminal records are public information and it is likely that your ex will find out eventually. If you withhold the information and it is pertinent to your divorce/custody case, the family court judge may look unfavorably on you in the future for not fully disclosing the facts during litigation. However, these decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis and you should always speak with your legal counsel before disclosing the charges to other parties, including your ex-spouse.

If minor children are involved

If your divorce involves minor children, keeping quiet about your criminal charge may hurt you more if it comes to light during proceedings than if you had disclosed it and been able to control the message.

Many divorces with children entail parents determining custody issues, child support issues and distribution of assets. For instance, a spouse could use a DUI charge to claim that you have no business driving the kids anywhere. By disclosing early on, you gain the ability to explain the charge, why it happened and why it is unfounded. It is important to not accidentally confess guilt if you plan to fight a charge; your attorney may be the one to make all communications about the charge.

If an asset is affected

Suppose your charge involves damage to a car that has both of your names on its title or that is solely in your spouse's name. Perhaps the car is totaled. That asset has to be taken off the table or its value adjusted in property settlement talks, so disclosure of a charge may be necessary.

If you have been charged with a crime while you are in the middle of a divorce, it is a good idea to ask your attorney about disclosing the charge to your spouse. Keeping quiet can be tempting, but there are often compelling reasons to share.

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Scales Law Office
314 West John Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401

Phone: 304-267-9090
Fax: 304-267-9035
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