Can I privately tell my immigration lawyer about my arrest, so U.S. citizen husband doesn't hear?

Keeping a criminal arrest secret from your spouse is likely to be impossible, and the lawyer has an ethical obligation not to hide secrets from a client.

Question

I am from Trinidad. I was arrested for assault three years ago though I did not get convicted. My husband does not know anything about this and I don’t want to tell him because I am scared he will get a different idea about me. I want to leave the past behind. But now we are applying for my green card and I have read that maybe I need to send my criminal records with my application. I want my lawyer to help me with this, but I do not want her to tell my husband about my arrest. Is there a way my lawyer can keep the information secret?

Answer

Most lawyers would, for ethical as well as practical reasons, prefer not to keep secrets between spouses in marriage-based green card cases.

For one thing, if a lawyer is representing both you (as the I-485 applicant) and your husband (as the I-130 petitioner), then helping you keep your case information secret from him could actually get the lawyer in trouble -- not just as a violation of the ethics rules of the legal profession (on the subject of “conflicts of interest”) but perhaps even as a potential ground for a future malpractice suit by your husband.

The only way your lawyer could “ethically” hide case information from your husband is if she made it absolutely clear to him, before she began representing either you or him, that you -- the I-485 applicant -- would be her sole client in the case. To comply with this requirement, she would have you alone sign her G-28 form, and then she would probably need to have him sign some form of statement acknowledging that he is not (and has at no point been) her client.

However, most lawyers would probably find this last option too risky and impractical. Your lawyer might be in a better position to assist you if she is representing your husband at the same time.

Moreover, trying to keep your arrest record secret from your husband is likely to be both futile and damaging to your case. Indeed, questions about the arrest are very likely to come up during your immigration interview, and, at that time, your husband might not react very well to having not heard sooner (and directly from you) about that aspect of your past. Not to mention that the immigration officer could find it very suspicious (in judging whether your marriage is real) that your husband was so unaware of your background.

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