Lying in court isn’t just a bad idea—it’s against the law. And yet, so many people still try to get away with it, for one reason or another. If you believe that your spouse (or ex-spouse, at this point) has been lying or the outcome of your case was impacted by lies they told previously, you should definitely take action. The first step, of course, will be to consult your divorce attorney and let them know what’s going on.
Proving perjury is a difficult task, but it can (and should) be done. If you believe that your ex has lied about anything in the divorce proceedings, you shouldn’t sit idly by. It’s time to act and ensure that they are held accountable. And depending on the circumstances, your lawyer will help you decide if there’s enough proof of lying in court or falsifying information in other ways that the courts will deem it necessary to change the divorce decree.
What Constitutes Perjury in Divorce?
Divorce is a legal process, and like any other legal process, requires all parties involved to swear an oath to tell the truth. Of course, in order to accuse someone of lying, they have to be willing and cognizant of telling the lie. There’s a difference here in lying and just not providing information or forgetting to tell the court something. The perjury must be willful for it to be charged.
There are also two types of perjury: indirect and direct.
The latter is the one most people think of—this is the outright lie. For example, if one spouse says they don’t have $300,000 in liquid assets in a bank somewhere and it turns out that they do, that’s direct perjury.
If, on the other hand, someone shares a partial truth, that is indirect perjury. An example here would be if one spouse stated that their investment portfolio is worth $500,000 when it’s actually worth $1 million and they’re aware of that.
Mistakes and Misremembering Don’t Count
The biggest thing to remember here is that there’s a difference between forgetting and being fully and wholly dishonest with the courts. Divorce is a messy process, and it can be stressful. Plus, keeping track of assets and debts will bring other stresses. If your spouse simply forgot to disclose something or remembered a value incorrectly, it’s not going to constitute perjury or a reason to overturn the divorce decree.
There have been plenty of legitimate cases where people testify that they don’t know how much they have in assets or completely forget to disclose a bank account or investment that they haven’t touched in a decade. People who have a lot of assets should always work with a divorce lawyer and tracing experts that can ensure that all of the assets and debts are discovered and disclosed to avoid this type of issue.
The Challenges of “He Said, She Said”
The other problem of many arguments regarding assets or other elements in the divorce is the fact that many situations occur where the spouses were the only two in the room and it comes down to a matter of one spouse’s word versus the other’s. You can’t prove perjury based on a conversation that you had in private. Hearsay is often a big issue in divorce cases and the division of assets. Since couples could claim that one said just about anything, it becomes more difficult to get to the bottom of the situation.
If your spouse told you in private that they had hidden assets somewhere, you would need to get proof of those assets in order to be able to claim perjury with the courts. And even then, it can be hard to get a decree overturned because the individual could claim that they forgot about those assets, and it will be very difficult to prove otherwise.
The Penalties for Perjury
Whether someone lies about assets or goes so far as to lie about circumstances that could influence a custody determination, the penalties could be quite severe. The smallest penalties include fines and community service, while some people may be charged with jail time for their perjury, depending on how serious it was. There are rulings for penalties from Class D misdemeanors up to felony charges.
Family court judges take lying in court seriously. They won’t hesitate to send someone who lies right to jail in the middle of a divorce trial. And once someone is in custody, they’ll find themselves paying more attorney’s fees and waiting for the civil remedies to kick in.
Judges don’t want to put people in jail during a divorce hearing, or at any point. However, they also won’t tolerate people lying in court during a divorce hearing and they will ensure that penalties are enforced so that everyone is aware of how serious the matter is.
Is Your Ex Lying in Court?
If you are dealing with someone who is lying in an attempt to garner more assets, gain custody of the children, or even just to appear more favorable in the divorce, you need to make sure that you start collecting proof early and check for more on a regular basis. Document or record your conversations and save text messages. Talk to your divorce lawyer about the best way to proceed with your case and prove that your spouse is lying about certain elements of the divorce.
If you think that you’ve got a perjury case with your divorce decree, contact an experienced attorney right away. That will allow you to get the professional expertise that you need to protect yourself and prove that your ex is lying to the courts. With a dedicated attorney on your side, you’ll be more likely to get a fair outcome with less stress. Contact Modern Law to discuss your divorce case and how we can help you, whether you’ve got an amicable divorce or are dealing with conflict and concerns like perjury.