Family Court judges have a variety of powers to address the different types of cases that come before them. The court hears many kinds of civil matters including divorce, child custody, and domestic violence.
Throughout the process, there are many instances where individuals are required to provide testimony under oath. This is one area where dishonesty can occur.
1. Refusal to Testify
Divorce doesn’t always bring out the best in people. It is not uncommon for spouses to try to gain an advantage by lying in family court. Lying under oath in a court case can be very dangerous. It is not uncommon for a person to attempt to exaggerate their story or mislead the judge in order to obtain more parenting time with children, more money for child support, or more assets from their former spouse.
Judges are often very experienced and very good at sniffing out dishonesty in a case. Trying to trick a judge in this way can be very damaging to a case and could even lead to perjury charges.
While it is rare for a case to go all the way to district trial, there are times that the facts of a case warrant a hearing with a judge in contested matters such as custody and visitation or support. These cases typically include allegations of domestic violence, drug addiction, or child abuse.
In these types of cases, there is an opportunity for a spouse to lie under oath and thereby commit perjury. It is important to work with an experienced attorney who can help ensure that the information you present to the judge is accurate and true. For those who cannot afford their own lawyer, there are legal aid and neighborhood legal service programs that can provide assistance at no cost to those whose income falls below certain thresholds.
2. Contempt of Court
It’s not uncommon for people to lie in family court proceedings. The emotions of a divorce are often heightened and there’s a lot at stake, including the custody of children. However, it’s important for spouses to be truthful with the judge when testifying.
If a spouse is caught lying under oath, they could be found in contempt of court. This is a serious charge that can include fines and even jail time, depending on the situation.
Contempt of court is the failure to respect a court’s authority and may involve actions that occur inside or outside the courtroom. Some examples include tampering with documents, refusing to testify, interfering in a case, failing to obey a court order or misconduct in the presence of a judge.
The most common instances of contempt of court in a family law case are related to violations of court orders, such as child support or visitation. If a spouse fails to meet their obligations under the court order, they can be found in contempt of court and subject to sanctions and possibly even arrest.
Other examples of contempt of court in a family case include attempting to conceal assets or being evasive during a fact-finding hearing. It’s important for a family lawyer to help their clients understand the risks of lying during a divorce proceeding.
There are times when an ex will go to extreme lengths to get ahead in a Family Court hearing, such as lying on income and asset reports. The judge will take action based on the evidence presented. However, it is hard to see how damages can be recovered for this type of deceit unless the deception resulted in substantial financial benefits or a significant injury to the other party.
For example, if an ex lies during a custody hearing about their income or assets and the other parent is able to prove that this information was untrue, then a judge may award some type of financial compensation to the other party. However, this type of remedy is rare in Family Court cases.
Another reason it is difficult to bring perjury charges in Family Court is that it can be challenging to prove a false statement was made under oath. The party who is alleged to have committed perjury must be questioned carefully by the judge about the accuracy of their testimony and their knowledge of the facts.
Although it is a shame that fraud and dishonesty in divorce and custody cases is all too common, there are times when people must bend the truth in order to survive a difficult situation. Unfortunately, this is not fair to the rest of us who are seeking justice in the legal system.
4. Criminal Charges
When you are testifying in court, the judge will ask you to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Lying under oath is called perjury. It is a criminal offense punishable by jail time and fines. Unfortunately, most district attorneys do not press charges for perjury in family court cases because it is so hard to prove that a person intentionally lied while under oath.
However, if you can show that your spouse’s dishonest statements had a significant impact on the outcome of the case, then a judge might be willing to forward the matter to the county prosecutor for possible criminal action. A judge can also find a party in contempt of court and impose financial sanctions.
For example, if your spouse lied about assets or income, the judge could decide to award a greater share of those assets to the non-perjuring spouse as punishment. Similarly, the judge could order your spouse to pay additional legal fees to you in order to defend against false allegations of domestic abuse or child neglect.
It is vital to have an experienced family law attorney by your side in a divorce case. If you believe that your spouse was untruthful during a hearing, then your lawyer can help you fight for the remedies available to you.