Lies During a Divorce Settlement: Dealing with a Spouse Who Commits Perjury
During your divorce settlement, you will probably be dealing with high-stakes issues such as division of property, debts, assets, child custody, or possibly spousal support. Because divorces are not only stressful but affect the lifestyles of all parties, a spouse may be tempted to lie to protect his interests. If your former spouse lies in court during the settlement process and the court discovers this, he may face criminal prosecution.
Even though dealing with lies during a divorce settlement can be stressful--and in the cases of false allegations, even lead to emotional trauma--it is important to work within the legal system. This gives you the best chance of protecting your rights and achieving a fair outcome.
Regardless of whether your spouse simply stretches the truth or blatantly lies to the court during the divorce settlement, it is crucial that you remain professional. This means avoiding petty attacks against your spouse or losing your temper in front of the judge or mediator. Even if you have done nothing wrong and are simply pointing out your spouse’s unethical behavior, showing inappropriate behavior may compromise your case. For example, if you know that your spouse is misrepresenting his assets, ask him pointed questions about specific bank accounts or holdings. Likewise, if you spouse devolves into name-calling or attacks your character, state calmly that you will not respond to those attacks. You may also want to request that he remain professional--if your attorney or mediator does not do so first.
With the ubiquitous nature of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, it is also important to remain professional online. If possible, keep all the details of your divorce and separation agreement off the Internet. If you do make any posts referencing your divorce or soon-to-be ex-spouse, avoid venting, ranting, or name-calling. These posts can easily reach your spouse or his or her attorney and be used against you in court. Even trying to defend yourself against false allegations can backfire if you do not phrase your statements carefully. Ultimately, the details of your divorce are between you, your spouse, your respective attorneys, and the court. If your spouse is spreading lies that are damaging your reputation, talk to your attorney about legal recourse rather than trying to defend yourself online.
Recording Keeping and Divorce Settlement Lies
One of the few ways to prove that your spouse is lying during the divorce settlement is to provide records that outline the facts in dispute. Although you may not be able to produce documents to back up some allegations--such as adultery or other socially-inappropriate behavior, keep a log of everything false that your spouse says about you. Note the time and date that your spouse made the false statement and record what he or she said. If you are unsure of the exact wording of the lie, indicate this in your notes.
For all other issues, and in particular, financial matters, hold onto all documents and present them to your attorney. For example, make sure you have copies of the following:
- Monthly bank statements
- Monthly credit card statements
- Income tax returns
- Bills of sale
- Mortgage documents
- Records pertaining to your retirement accounts/IRAs/401(k)s
- Child support/alimony documents
- Household bills and proof of payment
If you are dealing with lies regarding child custody issues, try to obtain the following documents:
- Children's birth certificates
- Results of any paternity testing
- School attendance records
- Report cards
- Reports from teachers/school administrators
- Records of medical or mental health care you have obtained on behalf of your child
- Any records from social service agencies
- Records of any family therapy or individual mental health services you have sought out
Retaining Professional Representation
When you are dealing with a spouse who is willing to lie to attorneys and the court, protecting your rights can be difficult without an attorney. Unless you go through the proper channels to out your spouse's lies, you can make yourself look vindictive or petty, even if your intentions are only bringing out the truth. Thus, hiring a lawyer can help you understand the best way to present your evidence, protect your rights, and ensure that your spouse does not get a divorce settlement based on lies or misrepresentations.
During your first meeting with your divorce attorney, make him or her aware of any patterns of lying or stretching the truth so that he or she will be prepared to address these issues ahead of time.
Additionally, hiring an attorney means that you can minimize contact with your spouse, as he or she will generally need to communicate with you only through your lawyer. Since your lawyer has likely seen similar situations, he or she will likely be unable to shut down manipulation attempts and diffuse requests based on false pretenses before they have the chance to damage your case.
Settlements Based on Perjury
If your spouse commits perjury--that is, if he or she lies under oath--there is little that you can personally do to challenge these statements aside from presenting any evidence that contradicts his or her statements. In other words, you cannot personally bring criminal charges against your spouse. Although the process for criminal prosecutions vary in most states, perjury is always a crime and speaking with a magistrate or court official can help you understand whether you have grounds to report your spouse's illegal activity in an official capacity.
If your spouse commits perjury and receives a divorce settlement based on these lies, you may face an uphill battle in getting a new settlement unless you can produce concrete evidence showing that your spouse was untruthful. In such a situation, you may need to contact an appellate lawyer rather than a divorce or family lawyer. Although appealing the settlement may be costly, in some jurisdictions, your spouse may be required to pay your legal fees if the initial judgment is overturned based on his or her lies.
Common Divorce Settlement Lies
During your divorce, you may deal with various types of lies, but some of the most common involve money and adultery. In contentious divorces, disgruntled spouses may present the following lies:
- Minimizing or hiding income or assets
- Minimizing a spouse's contribution to the household/household finances
- Misrepresenting how joint money was spent
- Accusing a spouse of stealing money/embezzling money from a joint business venture
- Accusing the spouse of cheating (either a physical or emotional affair)
Spouses may also accuse their partner of being emotionally unstable, having a drug or alcohol problem, or being a negligent or abusive parent. To disprove such allegations, your attorney may advise you to voluntarily submit to a mental health or substance abuse evaluation.
In extreme circumstances, some spouses may fabricate child abuse allegations and make reports to social services about their estranged partner. Although the child welfare system is imperfect, child welfare investigators are generally able to establish quickly which allegations are merited and which are lies intended to gain ground during a divorce settlement.
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