Know What to Do if Your Spouse Is Lying During Your Divorce
Experiencing a divorce is one of the most stressful situations many people will face in life. As a result, the divorce process is often a time in which individuals may exhibit behaviors that are not typical for them. The stress each spouse experiences when their relationship ends often brings emotions to a boiling point, and the resulting conflict can bring about situations the former couple never expected.
There are a number of important tasks involved with the divorce process, including determining alimony, deciding who should have custody of the children, identifying who should pay child support, and deciding how to split up debts and assets in a way that is acceptable to both parties. When one spouse begins stretching the truth or blatantly lying to achieve a more beneficial outcome, the divorce process becomes even more complicated. Lying under oath is against the law, and it is crucial to know the consequences of such actions during divorce.
Is a Person Only “Under Oath” When They Are on the Witness Stand?
Everyone has seen witnesses in fictional courtroom dramas raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth on the stand. It is important to recognize, however, that the courts consider an individual to be under oath as soon as they agree to tell the truth during any legal process. There are consequences in place for those who fail to do so.
In short, being “under oath” doesn’t just apply to courtroom situations in which one is testifying live. In divorce proceedings, for instance, most of the documents filed require a signature and feature a statement in writing noting the “penalty for perjury.” So, when you see a notice on your divorce petition stating that every statement you have made in the document is true “to the best of your knowledge,” you are in effect taking an oath, just as you would if you were testifying on the stand.
How Serious Is the Punishment?
Perjury, or the crime of lying under oath, is a federal crime. In a civil court, like the court that will hear divorce proceedings, the judge is limited in their power to punish the lying spouse. However, they are able to send the case to a criminal prosecutor, and the consequences may range from fines to probation or even a sentence of up to five years in prison. Even if the judge determines that the case is not serious enough to warrant a criminal investigation, they do have the power to find the lying party in contempt of court. The punishment for contempt may include jail time or fines.
Any individual who handles their divorce proceedings with honesty and integrity can likely rest assured that they have done nothing to warrant legal consequences. Unfortunately, many people are tempted to gain an advantage over their soon-to-be-ex-spouse by misrepresenting the truth or embellishing the details related to the dissolution of the marriage. The consequences of doing so far outweigh the benefits, and being untruthful is never a wise option.
What if My Spouse Lies Under Oath?
If you are experiencing a divorce and you know your spouse is being untruthful, it is important to notify your spouse and the court of this knowledge. For consequences to occur, you must be able to prove your knowledge to the courts. The first step is to ask your attorney to confront your spouse or their attorney and inform them that you have evidence to prove their statement or statements are false.
If you wish to make a continued effort to keep the divorce proceedings moving forward on good terms, you may simply ask your spouse to correct the falsehood without taking it before the judge. If they refuse to accommodate your request, however, the next step is to inform the judge. Depending on the severity of the lie, your spouse may incur one of the penalties listed above.
How Do You Proceed if You Suspect a Lie but Have no Proof?
There are various ways an individual may attempt to hide or misrepresent the truth while completing divorce documents. Fortunately, it is likely that you will pick up on these details fairly quickly. Most civil court judges have seen many sloppy attempts at lying, so if your spouse is lying about your marital history, making false statements, or attempting to hide assets, there is a good chance the judge will also have suspicions.
One of the more common attempts at misleading the courts is a scenario in which a spouse deliberately leaves a job for one that pays far less than they were making. These individuals typically claim that they had no control over the situation or that they were laid off, and it can be difficult for their former spouses to prove the change was intentional. It quickly becomes apparent to most judges, however, that it isn’t a coincidence that the job change happened at the same time as the divorce proceedings. If the court determines the move to be intentional, the judge may choose to base spousal or child support on the income the dishonest spouse had been making, as opposed to the income at the new job.
The most effective solution to expose a dishonest party is to hire a skilled attorney. Divorce attorneys have the resources necessary to request documentation, participate in depositions, subpoena records, and locate hidden assets that can support your claim that falsehood has occurred.
What if You Don’t Know Your Spouse Lied Until After the Divorce is Finalized?
It is difficult to revisit your divorce settlement after it is finalized. However, it is not impossible if you have the evidence to prove your spouse intended to deceive the courts. In fact, it is likely that your divorce judgment includes a provision that allows either party to request that the case be reopened if they discover that the other spouse lied. There are certain circumstances in which the lying spouse can lose their entire share of the marital estate if it is determined that their deceit was intentional.
Professional Divorce Attorneys You Can Trust
If you are experiencing a divorce and feel that your spouse is untruthfully completing their divorce documents or attempting to hide assets, it is vital to have a skilled attorney to help you achieve the best result. The professionals at Bickford, Blado, & Botros have handled many of these cases and know how to get to the truth. Visit our website today to request more information.
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