No one likes to be lied to or about. In divorce and child custody cases, the stakes and emotions are already high. Perhaps lying and gaslighting is part of the reason you’re no longer together. But false allegations or denials in Court can push whatever threadbare shred of communication and cooperation that still exists between exes into decidedly hostile territory.
Some of the most topics about which people are dishonest in family Court:
- Existence or value of assets.
- The other parent’s relationship with the child.
- Child abuse or neglect.
- Domestic violence (particularly denial of it).
False accusations can be infuriating. However, it’s imperative that you rein in the big emotions before reacting. By pausing, discussing it with your New Jersey divorce lawyer, and formulating a thoughtful response strategy, you may not only overcome those false allegations, you may significantly bolster your own case.
People who lie in Court often do so because they think it’s going to give them the upper hand. However, it’s not going to be the big win they think if/when they get caught. Family Law Judges are given a great deal of discretion in these cases, and that means credibility is critical. Damage your credibility with the Court, and you’ll be working twice as hard to prove every point from then on.
Furthermore, lying under oath is called perjury, and Courts can impose substantial penalties for it.
How you address falsehoods will depend on what exactly they lied about.
When Former Spouses Lie About Income
Where we most often see untruths about income, it involves a spouse who is self-employed. A typical wage earner would have little motivation to fudge the facts because pay stubs are going to spill the tea.
Self-employed individuals, those who work “under the table” or freelancers are going to have more opportunity to conceal the true amount of income.
Contradicting their claims involves being meticulous about records and compelling your ex to attest to their income under oath. Lying under oath about one’s income invites perjury charges, and that’s enough for most people to come clean. Careful analysis of tax records, bank statements and personal expense records is a must, and you may need to hire a forensic accountant.
When Ex-Spouses Lie About Assets
Some are motivated to lie about the existence or value of assets because they don’t want their ex to have a piece of it. But this can have serious implications if the lie is discovered - including total loss of that asset to the other party.
Assets such as bank accounts and houses tend to be difficult to conceal because there’s often a clear paper trail. Items that may be less difficult to track may include things like intellectual property and franchises, cash, collectibles and retirement accounts. It’s also not unheard of that a spouse suddenly “repays” a sizable “debt” to a friend, family member or colleague (when in fact, they are diverting marital funds for safe-keeping.)
To address lying about the existence and value of assets, spouses should work with their attorneys to initiate formal discovery that compels the other party to answer questions about the assets under oath. There should also be a careful review of financial records and possibly hiring a forensic account or other professional who can accurately value certain assets. Witnesses who can counter the ex’s position or willing to testify he/she has a history of lying can also be helpful.
Exes Who Lie About Child Custody/Parenting Time Issues
Courts considering child custody and parenting time matters are always going to evaluate what’s in the child’s best interests, based on a myriad of subjective factors, as outlined in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4.
We’ve seen too many custody cases involving co-parents who lie about the other’s involvement or bonding with the kids, false accusations of neglect or abuse or denying abuse or neglect when in fact it did happen.
When you have a former spouse who is so eager to hurt you that they’re willing to lie to damage your relationship with your child, you must go to Court as prepared as possible. Work with a skilled family law attorney with experience in handling high conflict child custody cases. The more evidence and witnesses you have to counter their claims, the better.
In some cases, it may be necessary to hire an attorney or guardian ad litem to help represent the child’s best interests.
Former Spouses Who Lie About Domestic Violence
This can go one of two ways: An ex makes false accusations of domestic violence against the other OR denies domestic violence that did in fact occur. In our experience, the latter is more common.
These matters are tough because they’re incredibly serious, yet so often he-said-she-said. Outcomes can impact issues like restraining orders, child custody, parenting time and even division of assets.
Evidence is key. That includes witness statements, photos, messages, videos, voicemails, emails, or texts. A complete absence of evidence or witness statements would tend to support a denial.
Penalties for Lying in Family Court
Anyone who is caught lying to the Court under oath risks being charged with perjury, which in New Jersey is a third-degree crime that carries a potential penalty of 3-5 years in prison. Beyond that, a conviction can spell trouble down the road with prospective employers or landlords. Also, as previously mentioned, they may lose the asset they were trying to protect or the argument they were making. Damage to their credibility can cast doubt on the entirety of their testimony on every aspect.
Our experienced Somerset divorce lawyers will help you conduct a thorough analysis of the facts and fight to protect your rights and best interests throughout the New Jersey divorce process.
Contact our Somerset County Divorce Attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to schedule an appointment.