For whatever reason, a parent may be untruthful in a custody case. Usually, they want to gain leverage over the other parent by making false accusations or lying on the witness stand. Doing so can have significant ramifications on the custody case. They may also end up being punished by the court in several ways. If you are involved in a situation where the other parent is not telling the truth, you will need a lawyer to help demonstrate it to the court. Given that children are involved, the court may not give you the benefit of the doubt.
It is natural to want the other parent to be punished for lying, especially when their untruthfulness has jeopardized your ability to see your children or potentially put you in criminal danger. However, it is rare that the parent being dishonest will face significant penalties in the way you want them to. Although the penalties may impact your child custody case, you may not feel like enough is being done to punish them for what happened. Your best course of action is to focus on the custody case in the short term.
Criminal Charges Are Usually Not Filed Against a Parent Who Lies
In most cases, a parent will not face criminal charges when they lie in court. As unfair as it may seem, a judge will rarely refer the matter for perjury charges, nor will they likely initiate contempt of court proceedings. In addition, except in highly unusual circumstances, a parent will not be able to sue the other parent civilly for the damages caused by their lie.
Family court judges themselves do not have the authority to bring criminal charges against a parent. A district attorney would charge someone with perjury and handle the proceedings. Accordingly, perjury will very rarely come into play in a family court case. Even if perjury charges were an option, it is a difficult crime to prove. One would need to show that a statement that someone made was factually false and that there was an intent to lie. Perjury charges are made even more difficult by the fact that many family court hearings are not held in front of a court reporter, meaning that there is not a definitive record of what was said.
Dishonesty Could Be a Factor in a Child Custody Case
Don’t think that the other parent will be able to lie and get away with it completely. The judge in your case may be able to consider a parent’s untruthfulness in deciding the custody matter. For example, suppose two parents are disputing physical custody of their children. In that case, the judge may use one parent’s deceit as a factor in deciding to award custody to the other parent.
If the other parent is lying, there is not much you can do other than stand up for yourself and prove they are not telling the truth. The court will be most interested in the welfare and best interests of the children. A judge may view one parent as less fit because they are willing to lie in court to get their way.
Another way the court could punish a parent for lying is by sanctioning them during the custody proceedings. For example, if you had to incur additional legal expenses to defend yourself against an untruthful allegation, the judge may order the other parent to pay for that. If the lies involved false domestic abuse allegations and the parent filed a police report, they could be prosecuted for filing a false police report.
Focus on Gathering Evidence to Prove Your Side of the Story
In general, the best thing you can do when you think the other parent is being untruthful is to present your evidence to show your side of the story is the correct one. Unfortunately, the truth does not speak for itself in family law cases when many issues become a case of “he said, she said.”
You should save any evidence in your possession that could show the other parent is lying. For example, you may have texts or emails that prove your side of the story. Any documentary evidence can help bolster your case and give extra weight to your word. Once you know the other parent is saying something that is not true, you should take even more care to document everything and put it in writing. You should take as many pictures and gather as much evidence with a timestamp on it as possible that can back up your version of events. Be extra careful about having any informal conversations that can give the other parent even more ammunition to use against you.
If the lies involve child abuse or domestic violence allegations, you need to be particularly careful. A judge may presume you to be a danger to the children until they know otherwise. There is even the potential for criminal penalties if the judge believes the other parent’s lies.
If you discover a lie after a court proceeding is over, you may be able to file a motion to reopen the child custody case. Courts will only allow a modification when there has been a significant change in the circumstances. Discovering that one parent has been untruthful in a custody proceeding may significantly change circumstances. If you learn after a court proceeding is over that the other parent lied, you should contact an experienced child custody attorney to learn whether there is anything you can do about it.