Listening to your spouse lie during their testimony can be frustrating. You may feel like jumping up in open court and exclaiming “that’s a lie”—then yelling out the truth. This is not a good idea for many reasons. The blog covers some basics of what you need to know if your spouse lies during testimony at a preliminary hearing or final hearing or during discovery deposition.
- First, nothing you say while not on the stand will be taken into consideration. The Judge may only acknowledge information and evidence provided by the person testifying.
- Second, when attending a hearing, you are expected to follow certain unwritten courtroom This means the civilized and orderly presentation of the evidence. An outburst during someone else’s testimony may lead to you being held in direct contempt of court and possibly incarcerated. This could figuratively “torpedo” your credibility.
- Third, you want the Judge on your side. An inability to control your emotions in the courtroom could mean a lack of emotional stability on your part, which could lead a Judge to rule against you in certain matters. Child custody matters are all about what is in the child(ren) best interests and if you cannot control your emotions, what do you think the judge is going to think?
- Fourth, if the misstatement or lie is material, you and your attorney probably already anticipated it. Thus, the person who is telling the lie may have it “undone” in cross examination or by a rebuttal witness.
Unfortunately, many people lie while testifying in court or distort the truth. Seasoned domestic judges are usually very adept at determining who is telling the truth and who is not. Remember, they have heard a lot of people testify, and an abounding number of their “stories” or “false narratives” are the same; they made all the money, did all the housework, and provided all of the childcare, while you did nothing. You spent all the money, and they have no idea where it went. You cheated, you lied, you abused them and/or the children, etc. while they were wholly faithful, honest, and loving. Put some faith in the Judge to know your spouse is lying.
Remember, again (as hard as it may be to hear), you do not have to rely solely on the judge to know who is lying. Your attorney can submit evidence and elicit testimony to impeach your spouse or prove that he or she lied about something. Because Judges are very skilled at determining when a witness is lying, your spouse telling one lie may cause a judge to question everything they say. They may lose their credibility and weight given to all testimony. This can give you a significant advantage if you remain calm and let your attorney handle it. Do not misrepresent or embellish the truth to counteract your spouse’s lie. Again, judges can generally tell who is lying and who is not. If you overreact to a lie that your spouse tells while testifying, by doing it yourself, the judge may begin to question everything you say as well—don’t do it, resist.
Lying while under oath is perjury, which is a crime. However, very rarely is a spouse or parent prosecuted for committing perjury during a divorce or paternity hearing. This is because the family court Judge does not want to waste valuable time addressing the matter. Make no mistake, the Judge can hold a hearing and jail someone for direct contempt if it interferes with the activities of the court. If you can prove that your spouse lied while under oath, the family court can hold them in contempt, charging them a fine and possibly giving them a few days in jail. Whether the Judge does this or not, and how steep the penalty imposed on what they lied about, what the lie was, and what evidence you must prove it was a lie. In most cases, you will have to prove that your spouse lied multiple times to have them held in contempt of court.
You should have paper and pen so that you and your attorney can communicate during the hearing without interrupting the proceedings. If anyone lies or mis-states while providing testimony, simply write it down for your attorney. Make sure to write the question that was asked, the answer given, and what the truth is (and how to prove it was not accurate). Do not worry if your attorney is the one asking the questions and cannot see what you are writing at that point in time. He or she can always recall your spouse to ask some harder questions about the issue, submit documentary evidence to prove your spouse lied, or ask you about the issue during your testimony. The key is not to get excited and worked up so the judge wonders if you are also the problem in the relationship!
Pouncing on every lie your spouse tells may do you more legal, emotional, and mental harm than simply trusting the judge and your attorney to “see” the truth and sort it all out through the evidence adduced at trial. This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. who practice throughout the state. We hope you find it useful in understanding the legal concept of perjury. This blog is not written to be relied upon for any given issue or legal situation. The blog is not legal advice. It is an advertisement.