Sometimes, ex-spouses lie in court — especially when it comes to money and assets. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, nearly three in 10 Americans admit to financial deception with partners.
For couples seeking a divorce, such deception can potentially be criminal. That’s because lying during divorce proceedings is illegal, and can lead to penalties for perjury.
But what are you supposed to do when a soon-to-be ex lies during your divorce case?
Use the Discovery Process
Spouses who won’t voluntarily fork over financial information will still need to hand it over through the formal fact-finding process called discovery — a court-ordered exchange of information that’s part of every divorce case.
Your attorney may use the following divorce discovery tools to get reliable financial information from the other party:
- Document production. Your attorney can request your spouse to produce a variety of documents — such as account statements, financial records, tax returns, and loan applications — to dispel a lie and get to the truth.
- Interrogatories and requests for admission. During discovery, your attorney will submit a list of questions called interrogatories to your spouse, which he or she must truthfully answer in writing. In addition, your attorney may also make requests for admission, meaning your spouse must admit or deny the truth of a statement under oath.
- Depositions. A deposition is a sworn out-of-court testimony. Depositions are a great way to get straight answers from a dishonest spouse because it’s conducted under oath. If the spouse lies, he or she can be charged with perjury.
- Motion to compel. If your spouse is uncooperative during the process, your attorney can file a motion to compel further responses to your discovery requests. The court can then compel compliance by your spouse, or even impose sanctions such as fines.
If You Suspect Dishonesty, Tell Your Attorney
To preserve honesty in your divorce case, immediately let your divorce attorney know when you believe your spouse is not being forthright about a specific issue.
When spouses sign financial affidavits — a document required in contested as well as some uncontested divorces — they are swearing, under penalty of perjury, that they are telling the truth about their finances and aren’t holding anything back in their financial disclosures.
If you have cause for concern about your spouse’s honesty (or even your own, for example, because you don’t know how to accurately reflect your finances as a homemaker), immediately notify your divorce attorney.
- Have family law problems? Get help now. (Consumer Injury)
- Fact-Finding: Understanding the Discovery Process (FindLaw)
- Ripping Your Ex on Facebook Can Cost You in Divorce (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
- 10 Common Divorce Mistakes to Avoid (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
- The FindLaw Guide to Divorce and Property Division (FindLaw - Free Download)