As would be expected, family law actions are the perfect breeding ground for “he said she said” scenarios. Anyone who has been in a relationship that has ended poorly knows that there are two sides to every story, and there is usually—usually—some truth to both positions. But what about flat out lies?
Utah law appears to be strict on the issue of lying in an official proceeding; in fact, it is a second degree felony carrying a punishment of one to fifteen years in prison, with a possible fine up to $10,000.00. Utah Code Section 76-8-502 (2015)
Despite this seemingly harsh treatment of lying in legal proceedings, in our experience the courts do not care much about lying in divorce and family law proceedings. After decades of attending hearings and trials, time and again I have seen witnesses lie in court, get caught red-handed in the lie, and then suffer few or no adverse consequences. In our opinion, Utah courts can and should do a better job of holding people accountable for lying in court.
In our experience, courts tend to turn a blind eye to stretching the truth, and often the truth is stretched so far that it no longer resembles the truth in anyway.
So the question arises, should you lie? No.
Lying is wrong whether you get away with it or not. There is far too much dishonesty in our society as it is.
Lying in court proceedings doesn’t always result in criminal punishment, but it could (and likely will) irreparably weaken your credibility with your domestic relations commissioner and judge. And while we’ve rarely seen lying punished in divorce actions, you’ll know that we didn’t say we’ve never seen it happen. Do you really want to be the exceptional case of the liar who got punished in his or her divorce? The rewards of lying are outweighed by the risks.
When stuck in the position of telling the truth about a fact that could potentially hurt you (e.g., extramarital affairs, drug or alcohol abuse, suicide attempts, child abuse, etc.) it is best to tell your attorney the complete story and then let your attorney deal with it as best he can. A judge usually respects people with the courage to be truthful even when the truth casts them in a bad light.