Perjury, meaning lying under oath, is a crime in Indiana—and all states. You can also commit perjury by signing a form under penalty of perjury when you know the information you provide is not true or accurate. You have probably heard someone say everyone lies in divorce. This blog discusses distortions versus perjury1 in divorce and what you need to know about the topic and what you can do.
As an initial note, the attorneys in the firm have tried hundreds of divorce cases. Many times we have received notes from our clients that the other side is “lying”. In most cases, the emotions of the divorce would not support that but, instead, reflect a problem with perception due to the desire to obtain a certain objective skewing objective thought. Ordinarily, such views are known before trial with an unreasonable litigant.
With the careful identification of the issues of custody and property, the way to rebut distorted testimony is with appraisals, experts, and credible witness testimony (normally third parties) or exhibits.
For instance, a wife/husband may contend she/he took the child to all of their doctor and/or dentist appointments and generally recollect and believe that was the case. Yet the certified medical records may well show who brought the child and it almost certainly will carry more evidentiary weight. So in reality, there are very few prosecutions for perjury occurring in the context of a divorce. With care, you can mitigate or eliminate the notion of “perjury” from most divorce trials.
Where perjury or a material omission often comes into play is when a party does not disclose an asset and it is discovered after trial. In those cases, while perjury may have been a crime committed in failing to disclose the asset; this is or may be a criminal matter if a prosecutor decides in his/her discretion to charge the crime. Most litigants want to account for the failure to obtain their share of that asset in the divorce, not see the other side necessarily charged.
Thus, most often litigants turn to Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 60(B)1 that allows a person challenge a divorce decree if it was premised on fraud. There are time and other limits, but this is generally the remedy employed because a perjury complaint to the prosecutor, at most, can get the person charged and convicted of perjury. It is unlikely to result in the asset being divided in the civil divorce
While perjury has a place in divorce and a litigant who lies under oath can be charged with perjury, it is not a common criminal charge. Indeed, even with what appears to be a straight out fabrication, most judges assign credibility (or lack thereof to the statement) and may even consider this in the overall decision in the divorce.
We hope you find this blog post helpful understanding how the crime of perjury versus mis-perception plays into divorce, and what can be done to minimize distortions during the trial or allow relief upon discovery after the trial. In addition, you should be aware that Indiana trial court judges are given vast discretion to weigh and discount such testimony so perjury is rarely reached. Finally, when perjury relates to a hidden asset, for instance, Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 60(B) provides a remedy in most cases that aids the aggrieved litigant.
This blog post was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle domestic cases throughout the state. This blog is intended to provide general information only and is not a solicitation for legal services or advice. It is an advertisement.
Pursuant to the Indiana Penal Code, the crime of perjury is defined as follows: “(a) A person who: (1) make s a false, material statement under oath or affirmation, knowing the statement to be false or not believing it to be true . . . .”
- Pursuant to the Indiana Penal Code, the crime of perjury is defined as follows: “(a) A person who: (1) make s a false, material statement under oath or affirmation, knowing the statement to be false or not believing it to be true . . . .”
- Jo. W. v. JE. W., 952 N.E.2d 783 (Ind.Ct.App.2011).