DAVID PISARRA

HOW TO FIGHT A LIAR IN COURT

In child custody, Child Support, Perjury, Spousal Support, Strategy Issues on May 28, 2010 at 11:41 am

The biggest frustration most people have in court, is the lying. In theory, no one is lying, because testimony is taken under oath. In reality, every case is riddled with lies, half truths, shades of fact and the greatest of all, the omission of a critical fact that totally changes the situation.

In the court’s eyes, as a lawyer I’m supposed to be the champion for my client, and I’m expected to have vetted their testimony to make sure that it’s true. Most of the time I’ve spent a great deal of effort to explain to the client that judges hate liars and I coach them to be as truthful as possible.

Inevitably when I get in to a child custody hearing or a divorce trial, it gets heated and the cries of “She lied!” “She’s committing perjury!!” “That’s a lie!” start.

In every courtroom, those phrases are said, every day. And frequently it’s true. Some days it’s her, and some days it’s him, but no matter what, someone, somewhere is shading, spinning, omitting or outright lying.

I know it. You know it. The judge knows it.

The angry and frustrated clients always say “Put her in jail!” That’s not going to happen so much. Judges can’t put away everyone who lied in court, there’d be no room for the real criminals.

So what’s the point of having people testify under penalty of perjury, if there’s no penalty ? Well, it’s about credibility. Once a judge knows, or even suspects, that someone’s lying to the court, their credibility goes out the window.

I had a case earlier this year, where the ex-wife said she was married in a Michigan court, and then said she was single in a California court. The judge looked at the other lawyer and said, “so either she lied in Michigan, or she lied in California, either way, she’s a liar!”

It was a bad day for that lawyer, because now they’re fighting up stream with a judge who’s experience with the client is that she’s not to be trusted. In Family Court, when the judges are making decisions on issues like who should be the primary custodial parent, that sort of taint can kill your case.

Which is why I always advise my clients that lying is a very bad thing. No they’re not going to go jail, but they’ll never have the same, and in some courts any, credibility again.

The question then becomes how to prove your case, if you know you’re dealing with a liar. Fighting a lie, is like shadow boxing, for so often it comes down to: he said, she said. Generally the best way to get rid of the shadow is to turn on all the lights and face them to your accuser and make them fight a battle that they don’t want.

If my client is accused of being a pot smoker, we provide the prescription, then we attack with bad parenting and lack of time to devote to the child. That’s how we fight a war, in which there are no winners.

“Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

Shakespeare, OTHELLO,
Act III.

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  1. Great column… and yes, lying, half-truths, omissions and insincerity are standard operating procedure in family court — for both the litigants and the attorneys.

    In our book, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, we wrote about one attorney who prefaced every comment with, “My client told me…” or “According to my client…” What these qualifiers really meant was, “I am about to distort the hell out of something my client said. I don’t know if it’s true, and it’s not up to me to decide if it is true or false. That’s up to the judge. I’ll just present what I’m about to say with as much persusive force as possible.”

    In other cases, litigants are forced to prove something “didn’t happen.” Try proving you are not hiding income. The other side should have to prove their case, but when they can’t they just say you are an expert at hiding income. This “shadow boxing is expensive and time consuming.” Judges often end up becoming disgusted with everyone — even though it is typically one side that is making the false allegations. Then, when the other litigant files a legitimate motion, he or she already has two strikes against him or her in the judges’ eyes.

    Just my observations.

    Sincerely,

    mike jeffries
    Author, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation

  2. Thank you for this post. My wife and I are dealing with her narcissistic ex who blasted us with a barrel of lies hoping something would stick. We (she’s in pro per) beat him on the money issues, in which he was shown to be hiding income, but my wife is emotionally drained, so your words about “turning on all the lights” will be encouraging to her. I realize this blog is on Mens’ Family Law, but good men marry good women, and some men aren’t so swell.

    • you are beautiful bill, im still in negotiations (?)and exhausted.im almost sure my atty isnt fitting the bill,,,SOS

  3. hey good comments, a bit more to the point than a lot of the original article. im dealing with responding to huge lies, and its all being believed, due to my lower income not afording me more time and attention from my lawyer… eeek..
    any advice? my ex is a drug delare but hardly has anything at home while the court thing is happenning and the police are too busy with a nationla disaster in NZ at the moment. A bust was alerted to him, as he deserves to be outed, and should be ahppy with weeke3dns alone with our toddler who he never lived with.

  4. Both of us have found, rather expensively, that we’re better off without an attorney. We have invested enormous amounts of time doing our own legal research, and have taken the time to develop the case law better than any attorney we have used. The other hard lesson I learned (which caused my wife to go in pro per when she witnessed it) is that attorneys tend to muzzle their clients in the courtroom, and outrageous claims by the opposition are allowed to stand unchallenged. My attorney “assumed” the court would recognize the false nature of my ex’s statements because of the written evidence submitted. Unfortunately, judges’ dockets are so full they read very little of the filed documentation, so what happens before them is what comes under their consideration.

    What has also helped enormously are declarations from our friends that took the argument from “he said/she said” to “he said/THEY said.” We just finished a custody evaluation in which those declarations figured hugely in tipping the balance toward the truth. His entire fabrication crumbled, and he wound up losing custody time rather than gaining it through his litigation.

    All the best to you Sue & Maria. Lean hard on your friends, stay calm in court, learn the rules, and keep speaking truth with as much supporting testimony and documents as you can develop.

  5. Thank you for your common sense and universally focused column. My daughter holds a position in a small coastal town of power, money, and social recognition. But she is a spoiled manipulative brat that will lie to authorities without concern for ramifications. So far, her victims have done little more than distance themselves. Now they have witnessed her lie about her own father. I will be basing my defense of her false accusations with a precise counter attack to destroy her credibility once and for all. My effort was to carefully read her allegations and prove the truth with either paper trails or plain common sense. Previous victims have offered to attend court but I think the judge will see through her early on. She has never been made to answer for the damage she has done to people until now.

  6. I have proof that my ex is lying under oath about her financial income, she claimed that she only makes 500 a month and in her bank statements she makes and average of 3000-8000 a month cash deposits, i have the bank statements on paper that proves her lie

    • Hi ,just read your mail regarding your ex doing fraud and perjury ,did you ever get justice or satisfaction?

      • Hi Greg,

        Yes, we were able to terminate her spousal support on very favorable terms to my client. Justice? Yes, she ended having all her money stolen by the “new” husband who abandoned her with a new woman – so that old saw about Cheaters never prosper…. might be true. Satisfaction? Meh. I’m just glad I was able to help my client and show him for the good guy he was, and show her for the bad person she was.

  7. i have judt been to cort and my ex has said so many lies in cort i dont even no what to believe my self he as also state the social services have said things they have not and the judge has put a hold on the case till next week so we can have the social services there to prove what thry supposd to have said is true or not so if it turns out he lied to stop me ftom gettin my daughter back to you no whst will happen am on bail for pervertin the corse of justice but have done a lie detector to prove am innocent but have to wait to c what happens in cort about getting my daught. i have not seen her in 8 weeks ss my ex wont allow me yet he was on bail for sexual abuse towards my daughter and only got dropped ss the police had a thought i cud av made my daughter say things when i didnt n i have proved i didt yet the social have put her woth him and its sick and wrong.

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  9. I like the way you think….iam faced with lies with a expartee case
    He even put in a false restaining order to our girls school…..
    And sent me on a false montiored vistit him and his atty scammed up…and then i was stuck with the bill…

    Any more advice please send to email above….court is 9-12-13
    Thanks robin l m

  10. Thank you for the article and peoples comments, especially Bill. I a woman dealing with these issues but I’ve seen it from the other side when my dad had to deal with my little sister’s mother. That was many years ago before PAS became known and before a lot of people text. We ultimately got her to stop her lies because I wrote a letter to court pointing out her patterns. The hardest part of that was that we had to endure many years of false allegations and games before it a pattern emerged enough to call it out. We cried we prayed we persisted.
    Now here I am dealing with similar issues but as a mother. It is really hard even knowing that the truth comes to light eventually. Thank goodness I went through what we did before though because now I know to keep records of everything. Being in front of the judge went awful for me the first time because I was emotional instead of factual. But everything happens for a reason and I’m hoping the judge will allow me to submit copies of texts and emails to be able show their stories were fabricated when they pull me in front of the judge again (its not an if, its a when…his lawyer is smart and wants to bill him as much as she can). Our son is almost 2 and hes never met him. He makes me appreciate even more the good fathers I know. I hope any good parent can get the information they need to stay strong and eventually win what’s best for them and their child.

  11. Hi, if one has proof that she commited perjury and fraud under oath in a district court ,can the in camera rule be lifted on the retrial in the circuit court ?

    • Greg I’m not clear on the question…an In Camera viewing is where the judge reviews documents in chambers and then decides if they can be admitted as exhibits and/or evidence.

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