If you’re in an acrimonious relationship, you may find it hard to trust the other parent of your children. That may be justified — and their untrustworthiness may turn up in your child custody determination. A small percentage of people feel justified in lying to the court in order to improve their chances of a favorable ruling.
Some people try to seem like better parents than they truly are. They may pretend that they rarely drink and never use illicit drugs. They may stretch the truth about how involved they are in their kids’ lives. They may claim to use non-violent discipline when spankings are really the norm.
Even worse, they sometimes make false allegations against their children’s other parent. They may say their ex is a heavy drinker or irresponsible. They may even accuse the other parent of child abuse or neglect.
Don’t let them get away with lying. Discuss your concerns with your attorney right away. Your attorney knows how to present your side of the story so that a judge will listen and take you seriously.
What happens with false allegations in a California child custody hearing?
If your ex accuses you of bad parenting, child abuse, substance abuse, mental health problems or other issues, the judge will need to decide who is telling the truth.
In California, the judge may order a child custody evaluation. This is also called a “730 evaluation” after section 730 of the California Evidence Code.
The child custody evaluation will be conducted by a professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker or family therapist. That person will interview both parents and the children and write a report for the judge. The judge will carefully consider this report. In some cases, the judge may also order a lawyer to represent the children’s interests.
If the judge decides someone lied in order to improve their custody case, the person could end up losing instead.
The judge could order a greater share of physical custody (time spent caring for the children) to the parent who did not lie. If the lie is serious enough, the judge could deny the lying parent any legal custody (the authority to make significant decisions in the child’s life). The judge could even award damages or legal fees to the parent who did not lie.
The lying parent could also be charged with perjury, although this is somewhat rare.
What happens if the lie isn’t caught until later?
If a parent learns later that their ex lied in the child custody case, the case could be reopened. This would usually be done through a request for a change to the custody order. Changes to these orders are available when there is a substantial change in one parent’s circumstances. Judges will often consider evidence of a lie during the proceedings to be enough to modify the order.
An appeal of the original order may also be an option. You should discuss your choices with your attorney.
Can I withhold child support or refuse visitation in protest?
No. Even if it seems clear that your ex has lied, you should not violate your parenting order. Doing so can get you a fine, a contempt citation or even jail time, in some circumstances. Your best bet is to continue to work through the courts for a solution to your custody problem.