Lying to Your Lawyer Never Pays Off

By Dugan P. Kelley

“If you tell the truth, you don’t need to remember anything.” – Mark Twain.  As a boy, I had a paper route in Helena, Montana.  Part of my job was collecting the monthly subscription fees from my paper route customers.  One of my customers innocently gave me a paper check for $9.00 instead of the proper amount of $9.50.  When I got home and realized the mistake my customer had made, I simply changed the check to $9.50.  When I showed my Dad what I had done, he quickly explained how I didn’t have the right to change someone else’s check, and my Dad told me that I needed to go confess to the customer, return the check, and ask for a new one.

I can tell you walking up to the customer’s door, I was extremely fearful.  I simply didn’t want to confess, repent, and go through the emotional experience associated with confronting what I had done.  As I showed the client the check, he was angry and asked “who did this?”  Unfortunately, I lied!  I told him that my Dad had done it.  I side-stepped my confession and I inserted my Dad as the scapegoat for my own sin.  When I got home with the new check, I thought it was over.  It wasn’t.  My customer called my home and asked to speak with my Dad.  I could see my Dad’s face turn from white, to pink, to purple during that conversation.  After a well deserved spanking, my Dad drove me back to the customer’s house and stood at the driveway as I tearfully made my way back up to the customer and confessed for both actions: 1) the changing of the check; and 2) the lying about who did it.

I learned several valuable lessons that day that have never left me.  Even though that day happened almost 30 years ago, I can remember it like yesterday.  As a boy, I learned: 1) Lying doesn’t pay; 2) The cover-up will prolong your suffering; 3) There is grace in genuine repentance, but there is guilt in shame in deceit.  Scripture confirms the consequences for lying as “The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.”  Proverbs 13:5.”

Never Lie to Your Attorney in Divorce and Custody Cases:

Almost 30 years after my stint as a paper boy, I encourage my clients – Don’t Lie.  Here are a number of reasons why it is never a good idea to lie.

One. Lying will impact you physically, spiritually, or mentally. Most medical research confirms that telling lies can lead to stress, unhappiness, and damaged mental health. In fact, there is research to suggest that frequent lying can lead to headaches, sore throat, and feelings of sadness. Divorce and custody cases are already rife with sadness.  There is no reason to further compound your sadness, mental stress, or physical stress with the results of telling lies.

Two.  You will lose credibility with the Court! In divorce and custody cases, there is a good chance that you will be seeing a Judge at some point and sitting on the witness stand sharing your story.  If a Judge believes you are willing to lie in Court, any position you take will be looked at with suspicion.  Credibility is a key component of success in the law.  If you are not credible, you will lose.  Don’t lie.  It’s not worth it.

Three. Lies will prolong your suffering. Most (if not all) clients in divorce and custody cases, want those matters over quickly!  The quickest way to ensure that your suffering and the case is prolonged is by lying.  For example, if you lie in your discovery responses or you attempt to hide that asset that your ex-spouse knows about, the case isn’t going to conclude quickly.  Instead, your ex-spouse’s lawyer is going to dig, dig, and dig looking for any inconsistency.  That takes time and it is not quick.  During that process, I can guarantee you that you will be constantly thinking about it.  Don’t lie and prolong your suffering or the case.

Four. You will end up paying more fees and costs. Similar to prolonging your suffering and the length of the case, you will also end up paying your attorney more money if you lie.  Your attorney will be spending time fighting with the opposing lawyer, Court, or third parties trying to justify your false position in written discovery, motions filed with the Court, affidavits, or actual hearings.  All that work will need to be changed and/or re-done when your lie surfaces, and all the money you spent will be lost.  So, don’t lie!

Five. You will compromise your negotiating position. Most cases settle.  Your attorney negotiates a settlement with the opposing counsel and it is entered by the Court.  When you lie, you compromise your attorney’s ability to negotiate a settlement for you in your case.  In divorce and custody cases, you will be tempted to lie about: 1) possession and access (how much time you or your ex-spouse have spent with the child(ren); 2) support (what you or your ex-spouse truly have for net monthly resources to calculate child support, spousal maintenance/alimony); or 3) property division (what assets you or your ex-spouse own).  Each of these areas likely have a paper trail that will show you have lied!  When you lie, you will compromise your negotiating position.

Six. Your relationship with your attorney, the Court, opposing counsel, and your ex-spouse will further erode. When you lie, there are consequences.  Consequences from the Court can include contempt sanctions, fines, or even jail time!  Consequences from the opposing counsel can include refusal to negotiate, refusal to believe any position you take, and increased action by them resulting increased costs and fees to you.  Consequences with your ex-spouse can include eroding a relationship where you need to develop co-parenting skills (if you have children) and further exacerbating suffering.  If you lie to your attorney, your attorney has every right to fire you!

Tell Your Family Law Attorneys The Truth Always:

Your Family Law Attorneys are fighting for you and walking with you through this period of profound suffering.  They are legally obligated to maintain your secrets.  So, there is no reason for you to lie to your attorney(s) during your divorce or custody case.  Your attorneys can only be as effective as the information that they have.  If you lie by omission (failing to tell your attorney the complete truth) they are working on false assumptions and building your case on a faulty foundation.  That can be a costly mistake that may ultimately lead to the loss of your case.

At Kelley Clarke PC, we know how difficult and expensive divorce and custody cases can be.  (We have figured out ways to save you money in your divorce.)  We know you need an ally, a listening ear, someone to understand your situation and counsel you.  If you are thinking about divorce or are involved in a custody matter, please contact our office.