Lying to the court: not a brilliant idea in any legal respect

Marie Matyjaszek

When I first started practicing law, I assumed the attorney/client confidentiality privilege would keep my clients honest with me. After all, it’s not like I could tell anyone what they said. However, I still found that they would lie, both about big issues and mundane things that came up during the course of my representation of them.
When I started working for the courts, the lying became more prevalent. Everyone wants an edge in their divorce or custody battle, and fabricating stories is one way they try to get that edge. You would think that most people lie about their income, and while this does happen, I find it happens less often. Taxes, paycheck stubs, and bank statements have a way of keeping people honest.

My personal favorites are individuals who deny they ever had knowledge of the case being filed (thus explaining their utter lack of participation in it and the child’s life). They blame everything on the other parent’s sinister desire to banish them into “deadbeat dad” or “deadbeat mom” status.  As I listen to the words pour out of their mouths, I have in front of me the original signed order, with the signature of the (allegedly) unaware parent glaring at me. I explain the interesting document before me. Most of the time, he or she continues to deny it and offer excuse after excuse (someone else signed it, it’s the court system’s fault, the ex’s fault, my fault – despite the fact I just met them).

Here’s the thing – once you lie to me, and it’s pretty blatant – I have a hard time believing anything else you say. The sad part is, the other parts of your story may be true, but what value do they have now?  

The reality of what happened in the past may be embarrassing, hurtful, and damaging to your case. But I can guarantee that being truthful about it and owning up to whatever responsibility you had in that situation will help you in the eyes of the court. You are doing yourself no favors by lying to someone who can greatly impact the direction of your life. And trust me, it’s not like the court wants to control you – we desperately wish people could resolve matters on their own.


The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. She can be reached by e-mailing her at 

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