Divorce is a difficult and emotional matter that can bring out the worst in people. Some may even lie in an official record or while giving testimony in a family law court to achieve the desired outcome. Lying in a Colorado family law case can come with severe penalties if it constitutes the crime of perjury.
Before delving into what is, or is not, perjury, it should be noted that your divorce or child custody attorney is concerned with the outcome of your case, not trying to get your former spouse or partner charged with perjury. Nonetheless, it is important to know that criminal charges, though unlikely, could follow lies made in your family law case.
Is Lying the Same as Perjury?
The state’s definition of perjury is found in Colorado Revised Statutes Criminal Code Section 18-8-502. This law states that a person commits perjury in the first degree if he or she knowingly makes a materially false statement during any official proceeding while under oath. The false statement must be something the person did not believe to be true, and the oath must be one required or authorized by law. Under state law, first-degree perjury in Colorado is a class 4 felony crime. This crime contains four main elements.
- The testimony given was false.
- The testimony was material (important) to the issue in the family court matter.
- An oath or affidavit was administered in a proper proceeding.
- The person giving the false testimony had criminal intent.
An oath can refer to a witness taking the stand during a divorce or child custody case, as well as signing an affidavit that states the person has an oath to tell the truth under penalty of perjury for written statements. Not all lies are perjurious. If someone knowingly and intentionally lies about something in a Colorado family law case while under oath, however, it is the crime of perjury in the first degree.
What Are the Penalties for Perjury in Colorado?
Perjury is a serious crime. If a person is found guilty of perjury for lying in a court hearing, he or she could face charges for a class 1 petty offense to a class 4 felony, depending on the circumstances. The penalties vary based on the severity of the crime.
- Class 1 petty offense: 6 months in jail and/or a fine of $500
- Second-degree perjury: 6 to 18 months in county jail and/or a fine of $500 to $5,000.
- First-degree perjury: 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $500,000.
The penalties for perjury can be life-changing. Possible defenses to a perjury charge include an honest mistake or misunderstanding, the defendant immediately taking back the lie, someone falsely accusing or setting the defendant up, or not enough evidence to prove perjury beyond a reasonable doubt.
What Should I Do If I Suspect My Ex Has Lied or Made False Statements to a Family Court?
If you believe your ex has lied or made a false statement during your Colorado family law court case, take action. Hire a family law attorney to help you prove that the statement is a lie. Your attorney can address the fallacious statement and find evidence to disprove the material testimony your ex gave under oath.
Evidence in a divorce or child custody case might include financial documents, proof of hidden assets, text messages or emails, or witness testimony that contradicts the statement your ex asserted as true. Your attorney can ask your ex to correct the lie, giving him or her a chance to avoid a perjury charge. If your ex refuses to alter his or her false statement, however, your attorney can notify the judge, who will then take the false statements into consideration.
If a perjury accusation is proven during a criminal case against your ex, he or she could face months or even years in prison, as well as hefty fines. The courts will also have the truth on record based on the evidence presented by your lawyer, allowing your divorce to continue without your ex-spouse’s harmful lies interfering.
Knowingly and intentionally lying in a Colorado family law court is a crime that could affect the outcome of a case. If you believe this crime is taking place during your divorce, work with an attorney in Denver for assistance.