As an experienced Family Law lawyers, we have seen it all – and we have heard it all. Not only from opposing counsel and their clients, but sometimes from our own clients as well. It should go without saying that in order to provide competent and effective advocacy, we have to have accurate information from those that have hired us to represent them. Yet, we find that my clients sometimes tell me some significant untruths.
Here are the top lies family law lawyers sometimes hear:
1. Under-Reporting Income
Separating and divorcing spouses often and quickly slip into “adversarial” mode, where they feel that they need to hide or under-report their income to the other – and by extension to me as well. Although the goal is to minimize the amount of income-based child or spousal amounts that must be paid, it’s never a good idea: courts are legislatively entitled to impute income to a Family Law litigant who has been proven to have under-reported his or her income, and to impose sanctions where appropriate.
Likewise, and especially early in the process, clients frequently omit giving full and accurate information on the existence or value of their business interests, investments, ancillary income sources and assets. I remind them that they are under a legal duty to give fair and full disclosure about their financial situation throughout the process; it is better to come forward early on that to have a court conclude that this disclosure has not taken place.
3. Over-Estimating Their Relationship Contribution
Perhaps it’s human nature for one to want to think the best of oneself. But separating spouses often over-estimate their respective contributions to the relationship and day-to-day responsibilities, while minimizing the role of the other partner. This can include child care duties, household chores, home and car upkeep, and non-tangible items such as social scheduling and vacation planning.
4. Who is “At Fault”
Although in Ontario spouses can get a divorce even though there has been no adultery or emotional abuse, my clients often feel the need to tell me in detail all about their partners’ poor behavior and shortcomings – while resolutely minimizing their own.
5. Lies About Adultery and Other Affairs
It is a sad truth that by the time a spouse comes in to consult me about their separation and divorce, the marriage has long ago passed the point where reconciliation is possible. Often this is because one or both of the spouses has mentally “moved on” to other connections, either by having a sexual affair, or an emotional affair, or by engaging in other behavior that is not healthy for the existing marriage. Again, these are the kinds of details that my own clients are rarely (if ever) candid about.
The process of divorcing is a never easy, and by definition it involves a complex array of emotions. Dishonesty should never be part of an already-difficult legal process.