Lying in a Missouri Child Custody Case
Sometimes, in a custody battle, a parent chooses to be dishonest. Their motives may vary, from gaining an advantage over the other parent to fabricating false accusations or perjuring themselves on the witness stand. However, resorting to lies can have serious consequences for the outcome of the custody case. In fact, the court may even impose penalties on the deceptive parent. So it’s crucial to understand the potential risks and repercussions of engaging in deceit during a Missouri family law or child custody case.
How Is Child Custody Decided in Missouri
In Missouri, child custody decisions are determined by considering several factors that prioritize the best interests of the child. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- Parent’s wishes and a submitted parenting plan;
- The child’s need for continued and meaningful contact with both parents;
- Parent’s willingness to foster a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent;
- The child’s relationships with parents, siblings, and extended family members;
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The physical and mental health of both parents;
- Any history of abuse or neglect.
In Missouri, the courts strive to be unbiased and do not favor one parent over the other based on the mentioned factors. However, a prior criminal record can factor into child custody decisions when deciding physical or legal custody.
Consequences of Lying in a Child Support & Custody Case
The law has required for some time that each party involved in a custody proceeding has to provide information as to the child’s residence over the last five years. Under Missouri Law (210.165) and effective August 28, 2022, any person who knowingly, purposefully, or intentionally fails to give accurate, full, and complete information can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and “shall” be reported to the local prosecuting or circuit attorney.
The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. In larger counties, such charges are extremely unlikely to be brought, but it is probably best not to take the chance. Common sense would dictate that the custodial parent who is part of the Missouri Safe at Home program and whose address is confidential would be exempted from this law.
Lying in court is considered perjury. But, most of the time, parents who lie in court won’t face criminal charges. It may not seem fair, but judges rarely bring up perjury charges or initiate contempt of court proceedings. Additionally, unless there are exceptional circumstances, one parent cannot sue the other for damages caused by their lies.
It’s important to note that family court judges don’t have the authority to press criminal charges against parents. Perjury charges are handled by district attorneys, but they rarely come into play in family court cases. Even if perjury charges were an option, they are difficult to prove.
Can an Attorney Help?
Child custody disputes in Missouri can be overwhelming and complicated. However, committing perjury is not recommended. The judge can consider a parent’s untruthfulness when deciding on the custody matter.
Although the court is typically interested in the best interests of the child, a lying parent can be seen as less fit because they are willing to lie in court. Also, if the lies involve a false domestic abuse allegation, the parent can be prosecuted for filing a false police report.
It may be possible to file a motion to reopen a child custody case to address a lie uncovered after a court proceeding. Courts generally permit modifications only in instances of a substantial change in circumstances.
Discovering that one parent lied in a custody proceeding may qualify as a significant change in circumstances. Contact a child custody attorney at The Carson Law Firm and learn your options.