Divorce in Tennessee & Perjury

by Beverly Bird
There's a fine line between a lie and a half-truth.

There's a fine line between a lie and a half-truth.

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There's a lot at stake in divorce – everything from regular time with your children to your share of marital property. The temptation to fib a little can be strong when you feel like you're fighting for your life. If you succumb, however, you could find yourself facing criminal proceedings. If you lie as part of a judicial proceeding, it may be considered perjury, which is a felony in Tennessee.

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So Many Opportunities to Lie

If your divorce is contested, you'll probably be asked innumerable times to make statements under oath. Your spouse or his attorney may issue interrogatories – written questions they want you to answer. If they elect to depose you, they'll ask you questions in person, and a court reporter will make a written transcript of the proceedings. Tennessee also requires that spouses file financial affidavits as part of any divorce proceeding. You must supply all this information under penalty of perjury.

What Isn't Considered Perjury

The law realizes that in the heat of emotion – or marital combat – you may make a statement that's not entirely true. You're allowed to express your opinion without penalty. Remaining mum and not answering isn't perjury. Courts generally won't prosecute half-truths.

If You Get Caught

A criminal charge of aggravated perjury, which involves lies told during a judicial proceeding, requires that the prosecutor must prove your misrepresentation was material -- it had a direct effect on the proceedings. If you're convicted, you could face two to 12 years in jail, and a $5,000 fine. More likely, your spouse will be able to modify your decree post-divorce if the truth comes to light. The court may even set your decree aside and order a new trial.