What Do I Do If My Ex-partner is Lying to The Family Court?

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Unfortunately, it is all too common for untrue claims to be made in the Family Court. Where there is a dispute of fact, the first question for the court is weighing its importance. Considerable delay and cost will be incurred by holding a trial to decide whose version of events is true. The court must therefore decide which, if any, disputed facts need to be determined by the court in order for the case to be resolved.

The most common instance in which this balance needs to be considered is where allegations of domestic abuse are made. If these allegations need to be determined by the court then it will direct a separate fact-finding hearing. This is likely to take multiple days and will incur considerable cost and delay to proceedings. As a result, seeking findings is unlikely to be proportionate unless there is a substantial difference between the parties’ positions which rests on the truth of the allegations.

There are clear factors to be considered in assessing whether a fact-finding hearing is required to determine allegations of abuse at paragraph 17 of Practice Direction 12J in the Family Procedure Rules:

(a) the views of the parties and of Cafcass or CAFCASS Cymru;

(b) whether there are admissions by a party which provide a sufficient factual basis on which to proceed;

(c) if a party is in receipt of legal aid, whether the evidence required to be provided to obtain legal aid provides a sufficient factual basis on which to proceed;

(d) whether there is other evidence available to the court that provides a sufficient factual basis on which to proceed;

(e) whether the factors set out in paragraphs 36 and 37 below can be determined without a fact-finding hearing;

(f) the nature of the evidence required to resolve disputed allegations;

(g) whether the nature and extent of the allegations, if proved, would be relevant to the issue before the court; and

(h) whether a separate fact-finding hearing would be necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances of the case.

How does the Family Court approach lies?

Naturally, the court will take a dim view of lies told to the court. This is particularly true where such lies appear to have been told to conceal a risk of harm to a child. However, as derived from criminal law, the Family Court also approaches inferences to be drawn from lies with caution. This caution is summarised in the leading case R v Lucas [1981] QB 720:

If a court concludes that a witness has lied about a matter, it does not follow that he has lied about everything. A witness may lie for many reasons. For example out of shame, humiliation, misplaced loyalty, panic, fear, distress, confusion and emotional pressure…The jury should in appropriate cases be reminded that people sometimes lie, for example, in an attempt to bolster up a just case, or out of shame or out of a wish to conceal disgraceful behaviour from their family.”

In summary, both in deciding whether a determination of truth is required and how to deal with any determination, the focus must be on how this relates to the difference in the substantive outcome sought by each party.

Here to Help

If you need advice on any family matter, please get in touch with Tracey Dargan, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.