Dec 15

Beware of False Allegations in Divorce: How to Overcome Them with Solid Evidence

Written by: Megan Dell


False allegations in divorce are all too common. Regardless of the nature of the accusation, people who have been falsely accused all share one common question: How can you effectively defend false accusations during a divorce?

Though it can seem like an impossible challenge, dealing with and successfully overcoming false allegations in a divorce action is possible. Provided you follow specific measures and collaborate with a skilled divorce attorney in South Carolina, you can effectively counter false accusations.

Man testifying in the court room

What Kinds of Cases are Most Likely to Involve False Accusations?

For litigants in South Carolina Family Court, divorce cases, child custody cases, and petitions for protection from abuse are the types of cases mostly to include false accusations. As a romantic relationship ends, people can focus so much on their own self interest that they ignore the harm making false accusations can cause.

False Allegations in Divorce Cases

Because South Carolina allows parties to seek an at-fault divorce on the ground of adultery, it is common for one spouse to falsely accuse the other of engaging in an adulterous relationship (or “cheating” on them). Additionally, because a spouse who has committed adultery is statutorily barred from receiving alimony, the spouse who earns a greater income might make a false claim of adultery to prevent alimony from being awarded.

Accusations of adultery can also affect legal rights and equitable distribution of property. Such claims could involve allegations that the unfaithful spouse bought expensive gifts for their affair partner, thereby depleting assets, and or they purchased property their spouse didn’t know about, without there being any merit to these claims.

It is also common to see false claims of one spouse hiding assets or hiding debts from the other party.

False Accusations in Petitions for Protection from Domestic Violence

A spouse might make false claims of domestic violence or false allegations of abuse to try and gain the upper hand in a custody battle. Sometimes, during divorce, one spouse may falsely accuse the other of abuse to harm their reputation and make them scared. 

Some people are falsely accused of domestic violence during a divorce case

False Allegations in Child Custody Cases

False accusations happen regularly in child custody cases. The alleged victim may report exaggerated claims of domestic violence, false claims of child abuse, false claims of substance abuse, false accusations of emotional abuse, false accusations a parent suffers from mental illness, or false sexual abuse allegations. A parent who makes false child abuse allegations in a child custody case usually does not realize the Court is likely to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to investigate allegations of child abuse and protect the child’s best interests.

Sometimes people make False Allegations against their spouse in divorce case

Why Do People Make False Allegations in Family Court?

Despite there being serious consequences, false allegations in Family Court cases happen all the time. Why do people make false allegations in divorce? Most people who make false allegations in Family Court are motivated by fear, greed, or revenge. Sometimes, they are simply overwhelmed by the legal proceedings.

For example, if one spouse fears they won’t get custody of their children, they might be tempted to make false accusations of domestic violence or child abuse against their spouse. Similarly, a parent who is afraid of losing custody of the child might falsely accuse the other parent of substance abuse to support a claim the other parent is unfit to have custody.

In yet other instances, if the falsely accusing spouse was, in fact, the abuser, they might try to accuse their spouse first out of fear of their abuse being discovered. Making the first allegation can sometimes deflect attention from the real abuser and result in their partner’s genuine accusations looking retaliatory.

Similarly, if an estranged spouse is seeking a more favorable financial settlement during equitable distribution, they might make false claims that their spouse is hiding assets or debt.

Even if their spouse didn’t do any of what they claim, an accuser might feel angry about the divorce for other reasons and choose to use false allegations as a means to get back at their spouse. A vengeful spouse might think they can “game” the system, or use the system to control their victim, by making false claims of abuse. The false accusations cause their partner to pay more in legal fees and get caught up in unnecessary investigations.

Some people look for any upper hand possible in a former relationship or divorce and don’t think through the consequences of their actions. Often, the accusing spouse will continue to make new claims when they fail to substantiate the ones that came before, even if there exists no basis for any of their claims. The idea is to wear their partner down emotionally, physically, and monetarily.

woman accused of making False Allegations in court

How Temporary Hearings Encourage False Statements

There are a few reasons false allegations are more common at temporary hearings than at other times during a divorce case:

1. A Motion for Temporary Relief is more dangerous than other motion hearings.

Most motions in a civil lawsuit must comply with Rule 8, SCRCP, and Rule 6(d), SCRCP. Both of these Rules ensure the responding party can provide a defense to the accusations in the motion.

Unlike motions in other civil court proceedings, a Motion for Temporary Relief is filed in accordance with Rule 21, SCRFC. This Rule allows one party to file a motion that does not detail the specific claims they intend to make against the other parties involved. It also allows for only 5 business days’ notice before the hearing.

Not only can people be ambushed by someone making false statements at the temporary hearing, but because temporary hearings usually occur early in the divorce case, litigants often haven’t yet had a chance to gather evidence to refute the accusations.

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2. A Motion for Temporary Relief has a lower burden of proof.

The party seeking relief has to provide evidence sufficient to meet a specific burden of proof. The burden of proof is a common legal issue to address. In most civil court proceedings, the moving party must prove their allegations by a preponderance of the evidence.

For temporary hearings, even when one party makes false accusations, to obtain the relief they want from the Court, they only have to provide enough evidence to make a prima facie showing that the allegation is true. This can make it impossible for an accused person or parent to adequately defend themselves at a temporary hearing.

3. The result of a Motion for Temporary Relief can make a situation worse.

Though temporary orders are not supposed to provide either party with an advantage in the underlying court case, the consequences of an unfavorable temporary hearing often include increased legal fees, protracted litigation, and difficulty settling a case.

For example, at a temporary hearing, if one parent alleges the other, accused parent has abused their child, then the accused parent may have their legal rights to the child limited on a temporary basis, which can include their receiving supervised visitation or even their visitation rights being suspended.

Judge signing off on a divorce case

How to Defend Yourself In Court Against False Accusations

If you find yourself falsely accused in divorce or child custody proceedings, you should immediately hire an experienced attorney familiar with defending false allegations in divorce. 

Find Evidence of the Truth

The best way how to defend yourself in court against false accusations is with the truth. If you have proof that a claim might be false, tell your lawyers right away.

Examine texts and emails, social media posts and activity, locational data – if you have it – or photos, if applicable. 

Look for any evidence that can demonstrate you weren’t at the place your spouse alleged you were or that you didn’t engage in alleged behavior or activities. Or evidence that can otherwise put a crack in your spouse’s arguments. 

Sometimes records of financial transactions like bank statements, credit card bills, or medical bills can help the accused parent disprove the allegations. Follow the advice of your attorney to determine which evidence will be best for your defense.

Always tell the truth in court, even when there are false allegations surrounding your case!

Conduct Discovery

Discovery is a process of gathering evidence to see how the other side plans to prove their claims against you. It also helps you find evidence to back up your own arguments and weaken their lies.

Identify Physical Evidence and Witnesses

A good way for proving your innocence is by identifying witnesses with personal knowledge of the facts related to the false accusations and the parties involved. 

Additionally, witnesses can provide testimony as to your character and the character of your spouse. If your partner lies frequently, collect evidence of their lying habits. This evidence will be presented in court to demonstrate that their claims are untrue.

Remain Calm and Respectful of the Court

Be sure to remain civil and respectful to your spouse throughout the divorce process. The last thing you need or want is to add fuel to the fire, compromising your appearance before a judge.

Though it might not seem obvious, you can defend yourself from false allegations in divorce by abiding by the judge’s orders. It might seem unfair to follow orders if you didn’t do what you’re being falsely accused of, but if you break the rules, you help your spouse’s case. Following the guidelines and restrictions set by a judge proves that you respect their ruling, a perception that could work in your favor later.

Striking a balance. Getting accused of making false allegations will not help your divorce case!

Can You Sue Someone For Making False Accusations during a Divorce?

In some cases, you can seek compensation by suing the party responsible for defamation. However, a person who makes a false statement during divorce proceedings may be entitled to qualified immunity, which could provide a defense to a defamation claim. Defamation doesn’t count as criminal behavior.

You could also sue someone if their false allegations against you cause you to be sued in or charged in a criminal action. Financial damages can be recovered in a civil lawsuit for malicious prosecution.

Hire a South Carolina Family Law Attorney to Help You Defend Yourself Against False Allegations in Your Divorce

Being falsely accused of bad behavior can lead to emotional damage. Defending false allegations made by the opposing party must be done carefully to avoid long-reaching consequences for your financial stability and your children’s best interests.

If your spouse has made false allegations you need to defend, it’s critical that you take action as soon as you can. To achieve this, it is advisable to engage the services of a skilled South Carolina divorce attorney who can assist you in vindicating yourself and refuting the allegations made by your partner. 

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