“I´m afraid my business partner will want me to testify at his divorce trial.”
Divorce trials can cause a lot of collateral damage, not only to the careers, livelihoods and reputations of the parties (and their children), but also to the personal and financial lives of their friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, employees and business partners.
What do you do when you are caught in the crossfire between two people you respect, admire and depend on for companionship and/or financial security?
Divorce proceedings often require witnesses to confirm disputed financial or personal information about one or both parties. As a third party with a relationship to either or both spouses, you may be called upon to provide information in the form of affidavits, depositions, or as a witness at a hearing or trial. Once you are sworn to tell the truth, attorneys from both sides will have the right to question you and attempt to impeach your statements.
A divorce trial is not a safe haven for liars and cheaters. If you take the stand and lie to help your friend, you expose yourself to extremely unpleasant consequences if your lie is uncovered during cross-examination or later in the proceeding. You should not expect immunity from civil or criminal prosecution when testifying. If you confess to participation in criminal or fraudulent activity in the course of exculpating your friend, you may find yourself hit with serious charges stemming from same.
Most witnesses in routine divorce cases should not expect to confront circumstances where they need to take the Fifth Amendment protection during testimony, but these issues sometimes do arise.
Before you walk into a deposition or a courtroom to testify in a divorce trial, especially when your testimony might be self-incriminating or highly damaging to one or both parties, the best course of action is to consult with a qualified divorce attorney prior to taking the stand.
A good lawyer will understand the sensitivity of your position, caught between a rock and a hard place, and will help you navigate your way through that quagmire as unscathed as possible. Rather than expose yourself to perjury, a seasoned lawyer might advise you to outline your proposed version of events in writing, and can then use that document in conferring with the attorneys for the plaintiff and/or defendant with a view to limiting the scope of questioning and/or eliminating altogether the need for you to appear in court.
While it would be unethical for a law firm retained by one of the parties to a divorce to represent a potential witness, there are a good number of attorneys who know divorce and family law and would be able to advise you effectively and represent your interests if necessary.
Hirsch Legal, LLC, based in Shelton, is one of Connecticut’s leading firms focusing on divorce and family law. We represent clients throughout New Haven and Fairfield County. If you live in Milford, Bridgeport, Westport, Danbury, Stamford, or one of the nearby communities, you should considering calling us for a consultation when you need legal advice or representation in a matrimonial or child custody matter.