Options When a Parent Lies to Get Custody
Children are a central component of a parent’s life, and sharing them with another person, especially one that until recently was an intimate partner, is understandably difficult. However, it is rare that a parent is completely blocked from exercising any parenting responsibilities, so reconciling the need for long-term cooperation is usually in the best interests of everyone involved. When a court assesses the adequacy of an agreed upon parenting plan or is asked to create one, the judge is most concerned with what is in the best interests of the child. Ascertaining how to best promote the child’s welfare unavoidably relies upon statements made by each parent about what they can and will provide and which arrangement he/she thinks is best. While this system works well when parents are honest about their situation, things can quickly take a bad turn if a parent decides to lie in order to obtain or maintain custody, often in contradiction of what the child truly needs. Parents witnessing the other party’s attempt to manipulate the legal system cannot let this behavior go uncontested. Consequently, knowing what the legal options are can allow a parent to take quick action, which could limit any damage the dishonest party caused. A discussion of a few ways to respond when a parent lies about child custody issues will follow below.
Child custody decisions, or parenting plans as they are now called, are not set in stone, and can be modified if a substantial, material and unanticipated change occurs. Unless there is an emergency that endangers the child’s life or health, a court will not change a parenting plan until a hearing is held where each side can present their position. Further, even if an emergency motion is granted returning the child to the parent requesting modification, there will still be a hearing within a short timeframe to determine if a permanent modification is justified. Courts have wide discretion in granting requests for modification, but the main factor is the best interests of the child, as well as whether the change in circumstances could have been anticipated by the parents or the court when the parenting plan was put into effect. A parent who consciously lies about important issues, such as the accessibility of a child’s friends/family, drug and alcohol use, or claims of abuse against the other parent, would likely constitute grounds to modify the parenting plan. Also, a court would be more likely to restrict the lying parent’s parenting time and decision-making authority if evidence of the parent’s actions is presented.
Motion for Rehearing/Post-Judgment Relief
Depending on how much time has passed, it may be possible to request a rehearing or submit a motion for post-judgment relief. Motions for a rehearing must be filed within 15 days following the issuance of the judge’s written decision, and is used when there is additional evidence the court needs to consider to make a fair decision. Evidence that a parent intentionally lied to gain an advantage in custody issues would certainly fall into this category, though the falsity will need to be clearly demonstrated. If the 15-day window for a rehearing motion has expired, Florida law allows parties to file a motion for post-judgment relief. While courts are typically reluctant to grant these requests because they want to encourage the finality of judicial decisions, they will reopen cases under certain circumstances, including if a party committed a fraud on the court. Willfully making false statements to the court to gain or keep custody would fall into this category, and likely motivate a judge to penalize the offending parent by restricting parental responsibilities.
Parents strive to protect their children from dangerous outside influences, but protecting them from a parent’s behavior is much more difficult. If you have child custody concerns, and need advice on what to do, contact the All Family Law Group. Our Tampa Bay attorneys have years of experience providing dedicated and customized approaches to get the results their clients need. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-672-1900 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+