(Fact - Based on Memory)


The divorce litigants who find themselves in Probate and Family Court are, by and large, under enormous emotional and financial stress.  The disintegration of the marriage, the trauma to self-esteem, the worry over the children, the checkbook, the job – can all crash together in a tumult of destruction.  Probate and Family Court judges tend not to be judgmental in the negative way that word is commonly understood.  In fact, at least once each week, most of us hear a little voice reminding us, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” 


There are two types of behavior, however, that tend to arouse judicial ire.  One is litigation bullying – a story for another day.  The other is deceit.


Any deceit in a court case is wrong.  Documents are often signed “under the pains and penalties of perjury.”  If you’ve falsified evidence or failed to include required information, you have lied to the court.  You have committed perjury – told lies after having taken a solemn oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. 


Over the years, family court judges become inured to all types of deceit.  Financial statements, signed under the pains and penalties of perjury, with zero assets? Zero dollars in the bank?  No visible means of support, yet the litigant manages to arrive in a convertible and has the latest smart phone?  Litigants swear under oath that they have zero income, yet the former spouse is able to establish that they are being paid under the table?  You get the idea. 


As a clerk, I worked with several judges who would refer matters of perjury to the District Attorney’s office for criminal prosecution.  The District Attorneys rarely found time to prosecute these cases, undoubtedly overwhelmed by more serious matters.  Yet it is a rather sad comment on society that when deceit has become routine it may, as a result, be routinely ignored.  Furthermore, the frequency of falsification means that the honest person must work harder to convince the court of his or her situation.  When a judge hears, “Your Honor, I own my own business. It was a tough year; we barely kept the doors open,” he must constantly remind himself not to meet such statements with unwarranted disbelief.


When friends and relatives would ask my former boss, Chief Justice Mary Fitzpatrick, “What did you hear in court today?” she had a stock answer.  Her friends were probably thinking  -  a big divorce case?  adoption?  an intriguing will contest, perhaps?  No, Mary would answer:  “What did I hear in court today?  Perjury.”


And she was only half joking. 





Probate and Family Court
Court Stories    Focus on Marriage    Separation and Divorce    Children    Annulment   About  Contact     Home