It is often said that people are at their worst during a divorce and at their best during church. This is especially true when divorce proceedings involve child custody. Parents may fudge a little white lie to make themselves look better or bend the truth to make the other parent look worse. Things can get heated very quickly. Sometimes, however, people take accusations too far. If one parent falsely accuses another parent of criminal activity, courts will hold them responsible.
In Habel v. State of Alabama, the Alabama Court of Appeals took a stand against making false accusations. Sara Habel initiated divorce proceedings against her husband. In the midst of the custody case, Habel accused her husband of sexually abusing their children.
A special agent from Homeland Security searched the husband’s home and seized several electronic devices. However, he found no evidence of child pornography. During an interview with the agent, Habel signed a sworn affidavit detailing the alleged abuse, even after the agent warned her that it was a crime to lie to law-enforcement officials. Habel’s daughter was also interviewed by a specialist. During the first interview, she made no mention of sexual abuse. However, at the next interview, she brought it up almost immediately.
At trial, the husband denied the allegations. He also stated that Habel threatened to never speak to their daughter again after the daughter refused to tell her who she had spoken to about the case. Habel’s daughter admitted she had made up the allegations, but she refused to say that her mom told her to lie. Habel was convicted of first-degree perjury and ordered to serve 30 days in jail and have 5 years of supervised probation.
Habel appealed her conviction, arguing that the prosecution had failed to prove the elements of perjury. To be convicted of perjury, one must make a false statement during an official proceeding. Habel argued that “official proceeding” means a court proceeding, and a sworn affidavit does not count as a court proceeding. The court compared this case to defining “official proceeding” in the context of witness intimidation. For witness intimidation, once a complaint has been filed, then an official proceeding was pending. Drawing from that conclusion, the Court of Appeals reasoned that once the criminal complaint against Habel’s husband was filed, submitting the sworn affidavit counted as an official proceeding.
The lesson to be learned here is that it is better to tell the truth during divorce proceedings. Divorces can be very bitter. One side may blame the other for relationship failure. They may want to get back at the other party for hurting them. They may want to make themselves look better than the other party in order to receive the upper hand in a custody battle. However, in the end all these intentions may backfire. You could end up hurting yourself more than you hurt the other party. The best way to protect yourself in a divorce is to hire an experienced divorce attorney. If you want the best attorney on your side during a divorce, contact Ingram Law LLC at 205-335-2640.