Each year, I am honored to serve as New York divorce lawyer for dozens of individuals who are seeking to move on with their lives after reaching the painful realization that their marital relationships are irretrievably broken. My clients come from virtually all walks of life. Regardless of the nature of their marital issues or background of their cases, my advice to each of my clients is (and has always been) to tell the truth.
I have yet to encounter a matrimonial client who needed to misrepresent the truth. In an astounding number of instances, the opposite is true: the incidents or issues about which clients tend to be most embarrassed or concerned are oftentimes the key to achieving a successful outcome in their divorce. In the first instance, accepting and telling the truth is, as a matter of course, an honorable thing to do. Not surprisingly, it was a New Yorker, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who summarized this axiom most eloquently when he said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”.
Moynihan’s quip is a particularly apt description of what the lawyer and client must achieve in any court case. Their job is to work as a team and present the facts of the case in a manner that leads a judge or jury to view them in a particular light. Stated succinctly, a divorce lawyer’s job is to encourage the judge to have a particular interpretation of the facts.
When people try to win their divorce cases by distorting or hiding facts, they run the risk of losing both their credibility and their cases. This has happened in New York courts to some of the wealthiest and most famous divorce litigants. For example, in the case Wildenstein v. Wildenstein, 251 A.D.2d 189, the Court made an adverse inference against the husband and in favor of the wife because the husband displayed an “evidence lack of candor with respect to the sources and nature of his actual income.” The defendant-husband in the Wildenstein divorce case learned the painful lesson that New York divorce judges (particularly divorce judges in Manhattan) are savvy, and they will not hesitate to punish a divorce litigant who appears to be concealing his or her financial condition from the court.
When judges conclude that a litigant is trying to pull the wool over their eyes, they use a powerful judicial weapon: the issuance of an adverse inference. In plain terms, this means that the judge determines that the facts, as alleged by the other (truthful) spouse, are true.