Pleading the 5th in Divorce

“I plead the 5th!”

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. –5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In divorce cases pleading the 5th is not often invoked.  The reason is divorce cases are civil matters, by their nature.  Not civil in the sense that everyone is always nice, but civil as opposed to criminal.

When Can you Plead the 5th in a Divorce Matter?

When answering the question would involve you admitting to a crime.  Interestingly, adultery, or habitual fornication rather, is a crime in Mississippi. It is rarely prosecuted, but is a crime nonetheless.  Due to this you may invoke the 5th. However, you have not outsmarted the system.  Pleading the 5th in a civil matter creates a presumption that you did what was asked.  Or, at least the Chancellor can use it against you.

So, how does this play out? (envision a Courtroom)

Attorney:  Mr. Smith, it’s true isn’t is that you have committed adultery during your marriage to Mrs. Smith?

Mr. Smith:  I plead the 5th.

Attorney:  Let the record reflect that Mr. Smith has invoked his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination as it relates to a question about adultery and the Court may make an adverse inference against Mr. Smith for doing so.

Judge:  Duly noted.

Why do it then?  The witness does not have to disclose  the dirty details, name names, places, locations, or positions.

Pleading the 5th may not stop you from getting a divorce, but it may prevent bringing other persons down with you.

Matthew Thompson is a Divorce and Domestic Relations Attorney in the Magnolia State. Follow the blog:#BowTieLawyer 


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