Often times it feels that the Temporary orders hearing comes very quickly. There have been times when representing the Petitioner
there has only been 14 days’ notice or when representing the Respondent
only 3 days’ notice to prepare. Therefore, good organization and
helpful trial exhibits ahead of time in effective presentation in court.
The purpose of this blog article is to answer common questions that many
people have regarding a
temporary orders hearing, and to give you an idea of what to expect when preparing for the hearing
and when you testify. The ideas in this article will apply not only to
clients, but in part also to other witnesses.
Steps and Exhibits for Aid in a Temporary Orders Hearing:
Write a history of your marital relationship with your spouse. This history
should contain dates and facts supporting your claim for
Make a list of all the reasons why you are best for
custody, with supporting facts and dates.
- Make a list of all the reasons why your spouse should not be appointed
custodian of the child, with supporting facts and dates.
- Make a list of all witnesses you will need at the temporary hearing, names,
addresses, telephone numbers, and a brief summary of what they know. Also,
determine if they need a subpoena.
- Fill out the financial information statement on your income and living expenses.
- Make an appointment with your attorney to discuss strategy if possible
7 days prior to the hearing date.
- Develop a plan to manage the child now—from day to day, while you
Testimony in Court
You are about to testify in a
Temporary Orders hearing. Testimony takes place in the courtroom before a judge. You will be testifying at a
temporary hearing. Testimony in a final hearing may be to a judge or, in some cases, to a jury.
At either the
temporary hearing, or the final hearing, there may be a court reporter present, a bailiff,
both parties, and their attorneys.
If you will be testifying, you need to dress for your testimony as if you
were going to church. Women need to wear darker clothing, no expensive
flashy jewelry, and light makeup. Men should wear a suit, or at least a tie.
Everyone is nervous before testifying. Never, however, “fortify”
yourself for testimony by taking tranquilizers, drinking alcohol, or having
anything else which will either slow down or speed up your nervous system.
If you are testifying, remember that you will be observed both in and out
of the courtroom by jurors (perhaps), attorneys, witnesses for the other
side, and sometimes, the judge. Jurors, if any, may see you in the elevator
or on the stairway at the courthouse, or in the restroom or on the street.
They may see you driving to the courthouse in your car.
It is important that you conduct yourself in a courteous manner at all
times. Obviously, a witness is not going to make a good impression on
the stand if he has had an unfriendly encounter with a juror in traffic,
or, if after his testimony, a juror hears him in the hall laughing at
something humorous that occurred in the courtroom. While you are at the
courthouse, either before or after your testimony, be serious, do not
joke with other witnesses or attorneys, or do anything else that might
give a juror the impression that you are taking your testimony, or the
case itself, lightly.
If your case is to a jury, try to avoid the individual jurors. A friendly
smile to a juror is all right, if it is not forced. You might even say
“good morning.” But under no circumstances should you ever
enter into any conversation with any juror for any reason at any time.
The same rules will apply to the judge.
TELL THE TRUTH
Always tell the truth when testifying. Failure to tell the truth constitutes
perjury, a crime under the Texas Penal Code. Tell the truth to the best
of your ability, whether it may “help” our side’s case,
or “hurt” our case. Do not exaggerate, or try to make anything
seem better or worse than it really is.
I hope that you have not held anything back in our previous conversations.
Some clients and witnesses feel that, if they do not tell everything to
their lawyer, the other side may not know or be able to find out about
the concealed facts. The problem with this approach is that the other
side may know those detrimental facts, or learn about them, while I am
not aware of them. The only way that I can be properly prepared to explain
or perhaps overcome the impact of detrimental facts is to know about them
in advance, and not hear about them for the first time at a hearing or trial.
The corollary to this rule is that, once I am aware of these facts, I cannot
allow you, if asked a question about these detrimental facts, to be untruthful
It is also important for me to know if you have ever had any prior arrests,
criminal convictions, or other allegations of wrongdoing to misdeeds made
against you, whether fairly or not. It is possible that the other side
may try to use this to “impeach” your testimony, and therefore,
it is important for me to be aware of this information.
Finally, if you have made any statements to police officers, investigators,
etc., whether orally or in writing, you need to let me know about that.
You have a right to copies of any written statements which you have made.
Additionally, if you have written any letters, cards, or other writings
to the other side, which bear on any issues in the case, you need to let
me know. This is particularly true if those writings contain information
which you might not want to hear in the courtroom. The same rule applies
to telephone conversations. It is not uncommon for one party to a lawsuit
to record their conversation with another party to the lawsuit; and, if
you have said anything to your spouse or ex-spouse which you would not
want repeated in the courtroom, you need to let me know about that also.
When I am asking you questions, it is called “direct-examination.”
I must ask questions that are non-leading, and which do not suggest the
actual answer. The questions that the other lawyer will ask you are “cross-examination.”
He may ask you leading questions; that is, questions that suggest answers.
When the other lawyer is asking you these questions, he is trying to “put
words in your mouth.” Leading questions many times begin with “isn’t
it a fact,” isn’t it true that,” or similar
questions. If you sense that the answer is in the question, be careful.
These questions may contain implications that are only partially true
and that require an explanation.
Different lawyers have different techniques in cross-examining witnesses.
At the outset of the cross-examination, the other attorney may appear
to be friendly, but remember that he represents the other side of the
lawsuit. Many lawyers, at the outset of cross-examination, are careful
not to antagonize the witness so that the witness will prove what appears
to be non-controversial information voluntarily and readily. Once this
information is obtained, the lawyer will start to ask the harder questions,
and press the witness. The moral of this story is that, although the other
lawyer may appear to be friendly, he or she is not your friend; be careful
that he or she does not lead you into saying something that you do not believe.
Remain calm and polite, and do not lose your temper no matter how hard
you may be pressed. Even though something may happen during your testimony
that makes you angry or embarrassed, always be courteous to everyone,
including the judge, the jury, and particularly the lawyer who is cross-examining
you. Many times in life it may be appropriate to “talk back”
or make some type of wise-crack, but it is never appropriate when you
are testifying. Neither judges nor juries like witnesses that appear to
be flippant, antagonistic, vindictive, or hostile; and this type of behavior
can only have an adverse effect on the case. When answering the cross-examining
attorney’s questions, give him the information in the same tone
of voice and manner that you do your own attorney’s questions.
For example, a woman would be simply stating the facts and would be an
effective witness if she would say, reluctantly, that her husband slept
until noon every day. On the other hand, if she were to go on and add
that he was a “worthless, shiftless, lazy person who slept every
day until noon,” her vindictiveness would be very likely to help
the cause of her husband.
Never answer a question with a question. For example, if the other lawyer
asks you “how old are you?”, you do not answer with “how
old do you think I am?”
Do not react while the other party, or a witness for the other party, is
testifying. You should remain calm, and your expression should not change
no matter what the testimony is from the witness stand. No one likes histrionics
from a client at a counsel table.
Do not try to memorize what you are going to say in your testimony, either
in response to my direct examination, or cross-examination. You will sound
coached, and far less believable than if you are simply spontaneous. It
is a good idea for you to have a general idea of what you intend to say,
but do not worry about saying it exactly the same way every time.
If you have previously been deposed, we will review your deposition testimony
before your hearing or trial testimony; but again, do not try to memorize
the answers which you gave on deposition. You need only to be familiar
with what you previously said, and give clear, truthful answers without
At both a hearing and a trial (or at deposition), speak clearly and do
not mumble. At a hearing or trial, while you are on the witness stand,
look at the members of the jury or at the judge. Talk to them, and speak
to them frankly as you would to a neighbor or a friend. Do not cover your
mouth with your hand. It is important that you speak loudly enough for
everyone in the courtroom to hear you.
Avoid certain expressions like “to tell you the truth,” or
“I’ll tell you the truth,” or “to be honest,”
or “well to be perfectly frank,” etc. The judge (or jurors)
may be suspicious of witnesses who begin their testimony with these statements.
They may believe that a witness who has to keep telling them that something
is the truth may not be telling the truth.
Although you and I will discuss the different areas upon which you will
be cross-examined, and the types of questions I believe the other lawyer
will ask, there will certainly be some questions which we have not discussed.
If the other lawyer asks you a tough question, do not turn and look to
me for the answer. Look him in the eye and answer the questions as truthfully
as you can. I will not let the other lawyer abuse you on the witness stand,
but I cannot keep him from asking you hard questions, nor can I provide
you the answers.
UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION
Everyone is nervous when they testify, and nervous people tend not to comprehend
things as well when nervous. Do not hesitate to ask the other lawyer to
repeat or rephrase the question, as many times as necessary, until you
are certain that you have understood it. If you do not believe that you
heard the questions correctly, ask the lawyer to repeat it. Once you are
certain that you have heard the question correctly, and understood it,
answer it, but answer only the question that is asked of you and then
stop. I do not mean to be evasive -- provide the information that is requested;
but, once you have done this, stop talking. Do not provide additional
You do not testify on cross-examination in order to “tell your story.”
You testify only to answer the questions which are asked and, on cross-examination,
the best answer to any question is the shortest honest answer. For example,
if you are asked how many children are in your family, simply give the
number. Do no answer like this: “we have two children. I would have
liked many more, but due to the fact that my spouse spent five years in
the penitentiary, we were unable to have a larger family.” This
is what I mean when I say do not volunteer information.
Many witnesses think that they are supposed to know the answer to every
question that is asked. Do not guess at any answer. If you do not know
the answer to a question, even though you feel you may appear ignorant
or evasive by saying that you do not know, you should nevertheless do
so. It is always wrong to guess or estimate.
As stated above, speak loudly enough so everyone can hear you. Do not nod
or make gestures, as these cannot be recorded by the court reporter.
TIME AND DISTANCE
Be careful with questions involving distances and time. If at any time
you estimate distances or time in any of your answers, be sure that you
say that it is an estimate.
When you are testifying about conversations with other people, be sure
to make it clear whether you are paraphrasing comments made by you, or
the other persons, or whether you are quoting directly what was said.
NEVER SAY NEVER
Nothing “always happens,” and nothing “never happens.”
Eliminate adjectives and superlatives such as “never” and
“always” from your vocabulary when testifying.
NOTES, DIARIES, ETC
Do not plan to use any notes, diaries, or any other documents to assist
you during your testimony unless you have reviewed them with me. If you
refer to notes, etc., during your testimony, the other lawyer will have
the right to examine those documents. Use of notes to refresh your memory
or any other such documents will allow the other side to examine them.
QUESTIONS ABOUT DOCUMENTS
If information is in a document which you need to see in order to testify
truthfully and accurately, ask the other lawyer to provide you with a
copy of that document, if you know that he has it. When confronted with
documents, examine them carefully. If you haven’t seen a particular
document before or did not prepare it, don’t try to guess what it
means, and don’t vouch for its accuracy.
If at any time during your testimony at hearing or at trial, you realize
you have made a mistake, correct your answer as soon as you recognize
you have made an error.
Do not let the other attorney put words in your mouth. If it is necessary,
restate or rephrase in your own words the attorney’s question. Pay
particular attention to introductory clauses preceding questions. Do not
accept the other attorney’s summary of your testimony unless it
is completely accurate.
IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
Beware of questions by the other attorney beginning with works similar
to “is that all.” THE OTHER SIDE IS ATTEMPTING TO FREEZE YOUR
TESTIMONY. A good answer to such a question would include phrases such
as “to the best of my recollection at this time,” “that
is all I can remember at this time,” etc.
Make sure that you allow the other attorney on cross, and me on direct,
to complete our questions before you begin to answer. If you interrupt
the cross-examining attorney, you may be answering a question which he
is not really even asking, therefore providing him additional information
to ask more questions about. If you interrupt my questions to answer a
question, it will seem as if we have rehearsed your testimony.
Many times a question will contain several questions. For example, “when
you talked to Adam, didn’t you say that you were in Houston, and
didn’t have time to drive to Tyler to meet with John that afternoon?”
It may not be possible to give an accurate answer unless you answer the
questions one at a time. In such a case, you may say “the question
has several parts, and I will try to answer each one.
When I spoke to Adam, I don’t believe I told him I was in Houston.
I said it would be difficult to meet with John that afternoon, but I don’t
believe I told Adam about meeting John in Tyler.” The best way to
handle this, however, is to simply tell the other lawyer he asked you
more than one question, and ask him to break the question down for you.
INTERRUPTIONS BY THE OTHER ATTORNEY
Many times, in the heat of battle, the other lawyer may interrupt you while
you are trying to answer a question. Let him finish his new question,
and say “before I answer that question, I need to finish the answer
to the last question.” If you haven’t finished an answer,
that is, if your answer to a question is not complete, you need to say
so. Don’t count on the judge or the lawyers to know that your answer
was cut off.
DEMANDS FOR YES AND NO ANSWERS
While you should never volunteer information on cross-examination, there
are times when you need to give an explanation. There are also some questions
which cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no”
answer. An example is “have you stopped beating your wife?”
Obviously, this question cannot be answered by either a year or no answer,
because either answer would imply guilt. A short answer setting forth
the facts would be called for.
Remember that the other lawyer is motivated to make your answers fit his
case. Sometimes a lawyer may even try to force your answers to be what
he wants to hear. He may try to intimidate you with commands of “just
answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” If you can’t
answer the question that way, say so. Be prepared to insist that a question
cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
Be prepared to insist that the answer requires some explanation. I will
be there to help you get a complete answer into the record.
There will be many objections during the trial. Whenever an objection is
made while you are testifying, stop instantly, particularly when I am
the one that makes the objection. Do not try to give an answer before
the judge rules on the objection. Wait until the judge has ruled. If the
objection has been “sustained”, the judge believes the objection
is correct. If an objection is “overruled”, the judge believes
the objection is not correct. Do not try to decide what the effect of
an objection is on your testimony. When the objection is being made and
the judge is giving his ruling, wait silently. After the judge has ruled,
either you will be asked another question, or you will be told what to do next.
Whenever the judge tells you something, of course, you will follow his
instructions. One common instruction is “please just tell us what
you observed, don’t tell us what anybody else told you.” We
will go over these rules before your testimony begins, so don’t
be concerned about having to learn the rules of evidence. Whatever you
need to know at the courthouse, either the judge or I will tell you.
If a question is asked that you do not wish to answer, do not turn to the
judge and ask “judge, do I have to answer that question?”
If the question is improper, I will make an objection. If I do not make
an objection, answer the question as truthfully and honestly as you can.
If there are any questions that you do not want to answer, tell me now,
before you give your testimony, so that we can protect you from having
to answer any improper question.
NOTES TO ME
This applies only to clients, while others are testifying. During the testimony
of someone else, do not tug at my sleeve, whisper in my ear, or give me
a nudge. I am trying to concentrate on the testimony, and I cannot listen to that
testimony, and listen to you at the same time. Simply make a note of what
you wanted to tell me; and, when the other lawyer’s examination
of the witness is complete, I will review those notes either at the beginning
or at the end of my redirect or cross-examination of that witness.
TALKING ABOUT OUR PREPARATION
You should never be embarrassed about admitting that you have met with
and consulted with me prior to your testimony. If asked what you talked
about, simply say that I instructed you to be truthful and honest. The
other lawyer may simply ask you “who have you talked to about this
case?” What the other lawyer may try to suggest is that some person
has prepared you for your testimony, and sometimes he goes even further
and suggests someone has told you what answers to give. There in nothing
wrong with having spoken to me about your testimony.
If you have talked with members of your family, your doctor, your pastor,
your counselor, or anyone else, do not be afraid to say so. There is absolutely
nothing wrong with talking about your case with other persons, as long
as you do not violate the witness role discussed later in this paper.
People who say they have never talked to anybody else about their case,
or their testimony, usually will not be believed. The important point
here is that no one should ever be allowed to tell you what your testimony
should be. I will never tell you what evidence to give; I will never tell
you to cover the facts in a certain way, or to lie, or to distort the
truth. What you and I will discuss before you testify is simply the most
effective way in which to tell the truth.
DON’T CONVERSE WITH THE OPPONENT
After testimony at a hearing or at trial, do not chat with the other side
or their lawyer.
Do not try to figure out before you answer whether a truthful answer will
help or hinder our case. Answer truthfully. I can deal with the truth
effectively, but I am handicapped when you answer any other way.
THE WITNESS RULE
As witnesses are sworn in at the beginning of their testimony, one of the
lawyers will usually “invoke the rule.” The rule is also sometimes
called the witness rule. The most important thing you need to remember
about the rule is that the testimony must be your own. Your testimony
must not be affected by the testimony of others. If you are not a party,
you must not see or hear the testimony of others.
Neither a party nor witnesses may discuss their own testimony or the testimony
of others. If the rule has been invoked, the judge will place you under
oath and explain the meaning of the rule to you. From that point forward,
until the case is over, you may not discuss any facts of the case with
any person but me. Only the lawyers in the case will be able to discuss
the case with you.
Even though the judge may not formally “place you under the rule”
and explain it to you, do not assume that the rule has not been invoked.
Always assume that you are under the rule unless I tell you otherwise.
In order to comply with the rule, once the case has begun, do not discuss
the facts of the case with anyone but me. Do not discuss the facts of
the case with your spouse, or any member of your family, or with anyone
that you work with, or with anyone who will or may be a witness in the
case. If you are my client, do not discuss the facts with any witness
whom we have asked here on your behalf, and do not discuss the facts with
any witness who may be appearing for the other side. If you are a witness
and have been asked to appear, either by my client or by me, do not discuss
the facts with my client. If you are a witness, and the lawyer on the
other side asks to speak with you about the facts of this case, the best
thing to do from my client’s point of view is to decline to speak
with him or her unless I am there.
Unfortunately, some people do not follow the rule. If you see or overhear
anyone else discuss the facts of the case, in disobedience of the judge’s
order, you need to let me know right away. If a witness violates the rule,
there can be very serious consequences. The judge, for example, may order
the testimony of the defending/offending?? witness to be “stricken
from the record,” which means it would be just as though the witness
had never testified. Additionally, since it is an order of the court given
to you personally, if you disobey that order, the judge can hold you in
contempt of court and punish you.
If you want to know more about what you can do,
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
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