Yesterday’s blog post centered around the subject of in court testimony in your
family law case. I wanted to introduce the subject, discuss some basic advice and
then transition into the remaining bits of information that I think are
relevant to our discussion. If you haven’t yet read the first blog
post from yesterday I would recommend you go back and do so.
Let’s jump into today’s topics which center around how to answer
a question posed to you by a lawyer as well as how to present yourself
as a strong witness to the judge. Remember- appearance isn’t everything
but in a trial or contested hearing how you appear to the judge can affect
the way that he or she rules.
Volunteer at your church but not on the witness stand
The word “volunteer” has such a positive connotation. If you
hear someone say volunteer your mind probably goes to a scene of someone
helping out at a soup kitchen or playing a board game with a group of
retirees at the local retirement home. To a lawyer in the context of a
hearing, volunteering typically doesn’t take on this sort of idyllic image.
When your attorney counsels you not to volunteer information he or she
means to only answer the question that is asked of you and to not jump
ahead in the questioning and give a response to a question that was not asked.
A lot of times it is easy enough to tell where your attorney is going with
a series of questions. It may be so easy, in fact, that without even thinking
you may follow your attorney’s line of questioning and provide an
answer to a question that had not yet been asked. Do your best to avoiding
do this. Your attorney or the other attorney will have an opportunity
to ask you another question on the subject matter in which you are answering.
There is no need to pack a number of answers in your response when only
one particular answer is appropriate. You can confuse the judge, the attorneys
and most importantly yourself if you pack in a handful of answers to questions
that were not asked by a lawyer. Simple, honest and concise answers are the best.
Answer the question on your own time schedule
I do not mean that you can take out a book and read a chapter after you
are asked a question. Rather, you will be given a reasonable length of
time by the judge to formulate an answer. Feel free to take advantage
of this time rather than rushing through a response and getting some information wrong.
Attorneys are very good at subtly asking questions in ways that will allow
you to get tripped up and start to answer questions quicker than you are
comfortable with. If you are not aware of what is going on you may end
up answering a whole series of questions where your responses are not
what you would like them to be.
Watch your tone of voice when on the witness stand
Even though you may be the most frustrated, angry person in the entire
world while you are up there on the witness stand I would advise you to
keep your composure while testifying for the good of your case. Being
polite, not gesticulating wildly and taking a straightforward approach
to your testimony will serve you quite well.
If you have a propensity to be a little sarcastic now and again (speaking
for myself I can say that I am guilty of this behavior on occasion) be
sure to remind yourself that giving truthful responses does not mean editorializing
each response with snarky secondary responses. You may be a really funny
person but the judge will not think so, regardless of the way that you
formulate and phrase your testimony.
Remember that the opposing attorney wants to do what he or she can (within
reason) to make you appear untruthful and unreasonable at the very least.
By answering questions sarcastically or showing little patience with the
questions then you are playing into their hands.
How to handle an objection made while you are testifying
Often times while you are listening to a question and mentally preparing
a response the other attorney will state an objection to the question.
An objection occurs when one lawyer believes that there is a deficiency
with the question that is being asked.
That attorney is attempting to have the objection sustained and to force
the asking attorney to adjust their question or to move on from the subject
completely. My advice is to remain silent once an objection is made while
you are on the witness stand. If the objection is sustained then you will
be asked an entirely different question. If the objection is overruled
then the attorney’s original question will need to be answered
Objections can also be offered to your testimony. A common objection made
to testimony in a hearing or trial is “nonresponsive”. This
means that the attorney stating that objection believes the witnesses’
testimony provides an answer to a question that hasn’t been asked.
From my experience this often occurs when a party provides an answer that
he or she believes will be harmful to their case and then attempts to
quickly “rehabilitate” themselves by conditioning and clarifying
their earlier testimony. If the other lawyer objects to the answer you
have given make sure to remain silent until the judge offers a ruling
on that objection. You should then proceed based on the instruction of
the judge on how to answer the particular question that has been asked of you.
Part Three on in court testimony will be posted tomorrow
If you have other questions on the subject of giving in court testimony
in your family law case then you should come back to our website tomorrow.
A third blog on this subject will be posted tomorrow for you to read through.
If the first two blogs on this subject have piqued your interest and leave
you with some questions please do not hesitate to contact the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. A free of charge consultation is only a
phone call away.
If you want to know more about what you can do,
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- Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case
- Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case,
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