In part four of the Law Office of Bryan Fagan’s series on Temporary Orders hearings, we will discuss the part of the hearing itself that gives clients the most amount of discomfort- their actual testimony.
If you are going through a divorce or child custody case and have never given testimony in front of a judge this is a critical article to read.
While every person has an individual level of comfort speaking in public, I believe the content below will be helpful for any person who finds themselves on a witness stand.
Rule No. 1- Tell the Truth
I could have titled this section Rule Nos. 1 through 1,000- Tell the Truth. Telling the truth and coming off as a credible witness to the judge is critical to being able to present your case successfully in court.
For starters, lying under oath is called “perjury” and is against the law. You will take an oath where you swear to the court that your testimony will be truthful. If you are less than truthful on the stand there is potential for criminal penalties to be assessed against you. I’m not saying this will happen, but it is something to keep in mind. Bottom line: be honest with the judge, no matter what.
There are varying degrees of truthfulness when you get right down to it. Part of being truthful is not overselling or underselling a particular issue on which you are testifying. If your intent is to make something seem much worse or much better than it really is then this is what I mean by over or underselling.
Your judge will have most likely heard testimony similar to yours at some point in time. If the judge gets the suspicion that you are not being completely truthful your credibility can take a huge hit and along with it your case can take a huge hit as well.
The Truth as it applies to conversations with your attorney
The second worst person to be less than truthful with, besides a judge, is your attorney. Your divorce lawyer is not there to judge you or berate you or do anything to make you feel bad about yourself or your past actions.
What your divorce attorney is there for is to prepare your case and to present you in a favorable light to the judge. If you fail to disclose information to him or her, even if it sounds really bad, that can have a huge impact on your case in the courtroom.
This is especially true if your spouse already knows the “bad facts” when your own attorney does not. You can rest assured that your spouse has happily shared this information with their attorney and a plan has been devised to utilize the information in court to hurt you and your case. The best way to counteract this possibility is to be completely honest with your lawyer.
Sometimes clients will tell me things that are completely irrelevant to their case and are downright embarrassing. That’s fine. For one, everything you tell your attorney is confidential and two, your attorney is being paid to determine what is and what is not relevant. Talk with your lawyer about all facts- good and bad, prior to stepping inside a courtroom.
The types of questions asked in a Temporary Orders Hearing
Well, we’ve made it. All the preparation, meetings, thoughts and prayers have led to the moment where your name is called as a witness and you walk up to the witness stand and take a seat.
Once you swear to tell the truth to the court your attorney will begin his or her questioning of you. This is called “direct examination”. The opposing attorney will then have an opportunity to ask you questions as well- this is called “cross examination”.
Your own lawyer must ask you non-leading questions. This means that the question itself cannot suggest an answer to you. Your lawyer will ask you questions and you must answer them truthfully and based on your specific knowledge of an event or issue.
The opposing attorney can ask you leading questions. It is important to note that in some instances leading questions can contain the desired answer (from the perspective of the opposing lawyer) to the question. Some good advice is to listen carefully when the opposing attorney is asking you questions and to answer him or her in a way where you are not agreeing to something that is only partially true.
Every attorney has a different style to how they approach an opposing witness. Some attorneys are rough and gruff in their demeanor and their cross-examination questioning is no different. Many attorneys will attempt to come off as friendly and non-threatening in their initial questioning of you. My advice would be to always respond to questions in a courteous manner but to be aware that no matter how friendly the lawyer seems, they are not there to benefit you in any way.
Before answering a question it can be smart to take a moment and replay the question in your head. If you:
- understand the question and
- know the answer to the question you should give a response
If you cannot answer both of these questions with a “yes”, then you should either ask the attorney to rephrase or repeat the question or reply with a response of “I don’t know”.
You should not be concerned with the idea that if you reply to a question with an answer of, “I don’t know” that the judge will think you’re not that intelligent or don’t care enough about your case to remember a detail.
It is must better to tell the attorney you can’t remember something than to invent an answer or to assume an answer. There is usually a method to the questions asked of a witness by a lawyer and you can assume that each answer you provide is going to feed into the next few questions the lawyer asks you. Being honest in your responses is the right thing to do and can benefit your case as well.
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan- Southeast Texas Family Law attorneys
Our series on temporary orders hearings will continue with Part Five upcoming. If these articles have caused you to think about a question or two, please contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan for a free of charge consultation. We represent clients across southeast Texas and would be honored to represent you and your family as well.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Preparing for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Texas, Part Three
- Preparing for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Texas, Part One
- Preparing for a Temporary Orders Hearing in Texas, Part Two
- Do I need Temporary Orders in my Texas Divorce?
- Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas
- Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
- The Divorce Temporary Orders Guide
- Temporary Orders and Temporary Restraining Orders in Texas
- What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
- Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
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