In part four of our series on Temporary Orders hearings, we’ll talk about the aspect of the hearing that often makes clients uncomfortable: testifying. This order of examination in court is crucial if you’re in a divorce or child custody case, especially if you haven’t testified in front of a judge before. While everyone’s comfort with public speaking varies, the following information should assist anyone who ends up on the 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. It’s essential 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 you exaggerate to make something seem better or worse than it is, that’s what I mean by overselling or underselling. Most likely, your judge has heard similar testimony before. If the judge suspects you’re not entirely truthful, your credibility suffers, which can harm your case.
The Truth as It Applies to Conversations With Your Attorney
The second worst person to be less than truthful with is your attorney, aside from a judge. Your divorce lawyer’s role isn’t to judge or berate you; it’s to prepare your case and present you favorably to the judge. Failing to disclose information, even if it seems bad, can significantly affect your case.
This is especially true if your spouse knows the “bad facts” while your attorney remains unaware. Your spouse likely shared this with their attorney to use against you in court. The best way to counteract this 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.
Order of Examination in Court: Direct and Cross Examinations
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. Then answer him or her in a way where you are not agreeing to something that is only partially true.
The Types of Questions Asked in a Temporary Orders Hearing
Every attorney has a different style to how they approach an opposing witness. Some attorneys are rough and gruff in their demeanor and their order of examination in court 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. However, 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 to the order of examination in court is the right thing to do and can benefit your case as well.
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC- 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, PLLC 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, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC 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.
Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.
Bryan Fagan, a native of Atascocita, Texas, is a dedicated family law attorney inspired by John Grisham’s “The Pelican Brief.” He is the first lawyer in his family, which includes two adopted brothers. Bryan’s commitment to family is personal and professional; he cared for his grandmother with Alzheimer’s while completing his degree and attended the South Texas College of Law at night.
Married with three children, Bryan’s personal experiences enrich his understanding of family dynamics, which is central to his legal practice. He specializes in family law, offering innovative and efficient legal services. A certified member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, Bryan is part of an elite group of legal professionals committed to ongoing education and high-level expertise.
His legal practice covers divorce, custody disputes, property disputes, adoption, paternity, and mediation. Bryan is also experienced in drafting marital property agreements. He leads a team dedicated to complex family law cases and protecting families from false CPS allegations.
Based in Houston, Bryan is active in the Houston Family Law Sector of the Houston Bar Association and various family law groups in Texas. His deep understanding of family values and his professional dedication make him a compassionate advocate for families navigating Texas family law.