The attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC are eager to share some tid-bits of knowledge with you in regard to Temporary Orders hearings and how best to prepare for them. In the previous four parts of this series we discussed subjects such as child custody, documents to prepare for the hearing itself as well as general courtroom decorum once the hearing has begun.
In this, the fifth edition of our the series, we will get into a deep dive associated with preparing you to be a witness in a temporary orders hearing. This blog post should not be taken as Gospel-level truth but it is based on the collective experiences of the family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.
If, after reading this article, you have any questions associated with divorce, child custody cases, temporary orders or anything having to do with your family please do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule an appointment with an Houston divorce attorney.
Our consultations are always free of charge and at the very least can help clarify some questions that you may have. With that said- let’s get back into the courtroom.
Calm, Cool and Collected: You as a witness
In the event that you are being cross examined by an opposing attorney it is essential that you remain calm no matter what is being asked of you. Even if this means revealing a truth that is hurtful to you personally or to your case in general, you must keep your composure.
Answering questions in a manner that can be perceived to be disrespectful, antagonistic or angry can influence a judge or jury in a significant way. “Be the bigger man/woman,” is about the best advice I can provide in this regard. Even if every fiber of your being is screaming out to call your spouse a four-letter word- don’t do it.
Remember- the lawyer asking you these questions does not have anything against you personally. There is no secret vendetta against you (although it can certainly seem that way). Your spouse’s attorney is asking you pointed and revealing questions that are intended to help their case and hurt yours.
This is the same level of advocacy that your attorney is putting forth against your spouse. Answer questions from your spouse’s lawyer in the same manner you would questions from your own lawyer.
No comments from the peanut gallery
If another witness is testifying during your temporary orders hearing you should not make comments to yourself or another person. You should not react by throwing up your arms or making any significant bodily movement in response to testimony.
It is understandable to be upset by or surprised with the words of a witness in a child custody or divorce case. Your children, your finances and your peace of mind are at stake in this type of hearing and keeping control of your emotions can be difficult. Do your best to maintain composure and treat the courtroom and the judge with respect.
A play vs. Improvisation: How to approach your testimony
A favorite comparison of mine when talking to clients about their testimony in a temporary orders hearing is to compare it to actors performing on a stage. There are actors who read and review scripts and prepare for a performance that is carefully and meticulously planned out in advance.
Think of Broadway shows at the highest level and your son’s elementary school production of “The Wizard of Oz” on the lower end of the performance spectrum. If someone forgets a line or loses their place in the dialogue the entire show can be ruined.
Another type of performance is based on the improvisational skills of the actors. In such a performance, there is no script and the actors create plot, dialogue and thematic elements on their own without the aid of preparation. I may be showing my age here but the show, “Whose Line Is It Anyways?”, was a popular show in the late 1990s and early 2000s that featured improvisational acting.
The actors had the ability to change their line of thinking at the drop of a hat and move in a different direction if that is what was necessary- based on the cues that the actors perceived in one another.
You, as a witness in a temporary orders hearing, should prepare as if you were an improv actor rather than an actor in a play. Rather than utilizing a script of some sort or rehearsing your “lines” for hours the evening before your hearing it is best to review the pertinent information of your case (in regard to your children and your finances) but not to try and memorize anything.
If you merely recite canned answers it sounds like your lawyer has coached you to provide certain responses. Remember- your credibility (honesty) is being judged in addition to the content of your answers. The best testimony is honest and credible.
How to respond to questions asked of you in a Temporary Orders hearing
When answering a question from either divorce lawyer in your hearing do your best to speak clearly and enunciate. If the judge has to listen to an hour of you testifying it is probably a good idea to make that experience as easy as possible for him or her.
Covering your mouth when you speak, shifting around in the witness chair or mumbling an answer can at best be a slight annoyance to a judge and at worst cause the judge to think you may be uncomfortable due to your not being honest in answering questions.
Act as if you are having a conversation with a neighbor or family member. Speak up, be truthful, answer the question that is asked and move on to the next question.
One last tip before we conclude this blog post. If the other lawyer is cross examining you as a witness, do not look to your attorney for assistance. While your lawyer will not let you get abused or harassed while on the witness stand, there is nothing against the “rules” about asking questions that make the witness uncomfortable.
There are limits to what a lawyer can ask a witness but as long as the other lawyer doesn’t cross that line, you will need to respond to his or her questions truthfully.
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 Four
- 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
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.