The past two days have seen blogs posted on this website which detail tips and preview your being asked to give testimony in a hearing or trial during your family law case. While I cannot possibly write about every subject pertaining to in court testimony in these blog posts, I think the subjects that I have already written about are relevant and interesting for you or anyone else who is going through a family law case.
Words to avoid when answering questions in a trial or hearing
Words like “always”, “every” and “never” are some words that I will tell clients to watch out for if you use them in response to a question that is asked of you. These words are called “Absolutes” and carry with them very little wiggle room if your testimony is contradicted by another witness. These are all or nothing type responses where you can either come out appearing very credible or less than credible due to the ease with which someone else can contradict your response with differing testimony of their own. Being truthful with your responses yet allowing for a degree of flexibility is your best bet when answering questions.
This flexibility is important because often times an opposing attorney will ask you questions that are a part of a series of questions on any given subject. If one of your responses appears to contradict a prior response then you can bet your bottom dollar that you will be asked about that which appears to be a contradiction. This begs the question of whether you are lying right now or if you were lying earlier with answering a prior question. You can avoid putting yourself in this situation by always being truthful and by staying away from these sort of absolute responses.
What should you take to the witness stand with you when called to testify?
In short: nothing other than what your attorney has asked you to bring. Do not bring anything up to the witness stand with you to testify unless you have discussed it with your attorney previously. The reason for this is that what you bring up (notes, a bank statement or other pieces of information) can be admitted as formal evidence if offered by opposing counsel. This means that notes that you had intended to exist only as a guide or reference for you is now a part of the record for all to view and for the judge to utilize as well. At the very least an opposing attorney can ask to review whatever it is you are looking at.
On the other hand, if you are being asked questions by your attorney and he or she hands you a document with which you are familiar and asks you to identify it do so immediately. If you are being questioned by the other attorney and he or she hands you a document and asks you if you can identify it then by all means review the document with a keener eye for detail before responding.
If the document is familiar to you then respond in that way. If, however, you truly have never seen the document before testify negatively. This is especially the case if the document looks to be altered or changed in some significant way which renders it distinguishable from a prior version that you may have reviewed at some point in your life.
Conducting yourself while the judge reads his or her decision
Once both you and the opposing party have had an opportunity to present your cases the judge will then decide upon the issues by rendering a verdict. Typically the judge will leave the court for a period of time and go to their chambers to review the information presented and formulate a number of rulings.
This offers you an opportunity to relax a little after what has most likely been a contentious and stressful experience for you. Sometimes this period of time is just a few minutes and in other situations it can be a day or more. If the judge states that the parties should remain near the courtroom then everyone will do that and in anticipation of a fairly quick return by the judge.
When the judge is ready to state his or her ruling then you and your attorney (along with the opposing party and their attorney) will return to the courtroom to listen to what the judge has to say. It is extremely important to remain composed during the reading of the decision as it can be lengthy in many situations.
Remember that there is no excuse for acting out of turn or making comments to yourself or anyone else while the judge is speaking. For one, this is just bad behavior in general that as an adult you should not be prone to displaying. Secondly, a judge has the ability to issue penalties including a short stay in jail if your offense is serious enough in their estimation. If you have questions or concerns write them down and then go over them with your attorney after the judge is finished speaking.
If you appear before the judge for a temporary orders hearing remember that it is possible that you can return to the judge’s courtroom for a trial at the conclusion of your family law case. With this in mind it is best to leave a good impression of yourself on the judge’s mind. Being respectful of their court, their staff and the other party to your case is a good way to do this.
Additional questions on court and how to conduct yourself in a courtroom? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts on the subject of answering questions in a contested hearing or trial. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC stands prepared to answer additional questions you may have on this or any other subject in the field of family law. A free of charge consultation with one of our family law attorneys is just a phone call away.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 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, Part Two
- Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
- Child Custody Geographic Restrictions in Texas
- Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
- The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids
- Can a Parent remove My Child from the state of Texas or from the County or Country where I am living?
- Children's Passports and International Travel after Texas Divorce
- Child Custody Basics for Texas Parents Revisited
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
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