Many of our clients have never testified in a court of law and have considerable anxiety about the entire court process. The following are useful tips to help make you a star witness in your divorce or custody case.
We can help you testify effectively in your divorce and custody case. Call the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 or Contact Us for a free consultation.
TELL THE TRUTH, NO LIES AND NO EXAGGERATION
To be an effective witness, you should offer the shortest and most truthful answer possible. Always remember that lies or exaggerations are regularly exposed in court. The trial court judge will intuitively follow the legal maxim “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” which means false in one thing, false in everything – when the Judge believes a witness has lied and then decides what has actually happened in any given case.
JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION
Judges are annoyed by self-serving, non-responsive answers to a question. Failure to answer the question destroys a witness’s credibility and often backfires completely. An experienced lawyer will move to strike the unresponsive answer and re-ask the same question with the Judge’s full attention now on the issue. You should be prepared for and anticipate detrimental questions about your case and try to answer with an appropriate response focused on the true facts and evidence of your case.
LOOK THE JUDGE IN THE EYE WHEN YOU TESTIFY
To be an effective witness, it is important to communicate directly with the person deciding your case. Look the judge in the eye when you testify. Try to connect with the judge. Witnesses often respond to lawyers and forget who really matters in the courtroom – the judge. You should explain your case carefully to the judge. Credibility is best established by direct eye contact with the Judge.
CONTROL YOUR EMOTIONS WHEN YOU TESTIFY
Most family law cases are full of emotional issues. Unchecked emotion or sobbing hysterically through a hearing almost always damages your case. Appropriate concern is preferable to overt anger and open hostility. Remember, uncontrolled anger or tears suggest witness instability and lack of control. A rational, controlled presentation always prevails.
BE POSITIVE WHEN TESTIFYING
Focus on the appropriate facts of your case and remember that judges dislike unnecessary personal attacks in court. Mudslinging and cheap shots rarely accomplish the goal of discrediting another party. Try to present unblemished factual statements on negative issues. Let the judge make his or her own negative inferences. It is important to always remember that a trial judge sees everything and everyone in the courtroom. This includes facial and non-verbal responses to questions.
DIFFUSE THE OPPOSING PARTY’S ARGUMENTS
Every witness has his or her own weaknesses. You should try to relay truthful responses to explain or acknowledge potentially damaging testimony. Focus on what you have done to correct a problem. When negative facts are already in evidence, you should confront the testimony head-on to deny or minimize its impact. For example, witnesses who have prior substance abuse problems should show genuine remorse and also discuss the steps taken to become sober and to avoid relapse.
LISTEN TO THE QUESTION AND THINK ABOUT YOUR RESPONSE BEFORE YOU ANSWER
It is very important to listen to the question as asked and to take the time to respond thoughtfully and factually to what is asked of you. Impulsive responses always result in disaster.
GO WITH YOUR HORSES AND PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
To be an effective witness, you should focus relentlessly on your case. Go with your horses and use your best facts and evidence to support your case. Frequently remind yourself why you are in court and the outcome you wish to achieve. Avoid focusing on unnecessary details, minutiae and collateral unnecessary testimony.
BE THE SOURCE OF REASON
You should present the judge with cohesive solutions and be the court’s voice of reason. Judges appreciate a responsive answer and objectively reasonable options without problems and attitudes. Help the Judge decide your case in your favor.
PAUL F. SHERMAN IS AN EXPERIENCED AND EFFECTIVE DIVORCE AND CUSTODY LAWYER
We know you have questions, and we have answers. If you would like to know more about testifying effectively in your divorce or family law matter, call the Law Offices of Paul F. Sherman at (503) 223-8441 or Contact Us for a free consultation.