One of the most intimidating aspects about going to court for a divorce or custody matter is the thought of testifying in court. For many people, the only exposure they have to any type of witness testimony is what they see on television, and that mental image certainly does not do anything to reduce the anxiety that comes along with testifying.
A family law attorney can help prepare the client before testifying in his or her divorce or custody hearing.
Preparation is Important
Walking in prepared can be one of the best ways to beat the anxiety that is associated with testifying.
Preparation can mean many things, starting with knowing what type of questions to expect and answering these questions out loud with the attorney in a practice testimony situation. The attorney can also help the client by anticipating what types of questions he or she is likely to get from opposing counsel during trial.
It is important that the client go over important facts and dates, especially if they are key to proving his or her case. If a specific timeline of events needs to be covered, it is good to go over these key dates so that nothing is “forgotten” once the client is on the stand. At that point, the attorney will not be able to do much to jog the client’s memory while he or she is on the stand and under pressure.
It can help to review this information several times, just as if the client is preparing for an important exam.
Try verbalizing the information that he or she wants to convey and make sure that it comes out clearly and logically. It can help to verbalize the information to the attorney so that he or she can direct the client on what information will or will not be allowed in the courtroom.
Learn to Listen to the Question First
It may go without saying but listening to what is being asked before responding is important. Many times, the client is already nervous and will react too quickly without knowing what is being asked of him or her by either set of attorneys.
If the client does not understand what is being asked of him or her, there is absolutely no harm in asking the attorney to repeat the question or rephrase it. Many times, attorneys will come up with questions on the fly, and the way they phrase them will not make sense. No harm will come from asking that attorney to rephrase what he or she is asking.
“I Don’t Know” Is an Acceptable Answer
Only answer what the client actually knows. If the attorney asks a question, and the client does not know the answer, do not make one up. Saying “I do not know” or “I do not recall” is completely acceptable.
The court would rather the client be truthful rather than say something not true only to be caught in a lie later.
Be Succinct and Only Answer What Is Being Asked
One of the biggest points that needs to be made when it comes to testifying is to only answer what is being asked.
If the question only necessitates a “yes” or “no” question, only provide a yes or no answer. If a follow up question is needed, the attorney can ask that question.
Do not provide too much information as that could only shoot the client in the foot and try to keep responses limited in scope and response. The worst thing a client can do is ramble on with an answer and provide information that otherwise did not need to come out.
Answering more than is needed will open the door for the other attorney, especially opposing counsel, to ask questions that he or she otherwise would not have asked. That could end up getting information in that could hurt the client’s case.
Be Respectful and Civil
Divorce and custody proceedings can get heated, understandably so. It is tempting to be hostile to the opposing counsel, but the court will not view the client in a good light if he or she is uncooperative on the stand.
Trust that the client’s attorney will object appropriately if a question is inappropriate and be civil and respectful when answering questions from opposing counsel.
Wait for the Objection
Again, put trust in the client’s attorney that he or she will know when to object. Do not immediately jump to answer a question to allow the attorney time to object.
If the attorney does object, do not answer until the judge gives direction on whether the objection will be sustained or overruled. The judge will then direct the witness on whether to answer the question.
Contact A Custody Lawyer Today
To discuss what to expect when it comes to testifying in your case, please contact family lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates. You can reach us by calling (979) 318-3075 or completing our online form. We have offices in Angleton, Webster/Clear Lake, and Pearland.