Tips about your testimony at a Divorce/Family Law hearing

If you have a contested hearing and are scheduled to go before a Superior Court Judge you need to prepare yourself for your testimony. What generally happens in Fayette and Coweta County is that your judge has trial dates for civil cases such as divorces each month. You may be one of many cases scheduled for that day. The Judge announces the calendar and ask the attorney’s how long they expect their matter to be. Many judges then hear the quicker matters first . You must be prepared to be in Court all day as you do not know when you will be reached.

You do not have to wear a dress or a suit to court. Generally, I advise people to dress like they are going to church, dress pants and collar shirt for men, dress clothes for women. I’ve seen women dress like they are going to the club; I think they are trying to make their ex jealous. I’ve seen men show up with marijuana themed t-shirts. Obviously, this is not the image you want to present. Studies show that we get a great deal of information from non-verbal information such as clothes, makeup and hair. Again, dress like you are going to church and you will be appropriate.

Please understand that the Judge and the lawyers understand that you are terrified of having to talk about very personal topics in front of a group of people. Lawyers talk in Court all the time; this hopefully will be your first and last time. These tips will help you nail your testimony.

  1.  Listen. I know you want to unburden yourself of all the awful things going on in your marriage, but your attorney can direct you to present coherent testimony to obtain your goals. If your attorney asks what time your husband dropped off the kids, don’t talk about how irresponsible he is and how he beat the dog. Answer the question asked as clearly as possible.
  2. Don’t argue. Trial attorneys will try to get under your skin to show the judge that you are unhinged. Again, answer the question as clearly as possible, and if you need to explain, go ahead. In other words, if the other attorney asks if it true that you would not allow visitation last weekend, first say whether it is true or not. You then can explain that you did not allow visitation because your ex showed up drunk. Your attorney will get up and object if the other attorney is being a jerk and the Court will direct him/her to cut it out. I often will not object to an attorney being a jerk to my client if the client is doing well and the testimony is going our way.
  3. Address the Court. Look at the judge when you respond. Again, most communication is non-verbal; connecting with the judge by looking in his/her eyes when responding presents testimony that is real and creates empathy for your situation.
  4. Stop it with the “I don’t recall” defense. If you avoid uncomfortable questions by pretending not to remember your testimony will be worthless It is fine to say “to the best of my recollection” if you don’t remember all specifics but you will not win by pretending to be stupid.