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Divorce Truths - Your Testimony

Don't just swear to tell the truth, do it. Cases are won or lost based upon credibility. Don't shade the truth. Judges are looking at everything to form their opinion. If they think you have shaded the truth, they may not look any further.

Questions You Will Be Asked by Your Attorney

Your case will be presented through the questions your attorney will ask you while you are on the stand, under oath. This creates your side of the divorce that forms a part of the basis for the judge's decision. Tell your attorney that you want to know in advance what questions they are going to ask you. At least that way, you will know 50% of what is going to be asked of you. Ask what the judge is looking for in the way of information in your answer. This is not having your attorney tell you the answers. Rather, it is relying on their experience to elicit the relevant facts from hundreds of facts. You don't want to spend your time testifying about facts that make little or no difference to the outcome. You should concentrate on the facts that are the strongest and make the best impression. Your attorney will sift through and present the strongest evidence. This will be done in an organized, coherent manner that is easy for the judge to follow. You are, in essence, telling the story of your marriage. If it had a happy ending, you wouldn't be getting a divorce.

Short Answers

Short answers are preferable on complicated matters.

First and Last Question

The first and last question you are asked should be significant. This is the first thing that the judge hears to set the stage, and the last thing they hear at the conclusion of your testimony. Often the last question will appeal to an emotional issue to make the judge aware of the devastating impact of an adverse ruling.

Be Informed and Organized in Your Testimony

An experienced attorney knows what the judge is looking for. This is the reason they will prepare you for your direct examination in advance. Your attorney cannot ask you leading questions. Leading questions are those that suggest the answers. This creates the appearance the attorney is testifying. You could easily become confused in an emotional trial and not realize what your attorney was asking if you aren't familiar with their questions.

Minor Hearings

Don't accept it if your attorney tells you don't worry about the hearing; that it's a minor hearing and not that important. There is no such thing as an insignificant hearing. There may be several hearings in your case but they are all important. Your attorney should strive to win all your hearings and should prepare you in advance for all hearings.

If there are weaknesses in your case, your attorney should question you about it before the other side does. This allows you the opportunity to explain it in a favorable light before you have to defend it.

The Manner of Your Testimony

Consider the following:

  • A very calm wife testifies that she is terrified of her husband.
  • A witness repeatedly changes their answers.
  • A husband argues with the opposing attorney and is evasive in their answers.
  • A wife testifies in a bitter, hateful tone.

What's going on in these situations? The manner of the testimony has become stronger than the testimony itself. The behavior of the party overshadows their credibility. A judge doesn't have to believe a witness, as they evaluate the testimony with all their senses in the search for the truth.

Credible Testimony

You should practice testifying in front of a mirror if you are nervous about it until you sound confident in what you want to say. The strongest testimony is testimony that is honest. Even if there are things that you would just as soon not admit, if they are true, you must admit them. You can always explain them. Credibility is the strongest of all testimony.

Control Your Emotions

You need to learn sooner rather than later that Courts do not deal with emotions. They want the facts, and they want them presently briefly and to the point. If you display excessive emotions, your testimony may be considered as irrational. This is not cruel or insensitive. Divorce is an emotional process for you but for a busy judge, your case is one of many. The areas that are emotionally difficult for you to testify about should be addressed many times before you take the stand so that the sting is removed. No one expects you to be callous, but if the content of what you are trying to establish is distorted by your emotions, you are defeating yourself. You want to assist yourself as much as you can in every aspect of your testimony. It can be very effective if your testimony is passionate, but not emotionally fragmented. You want to persuade the judge to see the issue. If you are too emotional, his focus will be transferred to only your emotions. There is a fine line distinction but this is a very important presentation. You have talked with your attorney about what you want to say, and you have thought about the most effective way to say it. If the judge believes you, he has already started forming the basis for some of his decisions.

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