YOUR TESTIMONY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE AT A HEARING
One of the things that I discuss with my clients is that they are “fact witnesses” and nothing more. In family law matters, clients are concerned and distracted by emotion. The emotion of the moment can take over and cause a client to provide testimony that is not clear or factual. As you can imagine, any court official in having to make a decision benefits from factual information. A court’s decision is only as good as the information it relies on. Therefore, as a witness you must provide facts. Take the emotion out of it and simply funnel as many facts to the court official as possible. You would be surprised at how difficult this is for some people. The best thing to do is to practice.
Lawyers typically do not ask questions when we do not know the answer. The client must remember that the attorney is not asking a question because the attorney is curious or does not know. The attorney already knows the answer and is attempting to elicit a response from you that will go to the court official and promote the attorney’s perspective of the case.
Give straight answers. So, if an attorney asks you what is your favorite color, for example, simply state the color. Do not go into a long story about how when you were a child you used to like the color red, but then in college you preferred the color purple, and now you really like orange. By the time you get to your response the court is confused about the initial question and what your answer may be.
As a witness you must listen to the question carefully. Then, provide an answer that answers the question. Please also make sure that your answer is factual. Once the words comes out of your mouth it is hard to change the answer.
To help my clients get through emotional hearings I ask them to think about themselves as a third party observer. Pretend that you are not the husband or wife. Instead, visualize yourself as someone like an accountant who is simply providing factual information that has nothing to do with emotions. So if your estranged spouse says well he must earn $10,000 a month because we always afforded to go on trips and buy anything we wanted, your job as a factual witness is to say no, I actually make $8,000 per month and I can prove that because here is my pay stub and here is my tax return.
Attorneys are experts in asking questions that serve the attorneys narrative. And humans like to get along. So sometimes I find that my clients start answering questions in the affirmative even when it may not be true. It seems that they are doing it because they want to seem more cooperative.. That does not help anyone. You can still be cooperative by saying no sir my income is not $10,000, but it is in fact a thousand dollars per month. When the attorney questions the validity of that you can say I’m sorry that you’re mistaken but look at my pay stub. Believe me the attorney will be red in the face and will quit arguing with you.
You are the expert of your life. You know the answer. Just state the facts. This is the best way to help yourself at a trial or hearing.