HOW TO TESTIFY IN COURT
The following information will help you learn how to testify in court.
This information is very important. How you look and sound to the judge
may determine whether or not he or she will find you credible, and could
weigh heavily in the outcome of your case. One New York mother, for
example, lost custody of her two young sons in 1993 mainly because the
judge presiding over her divorce thought that she looked angry in the
|Tell the Truth Convincingly|
When you testify in court, you will, of course, tell the truth.
You want to tell the truth in a clear and convincing way, not in a
confusing and stumbling way. The purpose of these instructions for
witnesses is to help you testify so that your testimony is clear
and easily understood.
|How To Answer Questions|
Answer questions directly and simply. the best answer starts
with a "yes" or "no" (if the question can be answered "yes" or
"no"). and then has one to three sentences of explanation. For
example, "Yes, we have three children." "Yes, when we married, we
put a down payment on the home' my parents loaned us $20,000, and
the entire amount was used for the down
|Listen To The Question|
Listen carefully to the question that is asked, and answer it.
This is particularly true when it is the judge who asks the
question. You may explain your answer, but answer the
|Don't Worry About Looking Stupid|
Don't worry about whether you look stupid. Just tell the truth,
and don't make up answers when you aren't sure of the answer. For
example, if an attorney says to you in an indignant and shocked
manner, "Didn't you read that before you signed it?!" If you did
not read it before signing it, say so. Don't let the attorney's
manner bully you into an incorrect answer. Don't let your fear of
looking stupid push you into making up answers. Don't guess. If
you answer is an estimate or only an approximation, say so. It is
okay to say you are making an estimate, but you should not just
guess at an answer.
|It's OK Not To Remember|
If you don't remember something, say, "I don't remember." This
is very important. If you are asked about doing something, and you
don't specifically remember what you didn't, say so. You can offer
to testify as to your usual practice, and tell the court this is
what you are doing: "I don't remember what I did on February 27,
but usually I go straight home from work, arriving about 6 PM."
|It's OK To Talk To People About Your Case|
If you are asked who you discussed the case with, be honest and
tell the court who you talked to. On the other hand, discussions
with an attorney are privileged and confidential, and while you
can say you talked to an attorney, you should not reveal what was
said by you and by the
|State What You Personally Saw or Heard|
In court if you are asked if you "know" something, this usually
means you are being asked whether you personally saw or you
personally heard something. If your answer is based solely on what
someone else told you, say so. In everyday life people feel they
"know" things that others have told them, but in court this is not
what is meant by "know."
|Be Careful of Questions With "All" or "None " in
In court if a question has the word "all" or "none," you need
to understand that this does not mean "almost all" or "hardly
any." "All" means absolutely every single one with no exceptions,
and "none" means not even one single one. Be very careful about
questions with "all" and "none" in them. When asked, "Is that
all?" you may want to say, "That is all that I can think of right
now." Don't say, That's all he said," or "Nothing else occurred."
You may well remember other examples
|Don't Guess About The Lawyer's Motives|
Don't try to guess why you are being asked each question. Just
focus on giving truthful answers. This is the best way to respond
to tricky questions -- with
|Loose Lips Sink Ships|
Do not discuss the case at all in the courthouse hallways,
restrooms, or elevators. That nice lady near you may be your
spouse's lawyer's secretary.
Don't put your hand over your mouth while you testify.
not chew gum.
Don't memorize your testimony.
Do not argue
with the other party.
Address your remarks to the judge, not to
your spouse. The only time you will talk to your spouse is when
you cross-examine him/her.
Some materials drawn from Karen Winner's site at http://www.divorcedfromjustice.com/witninst.htm
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