There is no denying it; the thought of being questioned in a witness box can be scary stuff. It is all very well providing your solicitor with information to put in a written statement, but a different story altogether when you are to be asked to speak in court and answer questions.
Try not to be intimidated by the thought of giving evidence. The family court is nothing like the criminal court and is not like the courtroom dramas you see on television. The proceedings are less formal, calmer and the only people allowed in the courtroom are; the lawyers, the judge, you and your spouse. The hearing is simply a fact finding exercise for the judge. Also, it is highly unlikely you will be asked to give evidence at any hearing other than the Final Hearing. Therefore many people do not have to give evidence at all.
Here are my top 10 tips to help you through:
Talk clearly, slowly and loud enough for everyone to hear
The lawyers and the judge will be taking notes. Talking slightly more slowly than normal will also help to keep you calm and clear- headed.
Look at the judge when you answer each question
You are answering all questions for the benefit of the judge not the person asking you the question. It is the judge to whom you want to get your message across.
Be calm and clear about the information you want to provide
Giving evidence is your opportunity to have your say about your case. You are helping the judge to understand your case for him to make his decision.
Be straight talking with no jokes or sarcasm
You want the judge to like you and understand your position. Humour has no place in court (unless the judge makes a joke). We often use humour as a defence mechanism but be careful to avoid it in court.
Don’t lose your temper
If you do not like a question, take a breath, and keep calm. Your spouse’s barrister may be trying to get a rise out of you, hoping you will lose your temper in front of the judge. Looking to the judge when you answer the question will help avoid you getting angry. Think about your answer to ensure you get your point across calmly and clearly.
Keep your answers short and precise
It is often good to wait for the next question to give more information. But if you feel it is important to provide more information to clarify your point do so. The person asking the question or the judge will stop you if they feel you have already provided sufficient information.
If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be repeated
Keep calm. Do not guess what you think the question was. If you are not sure, ask.
If you want time to think about your answer, take a breath and/or a drink of water.
There is no rush. Take your time.
Be honest with all your answers
Always answer truthfully. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. If you are found to be lying about one answer, you risk the judge having doubt about the truth of all the information you have provided.
You are not on trial
Family law cases are very different to criminal cases. No-one is on trial to be punished for something they have done wrong. The purpose of the hearing is for both parties to have the opportunity to put forward information for their case. It is then for the judge to collect together the information they hear and make a final decision.
For more helpful tips on giving evidence and further guidance about family law court hearings, please contact me here
If you have found the tips in this blog useful then you will find lots more in my ebook “Tips for Coping with Divorce” which you can download here: free ebook.
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