How to present evidence in family court? If you are a parent who has to go through court proceedings regarding your child, you must be experiencing a really stressful time in your life and it is completely natural for you to feel this way. It is already a hard process for those who have an attorney representing them and guiding them along the way; however, most parents find themselves in a situation where they are not left with any option but to represent themselves. There are plenty of reasons for this. Usually parents are unable to afford legal representation and then there are also times where legal aid is only present for very specific kinds of family cases.
If you are not able to reach a solid understanding or agreement with your partner, be it in a divorce case or a child custody case, the conclusion of the proceedings, will be the final hearing. There are high chances that you will be asked and expected to give evidence at this hearing. This can feel quite intimidating, especially if you do not have any clue as to what to expect.
Majority of the time, people, even some attorneys, do not expect the Evidence Code to apply in family law in a way that we see it being used in Criminal or Civil Law. However, most often it does. Regardless of whether we are standing before a judge who has a more informal tone and allows for most of the evidence to be considered even if it does not meet the legal criteria, it is still going to be favourable for you if you have a general knowledge of the rules of evidence. These rules can really prove to be beneficial and can aid you in gaining an upper hand when it comes to legal matters pertaining to your divorce or other family law action.
Why is this the case? All things considered, numerous adjudicators will audit proof, without a legitimate ‘establishment’ except if the restricting prosecutor or attorney makes a complaint. This proof can include, out of court articulations, school records, arrangements, police reports, monetary records, title to property, confirmation of installment, online media postings, photos and so forth. In the event that the objection is legitimate, it becomes the propounding side’s business to discover an exception for the evidence that has been provided or disclose to the court why the complaint isn’t appropriate. In the event that you can’t do this, the proof comes in to play, regardless of whether you believe it’s reasonable or not.
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How To Present Evidence In Court?
Each court has its own protocol and rules of conduct, be it criminal court, civil court or family court. However, there are certain rules and regulations that are common to all. These are the basic ground rules that one has to follow when presenting evidence in court. Here is how you can present evidence in family court:
- Learn what kind of assistance is available for you. Many courts provide guidelines on their websites that can help you look for attorneys. You can even call other organizations such as the Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
- Decide what you want from the court and what you need to show. The evidence that you show in court is representative of what you want from them and the state law.
- Identify potential evidence which can come in the form of various sources such as testimonies and exhibits that include voicemails, photographs, public and business records, objects, text messages, emails, social media posts etc.
- Review the evidence that you have gathered and then select the ones that are most appropriate and will convince the judge of the points you will explain.
- Select reliable evidence that would be hard for the judge to doubt. For example, testimonies from witnesses with first hand knowledge, or exhibits as mentioned earlier.
- There is a specific protocol when it comes to presenting exhibits. You would have to explain to the judge first why the exhibit is a reliable proof and worth considering. Following the court rules is likely to work in your favour and would have the judge consider the exhibit.
- Gather as much evidence as you can. You can testify yourself or ask the witnesses to come to court.
- If you are going to be presenting any exhibit, make sure that you prepare for it beforehand. To do this, you can ask yourself questions like whether the exhibit is in the correct form (documents, photographs, voicemail etc), do you need to provide it to the other party prior to the court, do you have enough copies, and if there needs to be someone apart from you who has to testify.
- Organize yourself and your presentation. For example, make notes on what you want the court order to be and what evidence you need to provide for that order to be made, make a list of the witnesses and the points they will testify, make a list of the exhibits and a summary of the main points you will present.
- Before your own hearing, it is always a good idea if you attend another one just for practice. You can notice things like how to address the judge, how to invite the witnesses, when to stand and when to sit etc.
How To Prepare For Court
Here are a few tips on how one can be prepared for court:
- Organize your documents that you filed with the court by making copies and compiling all of them in a binding folder.
- Make sure that you keep all documents and evidence that support your argument.
- Make sure that the documents are kept in such a way that you don’t have to shuffle through the folder for them. This does not look professional and will waste a lot of time. You can use bookmarks or sticky notes to help you out.
- Take pictures of the physical evidence.
- Keep all your physical evidence in a separate bag or box to preserve and secure it.
- Go through courtroom rules to see whether your evidence is permitted or not.
- Talk to your witnesses before the proceedings and ensure that they know when and where they need to be.
- Review all the questions you will ask your witnesses once with them.
- You can even discuss with them any possible questions the other party might ask.
- Reach the courtroom, almost 15-20 minutes prior to your hearing.
- Make sure everything is ready the night before and do not wait till the eleventh hour to prepare for court and get things ready.
- Make sure that you know your case inside out (you can even practice in front of a mirror).
- Review the court’s rules.
How To Prepare Documents For Court?
As soon as all the important documents and physical evidence are gathered, you need to prepare them for trial. This will put you ahead of your game and will also calm your nerves. Some ways in which you can prepare documents for court are:
- Make sure you have copies for yourself, the other party, and the judge.
- The original documents and evidence should be kept separate from the copies.
- If there are more than one opposing party, then prepare a copy for each one.
- Do not hand over the original documents to the judge or anyone else unless the judge specifically asks you.
- Highlight the key points that you wish to make on your copy of each document.
- This will help you to find relevant information on each document during the trial and you can easily point it out to the judge or the opposing party.
- If you have more than 3 or 4 documents, you may wish to put small labels on the side of each document so you can find it more easily when they are in a binder or folder.
- If one document is on different pages, make sure to staple them together. Clip together any documents that are related.
- Put your copies of the documents in a notebook or a separate folder for more organization.
- Make sure that you put the documents in the same order that you would use them in when supporting your arguments
How To Impress A Judge In Court
- Dress professionally and appropriately; wear neat clothes and groom yourself if you want to be taken seriously by the judge.
- Be on time and in the right place. You should know before time what courthouse you need to go to. You can consult a sheriff at a courthouse clerk to help you out.
- It is better if you arrive early and wait outside the courtroom before your testimony. You can ask your lawyer where you should wait.
- When called in, make your way to the witness box to the side and in front of the judge’s bench where you will either swear or affirm to tell the truth.
- Do not create a fuss because there is a chance that you might not be called to testify at the appointed time and would have to come at another time.
- Do not bring bottled water, coffee, or food into the courtroom.
- Stand up when the judge enters and till he/she sits down or leaves the room.
- In Provincial Court, address the judge as “Your Honour”.
- In the Supreme Court, address the judge as “My Lord” or “My Lady”.
- Consult your file before you go to court so the facts are fresh in your mind.
- During testimony if you need to look at your notes, ask for permission.
- Carefully listen to the questions being asked and only answer the specific ones asked of you.
- Do not provide extra information and do not exaggerate, or ramble on.
- Do not interrupt a lawyer asking you a question. Wait for them to finish.
- Ask the lawyer to repeat or rephrase the question if you do not understand it.
- If you do not know the answer to the question being asked, simply state that you do not know or you do not remember.
- Any mistake made in the evidence should be corrected as soon as possible.
- Since you are providing evidence to the court and not the lawyer, make sure to look at the judge when presenting it. This will help the judge follow your evidence.
- Speak clearly when you are answering. Do not use gestures or noises instead of words.
- Do not refuse to answer a question. The lawyer will object if the question is not suitable, and the judge will decide whether or not you should answer it.
- Do not to argue with a lawyer questioning you,
- Do not display anger or rudeness.
- Remain calm and neutral.
- Stick to the facts that you know of.
- Do not give your own opinions or conclusions.
- Try to avoid testifying about what someone else told you because this is called “hearsay” and normally not permissible evidence.
- Try to relax and be natural.
There is no uncertainty in the fact that showing up in court can be an overwhelming encounter and when it involves your family, a wide range of feelings might be included. Taking pro expert counsel from a family attorney all through your case won’t just improve your odds of making sure that you get the best results, however the correct family attorney will also provide you with significant enthusiastic help as well.