There's nothing that provokes strong emotion like divorce, and those emotions can make testifying at a divorce hearing a lot more difficult than another type of hearing. Just being in the same room with your ex after a period of separation can evoke feelings of anger, sadness, or betrayal. Having to answer questions posed by your ex's attorney can be even more of a trial. However, the judge will pay attention to the way that you handle yourself in court, and it can make a difference to the outcome of your divorce settlement. You don't want to negatively impact your chances of custody, visitation, or a fair settlement. Take a look at some tips to keep in mind when you find yourself in the witness chair in divorce court.
Don't Answer More Than What You're Asked
In a divorce hearing, it's important that you listen to the questions posed and answer honestly, but briefly. Don't give more detail than you're asked to provide. For example, if you're asked whether or not you own a car, say yes or no, but don't give the make and model of the car (if the answer is yes) or explain when you sold your car and why (if the answer is no).
If the attorney questioning you wants more detail, you can be sure that they'll ask for it. But you can damage your case unintentionally by giving more detail than requested. Take a moment to think over each question in your mind before you answer and be certain that you know what is being asked before you give an answer.
Keep Your Cool
No matter what you're asked or what you hear, it's important to keep control of your temper. Don't swear anything other than your oath to tell the truth and avoid any outbursts when it's not your turn to speak. You'll have a chance to respond to any untruths or misconceptions, but speaking out of turn just makes you appear impulsive and hotheaded.
On the other hand, don't go too far in the other direction. Trying too hard to be accommodating and give what you think are the "right" answers can backfire on you. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. Don't get angry, but don't try to ingratiate yourself with your answers either. Just be truthful.
You can't go into court expecting everything to go your way. No matter how angry you are – even if it's justifiable – you must be prepared to be flexible. When you ask the court to settle a divorce, you've given up your control over the outcome and you have to be ready to abide by the court's decisions.
Remember that decisions in a divorce case are rarely a clear victory for one side or the other. The judge's job is usually to deliver an equitable decision, not declare a winner. A fair decision will feel more like a win if you keep your expectations reasonable and attempt to see things from the other side.
Practicing your testimony ahead of time is a good way to help you plan for what to say at trial. You can also gauge your reactions to the questions that you'll be asked and work on controlling those reactions. Ask your divorce attorney to rehearse with you ahead of time so that you'll be fully prepared when the big day comes. For more information, contact a professional like those at Larson, Latham, Huettl Attorneys.