If you are going through a divorce and you and your former spouse cannot agree on the terms of your divorce, you may have to go to trial. If your case goes to trial, there is a big chance that you will have to testify in order to establish the facts of your case and present your side. Here are a few tips to help you testify on the stand.
#1 Listen Carefully To The Questions
When you are on the stand, it is vital that you listen carefully to the questions that are being asked of you. That is one of your primary jobs when you are on the stand; to focus on the questions being asked of you. Everything else happening in the courtroom does not really matter when you are on the stand.
If you cannot hear the attorney or need to hear the question again, you can ask the attorney to repeat the question.
A good strategy is to repeat the question silently inside of your head after you hear the attorney answer it to ensure that you were really listening.
#2 Keep It Simple
You need to remember that answering a question on the stand is different than answering questions in casual conversation. In casual conversation, it is common to answer the question and provide additional context with your answer. When you are on the stand, it is best to keep it simple and only answer the question; you should not elaborate. By elaborating, you open yourself up to more cross-examination and give the defense more material to work with.
For example, if a friend asked you what kind of vehicle you drive, you might say, "I have a silver, manual 2010 Audi S4. I love my S4; it can really get up to speed quickly. I feel like I'm a race car driver when I drive my Audi."
That is a completely appropriate answer to give a friend; however, it is not an appropriate answer on the stand. If your attorney asks you what kind of car you drive, keep it simple and just say "Audi." If the attorney wants more information, like the make, model, year, color or when you purchased the vehicle, let them ask those specific questions.
#3 Watch Your Words
Pay close attention to the words that you use while on the stand. Make sure that you do not characterize your testimony for the court. That means that when answering a question, you should not add qualifiers such as: truthfully, honestly, that is the truth, I'm not lying, etc.
These qualifiers are unnecessary; it is assumed that you are telling the truth since you took an oath to do so.
You should also be careful about using absolute words. Absolute words include words such as all, never and no. These can be used to box you in or make it look like you lied or withheld information if additional information comes to light later.
#4 Keep Your Emotions In Check
It is important to remember that when you are on the stand, your job is to present information about your marriage that will help the judge or the jury to make a decision about how to split your assets or whatever particular element in your divorce that you are in disagreement about.
The jury does not need to be convinced that you should be allowed to divorce, nor do they need to be subject to your emotions; they really just need the facts.
Keep your angry and emotions in check while on the stand. If you feel yourself getting upset with a line of questions, take a deep breath and count to ten inside of your head before answering. Take a sip of water if you are allowed to have some on the stand with you. Just make sure that you take a second to rein in your emotions before answering.
Keep your answers simple and stick to the facts; work on your emotions outside of the courtroom.
If your divorce goes to trial, it is vital that you act respectfully on the stand, stick to the facts and offer the shortest most truthful answers that you can. If you are nervous about testifying on the stand, see if your attorney can do some trial practice with you or stop by the local courthouse and watch a few cases in action to get a feel of what it is like to be in court. Working with an attorney like those at Swartz & Swartz P.C. will help ensure the process goes smoothly.