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Family Court Witness Guidelines

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Who Can Serve as a Witness in a Family Court of Law?

In a family law setting, the role of a witness is very important.  Witnesses can provide key points of information that can help support a party’s claims and legal arguments.  For example, in a domestic abuse case, the testimony of a witness may be needed to support a claim that abuse actually occurred.

Though the rules may vary by state, the following persons can serve as a witness in a family court of law:

  • Victims
  • Defendants testifying on their own behalf
  • Persons testifying on behalf of the plaintiff
  • Impartial eyewitnesses to important events related to the family law hearing
  • Persons with information that will be useful in court

In addition, expert witnesses may sometimes be called in a family court setting if necessary.  The names, addresses, and contact information of witnesses may be obtained and provided to the parties before trial through such mechanisms as depositions, subpoenas, pretrial court orders, or interrogatories.

What are Some Guidelines for Being a Witness in Family Court?

If you are going to serve as witness in a family court setting, it’s important that you follow some important guidelines:

  • Before you testify, go over the event, incident, or situation in question in order to refresh your memory of the situation
  • Always be truthful when responding to questioning
  • Always be polite and exercise good courtroom etiquette when on the stand
  • Dress neatly and appropriately- just because you may be related to one of the parties doesn’t mean you should the proceedings informally
  • Avoid making distracting movements or mannerisms
  • Avoid memorizing or rehearsing your responses, but do go over the vital facts of the case in detail
  • Try not to divulge more information than is being asked of you
  • Don’t look to your lawyer for coaching or cues- you should know how to respond beforehand
  • Stick to the facts involved in the case (i.e., don’t invent facts or create your own opinions)
  • Listen carefully and give your response some thought before responding; don’t make “snap” or “reflex” responses
  • If a judge or lawyer raises an objection, stop speaking and wait for the objection to be resolved
  • Remain calm and relaxed throughout the process

Remember that your contribution as a witness can often make or break a case.  Witness testimony is especially in a family law setting, as it may sometimes be the only source of evidence on a particular issue (unlike in a criminal setting, where the prosecution often collects large amounts of evidence).  Thus, if you come off as being unreliable or untrustworthy, it could reflect negatively on your testimony.

How Can a Lawyer Help With Family Court Witnesses?

Family court witness guidelines can vary by state or jurisdiction.  In general, it’s always important to understand the basic guidelines if you will be called as a witness during court proceedings.  It’s in your best interest to work closely with a lawyer in connection with the trial.  An experienced family law attorney will be able to guide you and assist you throughout the process of being a witness.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-10-2014 11:02 AM PDT

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