In a custody battle it doesn’t really matter if what is being said about you is true or not; what matters is whether the court believes it’s true.*
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In these type of cases it really boils down to what person is saying vs. what the other person is saying during the custody hearing and who the judge or jury is going to believe. In every family law case that goes to trial credibility of that witness is the issue. Credibility means how reliable is each witness & there are a lot of things that the judge can look at when deciding whether or not to believe a witness.
1. The person’s manner when testifying meaning are they acting nervous, are they pausing a lot before answering certain questions? Do they start crying or are they sweating…These things can be considered when deciding on the believability of the witness.
2. Non-verbal communication, whether or not they get hostile when the other attorney or party is cross examining them, there ability to recall events or details or dates or how specific their testimony is when it relates to important events.
In any family law case, it is also very important to practice your testimony and your witnesses testimony before you set foot in the court room. I always sit my client’s down and we go through a role-laying exercise, sometimes 2, 3 or even 4 times before we go into the courtroom, especially if my client is having some anxiety about testifying and most of them are because it’s a stressful and not a natural situation when you go into the court and testify something as personal as your kids, your money, your property, debts, lifestyle, your current relationships so it really does help to practice.
Also, get your witnesses prepared by having them practice their answers that you will be asking them in court. Let them know what you will be looking for in their answers. Also, prepare them to be cross-examined as by the other divorce attorney. This is a big mistake that people make when preparing. They fail to get themselves their witnesses prepared for cross-examination by the other attorney.
Always be straightforward and forthcoming with the court. In some states or jurisdictions the judge can actually ask questions to you or your witnesses and also the jury can write questions they want answered. If the other party proves that you haven’t given information it can come back and bite you.
Here is an example of that happening in an actual divorce case.
I got a court decision from a trial for a client and one of the issues were the income of the parents and in Arizona there are some situations where employment bonuses can be counted as income and my client and I wanted to count the husband’s employment bonuses as income and they were significant bonuses around ,000 one year and ,000 the next. After we had presented the evidence and asked the husband over the last 5 years how many bonuses did he receive and the amount and his answer to the judge was that he had received bonuses in 2 of the 5 years. What the husband did not tell the judge however is that he had been working for his current company which is Microsoft for only 3 years so 2 out of the 3 years he had been working for Microsoft he received bonuses.
So in the judges decision she referred to that failure to reveal information and she said and i quote.
“Father worked for Microsoft, he received bonuses 2 of the last 3 years he has worked there. In 2015 he received ,000 and in 2014 he received ,000 for an average of ,000. When asked by the court how often he received bonuses father failed to reveal to the court that he had only worked there 3 years leaving the impression that he did not receive bonuses frequently. Persuant to Arizona law bonuses may be included in gross income, the court finds it reasonable to include the average of father’s last 2 years bonuses in the salary.
Wendy Hernandez is a family law attorney in Phoenix, AZ and founder of Command the Courtroom which teaches you how to handle yourself in court and achieve the best outcome when representing yourself in your divorce or child custody case.
My Law Firm: http://www.hernandezfirm.com
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