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Ten Tips for Testifying in A Divorce Trial

Most divorces do not actually go to trial. Indeed, it is estimated that in New York, only about 5% of cases actually go to trial, the rest of the cases will settle – although, some of those cases will settle AFTER a trial has started BUT before the trial has ended.

If you do have to testify in court, here are ten tips:

#1 Prepare: You and your attorney should prepare for your testimony. This means going over the topics. Each divorce attorney has their own method of preparation. However, most attorneys will give you an idea of the types of questions you will be asked.

#2 But, Do Not “Over-Prepare”:  If you “memorize” your answers to the point where it looks like you are reading from a script, then the Judge may discount your testimony as “over-coached.  You do not want to sound like a “robot” or a “recording”.

#3 Answer the Question – do not volunteer information that is not asked: When asked a question, you do not want to volunteer information that is not necessary. For example: if asked “What was your income last year?” The answer should be something like: “I made $80,000 last year.”  Your answer should NOT be: “I only worked part-time last year, so I only made $40,000.00.” The question did not ask you if you worked full-time or part-time, so you volunteered information that was not necessary to answer the question.

#4 If you hear an Objection – stop talking: Once you hear an attorney say “Objection” – stop talking – even if you are in the middle of answering a question. Let the Judge rule on the Objection and tell you whether you need to answer the question or you can ignore the question as the Objection was “sustained”.

#5 Try not to say “always”, “never” or “every”:  In every-day conversation, it is easy to state terms like “always”, “never” or “every”, but, when testifying, it is extremely rare that you do something 100% of the time or 0% of the time. For example, if you testify that “Yes, I always pick up our children after school”. If another person even picked up your children once, your statement is not 100% accurate. It is better to state something like this:  “Yes, I almost always pick up our children after school.”  Or “Yes, I would pick up our children most every day, once in a while, my spouse would also pick them up from school.”

#6 Tell the truth: Although, this is obvious, Judges are very good at determining if you are not telling the truth. You do not want to look evasive in your answers.

#7 Do not get Angry (or lose your temper):  Many times, the attorney for your spouse will try to get you angry. Do not fall for this trap. Always answer every question calmly. In addition, never argue with your spouse’s attorney. If you get angry on the witness stand, the Judge is going to believe that you must get angry when you are home.

#8 Do not answer a question with “wrong facts”:  Sometimes your spouse’s attorney will ask you a question that contains a fact that is wrong.  For example: “On May 1st, last year, you had a fight with your spouse, what happened?” Even if you had a fight with your spouse, but, it did not occur on May 1st, you can then answer this question by saying: “No we did not get into a fight on May 1st”.

#9 Look the attorney (or Judge) “in the eye”:  When an attorney or the Judge asks you a question it is important to look that person “in the eye” (straight on). Even if you have to turn your head.

#10 It is OK to be nervous:  Judges know that testifying is something that is new to you and not something you do every day. It is ok to be nervous, however, you do not want to look like you are being evasive in your answers.

If you believe that your divorce will go to trial, then you need an experience trial attorney. David Badanes has conducted several trials and hearings. Mr. Badanes makes sure that you are prepared for trial. For more information, call the Badanes Law Office, P.C. at 631-239-1702 or email at david@dbnylaw.com.  The Badanes Law Office has offices in Northport and Uniondale.

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