Tips for Testifying in Court

In Separation & Divorce by Elizabeth Stephenson

In any legal proceeding, one of the most common fears that people have is the idea that they will have to testify in court. These nerves are rooted in expectations built through generations of television and movies. We see Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise yelling at each other, or Law and Order marathons where people are torn apart on the stand by aggressive defense attorneys. While your courtroom experience will not be like this; it is nevertheless important to know what to expect and how to prepare.

  • Consult with your attorney in advance of your hearing or trial. Your attorney can tell you what to expect in your hearing and from your specific judge. This is also a good opportunity for you to get on the same page as your attorney and to ask any questions you have. In addition, preparation can give you confidence as you are reducing the uncertainty of your situation.
  • Make yourself notes and timelines to refresh your memory as to dates and significant events. Review this with your attorney and ask whether there is any other information to focus on. Keep your notes as concise as you can and study them before you testify.
  • Breathe deeply. You are going to survive. Remember that the judge (or sometimes a jury) is just a person, whose job it is to make decisions based on the evidence presented.
  • Answer questions honestly. If you do not know the answer to a question, then say so. Do not make up an answer or fill in gaps of memory loss with guesses. If it appears that you are providing misleading or false statements, the judge and jury will determine that you are not credible, and disregard what you say.
  • Try to remain calm and collected. Do not get into back-and-forth arguments with the opposing lawyer. Be aware that opposing attorney will sometimes try to get into your head and paint you as angry or unstable. Do not fall into this trap.
  • Only answer the question you are asked. Do not offer additional information. This leads directly to our next bit of advice.
  • Trust your attorney. Your attorney is your advocate and takes pride in doing her job well. If you believe that the opposing attorney has asked unfair or misleading questions, your attorney can address and clarify your testimony on cross-examination. Do not attempt to remedy the situation by yourself.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

The legal process can be scary, but can be less so with a strong advocate by your side. Contact us and let us stand by you. The attorneys at New Direction Family Law will take a tough, intelligent approach toward fulfilling your goals. We practice in Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call our office today at (919) 719-3470 for to schedule an initial appointment, or online at our website.