On the Witness Stand


Getting on the witness stand can be intimidating and scary, and especially when you are fighting a court case involving family law, emotions run high. What to do, how to act, what to say… it can be hard to know what to do. Ask your attorney about your specific situation, but some general suggestions might be helpful. Here are some tips:

  1. Wear the right thing

  2. Know what you’re going to testify about. If you’ve got a final hearing on an uncontested divorce, this is pretty simple. If it’s another type of trial or hearing, talk with your attorney regarding the subjects about which you will be questioned, and review any documents that might be relevant.

  3. Don’t make jokes, roll your eyes, be sarcastic, or be rude. Remain calm, especially if one of the attorneys is trying to push your buttons to trigger an outburst.

  4. Sit up straight in the chair and keep your hands and feet still while you testify.

  5. Stop talking when an attorney or judge starts talking during your testimony. If there is an objection, wait for the judge to rule and then continue.

  6. Look at the judge and make eye contact on occasion. You’re answering questions asked by an attorney but, in a Tennessee family law case, it’s the judge that is making the decisions— make sure she doesn’t have reason to think you’re being cagey.

  7. If you are asked a yes or no question, answer yes or no first, then give your explanation if one is needed. Also, say “yes” or “no,” not “nope,” “yep,” “nah,” “uh huh,” etc. Don’t nod your head.

  8. Refer to others in the courtroom as “Mr.” Or “Ms.” This means your attorney, the other attorney, or even your spouse or ex-spouse. Call the judge “Your Honor.”

  9. Answer the question that has been asked, don’t volunteer other information. And don’t answer what you think they really want to know, just answer the question that you have been asked.

  10. TELL THE TRUTH. Getting caught in a lie will be a disaster for your credibility.

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