Fact witnesses are people who can testify about the facts of the case, such as the length of the marriage, the finances, and why the marriage broke down. They testify about things that happened. Most witnesses are fact witnesses. You are a fact witness. Your neighbor who saw your wife throw a barbecue spatula at your head is a fact witness. Your employer’s payroll clerk is a fact witness.
You are the most important and best witness in your case. You will testify about the length of the marriage, how assets accumulated, and why and how the marriage broke down. You will testify about your children, and what their lives are like from day to day. You will testify about virtually everything that has anything to do with your case. Your testimony will be very important to the judge. How you look, what you wear, how you talk, and how you present yourself to the judge are all important issues. It’s imperative that the judge believes you, and sympathizes with you. If you are using an attorney, your lawyer will work with you to make the best presentation possible. Click here for an article on your sworn testimony.
You can only perform this function well if you are prepared, if you understand the court’s priorities, and if you understand the theory of your case. The theory of your case is the underlying theme which you or your lawyer hope to emphasize in your trial. It could be you as dutiful, wronged spouse or you as devoted parent unable to make ends meet while your spouse gambles. Discuss this with your attorney before the trial begins, so you provide a consistent picture of your situation.
By the time that you get to this point, you should have already given your lawyer a full written marital history as well as a list of your goals for trial. Putting these two things together will give you a good idea of the theory of your case, and which parts of your testimony are clearly needed. Then you must reconcile your theory with the priorities of the court. Focus your theory around what the judge will want to know. Click here for some additional information on prepping for court
For example, the judge will want to know about your health, your ability to continue working, and what you expect to be earning, as well as this information from your spouse. The judge will need to know if either you or your spouse contributed a larger amount of money than the other, and how you and your spouse contributed in non-financial ways to the marriage. If for some reason you feel that it’s not appropriate that either you or your spouse works because your children are young, or for other reasons, the judge will also need to know about this.
Excerpted from Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001). For more information: http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com/.
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