Testifying in court can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially when you are directly involved in the case. Your fears may be intensified if this is your first time in court, or you have trouble speaking in public. Even if you are a good speaker, the idea of giving sworn testimony in court can seem much more intimidating than giving a presentation at work. After all, you are not in control of how things are run at the courthouse. You will also have to answer questions that you won't be able to prepare for ahead of time. There are, however, some practical tips that you should always follow when testifying in court:
- Make sure you understand the question.
Don't be afraid to say, "Can you repeat the question?" or "I don't understand." You may be afraid of looking foolish, but it's imperative that you answer the question correctly, or to the best of your ability. The oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth is extremely serious. The fact that you didn't hear or understand the question is not an acceptable excuse for giving false or inaccurate information.
- Stick to the truth, even if it makes you look bad.
Divorce hearings typically involve dredging up negative information, but this is not the time to get defensive about your mistakes. If, for example, you are questioned about your extra-marital affair, answer "yes" or "no" without adding justifications for your behavior.
- Keep your answers short and simple.
Along with telling the truth, it's important to answer the question as simply as possible. If you are asked whether or not you own certain properties, answer "no", rather than saying you owned such properties several years ago. Volunteering unnecessary information can end up putting you in a compromising position.
- Don't take things personally.
Answer the questions politely, even if you feel that you are being badgered. Because anger tends to cloud your judgement, you may end up admitting to things that were better left unsaid. You actions may also reinforce certain claims made by your spouse, which would be incredibly damaging to your case.
- Speak with an experienced divorce attorney.
A divorce attorney can give you a good picture of what you can expect at your upcoming hearing. An attorney can also advise you on the types of questions you may be asked, and how best to answer them.
In addition to helping you prepare your testimony, an attorney will protect you from manipulative tactics that may be used by your spouse's attorney. For example, you may be asked a question that treats certain information as facts, when it's actually hearsay or an assumption. Your attorney will object to such questions before you can answer them, thereby saving you from agreeing to something that isn't true or accurate. To find out more about how an attorney can help your case, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.