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Witness Aids In Testifying

  1. Always... Always tell the truth.
  2. Listen to the exact question asked. Many times, the critical question isn't asked. You are only required to answer the question asked. Your answers must be from personal knowledge only-what you saw with your own eyes or heard directly with your own ears. Not what someone said was said or seen.
  3. Only answer the exact question asked. You do not need to answer immediately (except those questions that require no thought, i.e., name address...), though you can't wait so long as to appear to be manufacturing an answer-no longer than 10 seconds (which is eternity on the stand)
  4. Don't add anything to your answer, unless you're 120% certain that the testimony will help your case. Obviously, this will occur almost never.
  5. Always be polite and respectful to both attorneys and the judge.
  6. Never get angry, regardless of what is asked or the way it's asked.
  7. When you are asked a question that is, in fact, multiple questions- politely ask the questioner to break up the question into understandable, single questions.
  8. When you are asked a question that is, in fact, a statement and a question-politely ask the questioner to break the question so that you can agree or disagree with the statement and then answer the question.
  9. If you are asked a question with an unfamiliar word--don't answer. You can't intelligently answer question you don't completely understand. Get a definition. It is a stupid answer only if you didn't understand the question in the first place. Sometimes, the attorney cannot give you a definition and will move on to another question.
  10. If you are asked a question with a word that has several meanings-make him pick the meaning he means before you answer.
  11. When an attorney stands up stop talking instantly, in mid syllable.
  12. When the judge comes in or leaves the courtroom, stand up...even if he makes a point to tell you it is unnecessary. You will never be condemned for showing respect for the judge's position.
  13. Always think about the purpose of the question. Where is it leading?
  14. Always know the direction of your testimony-where you want to go- and answer accordingly.
  15. Whenever possible, avoid absolutes, such as "never" or "always", unless it really is. If the questioner can find an example where something happened or didn't happen, you may be confronted with, "Well, Were you telling the truth then or now?"
  16. Try to avoid terms such as "sometimes, maybe or possibly", unless it is the true answer. But, then be prepared to be hit with a number of follow-up questions to try to pin you down (ie: "Well, when was it this way?")
  17. Be definite as to the incidents you know.
  18. Admit that you don't know what happened out of your presence. "I don't know" is a good answer, if it is truthful, but you can't go back later and claim knowledge.
  19. You cannot take this list up to the witness stand.
  20. Don't look at me for an answer or visual feedback as to the quality of your answer. I will turn away. When i see a witness do that from the other side, I always say, "Judge, will you please instruct Mr. X. to not look to his attorney for an answer to my question."
  21. Speak conversationally and look directly at the questioner, unless there is a jury. Then look at the questioner for a short time and slowly turn to the jury. Get comfortable in your seat and don't move around. Be mindful of body language (don't cross your arms across your chest in a defensive posture-everyone thinks they are a body language expert. Don't chew gum. Dress as if you are going to church, synagogue or whatever religious function. Be calm.
  22. Be confident. You have the righteous cause.
  23. Every answer should dovetail into the focus of your case. Never sway from your goal.
  24. Always be wary. Never be worried.
  25. No matter how friendly and cordial the other attorney is to you, his/her sole job is to see that you lose and are discredited before the court. It is his/her job to discredit you and others on your side of the case. That is his/her job.
  26. I will give you a pad to make notes or write questions to me. Just put it next to me so that I can see it when I get a chance. Do not-do not talk to me. I must have my absolute attention on the hearing so that I can hear the question asked, the testimony or a question from the judge. It is in your best interest to leave me alone. If you bother me, I will be forced to correct you on the spot and it will embarrass you. Please make legible notes. If you are not a party, the logistics do not allow the passing of notes, but everything else applies.

These rules apply primarily to family lawcases, but the general rules will be helpful. There are some repeats.

  1. Be aware of your behavior at all times.
  2. Sit in the spectator area unless otherwise directed. Do not sit with your spouse or ex-spouse in court.
  3. Dress appropriately.
  4. Be punctual. Allow more than enough time and then add on fifteen minutes. You won't be penalized for being early. Go into the courtroom, sit down and wait for me, if i'm not already there. If I am not there, I am probably in another court and have already called the court and told them I'd be late. If your case is called, stand up, say "here" and that your attorney is in another court.
  5. Be attentive to the proceedings.
  6. Be careful of your body language.
  7. Advise your attorney of any medication you need to take or of any other concern that may effect your staying in the courtroom throughout the proceeding.
  8. Do not read in the courtroom while court is in session.
  9. Be sure your beeper or mobile phone is turned off in the courtroom.
  10. Do not violate any court rules about smoking, gum chewing, or eating and take off any hat.
  11. Do not take any weapons of any kind to the courthouse area.
  12. Rise when responding to the court(unless you are on the witnes stand) or when the judge enters the courtroom. Do not address the judge directly, only respond.
  13. Keep the volume of your voice loud enough so everyone who needs to hear you, can hear.
  14. Other than social amenities, do not talk with opposing counsel or your spouse.
  15. Always use a pleasant tone of voice. Under no circumstances use profanity or vulgar language. Be wary of making statements or comments in rest rooms or in any other places where they may be overheard. If it is overheard and can be used against you, it will.
  16. Always be respectful.
  17. When talking with your attorney, attempt to assure privacy of the conversation.
  18. During the trial do not punch, whisper to or distract your attorney. Communicate with your attorney by writing.
  19. Remove all notes from the courtroom each day and on any break. Do not throw the notes away in the courtroom or in the bathroom on that floor.
  20. Do not create a scene over the wording of the witness oath.
  21. If the rule has been invoked, do not violate it.
  22. Do not arrange for your lover or minor children to attend trial as spectators.
  23. During the trial, do not leave the courtroom without permission.
  24. Do not be suspicious of in chambers conferences.
  25. Do not speculate or guess at a word, phrase or answer.
  26. Do not volunteer information.
  27. Try to avoid long lengthy pauses during your testimony, as it might be viewed as time spent in the manufacture of testimony.
  28. Keep your concentration while testifying.
  29. Never lose your temper.
  30. Remain polite and calm during your testimony.
  31. Do not be argumentative, sarcastic or obnoxious with opposing counsel.
  32. Address counsel formally and not by first names.
  33. Do not try to rush your answer in over an objection. Wait patiently for an objections to be ruled upon.
  34. Avoid the use of words such as "never" and "always."
  35. Do not take notes to the witness stand without permission of your attorney.


  1. ANCILLARY HEARING. Any hearing other than the trial. Sometimes called preliminary hearing.
  2. BAILIFF. The person responsible for maintaining decorum in the Court.
  3. BENCH. The place where the Judge sits during trial.
  4. BENCH TRIAL. A trial where the judge determines all fact issues and there is no jury.
  5. CHAMBERS. The Judge's office.
  6. CASE IN CHIEF. The testimony and evidence offered by one side in support of that side's positions.
  7. CLERK. One of the persons who handles the paperwork of the Court.
  8. CLOSING STATEMENTS. Final statements by each attorney at the end of the trial when they argue to the Court the evidence and law.
  9. COURT. Often used interchangeably with Judge.
  10. COURT REPORTER. The person who records the testimony and court proceedings.
  11. CROSS EXAMINATION. Questions asked of witnesses called by the opposing attorney.
  12. DECREE OF DIVORCE. The final order which is signed by the judge disposing of all issues. Sometimes called Final Judgment.
  13. DIRECT EXAMINATION. Questions asked of witnesses called by that attorney.
  14. FINAL JUDGMENT. The final order which is signed by the judge disposing of all issues. Sometimes called Final Decree of Divorce.
  15. INVOKING THE RULE. The process of requiring all witnesses, other than parties, to leave the courtroom and not discuss their testimony with anyone but attorneys involved.
  16. JURY BOX. The place where the jurors sit during the trial.
  17. NON-RESPONSIVE. When referring to the answer to a question, the answer goes beyond the question and the witness has volunteered information.
  18. OBJECTION. Notice to the judge by one attorney that the proceeding or some aspect of evidence is objectionable for some reason and the attorney wants to bring it to the attention of the judge and request a ruling. Overruled means the Judge disagrees with the objecting attorney. Sustained means the judge agrees with the objecting attorney.
  19. OPENING STATEMENT. A brief statement by an attorney of his client's position on the issues and applicable law, generally at the beginning of the trial.
  20. ORDER. A ruling by the court.
  21. PETITION. The party who initially brings or files the divorce action. Opposite party to Respondent.
  22. PRELIMINARY HEARING. Any hearing other than the trial. Sometimes called ancillary hearing.
  23. REBUTTAL. Testimony which rebuts or refutes prior testimony.
  24. RECESS. A period of time when court is not in session.
  25. RENDITION The pronouncement of the court's final ruling, which may be oral or written.
  26. RESPONDENT. The party against whom the divorce is initially filed. Opposite party to Petitioner.
  27. STIPULATIONS. Agreements made between the parties and/or their attorneys which are binding, once read into the record.
  28. SUBPOENA. A document served on a witness ordering that person to appear at a certain time and place to testify and/or bring designated documents.
  29. SWEARING IN. When a witness takes the witness oath to tell the truth.
  30. TRIAL. The full hearing which decides all issues of the case.
  31. UNDER ADVISEMENT. A period of time after the trial when the Judge considers the testimony, evidence and his notes and makes his final decision about the case and issues.
  32. WITNESS STAND. The place from which the witness testifies.

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