Introducing Evidence In Court

Let's Untie the Knot | Introducing Evidence In Court

In order to present your case most effectively, you must understand the rules of evidence and how they apply to divorce court.  Simply knowing something is true does not mean that you can prove it in a court of law.  You must understand not only how to present evidence but also the type of evidence that is admissible.  In family court, admissible evidence is any kind of tangible evidence that can help prove your point in a case.  This can include testimonies, documents, photos, videos and other forms of physical or digital evidence.   Evidence will not be admissible in court under any circumstances if it qualifies as “hearsay.”

How do I introduce evidence?

There are several ways to introduce evidence at trial.  Some evidence you will provide through your direct testimony.  You may also call witnesses, such as family, friends and experts.  It is crucial that if your experts have relied on certain documents in reaching their conclusions, that you make that evidence available to the court.  For example, if custody is an issue in your case and you used a custody evaluator to make a recommendation, you need to provide the documents used by that evaluator.  Such documents may include your child’s attendance records, report cards or participation in extracurricular activities.  Make sure that all of the evidence you submit at trial is current and accurate.  For instance, a court will look at your income, assets and debt information when awarding spousal support, child support and dividing up property. 

How do I introduce exhibits?

In the weeks leading up to trial, you will submit your exhibit and witness list to the court.  Your lists should be well organized and include all of the documents that you intend to refer to or have your witnesses review at trial.  Before trial, each side will provide the judge and the other party with an exhibit list.  To use an exhibit at trial, you must introduce that exhibit and have it accepted by the judge.  To be used at trial, the exhibit will first be marked.  Once your exhibit is marked you must show it to the other party and give them a final opportunity to review it.

What is hearsay?

Hearsay is an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.  Its chief characteristic is that it is what someone else said, who was outside the presence of the judicial officer when he or she said it.  The out of court declarant is not available to testify, for whatever reason.  Hearsay also includes those statements of the parties themselves, but there are exceptions to the hearsay rule that allow those statements to be repeated.  These exceptions are referred to as “party admissions.”  You can always testify to what the other party said outside of the proceedings.  You just cannot, for example, testify to what their friend said.  If the statement was made or heard outside of the courtroom or is a document created outside the presence of the court, it is hearsay and is inadmissible in court.  Finally, hearsay is not limited to oral statements or writing.  It includes conduct as well.

Are there any exceptions to the hearsay rule?

  1.  Present sense impression
  2.   Excited Utterance
  3. Then-existing mental, emotional or physical condition
  4. Statement made for medical diagnosis or treatment
  5. Recorded recollection
  6. Records of a regularly conducted activity
  7. Absence of a record of a regularly conducted activity
  8. Public records
  9. Public records of vital statistics
  10. Absence of a public record
  11. Records of religious organizations concerning personal or family history
  12. Certificates of marriage, baptism and similar ceremonies
  13. Family records
  14. Records of documents that affect an interest in property
  15. Statements in documents that affect an interest in property
  16. Statements in ancient documents
  17. Market reports and similar commercial publications
  18. Statements in learned treatises, periodicals, or pamphlets
  19. Reputation concerning personal or family history
  20. Reputation concerning boundaries or general history
  21. Reputation concerning character
  22. Judgment of a previous conviction
  23. Judgments involving personal, family, or general history or a boundary.

Going to trial can be a very intimidating and emotional experience. You should try to remain as calm as possible.   Prepare your case and study your testimony as well as the contents of your exhibits.  Regardless of how the day plays out, do not let the other side see how upset or angry you may feel.  Focus on the strength of your case and what matters to you the most.

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