Ten recommendations for testifying in divorce court

Even though most divorces "settle" and don't end up in court, it is prudent to have an idea of what to expect should you go to court and how you should present yourself when questioned in the courtroom. In your court appearance, you will be evaluated by all in attendance including the attorneys and the judge. Your actions as well as your words will make a difference-a big difference. Below are some tips for testifying in divorce and family court.

1. TELL THE TRUTH. This is the most important commandment. If you lie, your credibility will be destroyed for your entire testimony. Answer each question truthfully, even if the answer hurts and do not try to justify behavior-just a simple "yes" or "no".

2. LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THE QUESTION. Make sure you understand the question and repeat the question in your head so your can give the best answer.

3. SEEK CLARIFICATION, IF NEEDED. It is important to understand the question. If you don't understand the question, seek clarification before answering. Trying to clarify after-the-fact is too late.

4. WHEN READY, ANSWER THE QUESTION AND ONLY THE QUESTION. Answer what you have been asked, truthfully and completely with the shortest answer; not want you think may be relevant or what you think should have been asked.

5. DON'T VOLUNTEER. This is in addition to commandment number 4. The more information you needlessly provide the more knowledge and questions the opposing side will develop.

6. "YES", "NO", "I DON'T KNOW" ARE RESPONSIVE ANSWERS. If these answers are complete and truthful answers, give them and wait for the next question.

7. DON'T GUESS OR SPECULATE. Don't try to fill in the gaps with speculation; answer from first-hand knowledge. A misstatement will impair your overall credibility.

8. WATCH OUT FOR COMPOUND QUESTIONS AND FOR A WRONGFUL SUMMATION OF THE FACTS. You may be asked two questions in one and the answer to one part is "yes" and the other part is "no" or that one part is an "assumption" so the other part should be the "same". If this is the case, break it down into parts and answer each part truthfully.

9. AVOID GETTING BOXED IN WITH "EVERYTHING YOU KNOW OR REMEMBER" OR ABSOLUTE WORDS LIKE "NO", "NEVER", AND "ALL". If a lawyer asks you to tell all you remember, always say at the end "that it is all I can recollect at this time" so if you remember something else later, you will not be boxed in. Or, if you do not remember something, say so.

10. BE RESPECTFUL AND DRESS FOR SUCCESS. This commandment is multifold and important. You will only have the opportunity to make a favorable impression once, so act accordingly. You should arrive early. You should dress appropriately. You should speak in a clear loud voice with conviction. You should maintain eye contact. You should be courteous to all court personnel.

These 10 recommendations are guidelines for testifying in a divorce or family law case, not set in stone, because each case is unique. Your family law attorney is there to prepare and support you through the courtroom experience. Make it successful.