In a divorce case, a character witness may be a party who testifies about the moral fitness or personal qualities of a party to a divorce. But in some jurisdictions, a character witness in a divorce case cannot be a family member. Rather, the witness must be a friend, colleague or personal associate who knows about the personal qualities of the party about whom he or she testifies. Friends and family are the most common types of character witnesses. Oftentimes parties believe that having their mother, father, sibling, or good friend up on the stand will be most helpful to their case.
So is that true? The honest truth is that it won’t get you very far because the obvious reason of asking a friend or relative to speak on your behalf, is because they’re going to have good things to say about you. This doesn’t prove to be very impressive for a judge. The judge does not really need to hear that you are a nice person. The judge is going to be more interested in a description of everyday life, such as cooking and cleaning when the child is with you. The judge will want someone to talk about how you interact with your child, how you discipline the child and how you talk about the other parent in front of your child.
So, if having a friend or family member as your character witness is your best option there are a few things you can do to improve the possibility of it helping your case. Instead of a character witness taking the stand to list off your best qualities one by one, tell a story instead. A story can tell so much about a person, and allows the judge and anyone else in the court room to form their own opinion about someone instead of being told what to think. Although this may still make a character witness appear to be biased, it will prove to be more helpful for your case.
Telling the right kind of story is extremely important as well. You don’t want to tell a story that seems as if you’re testifying directly for the character of the party. Instead, you want to tell a story that simply tells that you witnessed a certain behavior with your own eyes or ears, which makes you a witness, and not just someone’s friend. Telling the right kind of stories is vital, it needs to be a time that good parenting skills were clearly shown, and they were shown on their own and naturally. The judge is more likely to form their own opinion, when they have something to go off that allows them to consider more than one conclusion.
Stories can paint a positive picture as to the character of somebody that is often persuasive in trial without the question ever being directly asked. This kind of outcome is the best kind of closing argument for a family law case, because you’re able to prove your point about a character without physically stating it. Giving the judge room to create their own opinion can make a big difference. Another important factor to being a successful character witness for a friend or family member is to make sure the attorney representing your friend’s case prepares you about the goal of your testimony and what they are planning to ask you on the stand. When the other attorney questions you, if they are asking about parts of your friend’s life you don’t have experience with or aren’t qualified to talk about, it’s ok to say that you don’t feel qualified or comfortable to answer the question.
Ultimately, the most imperative witness during a family law case is you. You are not able to control the way the other parent acts, but you have full control of how you act. If you are petty and vindictive in your dealings with the other parent, that is likely to come out in court. If you are respectful and courteous of the other parent and stay focused on behaving in a way that is best for your child that too will come across in court.
If you are going through a divorce or family law matter, and have questions about how character witnesses may impact your case, you can call 855-805-0595 or contact us online.