As I prepare for a permanency hearing, I thought it might be helpful to include a few of the guidelines I provide my clients. While there may be others (or some that are specific to your case), these are general things that apply in nearly every case.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR TESTIFYING
- Tell the truth. Do not lie on the stand.
- Answer only the question asked; do not offer information or elaborate unless not doing so would create confusion.
- If you don’t understand the question, ask to have it rephrased, or say that you don’t understand the question. Lawyers sometimes ask very bad questions, so don’t try to guess at what they are asking you.
- Let the lawyer complete his/her question before answering, even if you think you know where they are going with the question. The court reporter cannot take down testimony when multiple people are talking.
- Again, for the benefit of the court reporter and a “clean” record, always answer verbally (no head nods or shakes), with yes or no (not “uh-huh” or “unh-uh”).
- When you are being cross-examined, leave a brief pause between the question and your answer in case I want to object to the question.
- If the judge overrules the objection, you may answer.
- If the judge sustains the objection, do not answer.
- Do not let the other attorney(s) or witnesses bait you. Remain calm.
- Try not to fidget on the stand.
- Do not use profanity unless you are quoting someone who used it. Be respectful on the stand. Do not try to make the other parent look bad while you are on the stand.
- Remain on the stand until the judge tells you that you may step down.