Giving evidence in the Family Court

14th September 2015

By Lisa Wagner

Do you need help giving evidence in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court in relation to family law parenting or property proceedings?

Giving evidence in any court case is daunting even for the most seasoned and experienced witness. This is possibly even more so in family law matters where the stakes are so high…the lives of your children and the financial security of your family are placed under the spotlight in family law cases.

Over the years I have seen many people give evidence in family law matters – some of them have been my clients, some of them have been witnesses in my client’s case, some of them have been court appointed experts and many of them have been witnesses for the other party in the proceedings.

There are a number of guidelines available to assist you if you are required to give evidence in any Court. In family law matters I feel that there are several tips that can help you both before you get into the Family Court and also when you are sitting in the witness box. Here are five of my best suggestions:

  1. Know your evidence. Read over your Affidavit before you come to Court. There is no need to learn your evidence “off by heart” but be comfortable with it and familiar with what you have said. If you realise that you have made a mistake with your evidence then let your legal team know before you step into the witness box. If you realise you have made a mistake when in Court don’t be afraid to bring it to the Court’s attention as soon as this mistake becomes known to you.
  2. Listen carefully to the question and don’t be afraid to ask for the question to be repeated or rephrased if you do not fully understand what is being asked. Don’t try and guess what they are wanting to know. Also, don’t try and think about where they are heading with their questions. Just take it one question at a time.
  3. Answer questions directly and briefly. If you can respond with a “yes” or “no” answer and not mislead the Court by doing this then that is usually the best response. Don’t volunteer a long winded story but if an answer requires an explanation don’t be shy to give that explanation as well.
  4. Give honest evidence. Do not be concerned if, when answering a question, you believe that it is an admission against you or the case that you are there to support. Honest admissions can actually make you a more credible witness and more likely to be accepted by the Judge as a witness of truth.
  5. Be polite. This tip applies equally to everyone in the courtroom in every situation. In practice it translates to:
    – Not talking when someone else is talking;
    – Not arguing with the family law barrister or solicitor asking the question even if they are trying to provoke you; and
    – Addressing the Judge and everyone in the courtroom respectfully.

In Australia, only about 6% of separating couples have the misfortune of having to go through a final hearing and face cross-examination of themselves and the witnesses in their case. If you have the misfortune of falling into that minority of family law matters that proceed to a final hearing then ensure that your family law team provide you and your witnesses with all the necessary support and guidance that is required both before the trial and also on the hearing day.

Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers are known to provide trusted family law advice and assistance as well ascourt representation of the highest quality. We understand that as part of that service we will need to provide you with guidance about the court process and preparation of your family law matter if it can’t be settled. We have Accredited Family Law Specialists who are experts in all areas of family law and have substantial experience in appearing in court. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you in your family law matter then contact us on 94370010 or enquiries@familylawyersdw.com.au. We know we can help you.

These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.

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