Tag: divorce court

Why Are Expert Witnesses Important to My Case?

Why Are Expert Witnesses Important to My Case?

Many lawyers will tell you that the truth is whatever can be proven in the courtroom. Oftentimes, in order to prove a specific fact it is necessary to call in an expert witness to testify about that fact or subject area. An expert witness is someone who by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience has expertise and specialized knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person sufficient that others may rely upon that person’s opinion in that area as an assistance to the judge. Basically, they know more about a particular subject than you, the lawyers, or the judge and can help the judge decide your case.

Expert witnesses may be needed for many different reasons in your divorce. Some examples of expert witnesses are:

  • Custodial evaluators
  • Real estate appraisers
  • Personal property appraisers (e.g. antiques, special collections, etc.)
  • Mental health professionals
  • Business valuators
  • Forensic accountants
  • Vocational experts

An expert witness may be needed to establish the value of certain property, discuss the physical, mental or emotional health of one of the parties or children, whether one spouse is concealing assets, or any other point that would assist the judge in making a decision. Early on in your case and as the case progresses, your attorney should discuss with you the need for possible expert witnesses. More than likely, you will need to hire someone with whom neither you nor your spouse has had a previous relationship to avoid a conflict of interest. In other words, you are probably not going to be able to use your family accountant to conduct a business valuation.

You should be prepared for the fact that expert witnesses will charge for their services. Some of those services are not cheap either. While there are provisions in the rules to petition the court for advancement of fees for retention of expert witnesses from a higher wage earning spouse, many judges seem hesitant to order it. However, some judges will appoint an expert witness and direct that the parties split the cost. This avoids a “battle of experts” where each side has an expert and the judge has to decide which one to believe.

So what happens if you simply do not have the money to hire an expert and the court will not order the other party to advance those expenses? This can create a very difficult situation depending on the facts of your case. While you and your attorney may wish to present the case one way, if there are not sufficient funds, you will have to make do with what you have. It may also be an incentive to try to settle the case outside of court without being forced to rely on expert testimony. If financing your litigation is going to be a major hurdle to the success of your case, you need to discuss your options with your attorney sooner rather than later.

Photo courtesy of Brad Shorr

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 3, FROM YOUR DIVORCE JUDGE

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 3, FROM YOUR DIVORCE JUDGE

We have previously discussed what to expect from yourselfand from your divorce lawyer.  However, perhaps the most important person in the courtroom is the judge. After all it is the judge who will actually be deciding your case. That judge will have certain expectations of you and you should know what to expect from the judge.

1.              Expect the judge to expect you to follow the rules and the process. The judge will be juggling your case along with dozens of others. He or she will expect you and your attorneys to follow rules and procedure to work towards settling the case or narrowing the issues before trial. In following these rules and procedures, you will most likely be required to attend mediation, a settlement conference, other procedural hearings, and submit filings prior to a trial. While you may chafe under these requirements, rest assured the judge finds them very important. Failing to cooperate in any of these steps, will damage your credibility with the court.
2.              Expect the judge to limit the time you have to present your case. The judge will expect your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer to give the Court a time estimate of how long it will take to present the case for trial. The more time needed to present the case, the more difficult it will be to fit your case into the Court’s calendar. Nevertheless, giving the court an estimate too short is not wise either. It could lead to an upset Family Law Judge and your matter continued anyway. Alternatively, it could hamper your attorney’s ability to present your case. Many judges will keep a close eye on the time to present a case. If a case it set for three hours, your lawyer gets one and a half hours to present your side of things. The time limits placed on a hearing may have a bearing on what witnesses and evidence you are able to present at trial.
3.              Expect the judge to expect you to be civil and follow the rules and orders of court. Despite the anger you may feel against your spouse, the court will still expect a certain level of decorum in the courtroom. Fits of rage or emotional outbursts will not help your case in any way.
4.              Expect that you probably will not be completely happy with the Court’s decision. Judges encourage the parties to reach an agreement at every step of the procedure. If the Court is required to make a decision in your case, most judges operate with the same rule of thumb. That rule is simply, “if everyone walks out of the courtroom upset, the Court has probably been fair.” While I am not saying that I ascribe to this sentiment, it is one I have heard from several judges over the years.

Knowing what to expect of the person in control of your immediate fate and what that person expects from you, will increase your chances of success.
Photo courtesy of Sol M. Wurtzel (Internet Archive) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 2, FROM YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 2, FROM YOUR DIVORCE LAWYER

As we previously discussed, understanding what to expect in divorce court can greatly reduce the stress you will undoubtedly experience.  Similarly, you should know what to expect from your divorce lawyer. This will allow you to plan and be of the utmost assistance in the presentation of your case.
1.              In the weeks leading up to your hearing expect the requests for information from your divorce lawyer to increase. These may be requests for updated financial documents, photographs, possible witnesses and contact information, etc. The quicker you can respond to these requests the better prepared your attorney can be. Your lawyer must have time to review the information you provide, most likely provide it to the other lawyer, and determine how best to present such information to the court. Waiting until the last minute to provide requested information to your lawyer will only make it more difficult to prepare for your case.
2.              Expect to meet with your lawyer to prepare for your hearing. Your lawyer should be going over trial strategy, possible evidence, and possible witnesses throughout the representation as he builds your case. As the trial date nears, these meetings should increase and include an explanation of what you can expect at trial and as well as your testimony.
3.              Expect that on occasion you may have difficulty reaching your attorney.  Just as the time your attorney will spend with you and working on your case, understand that he will from time to time have to spend that same amount of time on other cases. Rest assured, when the time comes, your lawyer will be focusing on your case and putting other cases on hold.
4.              Expect your lawyer will be communicating with your spouse’s attorney. While you may have extremely hard feelings towards your spouse, or even your spouse’s attorney, understand that family law attorneys routinely have cases with one another and regularly communicate. Moreover, the rules of procedure and the Court will expect the attorneys to communicate to try to resolve as many issues as possible.
5.              Expect that your divorce lawyer will be prepared. During your discussions and trial preparations, your lawyer should be able to explain to you a trial strategy, how that strategy will be presented and what the other side may present. This will further help you to be prepared yourself and more calm on the day of trial.

Divorce court is scary; no question about it. However, having a prepared and skilled lawyer at your side can calm those fears.
Photo courtesy of peggydavis66
WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 1: FROM YOURSELF

WHAT TO EXPECT IN DIVORCE COURT PART 1: FROM YOURSELF

Divorce court can be scary.  Judges and lawyers may not think so since we are there almost everyday. However, for most parties, it is the first time they have ever been in a courtroom and they find themselves fighting for their children, their livelihood and their very future. Being prepared for what to expect can help you perform much better and put your mind at ease. A skilled family law attorney will take the time to sit down with you and prepare you for trial.  The following is what to expect from yourself in a divorce court proceeding.
1.              Expect to be nervous, everyone else does.  Like I said, you are fighting for your children, your livelihood and future. The judge certainly expects you to be nervous and it is okay. Indeed, seeming to be stoic and unemotional in a child custody case may convey the mistaken impression that you do not care. However, some people get in court and become nervous, then believe that everyone, particularly the judge, will see that they are nervous and question their honesty. Then they become even more nervous and it becomes a vicious circle. Relax. Keep in mind, all you have to do when testifying is talk. You have probably been doing that since you were two years old.
2.              Expect to know everything about your case. If you think all you have to do is show up because your lawyer will know everything about your case, you are setting yourself up for failure.  No one knows your life better than you do. Prepare yourself. Review all of the pleadings from your case. Review financial documents that will be relevant to your case. Review statements made by you and the other party or any witness. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
3.              Expect that things are not black and white in divorce court. While you may see things as clear and evident, judges do not always see things as such. This is further complicated by the fact that divorce court operates under the rules of evidence. While something may be the truth, if it cannot be established within the bounds of the rules, the court cannot consider it.
4.              Expect that you will tell the truth, even if the other party does not. While this should go without saying, I will go ahead and say it. There may be a certain temptation to bend the truth or flat out lie to improve your case. Do not give into that temptation. For one, you will be committing perjury and subject yourself to criminal sanctions. Second, when (not if) your falsehood is exposed, your credibility will be destroyed. Finally, there is nothing more powerful than to simply tell the truth.

Preparing yourself for the terrifying experience of court will go a long way to increasing the odds of a successful outcome.
Photo courtesy of Calsidyrose