A lot of work goes into preparing a case for a hearing or trial. Your testimony can make or break your case. Follow these tips to make sure you come across as believable and trustworthy.
1. Practice being understated. Plain spoken, simple, straightforward testimony is what judges want. Highly emotional testimony does not win them over. You must be calm, cool and collected when in court. Judges react more favorably when witnesses testify as if they are in a relaxed conversation with a neighbor or friend rather than a bitter dispute. Don't call anyone names, accuse them of wrongdoing or become adversarial. Let your lawyer be the advocate. That's what you are paying him or her to do. You are there to testify to the facts -- not be an advocate.
2. Commit to the facts. If you are certain of the facts, say so. If you are not 100% certain, make sure you make that clear when testifying. Don't waffle in court. Stick to your guns. "Maybe" and "I'm not sure" rarely go over well in court. If you are unsure about what you are saying, the Court will dismiss your testimony and irrelevant. For example, if H testifies that the child was not delivered on time and W testifies that she isn't sure, W's testimony will be disregarded by the court because W doesn't know what happened. Make sure you are crystal clear about what you know for sure and what you don't. Don't claim to have knowledge about any subject when you don't have that knowledge. Once a judge mistrusts your testimony, he or she is likely to disregard everything you said.
3. Review everything ahead of time. If you have documents, such as a financial affidavit, interrogatory responses, photos, videos or anything else that may be an issue in Court, make sure you have reviewed them in advance and know exactly what they say. There is nothing worse than saying something different in court than what you previously said in writing. Know thyself and thy case.
4. Speak up and make sure you are understood. Don't mumble, ramble on or be evasive. Speak up. If you are spending money to be in court, you need to make an effort to be heard. You won't be heard or fully understood unless you sit up straight, speak in a clear and steady voice and answer the questions you are asked. If you are evasive and talk in circles, you will appear as though you are trying to hide something and you will appear to be untrustworthy.
5. Make sure your requests are reasonable. Never demand anything from a Judge. Always remember that Judges are the decisionmakers, not you. Make sure you acknowledge their authority and their role in your case by politely requesting what it is you want them to do. And make sure what you are requesting is reasonable. Just as a good CPA will tell you if your write offs will raise a red flag with the IRS, a good lawyer should let you know in advance if your requests are unreasonable. Asking for too much usually backfires.
Being a good witness takes work. Be yourself when you get to court and don't sound like you are reading from a script that you memorized the night before. Keep in short, simple and real and follow these tips to help you impress win the Judge in your case.