As a Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer, I realize that you may have questions about your first court appearance; even if it is not the first time on the witness stand in the life of a divorce case, you are not an experienced witness.
Court rooms can be intimidating even for the fearless. You are being judged in many ways - for credibility and for the sensibility of your story. You are asked to speak about intimate and financial details; your prior acts and decisions are judged. You face an audience and a Judge when another attorney is trying to make you look foolish and wrong.
Here are 5 rules to remember when you testify:
· Listen to the question you are being asked. You need to know the question or your answer will not make sense or worse, may be just wrong.
· Make sure you understand the question. For example, many witnesses answer the following easy question wrongly: "You have no minor children?" The witness answers "No", meaning there are no minor children. But the correct answer to the way the question was asked is "Yes". "Yes it is true that I have no minor children."
· Think a minute before answering the question. This is not a contest to buzz in first with the answer as if you are a "Jeopardy" contestant. Remember, what you answer is important. Organize your answer in your mind before you blurt it out. The other side's lawyer want to trick you up and elicit certain information. Think of the question and answer it truthfully using the best words that you can.
· Answer the question and only the question. If you are asked "Did you have arguments?" don't answer "Yes and we usually fought over how he thought I was spending too much time (or money)....." You open up new areas for the lawyer to explore. The right answer would have been "Yes." Then let the lawyer work to get out his next point. Sometimes a lawyer forgets to ask certain questions so do not remind him of a new subject to question.
· Shut Up. Once you have answered, just stop and wait for the next question. If the attorney just stands there looking at you, do not be tempted to add more. Do not feel uncomfortable so that you continue talking. Let the other attorney just stand there until he feels like he has to move on, or the Judge asks if he has any further questions.
Divorce decision are based upon your testimony, not upon the quality of the attorneys. What you say and how you say it is very important.