Representing yourself in a family law case is exceptionally challenging, but you can do it. Though we never recommend it because you deserve the best representation possible, our family law practice in Orlando offers the following tips for preparing for trial in family court.
If you or your opposing party will have witnesses testify in the case, it is essential to think about the points you want them to make with their testimony. Take note of these points and think about what questions to ask to lead to answers that make your points. Check the points off as you develop questions that make them explicit. Be sure to write down the questions, so you remember them when it is time to question the witnesses.
Your witnesses should be ready for their court appearance and testimony when your case is called for trial. Be sure your witnesses are available to appear in the courtroom within ten to 15 minutes with a quick phone call or text. Make a written list of witness names, file the original with the courts, and provide a copy to the opposing party and the judge.
Civil and state rules of evidence control how your judge conducts the trial. If the opposing party objects, do not interrupt them. Allow them to explain their reason for objecting, and the court will allow you to respond to their reason before ruling on the objection. Never speak to the other party during an objection. Only talk to the judge and never interrupt someone else.
If you have pictures, papers, or other documents you want the court to consider, you must bring the original and three copies to the courtroom early enough for the clerk to mark them for the record. Be sure to make a written list of your exhibits to help you keep track of them effectively.
Prepare your argument by writing a trial memo, summarizing what you are asking the court and why. This trial memo should include maintenance, child support, parenting plan, debts, and division of property.
You will need to address the court at the beginning and end of the trial to summarize what you want and why you want it. Therefore, it is helpful to prepare a trial memorandum and be as brief, specific, and accurate as possible.
If you are asking the court to enter a parenting plan, bring four copies of the parenting plan you propose for review.
If you ask the courts to enter an order for child support, bring four copies of your most recent W-2 and pay stubs, last year’s tax return, completed Child Support Worksheets with you and the other parent’s incomes, and your proposed Child Support Order.
If you ask the courts to enter a spousal support order, bring four copies of your most recent W-2 and pay stubs, last year's tax return, your completed financial declaration, and any documents supporting your request or argument that the other party should not be granted maintenance.
Follow these trial tips for representing yourself in a family law case. Never forget to dress appropriately for court and arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appearance to find parking and get into the courtroom. If you would rather have professional representation for your case, call our family law practice in Orlando for professional counsel. We are here to represent your best interests.