Do Character Witnesses Matter in Family Law Cases?
When preparing to go before the judge, you may wonder if character witnesses matter in family law cases. Although in some instances they may add clarity or corroboration to facts presented by one of the parties, they rarely determine the outcome.
There are several cases that family court hears, including but not limited to adoption, child custody, divorce, domestic violence, guardianship, and juvenile infractions. Expert witnesses like doctors, mental health professionals, and teachers often play an essential part in these cases.
When someone is called as a character witness in these types of actions, however, that person is almost certainly biased in favor of the party that called them. Therefore, they are likely to list their attributes and claim that they are a good person. This doesn’t hold the weight that the testimony of an expert witness does. By consulting with child custody lawyers from Masterson Law, you can determine what kind of witnesses you should call and what the goal for their testimony will be.
Introducing Character Witnesses in Divorce Cases
Many people choose to include character witnesses in their divorce cases to testify about their personality and ethical fitness. Often, they have specific character witnesses in mind before they meet with their family law attorney.
Parties often believe that the most helpful witnesses to testify in their case are their family members. Unfortunately, a mother and father, siblings, and good friends are generally seen as biased with their own personal motive, and their testimony in a family law matter isn’t given much weight.
Plus, in some jurisdictions, family members aren’t allowed to serve as character witnesses in a custody or divorce case. In those jurisdictions, the only witnesses a court allows are associates, colleagues, or friends who have information about the party’s personal qualities. Your legal advisor can help you choose the right witnesses.
What Happens at a Family Law Trial
To prepare for court, it would behoove you to review what happens at a family law trial. In optimal separations, individuals agree on all aspects together, including custody and property division. This enables them to file an uncontested divorce. When they cannot agree, the judge decides these things in a trial.
In a contested divorce, each party presents evidence and introduces witnesses to support their proposed parenting plan as the better option. Elements usually include child support and living arrangements.
In a trial, each parent argues for the parenting plan, residential schedule, and child support payment they want. After the attorney summarizes the pertinent facts testified, the judge considers the evidence and makes a determination, which becomes the court order.
Choosing and Using Witnesses in Divorce Trials
It’s important to deliberate before choosing and using witnesses in divorce trials. Your lawyer will encourage the use of people who are credible and knowledgeable about your life. By telling a story about how you dealt with a problem like disciplinary issues, your witness will sway the judge much more subtly than merely listing off your favorable traits.
A law firm may suggest introducing several types of witnesses in your divorce or custody case. These include:
- Character witnesses
- Fact witnesses
- Persuasive witnesses
- Unbiased witnesses
Character witnesses are generally provided by friends, reputable community members, or clergy members in an attempt to show that someone has good character. A fact witness can provide verifiably accurate information, such as dates, locations, and times that particular events occurred. This may include more persuasive witnesses like the kids’ doctors and other unbiased witnesses.
Character Witness Questions for Child Custody
When laying the groundwork for your case, your lawyer will help prepare character witness questions for child custody. To improve the outcome, family & divorce lawyers will discuss the goals for the case and equip witnesses with an understanding of their role on the stand and what types of questions they will be asked.
Generally, they will only ask the witness about aspects of their friend’s or family member’s life with which they are familiar. Since the judge will assume that your witness believes and wants to express that you are a moral person, they will be more interested in hearing details about how you interact with the person you are divorcing, your child, and society. These details can be reinforced in the closing argument.
Your lawyer will inform them that the other opposing counselor may ask them about parts that they are unfamiliar with. If that happens, the witness can respond that they are unqualified to answer that.
FAQs on Family Law Cases
In MO, divorces are either uncontested or contested, and a skilled attorney can provide helpful answers to FAQs on family law cases to assist you in preparing for court.
Uncontested Divorce in Missouri Family Law Cases
Uncontested divorces are generally much less expensive and time-consuming than contested divorces. Since you and your spouse agree on the majority of the aspects like child custody and distribution of property, you can co-petition for divorce. The judge reviews the petition, and if it is approved, it becomes part of the Judgment and Decree of Dissolution.
Contested Divorce in Missouri Family Law Cases
If you and your spouse can’t agree on key issues of your separation, it usually becomes a contested divorce. These divorces take longer and cost more. To speed the process, an experienced lawyer may recommend Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as an alternative to fighting it out in the Missouri Family Court system. This method is beneficial when a divorcing couple has children.
Your lawyer may represent you in mediation or work with a group of professionals, including doctors, counselors, and financial advisors, to reach agreeable terms for filing a collaborative divorce.
Types of Child Custody in Family Law Cases
There are four types of child custody granted in the state of Missouri: legal, physical, sole, and joint. Legal custody determines decision-making regarding the child’s well-being regardless of which parent has physical custody of the child. If only one parent has legal and physical custody, they are known to have sole custody, which is typically granted due to mitigating circumstances.
Most courts encourage joint custody as being optimal for the child. This enables both parents to influence the children and make critical decisions on their behalf. The right witness can provide an example to help a judge make a fair ruling in a divorce child custody hearing.
Obtaining a Family Law Attorney
Your family law attorney can advise you about who would make a great character witness. By telling positive stories where you are painted as a person with integrity, your corroborator will show that you are a loving and capable parent. This allows your legal representative to prove that you are ethical without actually stating it.
Ultimately, your conduct in court will be the most persuasive method for indicating what type of person you are and will influence how the judge will rule. Before taking your case to court, contact Masterson Law for a consultation and superb legal advice.