When you are representing yourself in family court & presenting evidence, do you get on the stand & ask & answer questions to yourself?
A lot of people representing themselves have this question. They wonder, since they are representing themselves in their own family law case, how it is that they conduct a direct examination of themselves when presenting their case. In other words do does she have to ask yourself a question and then answer it? Or is there some way that you can present the evidence to the judge to get your points across.
The answer is that you don't necessarily have to sit there and ask yourself a question and then answer. What I have always seen is people getting on the stand and testifying in a narrative format about whatever it is that they want the judge to hear.
Now this sounds like it would be easy right? Well it is, IF you are organized. Getting organized means preparing the areas that you want to address with the court in advance of your family law trial. It actually starts at the very beginning of the case. When I'm coaching clients and people who are representing themselves in family court, the first thing that I tell them to do at the very beginning of their case is to get clear of what it is that they want.
Whether it is sole decision making or joint decision making or sole custody or joint custody...what sort of parenting time arrangement that they want, the child support orders that they want...if there's issues over division of property in debt...What is it that they want?
Once you are clear on whatever your goals are for the case then you start to build that case around those goals and it's really going to help you when it comes time for trial. Because when you are trying to figure out what you need to present to the judge at the top of the list is you have to center all of your presentation of the evidence and the testimony around your goals.
So your goals are actually your main areas and you organize everything according to those main areas. So say for example you are asking for sole custody or sole decision making in your case. Under that major area when you are on the stand you have to be sure and talk with the judge about all the reasons why you think sole custody or sole decision making is in your children's best interest.
So under the heading of 'custody' you bullet point all of those areas along with the evidence that you're going to present or that you're going to try to admit as evidence in support of your position. So, I, to this day after practicing law for about 20 years and doing family law for 17 years, I still outline all of my direct examinations of my witnesses. But I even go further than that. I read out the actual questions that I'm going to ask each witness.
So, although you are not going to be asking yourself a question, get prepared by acting like you're going to ask yourself the questions on the stand. Write out the questions and then visualize the answers that you want to give the judge in the courtroom. Have your notes with you. Study your notes. The judge is not going to let you read from those notes while you're on the stand but if you forget to hit a point or forget what you're going to say, if you tell the judge that you need to refresh your recollection, the judge should let you look at your notes.
So that is the long answer but the short answer is no your'e not going to ask yourself and then answer the question while on the stand.