RMB Articles

Witnesses in the Family Court

Posted 29-02-2016
Written by admin 101
Category Family Law

Witnesses often play a vital role in Family Court proceedings, when they called to present to the Court their version of events relating to factual disputes in a matter.

Because Family Court matters are often highly emotional and personal, it is important that witnesses clearly understand their role and responsibilities, as well as the role and responsibilities of the lawyers involved.

Firstly, they must accept that the evidence they present will be disputed by the other side in cross examination.

Cross examination is regarded as the most difficult part of being a witness, as the witness is unlikely to know what questions the opposing lawyer will ask. The less witnesses are persuaded by opposing lawyers, the more weight the Court will place upon their evidence.

For this reason Witnesses often play a vital role in Family Court proceedings, when they called to present to the Court their version of events relating to factual disputes in a matter. Witnesses often play a vital role in Family Court proceedings, when they called to present to the Court their version of events relating to factual disputes in a matter.

Because Family Court matters are often highly emotional and personal, it is important that witnesses clearly understand their role and responsibilities, as well as the role and responsibilities of the lawyers involved.

Firstly, they must accept that the evidence they present will be disputed by the other side in cross examination.

Cross examination is regarded as the most difficult part of being a witness, as the

Because Family Court matters are often highly emotional and personal, it is important that witnesses clearly understand their role and responsibilities, as well as the role and responsibilities of the lawyers involved.

Firstly, they must accept that the evidence they present will be disputed by the other side in cross examination. It is critical that witness are well prepared for cross examination and understand the purpose of the process before they are called.

Cross examination is not a forum for a witness to argue with the opposing lawyer, argue the merits of the case or to air inner feelings or grievances. Likewise, it is not the place for a witness to attempt to outsmart the other side or Court, or prove that the other side is lying.

Witnesses should do their best to stick to the facts, keep all emotion out of their testimony and not attempt to justify their actions when cross examined.

Perhaps most importantly, they should understand that the lawyer questioning their evidence is not personally attacking them, but rather arguing their client's case.

So how can a witness ensure the evidence they give does not lose credibility during cross examination? This is straightforward and is reflected by the affirmation they will take upon being called to the witness box – to always tell the truth and the whole truth. However, the requirement to tell the truth must be balanced with the golden rule of being as brief as possible when answering questions during cross examination.

Witnesses should be accurate and to the point. They may feel that by including additional detail in their responses they will be helping the case, however this additional information will invariably be used against them through further questions arising.

In fact, witnesses should whenever possible answer opposing questioning with a yes or no response. They will have an opportunity to present additional explanations if necessary during re-examination by their side's lawyer.

Finally, witnesses should stick to topics they have mentioned in their affidavit. Cross examination is not a memory test – a witness can ask to see their affidavit during cross examination, and this request will often be granted.

If you, your family or friends wish to enquire about a similar circumstance, please email us on our "Ask Us a Question" feature or call (02) 4228 8288 to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers.