How to Prepare to Testify as Witness in a Trial
If you are ever asked or summoned to testify as a witness in a trial, you may be nervous and unsure of what to expect. What you see on television is not what it is like in real life. In cases where your family or property is at stake—like a divorce or custody case—testifying is far too important to be unprepared.
At Wasserman Family Law, we want our clients and any witnesses to feel as comfortable and confident as possible when testifying at a trial. Here is more information about being a witness and how you can prepare to testify as a witness in a trial.
The Witness’ Role in Trial
A witness is a person who has heard or seen something concerning a case being tried before a judge in court. In a trial, the witness shares their first-hand experience in hopes of providing further evidence for or against a person’s case. Attorneys for both parties can and will ask the witness questions.
Unless you are a party to the case, you may be asked to wait out in the hallway prior to testifying. Once it is your turn, you will be called into the courtroom to take the stand. As a witness, you are asked to swear an oath before the Court that you will be testifying truthfully.
How to Prepare to Testify as Witness
If you have been asked or summoned to testify as a witness in a trial, here are some tips to help you prepare:
Prepare to Answer the Questions. The attorney who requested or summoned you to testify will prepare a list of questions that they may ask you during the trial. They will give you the questions as they prepare for trial, so you are not surprised in the courtroom. The attorney requesting that you appear may wish to interview you first and practice asking and answering the questions you will hear at trial. Even with this preparation, you cannot have your prepared questions and answers with you when you testify in Court. You must only answer each question honestly and to the best of your recollection. And if you cannot recall, you should say so as opposed to guessing the answer.
Ask Questions. If you have questions about your role, the questions you will be asked, or anything related to the trial, ask the attorney who requested you appear. Just be mindful that the attorney is preparing to build a case for their client and all questions should be asked before the actual trial. You cannot ask questions of the attorney while you are testifying unless you do not understand.
Dress Appropriately. Please dress conservatively and respectfully. We recommend choosing business formal attire, or something you would wear to a professional interview. The Court is judging your appearance, demeanor, and credibility. All of these factors play into whether or not the Court should rely on your testimony.
Be Professional. Trials are very official and formal affairs. Please be respectful of the process and the rules while in the courtroom. Speak only when you are prompted to, and always be polite. This is not the time for jokes, sarcasm, or witty banter.
Take Your Time. The attorneys for both parties will ask questions and you will have the opportunity to answer them fully. Please listen to their questions carefully and wait until they are finished to answer them. Then, take your time with your response. There is no rush to answer. And if you do not know or have an answer, do not force one. Simply answer with, “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember.”
Relax. We understand that being in a courtroom can be unfamiliar and intimidating. Just remember that you are there to answer questions honestly and have nothing else to worry about.
Be honest. Our legal system is upheld by the truth. Without the truth, we negate everything that the law works towards. Please speak as honestly as you can before the Court.
We hope you find these tips useful as you prepare to testify as a witness in a trial. If you have any questions, please contact Laurie Wasserman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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