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Evidentiary Objections For Self-Represented Litigants Article

Court hearing procedure is one of the hardest areas for unrepresented litigants to handle because the rules of evidence are not something that people learn in their daily lives. Hearings are common in domestic relations cases in the form of temporary and permanent orders hearings. Hearings can also be held in response to motions, such as motions to modify a child support or allocation of parental responsibilities order. Court procedure skills are developed during formal legal education, training and practice, rather than in everyday life.

One such procedural skill involves objecting to questions of the other party during direct examination in the course of a hearing. If a question is legally improper, it is possible to object to the question. If the objection is sustained, then the witness does not have to answer the question. If the objection is overruled, then the witness does have to answer the question. A person objects to a question by stating that he objects and stating the basis of the objection.

In the course of a hearing, one party questions another to elicit information and evidence in the course of a direct examination. Direct examination involves questioning one's own witnesses to present information to the court. The opposing party can then conduct cross-examination of the same witness in response to the direct examination. Cross examination may accomplish a variety of purposes to include highlighting inconsistent or untruthful statements.

There are several types of testimonial objections. Some common examples are:

Argumentative - This does not mean that the examiner is arguing with the witness, but rather that the examiner is asking the witness to agree with the examiner's conclusion. Unless a witness is an expert, then the witness should testify about facts, rather than conclusions.

Asked and Answered - If a question has already been asked and answered, then it does not need to be repeated.

Harassing The Witness - Questioning should be civil and the questioner should not provoke or mock the witness and should allow the witness to respond to the question. If the witness is not responding to the question asked, then the questioner can stop the answer short.

Beyond The Scope of Direct Examination - If the questioner is bringing up new issues in cross examination, that is not proper. Cross examination should be limited to the content of the direct examination and should not bring up new issues. A party can bring up his or her own issues in direct examination and should not use cross examination for that purpose.

Calls For a Conclusion - Generally lay witnesses should testify as to facts rather than opinions or conclusions. Expert witnesses can testify as to opinions and draw conclusions from data presented. There are some types of conclusions that are commonly presented in domestic relations cases by lay witnesses however, under somewhat relaxed application of the rules of evidence. For example, parents often testify about their opinion of the best interests of their children. Domestic relations courts are courts of equity and as such may relax evidentiary rules because the decisions involve matters such as the welfare of children.

Janko Law - Is it Time For a Change?

Divorce and family law matters are difficult to navigate alone. The court system is more complex than it should be. With offices in Colorado Springs and Denver, we can guide you through the experience by handling pleading and motion preparation and filing, negotiation, mediation, and court proceedings from start to finish. This allows you to focus on moving forward to a better future rather than on trying to figure out how the overly complex court system works. Remember that change often creates new opportunity and a better future. Janko Law can help ensure that your best interests are protected. Contact us at 720-780-0115 or complete our online form to set up a free thirty-minute informational consultation.

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