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Opening and Closing Arguments

Representing yourself is a substantial endeavor. It is helpful to have some practice tips. Every case is presented in some form by an opening and closing argument. The opening argument provides the Court a roadmap of your case and identifies what evidence will be presented to support it. The closing summarizes the case and the evidence that has been presented. Often in family cases, the Joint Trial Management Certificate functions as an opening argument. It is important to prepared your theory of the case early on.

Keep in mind when planning your evidence that not all information will be admissible. The evidence must be relevant, reliable and authentic. You will need to identify and separate the emotionally relevant from the legally relevant. This is a challenge for self-represented litigants without training in the law. It is important also to be prepared to respond to the opposing party’s objections involving the admissibility of evidence. In family court, typically your evidence will be included in evidence binders. The Court and witness will view the same binder that you and the opposing party have so everyone sees that same evidence at the same time as you discuss the evidence.

Opening Arguments

The opening argument is your roadmap and in family cases it sets forth:

  • The nature of the matter
  • Facts about the family involved
  • Identification of legal issues
  • Identification of facts in dispute
  • What evidence will be presented
  • The outcome that is sought

There are certain things that can not be done in an opening argument such as:

  • Argue the case
  • Reference a matter precluded from admissibility by order
  • Reference confidential settlement negotiations
  • Stating facts that will not be established by evidence
Closing Argument

Now it is time to summarize the evidence that has been presented at trial and explain how the evidence comes together to prove the case. It is helpful to be consistent with the opening, however there are times where evidence that was expected to be admitted is not admitted or witnesses testify differently than expected, and you may need to adjust your anticipated closing. Discuss evidence submitted by the opposing party if it is helpful to your case. Be clear with the Court about the remedy that you seek. In family law cases, the Court can ask questions as well.

Trial Preparation Tips
  • Clearly define the factual and legal issues
  • Develop a coherent theme
  • Present evidence that supports your theme
  • Be respectful to everyone
Post-Trial

An order will have to be issued that sets forth the decision. The side that prepares a proposed order must submit it to the other side for review prior to submission to the Court. The other side can make objections to the proposed order.

Appeal

If the Court has made erroneous factual or legal findings, you may decide to appeal. The notice of appeal must be filed within 49 days from entry of the order, judgment or decree. Appeals are time-consuming and focus on the factual or legal errors. They are not appropriate in cases where there are no factual or legal errors and only dissatisfaction with the decision.

Is it time to turn change into opportunity? At Janko Law and Mediation, LLC we know how to work with you to reach your litigation goals. We are committed to assisting you with pursuing settlement to preserve family relations to the maximum extent possible, however also can advise on representing your interests in contested litigation if desired or necessary. Give us a call for a complimentary case assessment at 303-210-4204, or fill out our confidential online intake form.

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