Waving United States flag background and a picture of attorney Sabra Janko

Self-Represented Litigants and Trial Preparation – Part 2

Being a self-represented litigant is a challenge. No doubt about it. An evidentiary hearing or trial is where you are most likely to be disadvantaged because you are not familiar with the formal rules of evidence. Nothing in our daily lives prepares us to formally enter evidence as opposed to simply sharing what is happening in our lives conversationally with another. Here is an overview of what you can expect and some tips on how to prepare.

Types of Evidence

It is important to identify the evidence that exists to prove your case. The two most common types of evidence in family law cases are testimonial and documentary. Testimonial evidence is evidence offered by a lay witness with first-hand knowledge of events, or expert witnesses with technical expertise who can offer opinions. It is always best to subpoena all witnesses to help ensure that they will appear. Documentary evidence is comprised of documents such as receipts or sign-in logs. Foundations must be laid to admit documentary evidence to demonstrate that it is authentic and a fair representation of the original document.

Exhibits (Evidence)

Common types of evidence presented in domestic cases are:

  • Summaries (of children’s expenses extracted from bank statements, for example)
  • Sworn financial statements
  • Financial records
  • Bank statements
  • Checks
  • Credit card statements
  • Business records
  • Tax records
  • Photographs
  • Audio or video recordings
  • Social media postings
  • E-mails and text messages
  • Real estate documents
Organizing the Presentation

A great deal of thought should go into how evidence will be presented to support the theory of the case. There will be an opening (often presented in the Joint Trial Management Certificate in domestic cases), the presentation of evidence, the opportunity to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses, and the closing argument.

Creation of a Trial Notebook

A trial notebook keeps you organized. Relevant sections are as follows:

  • Opening statement
  • Closing argument
  • Pleadings
  • Law
  • Direct examination for all witnesses
  • Cross-examinations for all opposing witnesses
  • Petitioner’s exhibits
  • Respondent’s exhibits
  • Sworn financial statements
  • Miscellaneous such as:
    • Business valuation
    • Appraisals
    • Parental responsibilities evaluation or child and family investigator report
Direct and Cross Examination

A party presents testimonial evidence by conducting a direct examination of his or her own witnesses and conducting a cross-examination of the opposing parties’ witnesses. Examination is conducted by asking questions of the witness. It is important to plan direct examinations to provide evidence on all required elements to prove the case.

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. You can always hire an attorney as a coach to help you identify what evidence you should submit and how to submit it as well as the timelines and rules for disclosure to the other party. You don’t have to go it alone. If you also decide that you have taken on more than you want to handle alone, you can always transition to full representation. Give us a call for a complimentary case assessment at 303-210-4204, or fill out our confidential online intake form.

Contact Us for a Consultation
303-210-4204