DEMYSTIFYING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AT FINAL HEARING AND WHAT TO DO AS A WITNESS ON THE STAND
Few people involved in family law proceedings actually end up in the witness box but when they do, the experiences can be incredibly daunting and unfamiliar. Shedding light on the process and what you can do to prepare helps you to feel more comfortable within the hearing and the possibility of being called to give evidence.
Experienced barrister, Mr Giles Stapleton, of 9 Selborne Chambers, shares his tips and recommendations on being a witness, an ideal client and surviving a day (or several) in a Court hearing with www.DivorceAnswered.com.au.
Briefing the barrister. Your barrister is only as good as the briefing s/he is given before preparing for the hearing by your lawyer. It is crucial that preparation isn’t skimped on and that the process is meticulous and thorough.
Your lawyer should provide all relevant information to your barrister so s/he can prepare, formulate arguments and present the facts of your case in a way that works in your favour.
Mr Stapleton outlines the briefing and preparation process as follows:
Preparing yourself for court. Minimising distractions while at court are a must. If you are there, you need to be able to focus on the task at hand, pay attention and bring any issues, questions or inconsistencies to your legal team’s attention. Mr Stapleton suggests:
The witness stand can be a daunting and confronting place to sit. It is wise to think about these guides:
Qualities that make up a great witness include:
• A person who is intent on telling the truth in direct response to the questions rather than telling their story in answer to a question that did not ask for that;
• Making concessions that do not reflect favourably on you if that is truthful because then the Judge is more likely to believe you when you tell the truth about something positive for your case
As a client, you can make your barrister’s job easier by:
• Being upfront and honest about unpleasant allegations of the other side so a strategy can be developed to present the truth in the least damaging light
• Being truthful, open and honest including by saying you can’t recall something if that is true, rather than being tempted to make something up to make the story sound better or not as bad
“A successful outcome for you, as the client, may be creating sufficient doubt in the Judge’s mind about the other parties’ unpleasant claims, reducing the impact of the more difficult parts of your own case, exposing lies and deceit of the other party or simply proving your position to be true ,” explains Mr Stapleton.
Ultimately, the end result lies with the Judge and their interpretation of the law and evidence presented. All that you can do is focus on is the evidence and presenting yourself in a clear and honest manner.
Mr Giles Stapleton is a barrister at 9 Selborne Chambers, Sydney. His family law practice is mainly property cases with increasing focus of parties to a marriage against third party creditors and trustees. He acts in both the NSW Supreme Court and Family law Courts throughout Australia. He also accepts difficult parenting briefs and matters. Contact Mr Stapleton on email@example.com or 02 9233 5188.
Related article: How to feel empowered at final hearing