The stress and emotions of a divorce or custody disagreement can cause a party to feel compelled to testify about issues that may not be prudent or admissible in court. Whether the rules of court do not permit your testimony regarding certain subjects or issues, or your attorney prefers that you do not testify about them, some things may be better left unsaid. This blog discusses what can be testified to at trial and what might be better to leave out.
The Indiana Rules of Evidence govern the admissibility of any type of evidence, including testimonial evidence. Under the Rules, evidence must first be relevant in order to be admissible. Evidence is relevant if “(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and (b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.” In plain English, if your testimony is about some fact that will help the judge decide whether or not that fact is true, and ultimately make a final determination in your case, then you can testify to it at trial. However, even relevant testimony that is repetitive of other evidence or that will simply confuse the issues is inadmissible and you cannot offer such testimony at trial.
In family law cases, it is character evidence a party commonly wishes to testify to, that may be considered inadmissible by the court, or simply ill advised by their attorney. Evidence regarding a person’s personality or character traits is not admissible to prove that on a specific occasion the person acted in accordance with those traits. So, for example, testimony regarding the many times that your spouse or child’s other parent lied, is not admissible to prove that they lied about a particular incident or on a specific occasion. Attempting to present this testimony can not only confuse the issues but waste the court's time and potentially cause unforeseen legal consequences adverse to your case.
Inadmissible evidence also includes settlement negotiations and offers, issues about which the witness has no personal knowledge, and statements considered to be hearsay. Hearsay is defined as an out of court statement, repeated in court, to establish the truth of the matter contained in the statement. While there are several exceptions to the rule against hearsay, outlined in rules 803 and 804 of the Indiana Rules of Evidence, these exceptions, as well as all the Rules of Evidence, can be complex and require the interpretation and experience of a seasoned family law attorney.
Your testimony at trial may be one of the most important pieces of evidence you can present to the court. If your testimony is not admissible, it will not be considered in making a final determination in your case. The expert attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. can help you present your best and most relevant evidence at trial.
This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.