Avoid fawning and subservient witnesses

Posted September 6th, 2016.

Categories: Child Custody, Custody Tips, Family Law.

overhelpful witnesses law offices of mark s guralnick

One way to weaken your case in Family Court is to call witnesses who will say anything at all to help you. Whether it’s loving family members or good friends and neighbors, witnesses who gush forth with only flattering things to say can often come off as being blindly supportive and therefore of little evidentiary value to the judge.

Courts tend to give higher marks for credibility to witnesses who recognize your flaws, witnesses who can honestly portray your positive and negative attributes. Even in the case of expert witnesses, testimony that paints a parent as being perfect in every respect often seems disingenuous and uninformed. It may leave the court with the impression that the witness was paid to make only positive statements about the parent.

In this blog, I have often commented on how important it is to build a list of witnesses, including friends and family, school teachers, counselors and coaches, parents of other children, church and community leaders and other valuable sources of information about the children and their parental relationships. But today, I caution you not to go overboard. Overly attentive, falsely flattering and openly obsequious witnesses can be just as bad as no witnesses at all.

Prepare your witnesses, before trial, to discuss what they see as your shortcomings. They should be prepared to discuss areas in which you can improve. “Bob’s not always punctual — that’s something he could work on — but he never misses any events involving his children.” OR “Kathy’s not the greatest record keeper — her desk is a mess — but she lives for her kids, and they’re the center of her universe.” By including some of the personal flaws in their testimony, witnesses will cast parents in a more credible light. And credibility can go a long way in maximizing your chances of success in a child custody case.

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