[I]f you don’t settle your divorce out of court, there will be at least two hearings (a temporary and a final hearing) from which you will be required to stand before a judge or jury and explain your case as to why you should be the primary custodian of your children. A judge or jury is going to make their final decision based on a number of elements: the best interest of your children, recommendations from case workers, evidence presented by yours and opposing attorneys, and testimony given by key witnesses. All these pieces are important, however let’s focus on that last one, subpoenaing key witnesses for your hearings.
Why Your Testimony Carries Little Weight
In the board game Stratego, the goal is to capture your opponents flag. To do so, you have an army of 30 pieces with numeric values and ranks assigned to them. You need all your pieces to win the game. Of course, you realize certain pieces carried more weight and rank than others.
[tweet “Your personal testimony in your custody case, carries little weight.”]
You would not be fighting for custody if you didn’t think you are the better parent, or at least better than your Ex. Your position is a given, otherwise you would not be involved in your custody case. Therefore in regards to your testimony, almost anybody else testimony carries more weight than yours.
Separating Witnesses from Key Witnesses
Using the Stratego analogy, the social worker assigned to your case carries significate rank. Johnny’s pediatrician or Susie’s principal, who can testify about favorable or unfavorable events observed, make them key witnesses. Your friends and family, that will testify that you are a super Dad, are important, but they are NOT key witnesses. NOTE: Their rank may still be greater than yours.
Before your first trial, you need to sit down with your attorney and write down all the witnesses you could potentially call in your child custody suit. Then you need to rank the witness that are key and how their testimony has value. Finally, you will need to have your attorney create subpoenas for these witnesses for the real date and time of the trial.
Subpoenaing Key Witnesses for Hearings
Your friends and family, and maybe even your co-workers will show up for your trial just by asking them to do so. They are in your court, so to speak, and will support you based on your relationship with them. This in and of itself shows that they are NOT key witnesses. For your key witnesses, your attorney will need to draft a summons that is served to the witness, pretty much mandating that they attend the hearing.
Life is busy and lots of schedules get in the way. Perhaps you may even need to create subpoenas for some of your friends, who will need a legal note or excused absence from work. Doctors, principals, case workers, and custody evaluators will not come to court and testify without a subpoena.
Do You Really Need this Person for Your Trial
Finally, talk with your attorney and make sure the date and intention is trial and testimony. Many court dates get reset, or are set to address the tiniest piece of a trial, child support enforcement, etc. Don’t subpoena your key witnesses unless you plan to have them testify that day.
Remember your trial is an interruption in their business, job and career. Keeping a principal in your court hallway is affecting hundreds of other students at school that day. Therefore call your key witnesses wisely. Key witnesses, can be the “Admirals” in your custody game that help you capture the flag of being the better custodial parent.
How have you effectively used key witnesses?
Featured image from the board game Statego.