Are character witnesses important in family law cases?


5866771_SExpert witnesses play an important role in family law and divorce cases.  This naturally leads to a discussion about character witnesses.  Do character witnesses help in a divorce, child custody or family law matter?  Do they make a difference?  This is an important question worthy of a discussion. Often, parties come to their divorce or family law attorney with the proposal that they call character witnesses.

The most common character witnesses commonly proposed by parties are friends and family members.  Parties often think it might be helpful to have their mother, father, sibling, other relative or friend come into court to testify that they are a great person, that they have great character, etc.
The reality is that bringing somebody in to simply testify to matters of character, on a surface level, is rarely persuasive.  Obviously, a friend or family member is going to say great things about you.  Any skilled attorney on the other side will likely try to attack these witnesses as being biased (blood is thicker than water attack) or having their own personal motive. Versus character witnesses, it is often wise to think about fact witnesses that might have something important to say.

Instead of having a friend or family member testify about your character in a divorce or family law matterhaving them tell a story as a fact witness about a pertinent fact often might be of use.  Often, friends and family members can testify as to what they’ve seen somebody do as a parent in a custody case for example. Even when this takes place, these witnesses can still be attacked as being biased.  Thus, think about some more persuasive witnesses that can help like school teachers, the kids’ doctors, coaches of sporting teams, members of the same club or church, and other unbiased witnesses, etc., who have seen a party in action as a parent or spouse.

These witnesses, when used correctly, aren’t testifying outright as to the character of a party.  Instead, they are telling stories based on what they’ve seen with their own eyes or heard with their own ears.  A judge often listens to these stories and does come to a positive conclusion about the character of a party without the ultimate question even being asked: “Do you think Mom/Dad is a parent of good character?” For example, take a moment where a coach of a team tells a story about a specific instance that comes to mind where one parent illustrates good parenting skills.  Or, take a moment where a doctor or school teacher testifies about another story where good parenting is illustrated.

Stories like these can paint a positive picture as to the character of somebody that is often persuasive in trial without the summary question ever being asked.  That’s best saved for the closing argument when the attorney summarizes all the facts testified to in court

If you are going through a divorce or family law matter trial, Stange Law Firm, PC can help.  You can call us at 314-963-4700 or by going to St. Louis Divorce and Family Law Trial Attorneys.

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