Many of those who face divorce understand they may be asked to explain their side of a certain issue – parenting, perhaps, or how a family business was run. Fewer are mindful that other witnesses may testify in court during divorce hearings. The concept of witnesses seems foreign to many of those who are getting divorced, but it is quite common.
In divorces in which child custody issues are being disputed, the court may wish to hear from witnesses for both parents. Someone who knows you well and can testify to your moral character can be an important element in resolving a custody dispute, especially if your character and sense of responsibility are being questioned.
In addition, child psychology experts, teachers, coaches or others who work with children can be called as witnesses to help explain why structuring a parenting plan a certain way is in the best interest of the child. A guardian ad litem is an attorney who is often appointed by the court to investigate the child’s situation and make recommendations that are in the child’s best interests.
A judge may even ask a child to testify in a divorce to gain clarity on issues, though the testimony may be done in the judge’s chambers to protect the child emotionally.
Testifying about finances
If there is a dispute regarding the value of a family-owned business or extensive financial holdings, your lawyer or the court may determine it is important to hear from one or more financial experts. Sometimes, one party wishes to shield assets or undervalue illiquid assets such as a business in order to gain the upper hand in property division. Hiring experts to evaluate the financial holdings and testify in the divorce protects against this.
In some situations, a witness may be reluctant to testify or unavailable. For instance, an accountant for a family business may resist testifying if that person is aware that financial documents for the business have been falsified. It may be possible to subpoena a witness, though that person may also be able to exercise their fifth-amendment right to not incriminate themselves in criminal activity.
A knowledgeable family law attorney will address the prospect of witnesses that may be necessary early in the development of a divorce. Of course, it is usually beneficial for parties to reach agreement on issues such as custody and property division through negotiation instead of litigation. This allows both parties to retain more control over the outcome while working toward a compromise.