What to Expect at Trial in a Chicago Divorce

Going to trial can be a nerve-wracking experience. As Chicago divorce attorneys, we know first-hand clients are nervous and unsure of what to expect at trial if their divorce or family law case is headed to court. It is helpful to know a bit about what will happen to ease your anxiety. When you actually testify, there are a set of rules that your lawyer needs to abide by, and the more you understand about those rules, the easier it will be. Knowing something about the rules of evidence will be helpful.

What are the Rules of Evidence

Questioning Witnesses at Trial and Objections

Objection: Leading the Witness

Examples of leading questions are:

  • “Your name is Sue Smith, correct?” Instead of: What is your name?
  • “You live at 252 Livingston Court, right?” Instead of: Where do you live?

If you hear an objection for “leading” from the other lawyer, they are complaining about how the question is asked. Your lawyer is not allowed to “lead” you but must ask a non-leading question.

OBJECTION: Foundation

When answering a question, think about when the event happened that you are testifying about, who was there, and where it happened before telling the court what happened.

OBJECTION: Relevance

OBJECTION: Character

There are circumstances where a person’s character is relevant, but for the most part in family court, bringing evidence about how good or how bad someone is not important.

OBJECTION: Beyond the Scope

If the first lawyer only asks the witness questions about parenting styles and the children, then the other lawyer can only ask questions about parenting styles and the children. The second lawyer cannot veer off and start asking questions about money for instance during cross-examination. To do so would be “beyond the scope” or “outside the scope” of the direct examination. The judge should sustain an objection that is raised.

OBJECTION: Hearsay

Keep in mind that when you testify, it can only be about things within your personal knowledge. You cannot testify about things that happened or things that were said if you were not there.

OBJECTION: Best Evidence

OBJECTION: Authentication

If you are trying to introduce bank statements, for instance, someone needs to testify that these are in fact the bank statements belonging to a party in the case. A banker could be called as a witness to authenticate this type of document. An accountant could be the witness to authenticate a profit and loss statement for a business. I rarely see this objection anymore since there is a strong leaning from the judge to stipulate to these types of documents. If there is an issue about the truth of a document though, and what it purports to be, a lawyer could be subject to this type of objection.

OBJECTION: Settlement Negotiations

No one would offer to take less money to get the case over with if they knew that the lawyer would ask them, “isn’t it true that in the conference room you agreed to take $100 less in child support?” These are discussions designed to settle the case and cannot be used against you. An objection will be raised if the opposing attorney tries to use it against you. One should always be allowed to attempt settlement without worrying that it will hurt you later.

Understand Objections and You’ll Be Prepared at Trial

THIS ARTICLE WAS PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED AT: https://illinoislawforyou.com/divorce-litigation/what-to-expect-at-trial-chicago-divorce/

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