Mary Beth Long, a Richmond, Virginia, family law attorney, publishes VA Family Law Blog and she offers the following helpful tips to witnesses testifying in family law cases:

you are headed to court, you should get prepared. Know where the court is located, where to park and what time to be there. Then arrive early. The best preparation is a meeting with your lawyer. In case you need a refresher on some of what that person probably told you, here are five basic suggestions:

(1) When you testify in court, never guess. Do not speculate. You would be amazed by how often I have seen people get themselves in trouble by trying to be accommodating and thus guessing at answers in court. Turn down those people-pleaser instincts. If you do not know the answer, say that and then button your lip.

(2) When in court, speak only when spoken to and when you are spoken to, answer only the question asked.  Resist the urge to tell the back story, the whole story or what happened right before that thing you were asked about. Judges lose patience and get bored, too. Make what you say count, do not waste the judge’s time. Also, rambling on will sometimes bring up facts that end up helping the other side. DOH!

(3) Never, ever curse or show agitation with gestures. No eye rolling or horrified looks. I used to think I did not have to tell people to watch their language and such but court can be VERY emotional. I have seen smart, educated people lose their cool and then lose the judge’s respect. Like the stockbroker who pounded the table and hissed a very nasty word that starts with a “c” as a description for a witness. The judge actually dropped his pen. And then we lost. Do not let that happen to you.

(4) Unless your lawyer specifically instructs otherwise, dress like you are going to your grandfather’s funeral and your conservative grandmother will be there, watching and judging you. Easy on the jewelry for both men and women. Consider covering tattoos, piercings, etc. Do not look rich or flashy. Look respectful and serious. Like a funeral, court ain’t fun. Let the judge know you are taking it seriously with your attire.

(5) Get with your lawyer ahead of court and prepare! If your counsel does not set an appointment for you to come into their office and prepare in the weeks before trial, then call them! Prep is everything. Get your lawyer to explain what the courtroom layout will look like, where you will sit and who will be there. Ask what kinds of questions you should expect from your lawyer and from the other side. And remember that you are the chief information provider to your attorney. If there is anything you have not told them, tell them BEFORE court.

And good luck.

SOURCE: VA Family Law Blog