Who May Testify?

Generally, there are three types of witnesses in divorce or post-divorce cases.....

Three Types of Witnesses in Divorce or Post-Divorce Cases

As you begin the divorce process, or if you find yourself in a post-divorce modification or enforcement proceeding, you may be wondering, “who will testify on my behalf if my case goes to trial?”  In litigation, there are three types of witnesses that could testify in your case: expert witnesses, character witnesses, and lay witnesses.

The Use of Expert Witnesses in Divorce or Post-Divorce Cases

In Alabama, if scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trial court in understanding an issue or certain evidence, a witness who is qualified as an expert by special knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify about that matter and offer an opinion as to that issue or certain evidence.  In other words, expert witnesses give an “expert opinion” on a matter in which they are qualified to do so. There are numerous types of experts who could be called in a divorce or post-divorce case. For instance, a valuation expert could testify as to the value of the parties’ assets, an accountant could testify as to the parties’ tax issues and/or tax ramifications, a business valuator could testify as to the value of a party’s interest in a business, a doctor could testify as to one of the parties’ physical health, and a mental health professional could testify regarding certain mental health issues one party may have.  Expert witnesses typically require payment for their services, and experts work closely with the client’s attorney on the matter or issue in which they are employed to provide their knowledge and expertise.

The Use of Character Witnesses in Divorce or Post-Divorce Cases

In litigation, usually the character, judgment, abilities, and/or the actions of a party or both parties are questioned or scrutinized. Character witnesses are those who possess some relevant information that reflect on a party’s character, judgment, abilities, and/or actions.  For example, if custody of a child is in question, a character witness may be called to testify about one of the party’s actions or character, which in some way reflects positively or negatively on that party’s ability to parent.  A character witness can also testify about a party’s moral conduct and reputation within the community, which may include friends, a co-worker, a boss, a pastor, or neighbors.

The Use of Lay Witnesses in Divorce or Post-Divorce Cases

The most common type of witnesses in a divorce or post-divorce case is a lay witness. Lay witnesses are just ordinary people who are not testifying as an expert or about the character of a party that may be at issue. Lay witnesses convey facts and personal opinions and, therefore, must have personal knowledge about the subject matter of which they are testifying.  Often, lay witnesses witnessed a particular event and are called to testify about that event.  For instance, in a case in which one spouse hit the other while in the driveway at their residence, the neighbor across the street who witnessed the incident could testify as a lay witness about what they saw.

Whether you are a litigant in a divorce action or, instead, find yourself in a post-divorce modification or enforcement proceeding, it is important to discuss with your attorney the value and importance of witnesses who can provide relevant information to the court that will benefit your case.

Consultation with An Alabama Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Should you wish to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at Boyd, Fernambucq & Dunn, P.C. in to discuss a divorce or post-divorce modification or enforcement action, please contact us here in order to set an appointment with the attorney of your preference.

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