By: Jessica A. Bryant
One question every person in the middle of a Court case faces at some point or another, whether in a divorce case, custody case, or other Colorado family law related matter, is “How do I prove my argument to the Court?”
You may have a winning argument, but if your proof is not submitted to the Court in a way the Court can accept it, it may be meaningless. It is not always as simple as giving a document to the Court and asking them to read it. The Court is restricted by many evidence rules which limit what it can and cannot look at. In order to make sure you have the best chance at Court, it is important for you to be aware of such rules so you can make sure to provide your information to the Court in a way the Court can look at it and consider it before entering the final orders. These rules are uniform throughout the state and apply whether you have a Douglas County custody case or a divorce in Arapahoe County.
Here are a few common types of evidence parties in family law cases have and the steps their attorneys will take to present them to the Court:
- Statements made by the children- Many parties in custody cases feel their children have important information to share with the Court.
- Ways to present the evidence: The best way to submit the children’s thoughts, feelings, wishes, etc. to the Court is through an expert witness. You can request that the Court appoint a Child and Family Investigator or Parental Responsibilities Evaluator or, if the child is already seeing a therapist, that individual can also be listed as a witness. In some circumstances, depending on the age of the child, you can also request that the Court interview the child in chambers.
- Avoid trying to introduce a statement written by the child or just relying on being able to repeat statements the child has made to you. This is known as hearsay and, absent specific circumstances, the Court cannot accept this type of evidence
- Police reports- The best way to ensure a police report will be reviewed by the Court as evidence is to have the police officer who wrote the report present to testify. If you simply try to hand the report to the Court, without the witness being present, the Court could consider the report hearsay, and refuse to consider it. The Court could also have questions about the reliability of the document so, if it contains important information that the Court needs to know, you should have the officer present to testify.
- Text Messages- If the other party has said something in a text message that you believe supports your argument, you should save the text message immediately (the easiest way is to take a screen shot and email it to yourself) so you do not risk losing it in the future. This screen shot image can then be introduced as an exhibit at a future hearing. It is also helpful to save the entire conversation. If you only save a portion of the conversation, the Court could refuse to consider it if it is considered to be incomplete. If it is a text message from someone not part of the case, though, you need to have that person listed as a witness and present to testify- the Court cannot just read a statement (including a text message) from that person, if they are not present at the hearing.
- Voice Recordings- If you are going to use a recording (voicemail, video, etc.) of the other party, make sure you have it saved and bring it to Court in a format the Court can keep (i.e., compact disc). It is also highly recommended to bring whatever is necessary to play the recording (laptop, CD player, etc.) to Court with you that day, because you never know if the Court will have the technology necessary to play the recording.
When it comes to submitting documentary proof to the Court, there are a lot of issues to consider, including whether a witness needs to be present to testify, what format the exhibit should be in, the deadlines for the exchange of such documents, etc. Therefore, it is always advisable that you consult with an experienced family law attorney who can assist you through the process and make sure the evidence is presented to the Court in a format they can accept so the Court can fully understand your argument/story.
Have questions about your unique case? Speak with a Denver family lawyer during a FREE phone consultation by calling (303) 781-0322. Plog & Stein, P.C. serves clients throughout Denver and surrounding metro counties.