Preparing Your Case & Gathe Other Evidence
It helps to have an idea of what is important, what is admissible, what is legal with respect to preparing your case of divorce or child custody. Emails & text messages are usually full of pertinent information and should be high on the list. Although text messages should be formatted in a form that is easier to comprehend, some courts will allow them to be submitted in their original context. Correspondence from caretakers, therapists, etc. are also particularly important and given considerable weight when appearing before the court. Some third party correspondence is subject to hearsay rules however, and may be rejected on that basis. Reports from doctors and other related professionals are also considered “material” to issues surrounding custody or divorce.
Better to Overdo it than Not
Typically, the first appearance is for foundational purposes only. The court is going to spend time getting a clear understanding of the issues that are relevant to the case. It is best to bring all documents, texts, photos, etc. even though the chances of the court actually reviewing them are slim. These things are more appropriate for settlement conference, mediations or court hearing/trial but do serve a purpose at the initial appearance. Having all of these will help you to narrow down what is most relevant to the case from the court’s perspective, which in turn guides you through the overall process.
Prioritizing Your Evidence
Background information is not as important as you think. When preparing materials start with the decision you want the judge to make and provide only the information that will help the judge get to that decision. You should have an idea of exactly what you want the judge to rule on, which should include an alternative or second choice. You do not need to disclose these to the court or your adversary but have an idea of what the other favorable options look like.
In addition, include things that can dispute your adversary’s position. These documents, evidence, etc. should certainly be ranked according to how “strong” their evidence is but the important thing is to not overlook their importance.
To keep things simple and easy for your judge to read, your documentation should clearly answer three questions:
- What’s the issue to be decided?
- What’s the result you are looking for?
- Why should you get it?
Some background is often needed, but too much of it clouds the most important & relevant questions. Sticking to the relevant facts that support your desired outcome tells the judge you are a focused & organized and that she/he should pay attention to you. The more time you spend on things unrelated to your end goal, the more it seems that you do not know exactly what you want or why you deserve it.
Keep your documents brief and to the point. Otherwise, it is like not knowing where you want to go. And in that case, you may end up somewhere else.