Do I Have to Talk when I Go to Court?

TV gives us a strange idea about how things go in court.

Almost every time people go to court on a TV show, they’re at trial, so they’re someone on the witness stand answering questions.

Problem is only about 1%–2% of divorce cases ever go to trial, so there aren’t a lot of people actually sitting on the witness stand answering questions.

In fact, the majority of Utah divorce cases never see the inside of a courtroom. Most are done either by default (the other person doesn’t respond to the Divorce Complaint) or by mediation.

When people do go to court, it’s usually for something like temporary orders.

If you represent yourself at a hearing, then you will need to talk to the commissioner or judge.

You’ll need to tell the court what you’re asking for and the evidence you’re basing request on. The court will ask you questions and you’ll need to answer them. If your ex is also representing himself/herself, you’ll need to respond to the arguments he/she makes during the hearing.

What you will not need to do is testify in the sense that you will be asked questions by an attorney.

In Utah, we call that “live testimony,” and it’s almost always reserved for trial.

During hearings, we take testimony by proffer, which means you speak your argument without the need of answering questions.

So, if you represent yourself, you will need to speak in court.

If you have an attorney, however, then you likely won’t speak at all.

Instead, your attorney will provide your testimony by proffer. That is, your attorney will make your arguments for you and say what you would have said — except in legalese.

If the judge has a question, you attorney will answer it.

Your attorney will also handle all objections and deal with everything the other side says during the hearing.

Honestly, this is why you hire an attorney. You want someone who’s been in court thousands of times working and talking on your behalf.

And then there’s trial.

If you make it to trial, you will have to testify. Your attorney will ask you questions (direct examination), and you will answer them.

Then your soon-to-be-ex’s attorney will ask you questions (cross examination), and you will need to answer.

Other than your testimony, though, your attorney will do the talking for you, unless asks you a question directly, which happens but not too often.

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