On Friday, Jan. 19, join me at the Domestic Relations Pro Se Clinic at the Arapahoe Courthouse II, if you are representing yourself in a family law case and have questions about procedures.
I will volunteer at the clinic from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Room 128, next to the Clerk’s Office.
Individuals will get 15 minutes with an attorney and assistance will be given on a first come, first served basis.
We will not provide legal advice, but will offer procedural information.
The courthouse is at 1790 W. Littleton Blvd. in Littleton.
There is a common observance among lawyers: In family law, the parents fight over the children; in elder law, the children fight over the parents.
Sadly, this is often true and can lead to costly litigation. What starts out as a dispute among siblings as to whether a parent should reside with one of them can end up being a court case. When that happens, our firm is there to represent a party who wants to make sure his or her interests are protected. Continue reading “Probation Litigation: Guardians, Conservators and Estate Issues”
Andersen Law PC does both unbundled representation of clients who do not have full-service attorneys and also full service representation where we are attorneys of record who do everything. Both scenarios involve cross-examination if a hearing happens.
With unbundled representation, you may choose to do a hearing by yourself without an attorney there to represent you.
But even with full service, you may have an attorney or the other party (usually your former spouse or partner) cross-examine you.
In both cases, there are rules, principles and tips to keep in mind.
A law professor named Irving Younger came up with ten commandments of cross-examination. They are a good place to start.
- BE BRIEF: When asking your questions, make your points and be done. You are limited to the matters raised during the direct examination, and there is no reason to repeat all of those issues. Choose the main ones that make a point about the PROOF YOU NEED TO PROVE YOUR CASE.One of the most common fallacies of law is that you will win your case if you “catch the other person in a lie.” Not necessarily. The court needs to look at all the elements of the legal issue and see how the facts fit into it. So, for example, if the court is trying to decide the best interests of the child, they want to know about factors like whether you both can spend time with the child and whether you both can put the child’s interests ahead of your own. If you catch the other party lying about whether they quit their job or were fired, the judge may not care as long as they are a great parent. On the other hand, it may affect child support if the person is saying they cannot find work. Different issues, different factors.
When responding to cross, be brief. “Yes.” “No.” “I don’t know.” “I don’t understand the question.” You can explain your answers later on redirect.
- USE SHORT QUESTIONS AND PLAIN WORDS: It helps if everyone understands what you are asking. In fact, whether cross-examining or answering, it is pretty easy to confuse yourself (as well as the judge and other people in the courtroom) if you go on too long in asking or answering questions.
- ALWAYS ASK LEADING QUESTIONS: A leading question is the opposite of an open-ended question. A leading question has the answer built into it. It does not give the witness any wiggle room to get out of the answer.Here are some leading questions. They are good for cross-examination (in fact, they are so good at leading the witness to the answer that you are NOT allowed to use them with your own sympathetic witnesses).
– You have not paid child support this month, isn’t that true?
– You sent the other parent five texts saying, “Never text me again.” Isn’t that correct?
– You did not appear at the last hearing, did you?
By contrast, open-ended questions start with who, what, where, which, when, how, why, explain, etc. While great for your own sympathetic witnesses, they are NOT good for cross-examination. They open the door to long-winded testimony and the witness wiggling out of what you want them to say.
– When did you last pay child support?
– How much child support did you pay?
– How often do you text the other party?
and, worst of all …
– Why did you do it?
- DON’T ASK A QUESTION TO WHICH YOU DO NOT KNOW THE ANSWER: I think this speaks for itself. Follow it. Do your homework BEFORE the hearing and not through a fishing expedition at hearing. You may not like what comes up at the end of your hook!
- LISTEN TO THE WITNESS’ ANSWERS: I take notes during the cross so I know what to use later and what to use in a closing argument. Don’t just read through your questions to get it over with. Pay attention. If you are representing yourself, you may want a person who is not a witness to sit in the courtroom (not at your table as that is not allowed) to take notes for you.
- DON’T QUARREL WITH THE WITNESS: Attorneys are accused of badgering if they do this. For non-attorneys, it does not help you and it wastes time. You are not allowed to testify as part of cross-examination. You are only there to ask good questions and live with the answers as they come. If it is not responsive, you can ask the judge to strike the answer as non-responsive. If the witness is being obnoxious and refusing to answer, you can ask the judge to instruct them to answer responsively. But arguing does not help.Especially in a domestic violence case where you are the accused or the victim, do not do this. It makes the accused look like a bully and it makes the victim look like a bully (not a victim) too. Courts definitely look at the behavior of parties when they act as their own attorney and cross-examine the other party. I have heard judges say that they find it very revealing.
As a witness, do not quarrel for the same reasons.
- DON’T ALLOW THE WITNESS TO REPEAT DIRECT TESTIMONY: Leading questions prevent this. And, as mentioned in No. 6 above, you can ask the court for help if the witness is not responsive.As a witness, you may want to touch on some direct testimony, but there is no need to waste a lot of time on it. You already made these points.
- DON’T ALLOW THE WITNESS TO EXPLAIN ANSWERS: Leading questions prevent this. And, as mentioned in No. 6 above, you can ask the court for help if the witness is not responsive.As a witness, remember that you can explain on redirect.
- DON’T ASK THE ‘ONE QUESTION TOO MANY’: This is law school trial advocacy 101. We all learn it in law school. Here is how it goes: You went to the house, didn’t you? You opened the front door, didn’t you? Yes. You picked up the revolver, didn’t you? Yes. You aimed it at him, isn’t that right? Yes. You pulled the trigger, didn’t you? Yes. He fell down, didn’t he? Yes. He was later pronounced dead, isn’t that right? Yes.Okay, that is enough. You asked just the right number of questions and leave it at that. Let the judge connect the dots and make the FINAL CONCLUSION. Do NOT ask the next question.
Oops, you didn’t listen. You just had to go on and ask ONE QUESTION TOO MANY: You killed him, didn’t you? NO. And now you opened the door to: he died later for another reason, he was already bleeding when I got there, I do not know why he died, I did not mean to kill him and I was defending myself, he was already on the floor when I got there, there were a lot of bullets flying and I am not sure, he was lunging at me — aaaugh! One question too many. Do not ask it.
A similar point for witnesses is not to open the door to new issues on cross. A good attorney may ask you something just to open the door to a new issue, knowing you will get defensive and go into a whole new topic. Be careful what you answer and what you volunteer on cross just as is done on direct.
- SAVE THE ULTIMATE POINT OF YOUR CROSS FOR YOUR SUMMATION:This goes hand in hand with not asking one question too many. Let the judge connect the dots and make the conclusion at the end. And you are going to help the judge do this, if closing statements are allowed, by emphasizing that conclusion based on the law at the end.As a witness, you also want to let the judge connect the dots. You do not need to testify to legal issues. It can get confusing when you are acting as your own attorney but remember that when you are on the witness stand, you are testifying to facts. When you open or close your case with a statement to the court, you are connecting the dots.
In parenting cases, I find it helpful if you keep a picture of your child or children on the stand with you during the other party’s cross-examination of you. Remember why you are there.
Good luck. Stay calm and do not lie, cloud the truth, curse, name call, get angry or be sarcastic. That never helps. The court is looking to see if you are reasonable. Acting reasonable during cross-examination is a great way to show that you are reasonable outside the courtroom as well.
For more information on how to handle cross-examinations, contact Andersen Law PC today at email@example.com or 720-922-3880.
When a party wants the court to order the other party (or both parties) to do something, she must first make a motion with the court, explaining why she wants what she wants, what the facts are, what law applies, and how she wants it enforced.
There are a few ways to do this. The judicial website has several forms in its library that apply to various situations. The court likes parties to use these JDF forms when petitioning the court to take an action. The forms include a motion (asking the court to do something) and a proposed order (which the judge would sign if he agrees with the motion). If the judge signs the proposed order, it becomes enforceable by the court. Continue reading “How Do I Get the Court to Write an Order?”
I am sure there are some firms who, starting back in the days of Kramer v. Kramer, wanted to protect fathers.
However, I personally think that several firms called themselves “fathers’ rights” as a marketing device because the father is usually the higher breadwinner.
Not every client is satisfied by the big firm who advertises on sports radio proclaiming fathers’ rights. I handle MANY cases that came from the so-called fathers’ rights firms who charged outrageously high fees, and then the clients were tapped out and weren’t even divorced yet. The label did them no good. Continue reading “Mothers’ Rights, Fathers’ Rights — What’s Right?”
A financial or medical power of attorney is a legal document where one person (the “principal”) grants another person (the “agent”) the “power of attorney” to act on the principal’s behalf in certain cases. For example, a principal could grant an agent the power to act on their behalf, e.g.: withdraw money, sell property, etc. It’s important to have someone you trust as your agent under power of attorney, because this power generally starts immediately and not just once you are incapacitated.
If you have been granted the power of attorney, you may have to sign documents on the principal’s behalf. Colorado law does not specify how this signature must appear, but various organizations have listed the minimum requirements of signing while using your granted power of attorney: Continue reading “How to Sign a Document Using ‘Power of Attorney’”
As families come together for the holidays, there is the false reality of TV commercials where everyone is bathed in a glowing light toasting their good fortune. Even friends and relations seem to have it together as they boast about their perfect lives on Facebook.
But then you really think about it and realize that when you think of the people you know best, you know that their lives and families aren’t actually “perfect.” Every couple and family has their own sets of issues and struggles unique to them, some more serious than others.
Maybe your family is fortunate to be close-knit, and you think you don’t know anyone with family law issues. However, the facts are that family law issues affect more than one in two families. So even if you don’t have those issues, you definitely do know someone else dealing with them. Continue reading “Think You Don’t Know Anyone With Family Law Issues? Think Again.”
There are several steps you can take to make sure that you are not making a decision about a long-term care (nursing home or assisted living) placement for your loved one or yourself at the last minute. It’s important to look around ahead of time, consider long-term care insurance and get in-home care before that fateful broken hip or other accident occurs.
However, if you do end up in that precarious position, a hospital discharge about to occur, you may end up facing the “bad” or the “ugly” side of placement. For example, the hospital may push rushed placement into a subpar facility. Some of these have low rankings, insufficient nursing care, understaffed Alzheimer’s wings warehousing over-medicated individuals in rows of wheelchairs.
If you think I am exaggerating for effect, I am not. I was privileged to work at the Community Support Services unit of MFY Legal Services in New York. This agency successfully brought proceedings against adult homes labeled “hell homes” by the New York Times due to horrors such as bedsores, rat bites, insufficient food and unexplained deaths.
On the other hand, Colorado has wonderful facilities full of loving and skilled care.
Here are some things to look for in order to get the GOOD without the BAD and the UGLY. Continue reading “Looking for Long-Term Care: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”
Sometimes in the course of divorce or child custody proceedings, the court will award one party to pay certain fees, such as attorney’s fees, for the other party. If that party does not pay those fees, the recipient party can make a motion for a money judgment showing that the money was owed and was not paid. However, the court cannot collect the money for you; you have to go through certain steps to get the money from the person who owes you. Continue reading “How to Collect a Court Judgement”
When a parent won’t allow another parent to see their child in accordance with a parenting plan or custody arrangement, often the injured party doesn’t know what to do. Fortunately, there are some ways to challenge another parent not allowing you to see your child or children.
Both parents are required to comply with a court entered parenting plan. Colorado statute 14-10-129.5 provides a process and potential sanctions against a parent not adhering to the parenting plan.
The Court’s Process
Whether the other parent is not following the parenting plan or he or she is withholding contact with your child completely, you should file a motion with the court that states that the other parent is not complying with a parenting plan, and include with it possible sanctions the court can impose. The court then has 35 days to:
- Deny the motion if the complaint doesn’t arise to a real claim to act on;
- Schedule a hearing as quick as possible to hear from both parties; or
- Require the parties to seek mediation and report back to the court on the results within 63 days. The court may approve any agreement reached by the parents or will schedule a hearing.
Continue reading “What To Do When Your Ex Won’t Let You See Your Child”