Preparing for a Divorce Trial Part 1; Using Documentary Evidence

Submitted by Attorney Karl  Scholes

Preparing for a divorce trial can be a daunting task. The difficulty comes in having so many issues to cover, and having so little time to cover them. In their rush to tell the judge what they think is fair in their divorce, a party (usually one who has opted to not hire an attorney) will often overlook an essential step; presenting the court with documentation to back-up their testimony.

Documentary evidence will often break the tie of a “he-said/she-said” trial. A police report, psychological evaluation, or tax return used in the right place, can turn a potential difficult decision into a no-brainer. But, how do you get the document entered into evidence?

First, to use a document as evidence at trial, you have to disclose it prior to trial. Parties (again, usually those who have opted to not hire an attorney, but sometimes even some attorneys) will bring a document they wish to use on the day of trial. It is important to note that if you bring the document to trial, and it is the first time the other side has learned you intend to bring it, chances are you are not going to get the document admitted as evidence. In order to be able to be assured use of the document you want to get in, you need to follow the disclosure rules, as codified in the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.

Second, once you have disclosed the document, you need to get it to the judge’s judicial assistant to be marked prior to trial. Most judges in Maricopa County will require an exhibit to be marked at least five business days before trial. Again, if you don’t get it to the judicial assistant prior to trial, chances are you are not going to be able to use that exhibit at trial.

Third, once you have properly disclosed the document and had it marked, you still need to get it in to evidence. It is not enough to lay it on the judge’s desk and say, “Here is this document judge…” You need to tell the judge you are, “Moving to have the exhibit admitted as evidence.” Once you do this, the other side will have the chance to object. If there is no objection, or if the judge overrules the objection, your document is admitted into evidence.

Family court judges have a difficult job. They are faced with making important decisions based on sometimes contradictory testimony. Documentary evidence, used correctly, will often go far in resolving those contradictions in your favor.

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