Evidence typically takes the form of witnesses and exhibits. I have drafted this guide to help clients identify people they may want to consider as a witness. The guide will apply to any Oklahoma family matter, whether a divorce, paternity, visitation, child support, or a custody case.
We prove our case by presenting evidence. We also use evidence to evaluate the strength and weaknesses of a case. One form of evidence that we will use are witnesses. The best witnesses are those that do not have a stake in the fight, are not biased, and have personal knowledge of you, your child, and/or the child’s other parent. I have written a separate How-To Guide concerning exhibits, and you can find that here.
Your witnesses must have first-hand personal knowledge of the events to which they are testifying. The witness will not be allowed to testify about something the child or someone else said. If the witness does not have direct knowledge—even if the subject they are talking about is material to the case—then it’s hearsay and inadmissible.
Note: Hearsay is complicated, and there are exceptions. If you are not sure if something would be admissible, ask me, and we will discuss.
Examples of Possible Witnesses
Some examples of people who might make a good witness may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Teachers or School Staff
- Babysitters, daycare workers, nannies, or other providers of care for the child.
- Parent of a half-sibling to your child.
- Parents of your child’s friends.
- A pastor, minister, or other religious leaders who are involved with your family.
- Therapists and Counselors who have seen the child.
- Doctors or medical personnel who have provided care to the child.
- Coaches, scout leaders, or other adults teaching or assisting with the child’s extra circular activities.
- Family members and friends who have frequent contact with the children.
- DHS workers who have had contact or involvement with your family.
- Law enforcement who have been involved with the parties.
- Visitation Supervisors.
- Character Witnesses. NOTE: Most character witnesses are clearly biased and have limited evidentiary value. For example, it is generally not helpful to use your parents or significant other only to say you are the best parent ever. However, if these people have direct personal knowledge of specific facts, events, or incidents, that is different.
- Anyone else who has first-hand personal of the people and issues involved in your case.
Below are step-by-step instructions to guide you in pulling together and organizing your evidence. This will help me identify what we have to work with to prepare the most persuasive case possible. If you have questions during this process, please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss them.
Gather a list of anyone that you believe can help your case. For each person, we will need the name, address, and telephone number. It is also helpful to state the relationship of the person to the parties involved. In other words, the witness is a teacher, coach, grandparent, etc.
Provide a summary of what each witness knows and can say. You will need to be as specific as possible. When possible, includes dates, specific events, specific incidents, etc. The goal is to tell me precisely what each person knows. The more detail, the better.
I need to know the criminal history of each potential witness. I also need to know if the witness has had any involvement with the Department of Human Services (DHS). Finally, for any criminal charges, I need to know the case number and county where any criminal charges were filed. This will help me evaluate the credibility of the witness.
Pull all of this information together and fill out the Witness List. The amount of time, detail, and effort you put into this will make a difference. Remember, you know these people, I don’t. The information you provide allows me to evaluate whether or not the witness can actually help us. This also helps me to plan my questions for direct examination at our hearing.
EXAMPLE WITNESS LIST
|Witness Name Address Phone Number Relationship||Summary of Testimony 1. Tell me what this person knows and precisely what they can say that you think helps your case. 2. Be very specific and provide specific examples with dates when possible. 3. Don’t make general statements or conclusions.||Criminal History All criminal charges, including Case # and County|
|Joe Blow 123 N Main Street Norman, OK. 73069 405-111-2222 Baseball Coach||Will testify he was the child’s baseball coach for the 2018 -2020 seasons. Respondent ensures the child attends practice every day and always arrives 15 minutes early. As a result, the child has never forgotten any of the equipment. In addition, the Respondent stays and watches the practice and attends every game. Respondent stays afterward to talk about how the child is interacting with the other children. This is very specific and useful.||No Criminal History|
|Jane Doe |
456 W. Elm Street Norman, OK. 73069 405-222-1111 Respondent’s Cousin
|Will testify that Respondent has excellent character and is the best friend anyone could ever have. Will testify that Respondent is the best parent in the history of the world and should be awarded custody. Will testify that Petitioner is a horrible parent and does not care about the kids. Petitioner should have supervised visitation. This is not useful||No Criminal History|
465 N. Elm Norman, OK. 73072 918-743-2543 Child’s Teacher
|Will testify that Respondent has attended every parent-teacher conference during the 2020 school year. Respondent is always present at all school functions. Will testify that Respondent regularly emails or calls to check on the child’s progress. The child is always dressed appropriately and completes all homework assignments. In April 2021, Respondent organized the spring event at school. Will testify Petitioner has not attended any parent-teacher conferences and has not seen Petitioner at school events. This is specific and good.|
|Fred Doe |
925 N. Iain Norman, OK. 73072 918-743-2543 Respondent’s cousin
|Will testify that Respondent is a great parent. He has good character. Respondent takes a bath every week and brushes his teeth often. Petitioner is an awful parent. Petitioner has mental problems because Petitioner is mean and acts crazy. Respondent is the best parent ever and should be awarded custody. This is not useful||Case # CF-2021-XXXX Cleveland County|
Email me your completed Witness List in Microsoft Word format so that I can edit as necessary. I will review the list and then we can discuss who we should you and who we may not want to use. Having this information will make it much easier when I interview the witness because I will already know what they know and can say.
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