tell the truthIt is important to remember that a hearing or trial is a very important snapshot of your life and you will be judged either by the judge or jury based on your every move and action or reaction. Smiling at the wrong time or laughing at an inappropriate joke will crush your credibility. Being too stiff can make you seem like you are hiding something. Being too confident can come across as callous. So what are the rules?

Tell the truth.

Above all, tell the truth. Tell the absolute truth. Lying rarely works. Family court judges and lawyers see people lie in family court often and can tell when someone isn’t truthful. Even a “fudge” or “white lie” can make you look bad and damage your credibility.

Appropriate and inappropriate communications

Don’t communicate with the other lawyer. The ethics code prohibits lawyers from talking to parties who are represented by counsel. Further, avoid outbursts in the courtroom. Even if the other side tells the worst lie about you that you can imagine, shouting out “that’s a lie” will only make you look worse and do nothing to help your case. Don’t extend your anger into the hallway. You can’t know when a member of the court staff is in the hallway to observe bad behavior and report back to the judge. Take the proceedings seriously. Funny things happen in court, but you don’t have to laugh at the joke when you are dealing with a serious issue.

Control your emotions.

Family court involves emotional issues. But, even so, it is important for you to keep your emotions under control. Failing to control yourself in court will cause a question as to your ability to control yourself in stressful parenting situations in front of your child. This will cause a judge to question your ability to parent and make your case very difficult.

Know details about your case.

It is important to remember details about important events involved in your life, and your case. Making an allegation that the other party did something wrong but failing to remember the details of the situation will make the judge question your credibility about the entire event. Dates and times are especially important. If you allege that your spouse threw a bowl at you during an argument, you should remember the date and time and details surrounding the event. Otherwise, it will hurt your believability about the importance of the event. If it was that important, you would remember more – that’s how the judge will see it.

Credibility is the most important factor in how you present in court during a hearing or trial. Being believable and likeable is a very important key to getting a good result in court. Having appropriate interactions and reactions is a key to this.

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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 27 years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, 2011-2018, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2014-2018, Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America for 2016 and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.