We’ve all seen films depicting a dramatic cross-examination in court, but what’s it really like to cross-examine someone and be cross-examined? If you’re representing yourself in court, you might be asking yourself that very question and wondering how to prepare yourself for a courtroom drama. The good news is that real-life cross-examination is far less dramatic, and as long as you plan ahead and stick to your plan, you can avoid any unwanted scenes. Read on to find out how best to prepare for your day in court.
Cross-examination usually occurs during a contested hearing where one party is alleging something that will affect making an order. During the hearing, the judge will hear both sides of the story, examine the available evidence, and make a decision based on what he decides is the truth. He will then make an order that is binding upon the parties.
In a contested hearing, evidence is given in three stages:
- examination in chief
Examination in chief is where you present your case to the judge by going through each point and referring to any evidence or relevant case law. The purpose of this stage is to clearly present your case and to present and protect your supporting evidence.
Cross-examination is where you get the opportunity to question the other party (your ex-partner), as well as CAFCASS officers, support workers, or other involved parties. This can help advance your case or give you a chance to challenge or undermine that of the other party.
Re-examination is not mandatory and is only used when your own solicitor or advocate wants to clarify a point. If you’re representing yourself, the judge can also do this.
Before your hearing, make sure you read all the court documents thoroughly, and specifically your ex’s statement and any statements from other people involved. You need to read them with a critical eye, highlighting any discrepancies you notice, as well as improbable comments or things that don’t make sense. You will also need to make sure to think about anything that has happened since your last court hearing.
Once you feel up to date with all the specifics of your case, you can develop your questions from this analysis and determine the main point you want to make with each question. Remember that facts are key, and your questions should focus on establishing the facts and exposing any holes in the other party’s story. How to frame questions for cross-examination is something you will need to do, and I’ll go into that more at the end of this email.
It’s important to remember that the judge will also be assessing your behaviour during cross-examination in court. As such, you need to remain calm throughout, and always be polite and courteous. This can help your case if the other party has claimed you have behaved in a negative way.
Finally, you might need to review your closing submission in light of what has happened during cross-examination. Think about whether anything needs to be added or removed, and make sure it sets the right tone and presents you and your case in the best possible light.
In your closing submission, you’ll want to repeat what needed to be proven, reiterate the relevant case theory, remind the judge of everything that supports your case, and make clear what outcome and order you’re seeking.
Cross-examination in court is something I help a lot of clients with when they’re representing themselves. Please see my course all about cross-examination and how you can prepare for it properly to maximise the chance of getting the desired outcome from your hearing.
The course will go into cross-examination in-depth, including:
- the reality of cross-examining someone
- being clear on the purpose of your questions
- how to word your questions to expose any lies the other party might be telling
- making sure the questions are relevant and won’t be dismissed by the judge
- how to act and behave when cross-examining
- evidence: what it is and how to use it
- writing a closing submission and why you need to do that first
- tips for dealing with different scenarios
After taking the course, you’ll feel more confident about cross-examination in court when representing yourself.
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