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How to Be a Character Witness in a Custody Trial

Updated April 17, 2017

Unlike an expert witness, a character witness in a custody hearing does not need to be expert on child rearing or custody issues. A character witness is there only to vouch for a parent's character. The witness should be truthful, and his testimony will carry the most weight if he has demonstrated good character himself. The hearing officer is most interested in what a character witness has to say about the parents and any relationship the witness has with the child in question.

Dress appropriately for court. When choosing clothing for court appearances, the more conservative the better. For a man that generally means a blue or grey suit with a plain tie and black shoes. A woman should be dressed as if going for a job interview, with a well-fitting blouse and grey suit trousers or a dress that hangs below the knees.

Determine whether you have all needed records, notes and reports. If you have photos, letters or other material objects that may be relevant to your testimony, take them with you to court.

Confer with the attorney for the parent you are there to support. Do this prior to the hearing to reduce confusion and understand the type of questions to be asked. Now is the time to alert the attorney of any concerns you have.

Sit up straight and look all parties in the eye when speaking. Tell the truth and give opinions that you can back up with facts or reasonable inference.

Do not get overly emotional. The hearing officer will closely watch your demeanour on the witness box. Avoid being argumentative or defensive. Never chew gum or have anything in your mouth while testifying.

Tip

As a character witness you need to be calm, rational and in control of your emotions. Listen to the hearing officer and try to follow the line of questioning. You're there to give an opinion, but your opinion should based on information of which you have direct knowledge.

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About the Author

Richard Jones began his news-reporting career in 1993. He began his broadcasting career at WJMO in Cleveland before becoming an editor at the "Cleveland Call and Post" and the "Cleveland Life" newspapers. Jones holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Cleveland State University.