Evidentiary Objections and How They Are Presented

Sample Evidentiary Objections In Marital Dissolution/Divorce Cases and Suggested Approaches to Presenting Them

Evidentiary objections are critically important for excluding evidence and either spinning the litigated divorce case in your favor, making points to the family court judge about the other side's grasping overreaching and reactivity, and always for protecting the appellate record. Arguably, it is below the standard of legal practice to not make them. They communicate to the judge that you understand the rules of evidence, and help you to establish your competency or credibility in the eyes of the court - unless of course you don't understand the rules of evidence and make silly objections.

However, judicial attitudes towards them differ greatly. Dedicated jurists take them seriously. Over-worked judges may find them annoying because they are just 'one more thing' for someone who reads their files the morning of the hearing. You should always consider the personality structure of your judicial officer before utilizing them, and you need to make them brief and efficient and not overuse them. Also, if you are a self-represented party with a cranky judge, they may push back just to show they are smarter than you so you'd better be polite and prepared. See the link above!

I will add more exemplars in time, but our freely shared (and redacted) and successful work product below is a sample set of evidentiary objections that Michael C. Peterson drafted for a case that was decided in Indio at the end of December, 2013. I argued the case, although Mike would have done great - but we both couldn't be there or our client would look like he could afford a whole team, not the impression we needed to impart.

This particular judge, who is gentleman I highly respect and count on for considered opinions, took the objections seriously, read them, and ruled in our favor on all but one. We represent the Husband, who is a doctor and we were defending against a further attorney free request from the wife, after she'd successfully had our client sanctioned and had obtained attorney fees long before he finally found us to help save him. We were brought in to turn the case around, which included guiding our client to become more transparent. That was our sincere intent, and the judge trusted that we were being authentic and that the information we presented was true and accurate.

I cannot overstate how important it is for lawyers, and self-represented parties, to maintain their credibility with the court even if it is financially painful for the client in the short run. It can get much worse!

There is a lot more going on in this case then can be gleaned from what we've uploaded. It includes valuing our client's thriving medical practice, which will be enormously expensive for the wife since she refuses to agree to a joint forensic accountant. She assumed that based upon the history of the case, and mis-steps by our client the good doctor (and he is a good man) when he had his former succession of attorneys, she could simply push a bunch of emotional triggers that would result in the husband being ordered to underwrite the rest of her case. She was wrong. While the judge did award $10,000 in attorney fees (our client earns significant income, but also pays a lot of spousal support based upon the prior proceedings), the judge made it quite clear that this is likely the end of the husband's contributions which should be the killing blow to her unreasonable expectations.

Imagine you are a wife (or husband, I'm not making a gender judgment), with a huge sense of rage and entitlement towards your former spouse. Assume further that the judge has bought into your sense of entitlement in the past. Then, this hearing begins with the court's tentative ruling that she had received enough contributions and really had done little to pay her own attorney fees. The first thing the court goes through are the evidentiary objections below, one by one. As to each but one, our objections are sustained. Suddenly a sense of panic begins to develop - "this doesn't seem to be going well!" she thinks. Her attorney, who drafted the pleadings that the objections are being sustained as to, begins to look increasingly stupid and incompetent. And uncomfortable, sitting at the bench next to his client.

Ultimately, while the requesting party receives a pittance relative to her demand, as a result of the court's decision on the underlying issues, she will be redirected to begin to realistically re-evaluate the costs that she is facing, and the reality that she will bear a major portion of them. Sooner or later, but sooner methinks.

Sounds like a prelude to settlement, no? This is how experienced attorneys begin to change the momentum in favor of their clients in difficult cases. Which is always the objective (a settlement, I mean, which is fair to all but not necessarily what either side fantasizes that should it look like). When I get time I will sanitize and share the other pleadings in this case because I think that they are a useful demonstration of what her attorney shouldn't have done, and how we helped hang him for it. The attachments to the PDF are their work; the objections are Mike's work.

Be safe out there!

Thurman W. Arnold III, CFLS

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