If you are representing yourself at a hearing, you will need to know where all the important documents are in your papers so that you can cross-examine the witnesses you want to challenge effectively and answer any questions the Judge asks you.
First make sure that if there is an official bundle you have a copy of it, and that you have sorted your papers into the right order to match the index and number them accordingly. Usually, the court will order a party with a solicitor to prepare the bundle and index so that everybody has the same page references and can be sure that they are all referring to the right document.
You must make sure that everybody involved in the hearing has a copy before the hearing starts. Jf it is a long hearing, the lawyer for the other party will probably be expected by the court to make a bundle of all relevant documents. When preparing, you can use different coloured post-it notes to identify statements by different people.
The most effective cross-examination is often polite cross-examination; being aggressive and confrontational can be effective when used by experienced lawyers at the right time but lawyers know that it can simply result in the witness putting up all the defences and you get nowhere. Be nice and they may leave the guard slightly down. If your questions are the right questions you don’t need to be rude.
When you are preparing your questions, make sure you keep checklist back to your case theory – are you asking questions that will help you build up the right picture and prove the points you need to prove it? If you are going to be asking the court to make a finding that your ex has hidden asset or it’s not a good parent – think if you are asking the right probing questions to raise enough suspicion in the mind of the Judge? Remember, you will not be able to make submissions at the end of the case about things you have not raised by cross- examining the other party or in your own evidence. If there are points that you want the Judge to agree with, and you know your ex does not agree, you have to put them in cross-examination. This means you’ll have to ask them those questions even if you know they will just disagree. It might seem pointless but you need to do this. The point is they have to have an opportunity to agree, disagree or explain.
Write down your questions you want to ask the witness. Group them under headings or topics so that you can make your point in a logical order.
Break your questions down into teeny steps. Each question should only be about 1 single thing and not a serious of things you want to ask.
DON’T ASK: ‘ On 24th of July you went to Mrs Smith home and kick down the door, didn’t you? ( that’s 2 questions)
ASK 1: ‘Did you go to Mrs Smith home on the 24th of July?’
ASK2: ‘When you got there, you kicked down the door, didn’t you? ( ask the second question even if the answer to the first question is ‘No’).
Try to stick to facts rather than opinion and try not to just run down your ex.
Your own evidence
The evidence you give before you are asked questions by any other party or the solicitor is called your evidence in chief. If you are going to be giving evidence and you are acting without a lawyer, the Judge may ask you some questions to help you along with your evidence in chief but you might want to make a short list of the things you need to cover in your evidence so you don’t forget anything the Judge is likely to ask you. It is important to make your witness statement contains everything you need to say.