What is an Evidentiary Hearing?

An evidentiary hearing is a legal court proceeding that involves eyewitness testimony, given under oath, that’s relevant to the case.  The presiding judge will hear and take into consideration live eyewitness evidence presented during the hearing in order to make a fair ruling.

How does an Evidentiary Hearing Work?

Witnesses at an evidentiary hearing can be examined (asked questions) and cross-examined by the opposing lawyers.  Evidentiary hearings are used during either criminal or civil cases, including divorce and personal injury.

What Can I Expect at a Child Custody Evidentiary Hearing?

As was mentioned above, one instance of an evidentiary hearing being necessary in family court is when child custody is being contested by both parents.  In many states legal and/or physical custody must be determined, taking into consideration what’s in the best interests of each child involved.  To find out what a fair and equitable parenting arrangement should be, an evidentiary child custody hearing may be held.  The child’s health and well-being weigh in the balance, and it’s a matter taken very seriously by the courts.  Medical care and schooling decisions, along with the child’s financial and visitation needs, are taken into consideration.

In an effort to determine the best interests of each child, evidence presented at an evidentiary hearing will go a long way to assist the judge in rendering their final custody and visitation arrangement decision.  The involved parents, along with persons with firsthand knowledge of the mother or father’s character, may be asked to testify.  Those individuals, approved beforehand by the judge after possibly being contested by the opposing attorney, might include.

  • Close family friends
  • Co-workers
  • Other family members such as adult children, grandparents, etc.
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Social workers including from Family Services
  • Medical and other healthcare professionals

After the hearing, the judge will take into consideration all credible eyewitness testimony that’s been presented, and then later render a fair and equitable child custody decision that’s at least partially based upon what they’ve heard.  At the end of the day, evidentiary hearings are just one of the resources available to Family Law attorneys and their clients during divorce cases.

Filing an Evidentiary Hearing Sample Request in Family Court

The first step in the evidentiary hearing process occurs when one of the attorneys, usually for the petitioner (the person who files for divorce first), presents what’s called a sample request in the form of a document to the family court. The purpose of that sample request is to get permission so that they can present eyewitness testimony pertinent to the case.  The judge will look over the sample request, and determine if the potential witnesses listed on there might have testimony relevant to a final judgment.  The judge will then approve or deny the filing lawyer’s sample request for a hearing.  If approved, the attorney who filed the sample request can then schedule a family court evidentiary hearing date and time.

For example, if child custody is being contested by the parents, it may be important to hear testimony from key witnesses during a Family Law evidentiary hearing to determine legal and/or physical custody for the children.  Or, there might be some marital asset and/or income issues that are being disputed by both parties, and independent witnesses, along with the divorcing couple, may be called during an evidentiary hearing to lend credibility to one side or the other.  These are two prime examples when an evidentiary hearing may be held during a Family Law divorce case.

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