Divorce Litigation Bullet Points 9: Cross Examination, Closing Statements & Storytelling

Cross-Exam-300x199Divorce attorneys use specific techniques aligned to a certain structure when presenting a case for New York divorce litigation. These presentations often start with an opening statement, where the attorneys on both sides present the case to the court, allowing the judge (there are not juries in matrimonial and family law in New York) to get an insight into what the argument is about.

Divorce litigation trials progress after opening statements with things like direct examination, cross examination, re-direct and re-cross of witnesses. Today, as the ninth guide in our bullet point series for divorce litigation, we’ll be summarizing some of my more in depth articles over the years covering the concepts of storytelling throught direct exam, cross-examination, and closing statements – and the role these things play in the success of a case.

Storytelling and in Divorce Litigation

I find that many of the techniques most successful in a case of a divorce trial revolve around the challenge of telling a story. Both lawyers in a case must attempt to tell a different story to represent their client’s side and their best interests. The key is for each lawyer to make the story as believable as we can, based on the facts, so that the judge decides in your favor.

  • Using direct, short statements in cross-examination, I can try to guide the witness carefully into confirming my client’s version of a story. For instance, I might ask if the witness visited the couple, and saw the client speaking with a specific person.
  • Many divorce attorneys also use a strategy called “looping” as part of the storytelling process. This basically keeps a witness on track during the line of questioning. Using the term “The Smiths” in a question series about the Smiths would help to improve concentration. For instance, I might say, “You saw the Smiths drinking alcohol,” or “you visited the Smiths’ home”.
  • Transitional questions in a case can also help to take a witness through a story or experience in their mind, so that they can provide a more complete picture to the court. This could start with me asking about a specific night and citing the date.

The Power of Cross Examination

Direct examinations are just one aspect of the divorce case journey. Cross examinations are also extremely useful in the right circumstances. These tools can help the judge to begin questioning statements that might paint a client in the wrong light. Even if witnesses decide not to answer a question (if the judge permitted that), the fact that they remain silent can sometimes speak volumes.

  • Cross examination can be a complicated and emotional experience for all parties involved. It’s the responsibility of divorce attorneys like me to attempt to undermine the credibility of some witnesses and enhance the trustworthiness of others.
  • In the case of family law and divorce law, where emotions are often running high, it’s important to leverage tools like cross examination to show the judge that not all testimonies are reliable and complete. Additional testimony may be necessary to paint a full picture of the individual sides of each case. Cross examination allows divorce lawyers to guide the court towards more informed decisions.
  • With cross examination and direct examination, attorneys like myself can provide a judge with the full picture of the matter at hand. I also try to use the storytelling skills at my disposal to improve the image of the client in an authentic and believable way.
  • The natural progression of a case as it moves from the initial opening statement through to the closing statement is what lawyers can use to effectively highlight the right elements of a client’s situation in an appropriate context. The key to using each of these elements effectively is making sure that you get the information and tone right.

Closing Statements in Divorce

In an opening statement, divorce lawyers attempt to outline to the judge what they are going to prove during the presentation, cross examination, and direct examination. In the closing statement, ideally, we show that we have done what we set out to do.

To create a successful closing statement, lawyers like myself need to use the evidence to our advantage and leverage the information as effectively as possible. It’s not enough to just list off witness information, or paraphrase documents. Attorneys need to draw attention to the most important golden nuggets of highlighted information.

  • A good closing statement gives a precise look at what happened during a case, highlighting areas that support the opinions and outcomes that are in the best interests of the client. Divorce lawyers shouldn’t get caught up in simply repeating the same facts. We need to use the evidence available carefully, and make sure we’re pulling attention to the right facts – not just basic opinions about our case.
  • Divorce cases are always emotional and painful experiences for those involved. My job as a divorce attorney is to protect my client and help them to tell their side of the story, so that they can pursue the outcomes that are best for them. This will often include a combination of advanced storytelling techniques, cross examination, direct examination, and carefully prepared statements.
  • From the moment I begin working with a client on a divorce case, we discuss their circumstances in detail, and highlight some of the most important pieces of information that will need to stand out throughout the case. These are the nuggets of data that I will draw attention to most during the opening and closing statements, as well as in the body of the case, when direct and cross-examinations occur.

If you have any questions about closing statements, cross examination, and storytelling in the divorce litigation landscape, you can find more information right here on my blog. Stay tuned for more insights from our bullet point series if you’re looking for quick and easy access to divorce litigation information.

If you’d like to discuss your own divorce case, you can get in touch using our online form, or contact us at 516-333-6555. Your first initial appointment (whether it is on the phone, in the office of by Zoom) is free for up to 30 minutes, so you can discuss your needs with me in depth.

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