A few neutral witnesses equal a dozen family members
This is no small matter because, in nearly every hearing, the presiding judge sets time limits on each party’s presentation of their case. This means we’re literally on the clock. Every witness called is going to eat into that time limit, therefore, each witness called literally needs to be worth my client’s time. Some witnesses – child and family investigators, vocational experts, eyewitnesses to domestic violence or child abuse – are no-brainers. Of course, they will make any case stronger and are sometimes crucial to the best interests of the children involved, etc. It’s more difficult, however, to determine the value of so-called “character witnesses,” who are often pushed on me by my clients.
For example, a client will demand to call his girlfriends or his mother to testify as to what a great father he is, and also sometimes, as to what a terrible mother the opposing party is. Unfortunately, I think this is because too many clients have watched too much television, and therefore, too many fictional lawyers on the small screen. “Character witnesses” have little to no value.
This situation occurred during my custody hearing yesterday. Mother (not my client) called multiple family members, all of whom said she was a great mom and that Father (my client) was a real heel. So, of course, my client demanded I call an equal number of his family members to counter what Mother’s witnesses were saying.
As I typically do, I refused to call such witnesses, instead using that precious time to conduct a deeper cross examination of Mother as to why she thought she didn’t have to work to her full income potential. At the end of the hearing, the judge made two relevant comments – that Mother would be imputed a higher income than she wanted, thereby lowering my client’s child support obligation, and that Mother’s witnesses provided little useful information because the judge expected them to sing Mother’s praises. That's the moral to the story here.
So, listen to your lawyer when deciding whom to call as a witness. He / she will know best.