Hearsay in Family Court
Posted By Posted by Joanna Chapman on May 7, 2012 11:50am PDT || May 7, 2012
In family law cases, a party may wish to introduce evidence in court about their spouse based on something they didn’t personally witness or can attest to. Information a party may have about their spouse sometimes comes from a friend, family member, or other third party. Florida statutes, Chapter 90, outlines the rule of evidence that regulates what type of information can permissibly be used during trial or a hearing. Hearsay is an out of court statement which is offered for the truth of the matter asserted and is generally not allowed to be used at a trial or hearing. For example, a teacher may have told you something they observed about your child at school. If you tried to testify about that statement at trial, it would be excluded as hearsay. On the other hand, if the teacher is called as a witness and testifies for themself, they are free to speak about their observations. Also keep in mind that you can almost always testify to something you have first-hand knowledge of or “personal knowledge” as defined by law.
An experienced Florida divorce attorney will have to analyze whether or not a written or oral statement is hearsay or whether the evidence falls under an exception listed in Florida Statutes 90.803. One such exception that offers a great tool for trial attorneys is the Admission by a Party opponent, which generally is any written or oral statement made by the adverse party when it is offered against the adverse party. Once this type of oral or written statement has been offered into evidence, it will be up to the judge to determine the proper weight, or credibility, to give the statement.
The hearsay rule under the Florida Rules of Evidence can appear to be prohibitive when going through a divorce, however, an experienced family law trial attorney who knows exactly how they apply and when exceptions apply can use the hearsay rule as a powerful tool.