Months & Weeks Before the Hearing

Warning: The information in this guide is not a substitute for the advice and help of an attorney. Speaking with a lawyer about your situation is a good idea.

Checklist Steps

Familiarize yourself with the local rules and procedures of the court where your case is taking place. Check the court’s website to become familiar with any administrative orders or special procedures. Some judges have certain rules for how evidence should be prepared and presented. See Local Rules to learn about following local court rules and procedures. 

For virtual hearings, most evidence must be presented before the hearing so that the court administrator can prepare the documents to be available in a virtual setting. Turning your documents over to the court administrator does not mean your judge will have access to the information prior to your hearing. The only information that is available to the judge before your hearing is the information that has previously been filed with the court. Evidence becomes part of the record of your case when it is properly admitted during a hearing.

Make sure that you have filed the proper motions before your hearing and that you are familiar with your court’s local rules. If you have questions about preparing or providing evidence before your hearing, contact the court coordinator.

Watch the below videos for more information:

Decide which pieces of evidence are important to your case and support your position. This may include documents, photographs, videos, text messages, witnesses, or professional reports that are related to your case and support your version of events.

Evidence consists of facts that are:

  1. Material: Related to the issues of your case;
  2. Relevant: Likely to make the issues of your case more or less likely to have happened; and
  3. Authentic: Can be proven to be true and not faked.

Facts that are not material, relevant, or that cannot be authenticated may be objected to, or challenged by, the other party in your case.

Some facts that are material, relevant, and authentic may still be inadmissible in your case. Review the Texas Rules of Evidence and Rules of Evidence and Objections in a Virtual Hearing to learn more about why types of evidence can and cannot be admitted in a court of law.

Create a plan to present your evidence to the court.

You will begin by making an opening statement to provide an overview of your version of events. Your evidence should logically support your point of view and support the narrative of your side of the case.

Arrange your evidence in the way that makes the most sense to support your argument. It is best practice to mark your exhibits in the order in which you plan to introduce them. You want your evidence to support each issue being presented to the judge in a concise format to help the court easily identify what evidence relates to specific issues.

Remember, every bit of evidence must be authenticated or confirmed that it is true and correct and has not been subject to tampering. To authenticate evidence, you may need to present the witnesses that created the evidence that you want to offer to the court. Review the Texas Rules of Evidence and your court’s local rules to see the rules on authenticating evidence. For an overview of questioning witnesses, please see Questioning Your Witness in a Virtual Hearing and Questioning an Opposing Witness in a Virtual Hearing.

Note: It may be helpful to create a checklist of your exhibits and witnesses so that you can be sure you have properly presented each item before you close your case.

It is important that you know what your witnesses will say before you consider calling them in a hearing. Interview your witnesses and discover if what they have to say supports your account of events. Do not coach your witnesses on what to say or influence them as to what they are going to say. However, you should have an idea of what they will say on the stand so that you are not surprised during your hearing. To learn more about how to question your own witness, please see Questioning Your Witness in a Virtual Hearing.

Make sure your witness knows the correct time and date of your hearing. Inform your witness that they should dress professionally as if they were appearing in person. Make sure your witness has access to technology that will allow them to appear on time for your hearing. Remind your witness that the place they use for the hearing should be free from distractions and other people.

Be prepared to defend against the facts that will be presented by the other party to your case. The other party’s job is to tell their point of view. Be prepared to confront the facts that negatively affect your story including facts that contradict your version of events or attack the credibility of your witnesses. This may require collecting additional evidence that disproves the facts of your opposing party’s case.

Evidence that is submitted solely to disprove your opponent’s story but that does not prove your case may be classified as rebuttal evidence. Rebuttal evidence does not always have to follow the same rules as traditional evidence. Review the Texas Rules of Evidence to learn about rebuttal evidence.

WARNINGLying and destroying relevant evidence that does not support your facts is not allowed. Lying, or committing perjury, is a misdemeanor that may be punished by jail time and a fine. Destroying evidence may lead a judge to throw your case out, automatically decide the case in favor of your opposing party, or rule that the evidence would have supported the other party. Be prepared to best position your point of view to confront any negative facts that may come up without lying or destroying evidence. It is extremely important to talk to a lawyer if you have any questions about evidence.

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