During 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

Your opening statement gives the court an overview of your case. While you will not explicitly present evidence to open your case, you will explain your overall theme and reasoning as to why your evidence will prove your case to be the correct point of view. While you continue to present your case, your theme will link the pieces of evidence together to form the story of your case.

You will use the following steps to introduce your evidence to the court:

  1. Present your evidence to the court and its participants,
  2. Allow the court to inspect the exhibits (if requested),
  3. Identify your exhibit, state who created it, and ask your witness if the exhibit is true and correct, and
  4. Offer the items as evidence to the court. 

 As you are presenting your evidence, you must clearly identify what it is for the court. Be specific when naming each piece of evidence and explain its relevance to the case. For example, instead of saying, “Text messages between the parties,” you might say, “May 16, 2023, text messages between party A and party B showing A threatening to throw B’s belongings onto the street.”  Identify the exhibit and state who created the exhibit.

In an in-person hearing, you would present your evidence to the court by giving a copy of the evidence to the opposing counsel and the witness and ultimately offer it to the court. In a virtual hearing, the opposing counsel (the other side’s lawyer) will already have a copy of the evidence, so you will use the share screen functions of your video conferencing software to open a copy of your evidence for all the court participants to view.

You must authenticate each piece of evidence by showing that it is true, correct, and has not been altered. While the law considers some records to be automatically authenticated, you will have to prove that most of your evidence is authentic. See the Texas Rules of Evidence and Rules of Evidence and Objections in a Virtual Hearing to learn about the rules of authenticating evidence.

Most evidence can be authenticated through witness testimony. If you have witnesses, call them to the stand and ask them questions to bring out their testimony. Direct examination involves asking open-ended questions to a witness who you have called to let the witnesses provide their version of events or opinion. Leading questions, which are questions that suggest what the answer is, are not allowed during a direct examination. But leading questions may be allowed with hostile (opposing party) witnesses. See Questioning Your Witness in a Virtual Hearing to learn more about questioning your own witness in a virtual hearing.

After you have questioned your witnesses, the opposing party or their lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Similarly, you will have a chance to cross-examine the witnesses called by the opposing party. Cross-examination is a time to confront the facts that have been presented by that witness that may not support your case, but they are also a time to add facts that support your story. Please see Questioning an Opposing Witness in a Virtual Hearing to learn more about questioning a witness called by your opposing party.

Note: Whether you are questioning your witness, or a witness called by an opposing party, always be respectful.

Remember: Each bit of evidence or testimony that you choose to present must not only be authenticated but must also be related to the issues of your case.

If the other party believes that the evidence you are presenting is not related to the case, has not been properly authenticated, or should not be admitted according to the Texas Rules of Evidence, they will have the opportunity to object to the evidence, or challenge it. During their objection, they will state why the evidence should not be admitted, and the judge will decide if they agree.

You can also object to the evidence offered by the opposing party. To better understand when you can and cannot object, review the Texas Rules of Evidence and Rules of Evidence and Objections in a Virtual Hearing.

Like the opening statement, the closing statement is a chance to summarize the evidence that you have presented to the court. During your closing statement, you should review important points and highlight the significance of the evidence. Your closing statement is your last chance to reinforce your version of events before a decision is made in your case.


Source URL: https://texaslawhelp.org/checklist/during-the-hearing