Most people’s understanding of how a courtroom functions comes from movies and television. Courtrooms in movies are always exciting, full of back-and-forth and shocking twists and turns. Our most famous celebrity trials are always exciting to watch, too.
While going to court can be an exhilarating experience like in the movies, that is rarely the case. Court is often over too quickly to ever be exciting. You spend anxious days or weeks waiting to see a judge and then you don’t even have enough time to speak to them. You have to do it in writing; no wonder they leave that part out of the movies.
Today we’re talking about declarations, that writing you use to inform the judge about a situation. We’ll look at what declarations are and what purpose they have, before looking at what you should consider before writing a declaration. Then we’ll finish up by looking at what goes into a good declaration.
What Is a Declaration and What Purpose Do They Have?
A declaration is a type of written statement that you provide the court. However, there is more weight behind a declaration than there would be behind a note, a blog post, or even a news story in your favorite paper.
That’s because you swear under penalty of perjury that the declaration is the truth. Just like you have to swear to tell the truth in a courtroom, you have to swear to tell the truth in a declaration. You can always print a correction if you lie in a news story or a blog post, but you can face real legal consequences for lying in a declaration.
We already mentioned that going to court can often be a quick experience. This is because most of what a judge does is hear motions for various cases. These aren’t the big fancy show trials. It’s more of the nuts and bolts of the legal system. So there’s a lot of it that the judge has to get through, they don’t have time to hear from every party. Most of the time you won’t even be able to speak.
But your declaration speaks for you. Family law is all about what is in the best interest of the child, so the declaration lays out the issues at hand, why the route in question is in the best interest of the child or the family, as well as what risks or harms there may be and how they could be mitigated.
Basically, your declaration says everything for you that you would want to tell the judge yourself. That way they can simply make a decision on the motion rather so everybody can move onto whatever the next step is.
What Steps Are Necessary Before Writing a Declaration for Court?
Writing a declaration for court is one of those things that some people will find fairly easy and others will have a difficult time on it. It’s important to remember to only tell the truth, however that isn’t the difficult part. The problem that people have is that writing a declaration involves just that: writing.
Many people can hold a great conversation and convey themselves perfectly fine but find writing to be tough. This is because there are different elements you need to understand, like how to lead a piece of writing from beginning to end while hitting your points. So a lot of tips that work for writing in general can help with a declaration.
The first step to writing a declaration is to figure out what facts are relevant to your case. Figure out those elements and things that you want to convey in the first place. Make a list of them all so you can be sure to touch on them. Consider if any are related to each other and if they can be used to build a stronger point together than on their own.
A straight-forward format is also useful. Start with a paragraph that introduces the important details and subject matter of the case. Provide any more necessary background information in the next paragraph. Then lay out important events or facts in as many paragraphs as it takes, though try to exclude unnecessary information. Finish with a paragraph that summarizes the above.
What Goes Into a Good Declaration?
The way to write a good declaration is to focus on the key events and facts that present and prove your point or side of the story. Having too much extraneous information can just lead to the judge losing the thread of your argument. It’s hard to be convinced when you’re not sure what you’ve read.
You must keep in mind who is going to be reading this and what they’re going to care about. There is a legal precedent to be maintained and that’s more important than the emotional element of the case. Don’t try to pull on their heartstrings. Focus on a strong element based on facts, not emotions.
Make sure you have a good reason for why this is the right decision. It’s not enough that you want it or that you believe you deserve it. Nobody cares about that. What the judge cares about is that the decision is what’s in the best interest for the parties they’re concerned about. Focus on presenting and building a case that highlights this and not your own desires. The simple fact that you’re going this far already tells them that this is something you want.
Can an Attorney Help Me?
If all of this sounds too complicated, then don’t worry. You can always work with an attorney that can do the actual writing for you. They will focus on those elements that create the best argument for your point of view, striving to accomplish the goals you have set. Then you can read the declaration and sign off on it yourself before it is submitted.
Ultimately, working with an experienced attorney is recommended when dealing with the courts in the first place. Our family laws are complicated and it can’t be difficult finding the information you need. Working with a professional can give you more time to focus on being there for your family, while your attorney takes care of difficult legal stuff.