Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

The Hierarchy of Evidence

Most lawyers tend to make the legal process scary and mysterious. The truth is that most family law judges don’t make decisions based on arcane rules – they want to hear the facts.

That’s why, at Held Law Firm, we devote the vast majority of our work to developing the facts of your case, through the systematic and rigorous collection of evidence to support your position.

We have learned, and you will hear us talk to you repeatedly, about a “hierarchy” of evidence. Not all evidence is equally valuable, and our job, in putting together your case, is to use only the best, most compelling evidence to convince the Court that your position is correct.

The best evidence is, as we say: pieces of paper. As in, documentation. This is true for two simple reasons: (1) a picture is worth a thousand words, and (2) you can’t cross examine a piece of paper. During your initial weeks working with this firm, you will spend a lot of quality time with our paralegal staff, headed by Becca Williamson, collecting documentation to support your claim for alimony, your claim for primary custody of your child, and so forth. We are also known for aggressively using subpoena power to obtain admissible evidence from third parties – be it an appraisal to establish the value of a house, or a retirement statement on a secretive husband’s account, or uncovering a secret savings account where the wife is hoarding her own nest egg, or medical records showing who has taken the children to the doctor, or school records showing who gets the kids to school on time. All of this documentation is the most impressive, and efficient presentation of evidence we can submit to the Courts.

The second best evidence is the testimony of people who aren’t concerned about who wins this lawsuit. In a custody case, we will interview your children’s daycare providers, doctors and teachers. Counselors are a great source of information; we will call them, and if they don’t talk to us, we’ll obtain a custody evaluation or an Independent Medical Examination. Courts want to hear from neutral third parties.

The third best evidence is the testimony of people who have an interest in who wins the lawsuit. These are people like your mom and dad – people who know you and know your situation, people who have seen what is really going on, but who the Courts already believe are biased toward or against you, and so they listen less.

The “worst” evidence – which is still better than no evidence at all – is your own testimony. This is because you (a) are going to be scared to death, (b) are going to be attacked on cross examination, and (c) are not going to be listened to very well by a judge who already figures he knows what you are going to say. More cases are lost by our clients messing up the testimony than any are saved. That’s why we do two things: (1) we don’t ask you to talk about much, and (2) we prepare you, ahead of time, very carefully, so you will be less likely to be tripped up.

At Held Law Firm, we have learned that the effective presentation of evidence, not brilliant legal arguments, wins family law and criminal defense cases. It takes more work than the attorney who simply is willing to walk into court, with no evidence, arrogant in his belief that he can just look smart and win. But it’s work we enjoy. Our clients tell us that they come out of the process of preparing their case for trial with a better understanding of how their family works, and their own strengths, than they ever had before. That’s a benefit that reaches far beyond the courtroom, and helps strengthen families in the long haul. We are proud, and happy, to be part of that kind of process.