If you are going to court you will need to make a witness statement. You may also have to prepare other documents such as a chronology (an account of relevant events sorted by date) or a position statement (a brief summary of the situation and what you want to have happen).
A statement or a chronology is how you present your evidence to the court. Firstly, then, you need to gather and organise your evidence. ONRECORD is designed to help you gather all the relevant evidence and put it into chronological order so that it becomes a much simpler task to prepare your court documents (get the app).
What you need to know before you start writing your witness statement
Statements and chronologies have to comply with the court rules. In the family court these are called ‘the family procedure rules’ and in the civil court they are called ‘the civil procedure rules’. If you are doing it yourself, as a litigant in person, you must still obey all the court rules (which vary depending on the kind of case you’re involved in) just like the lawyers.
Even if you prepare a statement or document yourself using this advice, you can still ask for legal help to check it through which will be a lot cheaper than having a lawyer prepare it from the start.
The Rights of Women website provides a useful summary of what you need to know:
- When to prepare a witness statement;
- What to put in a witness statement;
- What to do if you are raising allegations of domestic violence;
- What to do if your case is to do with your children;
- What to do if your case is to do with finances;
- How to deal with documents (exhibits), such as medical reports, school reports, social services reports or letters, bank statements, telephone records, print outs or screenshots of text messages and emails you want the court to see and which will be attached to your statement;
- How to make ‘the statement of truth’;
- How to provide it to the court and other party;
- What happens if a witness statement is not true.
How to write a witness statement
Family First Solicitors, who offer a free witness statement template, give no-nonsense advice to ensure that when your statement is put in front of the Judge it should help your case, instead of hindering it:
- Do not start your statement the night before it is due to be filed;
- Make sure you sleep on it several times before submitting it to the court;
- Don’t write it under the influence of drink or drugs. It will seem like your best work; how wrong you will be;
- Start off by writing a bullet point plan of what you want to tell the Judge. You can go in chronological order (often helpful when you are trying to tell a story) or divide what you want to say into sections; “The contact since the last hearing”; ” The bond between me and my son”; “Why I don’t think my son is settled with the Applicant” etc;
- Each new point in time, or each new section, should have a heading . This is because it makes the whole thing much more readable for a Judge. They can skip backwards and forwards in their mind thinking, ”Now what did he say about the bond between them again?” with ease;
- Write each point you want to make once . Repeating yourself in writing just makes you look as if you may do it in real life;
- Capital letters, red writing and underlining all give the people reading your statement a sensation they are being SHOUTED at. This does not help your case;
- Keep each sentence as short as you can. It gives your writing more impact. One thought, one sentence. One topic, one paragraph.
- Put some space in the text. This can be achieved by the use of paragraphs, sub headings and 1.5 line spacing. This makes the whole thing more readable.
- How much is too much? Well, you need to say everything you want to say, because technically, a Judge can insist that only your written statement stands as your evidence (usually they like to hear you speak a little about your own case, but don’t count on it). But many cases can be dealt with in five to ten pages. If you are not repeating yourself then perhaps you can make your sentences more concise?
- Exhibits: An exhibit is when you refer in your statement to a piece of physical evidence and then show that evidence by attaching it to your statement. Let’s say your name is Alf Bennett and you want to draw the Judge’s attention to the Respondent being mean about you to her friends on Facebook, which may be seen by your child. The best way to deal with this is to say, for example, “I have noticed the Respondent denigrating me on Facebook, attached at Exhibit AB1 “- then, behind your statement you have a front cover, with “AB1” on it and behind the cover is the print out of Facebook page you are talking about. Each separate piece of evidence should have a separate cover;
- Your statement pages need to be numbered and on single sides of A4 paper. You may want to look at Part 22 and Practice Direction 22A to see further details about statements and evidence;
- When you file your statement at the court, don’t forget to send a copy to the other side and to Cafcass if that is what has been ordered.”
How to write a position statement
Child Law Advice has a useful article specifically about preparing a position statement (they also have a useful guide to preparing a witness statement.
We hope you find this information useful for how to make a statement for the family court.
Take a look at more information in our family law advice hub and see more answers to common questions relating to family matters.